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Red China: The Busy Travelers

3 minute read

Pakistan seems to have a special fascination for Red China’s leaders these days. Foreign Minister Chen Yi spent five days there last week, signing a new border agreement with the government of President Mohammed Ayub Khan, and engaging in such tourist antics as a jolting ride atop a camel.

Chen also caused a diplomatic stir in an interview given to a Turkish newsman in Karachi, informing him that Ayub Khan had promised his “good offices” in an effort to bring China and Turkey closer together. Chen Yi thought both countries had a lot in common since Turkey “takes its past from Asia.” He added, “China is an injured country. As far as I understand, Turkey has not been free from suffering in her relations with the great powers.”

Let Down. It was a shrewd ploy. Turkey had been cold to the idea when it was first broached by Ayub Khan last year. Since then, the Turks have been more ready to listen to Pakistani suggestions of an independent and self-serving foreign policy. Both nations feel a bit let down by the U.S. In Pakistan’s case, it is the old grievance over arms shipments to India; in Turkey’s, the U.S. position on Cyprus, which Turks regard as pro-Greek.

Several Turkish newspapers were eager for a break with Formosa and recognition of Peking, and even Ankara officials were talking about closer cultural and economic ties with Red China. Understandably well pleased, Chen Yi returned home by way of Nepal, stopping off in Katmandu to inspect a shoe factory built by Chinese technicians and to exude peace, friendship and coexistence.

Floodlit Formal. As Chen Yi left Pakistan, China’s Premier Chou En-lai arrived. He had flown to Rumania for the funeral of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, stopped at Tirana, capital of Albania, Peking’s most distant and tiniest ally, and jetted on to Algeria and Egypt where he reportedly urged Ahmed ben Bella and Gamal Abdel Nasser not to invite Russia to the second Bandung-style conference of Afro-Asian nations scheduled for June in Algiers. Chou’s point: despite its possession of Siberia, Russia is essentially a European country.

In Karachi, Chou got red-carpet treatment, though his name was misspelled “Chau” on a welcoming banner. He had a long and private talk with Ayub Khan, and a formal dinner at the President’s floodlit house. Next day a Pakistani spokesman said the discussions had concerned the “tense and delicate situation prevailing in Southeast Asia, with special reference to Viet Nam.” Pakistan hoped that “all nations, large and small, Asian and non-Asian, will play their role in bringing tranquillity and peace to that unfortunate country that has seen warfare for over two decades.” Ayub was clearly enjoying his new Nehru-like role as world statesman and mediator. Two hours before Chou En-lai left Karachi, Ayub Khan was off on travels of his own—an eight-day state visit to the Soviet Union.

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