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DIPLOMACY: Pompidou in Peking

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Compared with the punctilious reception accorded Richard Nixon upon his arrival in Peking, French President Georges Pompidou enjoyed gala ribbon-and-banner treatment at the start of his week-long visit to China. More than 4,000 brightly dressed schoolgirls were at the airport last week to cheer and wave at the arriving 15-man French delegation. Seven of China’s new 25-member Politburo were also on hand, including Premier Chou En-lai and the newly risen star Wang Hung-wen (TIME, Sept. 17). Pompidou himself matched the warmth of his welcome. Beginning his two-hour meeting with Mao Tse-tung−twice as long as Nixon’s talk with the venerable Party Chairman−Pompidou declared: “It is a great honor for me to be able to meet the man who has changed the visage of the world.”

Mixed with the welcoming festivities and the obligatory sightseeing tours was some serious business. The talks centered not so much on Sino-French relations per se as on China’s intensifying interest in Western Europe as a bulwark against Soviet “hegemonism.” As successor to De Gaulle, Pompidou is, in Chinese eyes, heir to De Gaulle’s vision of a strong, independent Europe, a vision which Peking supports. Chou and Mao thus warned Pompidou of the extent of the Russian menace. “The danger of war still exists,” insisted Chou during an evening banquet. The danger, he added, comes from “a small number of people in the world who … dream the dreams of 18th century feudal emperors. Their doctrine or creed is: ‘The world, it is I.'” For his part, Pompidou said that France was still committed to seeking detente with the U.S.S.R.

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