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The White House claims that despite Chinese desires for the latest and best, it limits arms sales to the PRC in order to allay Soviet fears that an East-West vice is tightening on its borders. The historic ironies in the relationship are enormous: the world's largest communist power is now counting for much of its modernisation on the world's largest capitalist power - which for more than 20 years alternately ignored and attempted to crush the Maoist revolution. Now that that revolution has been put into neutral, if not reverse, a devoutly anti-communist and pro-Taiwan American president is prepared to help modernise Deng Xiaoping's China.

During his visit in late May 1983 to Beijing, Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldridge guaranteed that all Chinese requests for technology would be expedited. Premier Zhao Ziyang's delighted response was deeply symbolic: the Hu Na matter was now closed. In December, Secretary of Defense Weinberger was informed in Beijing that in January Premier Zhao would travel to Washington. The Weinberger visit was notable, too, for the lowkey nature of the public statements about Sino-American military sales; this continued the modest tone set by the Schultz speech of March.

They have moved from synthetic textiles in the late 1960s, through merchant ships, video equipment, to cars. In 1981 the Americans passed legislation which induced the Japanese government to recommend the adoption of 'voluntary' restraint in the shipment of cars to the US for a period of three years. The numbers exported dropped substantially. A new pact was negotiated in 1984 whereby Japan extended the voluntary restraint at a slightly enhanced figure for another year, that is, until March 1985.

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