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China

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1977

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Q2.

I have at present no plans to do so. But I hope in due course to take up an invitation that I received from the Chinese Prime Minister some time ago.

When my right hon. Friend takes up that invitation, I am sure he will agree—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] Will my right hon. Friend agree with me that, because of his usual commonsense approach—although we do not always see eye to eye on that—he will not make the mistake of the Leader of the Opposition when she recently visited China, of falling into the trap of taking cold war politics over there and entering an ideological battle which she will regret? I am sure that he will develop the idea of trade and friendship. May I also say to him—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that perhaps—

Order. It is fairer to other hon. Members at Question Time if hon. Gentlemen put their questions as briefly as possible.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend could give the right hon. Lady a few lessons in diplomacy.

I am looking forward to visiting China as Prime Minister in 1978, or it could be 1979. When I do so I shall certainly look forward to doing all I can to improve relations between our two countries, as I am sure the right hon. Lady tried to do when she recently visited China. What I do not think I will emulate her in doing is in trying to draw some distinction between the Communism of China and the Communism of the Soviet Union, to the benefit of one and apparently with the consequence of embittering our relations with the other.

When he takes his flight to China over the Pole, will the Prime Minister observe the number of foreign, including EEC, vessels scooping up the fish to the north-west of Scotland? Will he back the action of the Government of Eire in demanding a 50-mile exclusive limit?

I shall certainly do that if I do not go to China by way of Peru. The question of the limitation of fishing in international waters is a very serious matter, especially for the fishermen in the areas concerned. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that they are not only from Scotland. There are also areas of England where this is true. The Government are taking every possible step to try to prevent this, and the extension of the fishing limits was a desirable step in that direction.

If my right hon. Friend is planning any trips to Asia, will he make it a first priority to plan a trip to India? Does he not consider it a disgrace that no Labour Prime Minister has ever been to India in its 30 years of independence? Does he not agree that, with the restoration of democracy there, this is an appropriate moment to go?

I should be happy to visit India as well as China, but I shall have the good fortune to meet Mr. Morarji Desai when he comes to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in June. We have indeed already begun a dialogue on various aspects of world policy, but of course I shall be happy to take up an invitation if time affords.

The right hon. Gentleman said that he would not wish to distinguish between the Communism of China and the Communism of the Soviet Union, but does he not feel that, as Prime Minister, he should distinguish between the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the absence, so far as we can see, of imperialist policies on the part of the Chinese People's Republic? Would he not find some common ground in discussions with the Chinese in their opposition to Soviet imperialism in Africa?

I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. I have a feeling that there are evidences of perhaps rival Soviet-type imperialisms in the continent of Africa at present. However, I am delighted to see the right hon. Gentleman in his latest guise as a convert to Maoism.