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Ceausescu’s Fall Increases China’s Loneliness With AM-Romania, Bjt

December 23, 1989

BEIJING (AP) _ Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu had already fled a popular uprising at home when thousands of miles away in China, television still carried his last speech as if nothing had happened.

Ceausescu’s sudden fall from power clearly took Chinese officials by surprise. The Foreign Ministry took more than 24 hours to issue a substantive comment, and then said simply that it was following developments with interest and hoped to continue friendly relations with Romania.

His fall also left Chinese leaders more isolated than ever in their rejection of democratic reforms that have swept the socialist world this year. But it was unlikely to shake their resolve to keep political power firmly in the hands of the Communist Party.

Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin, speaking to Hong Kong publishers Thursday, implied that East European armies lacked strength to put down the uprisings. China’s army, by contrast, underwent ″the test of lengthy revolutionary warfare″ and maintained strict political discipline, he said.

As one Communist Party after another has been forced to share power in Eastern Europe, Jiang and other Chinese leaders have insisted that China’s vast population and backward economy make socialism the only viable system.

In internal discussions, according to the Hong Kong Economic Daily, they concluded that East Europe’s example only proves the correctness of China’s decision to use force against pro-democracy protesters in June.

Individual Chinese who heard foreign radio broadcasts of Ceausescu’s fall applauded it but saw no hope that senior leader Deng Xiaoping would be the next aging autocrat to go. ″We don’t want violence,″ said one, noting the heavy fighting and death toll in Romania. Given China’s size, he said, the bloodshed would be even greater.

In the end, China was reserved in its support for Ceausescu.

″We ... believe that it’s Romania’s internal affair,″ the Foreign Ministry said repeatedly as the protests swelled last week.

Asked Saturday if China would give Ceausescu a safe haven, the ministry said only that he had not come nor asked to. It refused to say what it would do if he did ask.

Ceausescu had been one of China’s most reliable friends abroad. In the 1960s, when the Soviet Union broke with China and took with it most of Eastern Europe, Ceausescu refused to take sides and maintained good relations with Beijing.

When much of the world condemned China’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, he applauded it and sent several government and party delegations to Beijing. Qiao Shi, a top Chinese party official, returned the visits in November.

Ceausescu was quoted frequently by China’s media, with his denunciations of Western imperialism closely matching those of Deng and Jiang. Chinese papers withheld reports on the violence in Romania until it became clear he could not return to power.

A photo exhibit celebrating Chinese-Romanian friendship opened with fanfare in a Beijing park just one day before Ceausescu’s ouster.

But Friday, as he fled by helicopter from his palace roof, the exhibit was deserted and locked. A visitor who rattled the door roused two surprised attendants.

Update hourly