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Mrs. Gorbachev and Kremlin Wives Visit Chinese Fashion Show

August 11, 1986

MOSCOW (AP) _ Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s wife Raisa paid a rare social call on the Chinese Embassy to see what they’re wearing on the other side of the Great Wall, diplomatic sources said.

Her attendance with other Kremlin wives at a Chinese fashion show Thursday was the latest sign of warming cultural and economic ties between the rival communist powers, whose political relations remain frosty.

″This was quite an event,″ said one diplomatic source, speaking Sunday on condition of anonymity. ″This sort of thing hasn’t happened in 20 years.″

The sources said the fashion show was held at the Chinese mission on Friendship Street, a name held over from the better times before Chinese- Soviet relations began souring in the late 1950s.

The show apparently was connected with the Chinese trade fair in Moscow. The fair, the first such exhibition in decades, has been attracting huge crowds and was visited by Soviet Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov.

The official hostess for the fashion show was Chen Ping, wife of Ambassador Li Zewang. But she has been ill recently and put in only a token appearance, while Li was the active host for the non-official event, the sources said.

They said guests at the show, who included wives of foreign diplomats and other dignitaries, were surprised by Mrs. Gorbachev’s appearance.

She was accompanied by the wives of Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, Ryzhkov and of other Kremlin and Foreign Ministry officials, the sources said.

″The three, Mrs. Gorbachev, Mrs. Ryzhkov and Mrs. Shevardnadze, were the stars of the evening,″ a source said.

Mrs. Gorbachev has mixed with diplomats’ wives at the annual Kremlin Women’s Day dinner-dance in March, and has been described as gregarious and at ease. Her public profile has been higher than that of the wives of previous Soviet leaders.

The sources said Mrs. Gorbachev spent most of her time at the fashion show talking to the Chinese ambassador.

Haute couture Chinese designs were displayed, the sources said.

″This was really the new China presenting itself - high fashions, their version of Pierre Cardin, shown by the most beautiful Chinese mannequins. Really a glamorous affair,″ a source said.

After two decades of estrangement, the Soviet Union and China have been making tentative overtures toward normalization.

Cultural and trade ties have improved steadily, marked by events such as the trade fair and Chinese participation in the prestigious Tchaikovsky music competition this summer. Trade has more than doubled in five years.

Chinese economic experiments have been getting favorable reviews in the official Soviet news media, and Gorbachev spoke of them positively in a recent speech.

Gorbachev also offered to open talks with China on reducing Chinese-Soviet border forces, but China has not yet responded publicly.

China has said political relations cannot return to normal until the Soviet Union reduces its troop deployment along the border, withdraws troops that have been helping Afghanistan fight Islamic, anti-Marxist rebels, and stops backing Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia.

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