THE WORLD FROM.Beijing after 13 Years of Estrangement, China and Vietnam Are Speaking - and the Topic Is Economic Growth

Article excerpt

IN ancient times the emperors of China required foreign envoys to face north when paying tribute and performing the obligatory kowtow.

But when the current autocrats of Beijing accepted the obeisances from Vietnam's leaders during a recent visit, they pointed them toward the most venerable point in the communist world: China's thriving, entrepreneurial south.

China's effort to showcase its special economic zones in the south reflects how much Sino-Vietnam relations have changed since the two countries were last on speaking terms 13 years ago. It also reflects how China regards its role as the lone protector of Marxism.

There were no paeans to Marx during the six-day visit ending Nov. 10 by Communist Party leader Do Muoi and Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet. Instead, the Vietnamese visitors journeyed to Shenzhen in Guangdong Province to see first-hand the wealth from market economics and eased social regimentation.

In Shenzhen, a vibrant enclave of entrepreneurship next to Hong Kong, the leaders toured an industrial exhibition hall, a factory run by Hitachi Company, and the International Trade Center. Mr. Muoi invited businessmen and executives at the center to open branch offices in Hanoi.

The Vietnamese were not the first communist visitors targeted for conversion to Chinese-style reform. China's leadership guided North Korean leader Kim Il Sung on a similar junket to Jiangsu Province, another of China's fastest-growing areas, in October.

The Jiangsu tour included a visit to a foreign joint venture, the sort of arrangement Beijing believes Pyongyang must adopt if it hopes to prevent the collapse of the North Korean economy. It is an open secret that China has encouraged Mr. Kim to soften his hostility to capitalist countries and market-oriented reform. …