PEKING -- President Reagan and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping exchanged friendly chit-chat Saturday, then got down to the most important talks of the president's historic six-day visit to China.
The diminutive Deng, Mao Tse-tung's pragmatic successor and the undisputed leader of China's 1.1 billion people, warmly greeted President and Mrs. Reagan as they entered the cavernous Great Hall of the People.
'I've been looking forward to meeting your excellency for two years. It's useful when we talk to each other face to face on certain matters,' said Deng, looking fit in a black Mao suit.
'I agree fully,' Reagan replied through an interpreter.
Deng, 79, told Reagan, 73, 'In three months I will be in my 80s - I'm sure that when you reach 80 years old you will be much stronger than I am now.'
'We're both over 70 years old,' Deng added, 'and we have decades of experience in our political careers.'
Deng was very animated during the photo session and sparked laughter when he told Mrs. Reagan: 'But your current visit is too short. I hope you'll come back independently and leave the president at home. You can bring your grandchildren along, we wont maltreat you.'
Reagan interjected with a laugh: 'It sounds like I'm the one being mistreated.'
Mrs. Reagan departed for Reagan and Deng to begin three hours of talks officials said touched on several thorny issues ranging from Taiwan to U.S. technology sales for China's ambitious modernization program.
Later, Reagan, the first American president to visit china since 1975, was scheduled to turn tourist and pay a visit to the 2,000-year-old Great Wall before hosting a lavish turkey banquet for Chinese leaders.
As the Reagans and Deng posed for pictures, Deng said: 'I hear Mrs. Reagan read a lot about China before you left.' Turning to Nancy Reagan, he said, 'You have done a lot for our giant pandas, thank you.'
Deng held Mrs. Reagan's hand for much of the photo session during which he and the Reagans were seated in chairs.
Reagan wore a dark gray suit and red striped tie and Mrs. Reagan woren a maroon and white checked suit.
In another developement, chief White House spokesman Larry Speakes expressed 'regret' that the Chinese government censored portions of Reagan's television address to the Chinese people dealing with democracy, religion and Soviet expansionism. Speakes said the passages, including Reagan's admonition to Chinese leaders to 'trust the people,' would have given the Chinese people 'a better understanding of our country.'
The White House had been informed Chinese Central Television would broadcast the speech on a delayed basis but in full on nationwide televison at 7:30 Friday night. But the broadcast did not begin until 9:30 p.m., when most Chinese were going to bed, and the most sensitive portions were deleted.
Earlier, Reagan held four hours of talks with Premier Zhao Ziyang and General Secretary Hu Yaobang and addressed a lavish state banquet for more than 500 guests.
During the meetings said by one senior U.S. official to have been of 'extraordinary' value, Reagan was lectured by the Chinese on trade relations, his Central America policy, the Middle East and Taiwan.
But Reagan, apparently unfazed by the criticism, hailed 'the changing nature' of once-frozen relations between Washington and Peking and, in a further goodwill gesture, annouced Hu and Chinese President Li Xiannian had accepted invitations to visit the United States.
During his long day of talks, Reagan hammered away at the parallel interests of the United States and China and hinted that many sore points in their relations can heal with time.
'The commitment to stand as friends has been made. The promise is solid,' he said. 'The challenges that remain, however, will take both patience and mutual understanding.'
Even as Reagan was calling for trust and understanding, Chinese television was airing a censored version of his speech earlier in the day, in which he sang the tribute of liberty and free enterprise and blasted Soviet aggression in Asia and Afghanistan.
U.S. officials theorized the deletions, which caught the White House by surprise, indicated the Chinese are sensitive to suggestions their economic reforms are moving them toward capitalism and are reluctant to jeopardize a potential thaw in relations with Moscow.
In his overture to Peking, Reagan said the bilateral cooperation of the last 12 years 'already have been boon to our people.'
'Standing together, we can expand trade and commercial ties that increase the quality of life in both countries,' he said. 'Standing together, we can further peace and security.'
During a state banquet in the huge Great Hall of the People, where guests dined on a 12-course meal and drank toasts of 140-proof mao-tai liquor, Reagan praised the economic modernizaton under way in China and contrasted 'this peaceful and productive course' with the policies of its one-time ally, the Soviet Union.
'Today, the world is threatened by a major power that is focusing its resources and energies not on economic progress, but instead on military power,' Reagan said. 'The shift in military might of the last decade has made trust and frendship between us ever more vital.'
The statement marked Reagan's most forceful attempt yet to rally U.S.-Sino relations around a common foe: Moscow. While Chinese leaders echo his concern about Soviet actions, they signaled disagreement with U.S. policies in the Middle East and Central America that Reagan described as an effort to curb the spread of Soviet influence.