WHAT an unexpected pleasure it is to discover that Lu Ping and Chris Patten have finally reached an agreement, especially when it is of fundamental importance to the outcome of the testy Sino-British negotiations on electoral arrangements. The bad news is that they have reached agreement only on the view that no agreement is better than a bad agreement. Remarks by the Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office to the pro-Beijing Wen Wei Po suggest China is prepared to keep on talking for as long as there is something to discuss. But it is not prepared to achieve agreement at any price. That is no disgrace. No sensible politician will admit to reaching or aiming for an agreement which could be presented as a defeat. The same view has been expressed by Mr Patten and a number of British officials in recent weeks. That Mr Lu is now taking a similar public position suggests the Chinese side too is preparing seriously for an early breakdown in these increasingly difficult negotiations. But it would be better if the two sides could agree to differ rather than allow talks to break down in acrimony and ill-will. In his interview with Wen Wei Po, Mr Lu says it remains Chinese policy to keep politics and economics separated, but then warns this may be impossible to achieve. For the sake of Hong Kong, both he and Mr Patten should go out of their way to try.