THE Chinese Government is desperately trying to play down the significance of Mother Teresa's visit to Shanghai and Beijing this week, saying the visit had no bearing on Sino-Vatican relations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Wu Jianmin refused to even discuss the issue, saying only that Mother Teresa visited China at the invitation of the Chinese Federation for the Disabled. Mother Teresa, who left China on Wednesday, has also been tight-lipped, declining to discuss her talks with Chinese officials. But diplomatic sources say that the 83-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner had two meetings with Deng Pufang, eldest son of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and president of the disabled federation. The two are said to have discussed setting up a home for the disabled in China under the auspices of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity organisation. Should such a home be approved, it would be the first Catholic mission to be established in China since the Communist takeover in 1949 and would be seen as a significant step towards improving Sino-Vatican relations. Diplomatic ties between China and the Holy See were severed in 1957 when the People's Republic set up its own ''Patriotic Church'', but relations have improved over the past two years. Papal envoy Cardinal Roger Etchegaray visited Beijing last month, and this was seen by independent observers as a breakthrough in Sino-Vatican relations. Diplomats in Beijing say China is determined to re-establish formal ties with the Vatican and so remove another of Taiwan's diplomatic allies, but it does not want to appear over-anxious. Speaking at his weekly press briefing in Beijing yesterday, Mr Wu said China hoped to establish good relations with all countries but only on the condition they first renounce formal ties with Taiwan. ''In the case of the Vatican,'' he added, ''there is also the question of interference in China's internal affairs.''