Thousands of Beijing schoolchildren are being taken to a museum exhibit that depicts U.S. soldiers watching as Nationalist Chinese police torture Communist prisoners in the 1940s.

Officials connected with the exhibit acknowledge there is no evidence Americans had anything to do with mistreatment of prisoners by the Nationalist Chinese, who were U.S. Allies in World War II.But that is never made clear in the popular "Exhibit of Historical Facts About the Concentration Camp at the Place of Chinese-U.S. Cooperation," which tells the story of two prisons in China's wartime capital of Chungking.

From the exhibit name to the photographs and statues depicting Americans training Nationalist Chinese police, the implication is that Americans were responsible for the torture and deaths of hundreds of Chinese Communists at the hands of Nationalists in the '30s and '40s.

"The Nationalists were manipulated by the Americans," said Yuan Shigui of the Capital Museum, where the exhibit is being shown for nearly six weeks. Chungking in southwest China has a permanent memorial to the prisons' inmates.

The exhibit seems out of step with the current warming trend in U.S.-Chinese relations. The friction triggered by China's June 1989 army attack on pro-democracy demonstrators has eased, and most U.S. sanctions against China have crumbled.

Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen was in Washington on Friday for the first official high-level Chinese visit since Beijing's crackdown.

Still, the official Chinese media continue to level frequent criticism at the U.S. political and social system and the U.S. government-run radio station, Voice of America.

The Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily, frequently carries editorials warning against "hostile forces in the West" who seek to convert socialist countries to capitalism.

With the party urging better ideological training of the young, the exhibit is being used as an educational tool - not just for its criticism of U.S. ties to the Nationalists but for its praise of Communist "martyrs."