Rumors have circulated for months that Lenovo is interesting it buying BlackBerry. And with the big IBM and Google Motorola Mobility deals closed, perhaps it’s time to shop again. But BlackBerry’s CEO says he met with Lenovo’s top exec to talk partnership, not a sale.

John Chen, who is trying to turn around Canada-based BlackBerry (Nasdaq: BBRY), met with Lenovo’s Yang Yuanqing at an economic conference in Beijing. But he told The Globe and Mail newspaper in a story published Monday:

“I’m not looking to sell the company. I’m very much looking to operate the company as an independent company.”

Chen also met with China-based Xiaomi, which is pressing Lenovo hard in the China market for dominance, With Motorola phone sales folded in, Lenovo is No. 3 in global sales behind Apple and Saumsung. But Xiaomi is pressing hard.

How could BlackBerry help Lenovo other than as an acquisition, bringing all its software, technology, engineers and patents?

The BlackBerry CEO believes partnerships with those firms might be built around software, security and encryption,

“What I’m doing is to explore what is the right approach to the market given what we do well and I’m not shutting any doors,” Chen told the paper. “This market is not an easy one to get deals done quickly. It’s going to take a while, but I’m interested.”

Sales of BlackBerry devices have plunged from more than 50 million a year to fewer than 20 million, The Globe and Mail noted. BlackBerry did launch a new phone in September, and Chen is committed to returning the company, which operates R&D offices in the Triangle, to profitability next year.

Chen was brought in to save the company, and he sees China as an opportunity.

“It does seem that a more efficient way is to have a good partner to be here,” Chen explained.  “I’m here this time to look at what opportunities there may be. We have not really focused on this market. It’s a huge market but it’s a very highly competitive market too.”

Motorola is now operating as a Lenovo operated company and remains based in Chicago.

Lenovo operates its executive headquarters in Morrisville and its corporate headquarters in Beijing, 

The full interview can be read online.