by George Fujii
Volume XVIII, No. 17 (2017)
27 February 2017
Roundtable Editors: Thomas Maddux and Diane Labrosse
Roundtable and Web Production Editor: George Fujii
Introduction by Sergey Radchenko
Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia:
Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945-1959: A New History.
New York: Lexington Books, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4985-1169-8 (hardcover, $110.00); 978-1-4985-1171-1 (paperback, $54.95); 978-1-4985-1170-4 (eBook, $109.99).
Introduction by Sergey Radchenko, Cardiff University.. 2
Review by Jeremy Friedman, Harvard University.. 5
Review by Austin Jersild, Old Dominion University and Berlin Center for Cold War Studies (2016) 8
Review by Deborah Kaple, Princeton University.. 11
Review by Steven I. Levine, Department of History, University of Montana.. 15
Review by Niu Jun, School of International Studies, Peking University.. 19
Review by David Wolff, Hokkaido University.. 24
Author’s Response by Zhihua Shen, East China Normal University, and Yafeng Xia, Long Island University.. 29
© 2017 The Authors.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Introduction by Sergey Radchenko, Cardiff University
This roundtable brings together some of the world’s leading experts on Sino-Soviet relations to discuss Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, the new book co-authored by Shen Zhihua, of East China Normal University, and Xia Yafeng, of Long Island University. Both authors are well-known to historians of China’s foreign relations and the Global Cold War.
Stories of Shen Zhihua’s indefatigable exploits have spread to places he never set his foot in, and those are few, for Shen the historian, the explorer, and the academic entrepreneur, has bested Xuanzang in his many journeys to the West, the East, the North and the South. I have personally encountered Shen at bowtie receptions in Washington, in the jungles of Laos, and in the steppes of Mongolia. I have seen him climb volcanoes in Hokkaido and negotiate archival declassification projects in the gloomy offices of the Russian officialdom. In China, Shen directs the Center of Cold War International History Studies, which he had himself established. The Center is the hub for China’s historians of the Cold War, and the first stop for foreign researchers who come to mingle with Shen’s team of first-rate scholars and scrutinize the Center’s unique collection of archival documents.
A passionate lecturer who does not shrink from contradicting the ‘official’ line when there are grounds to do so, a media star, a tireless researcher and writer, Shen is among very few Mainland historians whose work has been translated and published in English. While he has written on a variety of aspects of China’s foreign relations, he is best known for his contributions to the historiography of Sino-Soviet relations and the Korean War. Shen’s co-author is the prominent historian of China’s foreign relations Xia Yafeng. Professor of History at Long Island University, Xia has done a great deal to bridge the worlds of Chinese and Western academia. He previously authored a monograph on the history of Sino-U.S. diplomatic relations, while his articles have appeared in Diplomatic History, Cold War History, and Journal of Cold War Studies, making a significant contribution to our understanding of Beijing’s foreign policy during the Cold War.
The reviewers have given a generally positive assessment to the new book. One of the central questions—addressed, among others, by Jeremy Friedman and Steven Levine—is the role of ideology in the Sino-Soviet relationship. This is not a new question. There has been a protracted tug-of-war between historians who play up geopolitics and those who stress the importance of the doctrine.
The book under review takes something of a cynical attitude towards Mao’s revolution and focuses more on power struggle and the structure of the Sino-Soviet relationship. This will, of course, grate with some advocates of the new Cold-War history which, if anything, has meant a return to the study of ideology as the key element in the foreign policy outlooks in both Moscow and Beijing. The more cynical interpretation offered in this book is, in one sense, a reflection of the experiences of the individual historians. Those of us who experienced the dramatic reinvention of China and Russia in the 1980s and the 1990s know firsthand how rapidly adherents of revolutionary ideas renounce their ideologies and pragmatically adjust to prevailing realities. This skepticism somehow permeates this book as well. Not that there is a lack of Chinese or Russian historians out there who continue to ardently argue for the importance of revolutionary visions. As Friedman notes, this book is just a perspective—one among many—but one that deserves our close attention, lest we continue to dismiss historical evidence as untenable because it does not fit the prevailing narratives.
In the end, there is something odd in the way this question is addressed, including this roundtable. Few would deny the role of ideas. Ideas, after all, are a part of our daily lives. The fact that Mao actually believed in the Communist utopia is hardly surprising. The fact that this belief played a role in the Sino-Soviet alignment is self-evident. What is far less evident is that the formal doctrine of Marxism-Leninism, as opposed to realities of power, perceptions of historical grievances, struggle for leadership, etc. —necessarily had a defining impact on the evolution of the Sino-Soviet relationship. Friedman is right to argue for a more nuanced interpretation, inclusive of ideology, and Austin Jersild correctly notes the importance of perceptions and memories.
Each reviewer has his or her reservations about some of the arguments and praise for this or that aspect of the book. Friedman calls it “essential reading.” Jersild commends the authors for their insights into China’s and Russia’s domestic politics. Deborah Kaple—drawing on her own work on Soviet advisers in China—sees the book’s major contribution in describing the intricacies of the Sino-Soviet economic relationship in the 1950s. David Wolff praises the authors for “raising the bar significantly higher,” even while disagreeing with some of their analysis of the Sino-Soviet relationship in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Levine, too, reports having been greatly stimulated by the book, which, I am sure, H-Diplo readers will also enjoy and find exceptionally informative. This is a fantastic roundtable and I would like to thank each reviewer in turn for their constructive criticism and the two co-authors.
Zhihua Shen is a distinguished professor of history and director of the Center for Cold War International History Studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai. He is the preeminent scholar of Cold War studies in China and has published widely in many languages on the topic of the Korean War, the Sino-Soviet alliance, and relations among the Communist allies during the Cold War. He has authored more than 10 books and 100 articles on Cold War history. His articles have appeared in leading English-language journals, including the Journal of Cold War Studies, Cold War History, Journal of Strategic Studies, and International History Review, among others. His representative English-language works include Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945-1959: A New History, with Yafeng Xia (2015); Mao, Stalin and the Korean War: Trilateral Communist Relations in the 1950s (2012); and After Leaning to One Side: China and its Allies in the Cold War, with Danhui Li (2011).
Yafeng Xia is professor of history at Long Island University in New York. He is also guest professor at the Center for Cold War International History Studies, East China Normal University in Shanghai. He was Research Fellow (September 2011‒June 2012) and Public Policy Fellow/Scholar (June-December 2016, June‒August 2010) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. He is the author of Negotiating with the Enemy: U.S.-China Talks during the Cold War, 1949‒1972 (2006), coauthor of Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945‒1959: A New History, with Zhihua Shen (2015), and Mao and the Sino-Soviet Split, 1960‒1973: A New History, with Danhui Li (2017), as well as many articles on Cold War history.
Sergey Radchenko is Professor of International Relations at Cardiff University. His research interests include the Cold War and the history of Chinese and Soviet foreign relations. He is the author of Two Suns in the Heavens: the Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy (Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press, 2009) and Unwanted Visionaries: the Soviet Failure in Asia at the End of the Cold War (Oxford University Press, 2014). He is currently working on a history of Chinese foreign relations since 1949.
Jeremy Friedman is an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. He received his Ph.D. in History from Princeton University in 2011. His first book Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015. His current project, tentatively titled Revolutionary Dreams: Constructing Third World Socialisms, looks at the impact of the Second World on the process of building socialism in the Third, with chapters on Indonesia, Tanzania, Chile, Angola, and Iran.
Austin Jersild is Professor of History at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and Chair of the Department of History. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Davis. He is the author of Orientalism and Empire: North Caucasus Mountain Peoples and the Georgian Frontier, 1845-1917 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002), and The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014). In 2016 he is a Research Fellow at the Berlin Center for Cold War Studies.
Deborah Kaple received her Ph.D. degree at Princeton University in 1991. She is a specialist on the Cold War in the USSR and the PRC, and teaches in the Sociology Department at Princeton University. She is the author of Dream of a Red Factory: High Stalinism in China (Oxford University Press, 1994) and Gulag Boss: A Soviet Memoir (Oxford University Press, 2010). Recent articles include “Agents of Change: Soviet Advisors and High Stalinist Management in China, 1949-1960,” forthcoming in The Journal of Cold War Studies and “Soviet and Chinese Comrades Look Back at the “Friendship Decade,” Modern China Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2015, 45-70. She is currently at work on a book about the unintended consequences of Khrushchev’s “secret speech” in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China.
Steven I. Levine is Research Faculty Associate in the Department of History at the University of Montana, USA. He is co-author with Michael H. Hunt of Arc of Empire: America’ Wars in the Pacific from the Philippines to Vietnam and he assisted Alexander Pantsov in his biographies Mao: The Real Story (2012) and Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life (2015).
Jun Niu, a Professor in School of International Studies, Peking University, received his Ph.D. from People’s University of China in 1988. His research is focused on China’s foreign policy making since 1949, and the United States foreign policy and the Sino-U.S. relationship. His main recent publications include: From Yan’an to the World: The Origin and Development of Chinese Communist foreign Policy (Norwalk: Eastbridge, 2004); 牛軍著、真水康樹訳『冷戦期中国外交の政策決定』（東京：千倉書房，2007年/Tōkyō: Chikura Shobō, 2007）(China’s Foreign Policy Decision Making during the Cold War); The Introduction of Foreign Relation of PRC since 1949 (Beijing: Peking University Press, 2010); The Cold War and the Origins of PRC’s Foreign Relations 1949-1955 (Beijing: Sheke wenxian Press, 2012); The Cold War and Chinese Foreign Decision Making (Beijing: Jiuzhou Press, 2013); and China’s Foreign Policy Analysis: Theory, History and Prospect (Beijing: Shijie zhishi Press, 2013).
David Wolff is Professor of History at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center at Hokkaido University. He is the author of To the Harbin Station: The Liberal Alternative in Russian Manchuria, 1898-1914 (Stanford, 1999), a former director of the Cold War International History Project and a frequent contributor to the CWIHP Bulletin. He is presently working on a history of Stalin’s Eurasian foreign policy.
Review by Jeremy Friedman, Harvard University
Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945-1959, the first volume of a projected two on the rise and fall of the Sino-Soviet alliance by two leading Chinese historians of the period, Shen Zhihua and Xia Yafeng, will be essential reading for anyone interested in this bilateral relationship and the Cold War more broadly. The explicit mission of the book is to provide a “comprehensive treatment” from “the Chinese perspective,” though the authors never say exactly what it means to view this history from the Chinese perspective (3). The authors are certainly not attempting to present the official viewpoint of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), nor are their sources limited only, or even primarily, to Chinese materials. Rather, it seems that the goal is to present a history which puts the Chinese narrative and Chinese experience front and center and then to use that perspective as a means with which to view old questions from new angles and come up with novel answers. More broadly, it appears that they hope to publish a work that will bring Chinese historians definitively into the global historiographical debate on the Cold War, where thus far those who are not China specialists have often not been very aware of the scholarship being produced there. This book should accomplish that, as the archival evidence marshalled here makes it an invaluable work for Cold War historians. The depth of research and faithfulness to the evidence exhibited by the authors allow them to integrate several levels of analysis that often come apart in scholarship on foreign policy, specifically the national, party, and individual aspects of the Sino-Soviet relationship. The result is indeed something approaching the intended “comprehensive treatment” that sets the stage well for the second volume by demonstrating both the alliance’s strengths as well as its fatal flaws.
The authors tackle the question of the nature of the alliance and the reasons for its eventual disintegration head on in the introduction where they argue for a structural interpretation based on the fact that China and the Soviet Union were at “different stages of development,” and against interpretations based on “impromptu choices” or “individual characters” (5). In the conclusion, they even label the breakdown of the alliance “inevitable” precisely because of these different stages of development (350). They identify the impetus for the alliance as growing out of the “national security concerns” and “concrete economic interests” of the two sides, both points that are amply supported throughout the book with examples of foreign policy cooperation and economic aid (37). Consequently, the authors position themselves as strongly in favor of a realist interpretation of the alliance and its disintegration based on a community of interests, or lack thereof, stating explicitly that “it was not a product of ideological affinity” (4). Leaving aside the question of whether pragmatic and ideological interpretations must necessarily be mutually exclusive, the explicit non-ideological focus raises a number of questions about the realist arguments themselves. For example, what about the fact of being at “different stages of development” necessarily makes an alliance unworkable from a pragmatic standpoint? The United States maintains alliances with all sorts of countries at various “stages of development” that do not seem to be doomed because of that gap. The very concept of “stages of development” also presumes a teleology derived from Marxism-Leninism, and it is the very act of locating oneself on such a teleology, especially relative to another state doing the same thing, that could create the tension necessary to sink an alliance. This, in fact, appears to be the explanation for why CCP Chairman Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward had such a damaging effect on relations with the USSR, as the authors themselves acknowledge. It seems therefore that the role of ideology in the alliance needs to be integrated into the thesis of the book with a greater degree of nuance.
Both the strengths and weaknesses of the book are evident in the many fascinating and controversial arguments made by the authors in the individual chapters. Cold War historians have long debated whether or not the United States missed an opportunity to keep Mao and the Chinese Communist Party from allying themselves with the Soviet Union in the wake of their victory in the civil war, and the authors’ assertion, backed by documentation from the Chinese side, that no such ‘missed chance’ ever existed, should attract attention. The authors’ treatment of the issue of nuclear aid between the USSR and PRC in particular demonstrates the strength of their approach by integrating the analysis of individual political agendas (here Soviet Communist Party (CPSU) First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev’s need for Chinese support against his opponents within the Soviet Communist Party) and the conflicts of national interest that ultimately scuttled nuclear cooperation between the two countries, though not before the Soviets had given the Chinese enough to eventually complete the process on their own. While readers of Shen Zhihua’s earlier book After Leaning to One Side: China and its Allies in the Cold War will be familiar with his argument about the connections between the Sino-Soviet alliance treaty and the Korean War, this book goes even further in speculating that CPSU General Secretary Joseph Stalin likely had already decided to gain access to South Korean ports in order to compensate for the loss of Soviet control over Lushun and Dalian that he conceded to the Chinese as part of the treaty (59).
One of the most interesting arguments in the book is the claim that, rather than being the beginning of the breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the Twentieth Communist Party of the CPSU Congress of 1956 was actually not a source of division between the two countries. Instead, the authors alter the chronology of the alliance by inserting a new stage into the standard trajectory from allies to rivals to enemies, namely a stage of ‘co-leadership.’ They argue that the Twentieth Congress had the effect of elevating China to a position of something approximating equality with the Soviet Union, as evidenced by its role in the decisions about what to do in Poland and Hungary in the fall of 1956, as well as in the calling and conduct of the 1957 Moscow Meeting (194). However, they also seem to regard this attempt at co-leadership as being inherently unstable which leads to two questions. First, if co-leadership was necessarily unworkable, then are other historians really wide of the mark in seeing the origins of alliance breakdown in the Twentieth Congress? More fundamentally, how can one explain the inherent instability of an alliance of equals without recourse to ideology in this case? Are all alliances of equals unstable or just those that exist within the context of an ideology that appears to require a single orthodoxy?
It is worth asking then what advantages viewing the Sino-Soviet relationship from the Chinese perspective confers with respect to the arguments enumerated above. In some cases, where the documentary evidence can be, if not absolutely decisive, at least highly impactful, such as in establishing Mao’s thinking in 1949 with regard to China’s relationship with the United States, the excellent research done by the authors should significantly impact the current debate. In other cases, where viewing the alliance from the Chinese perspective helps the reader appreciate the significance of certain elements, for example Khrushchev’s solicitousness of the Chinese and the vast contributions made by Soviet aid, this book might help illuminate not only the Sino-Soviet relationship but shed new light as well on both Soviet foreign and domestic policy. On the broader question of the nature of the alliance itself, however, the authors’ firm stance in favor of realism as opposed to ideology, a dichotomy to which they seem firmly committed, it is not evident that this particular perspective provides greater clarity than the currently existing historiography. There is much work yet to be done in elaborating the nature of Chinese Communist ideology itself as it related to both foreign and domestic policy in order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of ideology in China’s international commitments.
This book is an excellent starting point for those who want to continue that work, and it is essential reading for all students of the Cold War. The deeper questions it raises about the relationship between domestic politics, national interests, ideology, and foreign policy have long provided grist for debates about American foreign policy, but the foreign policies of the Soviet Union and China have not yet received similarly sophisticated treatment from historians. The attempt to do so in this book by writing this history from a Chinese perspective is perhaps its greatest contribution. Furthermore, the questions it raises about the Sino-Soviet relationship have a certain degree of immediacy in the context of contemporary geopolitics. If ideology was not the driving factor in both the formation of the Sino-Soviet alliance and its subsequent collapse, that would seem to remove one of the key distinctions between the Sino-Soviet relationship then and the Sino-Russian relationship now. What, then, are the implications of this book’s argument, again made more trenchant by the fact that they come from a “Chinese perspective,” for the prospects of Sino-Russian alliance in the future?
Review by Austin Jersild, Old Dominion University and Berlin Center for Cold War Studies (2016)
Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev was in Beijing in the fall of 1954 to celebrate the five-year anniversary of the Chinese revolution, open a huge exhibit designed to facilitate socialist bloc collaboration with China, and establish a positive tone and relationship with Chinese leaders who had reason to be wary of historic Soviet objectives in the Far East. In a speech before he left to mark the anniversary of the revolution, he focused on the sensitive question of colonialism in Chinese history, and the importance of the revolution in the creation of a new and independent China free of that history. “Foreign imperialists” always historically feared a “unified, strong China,” he said. The Chinese revolution was true to the great heritage of Chinese culture and civilization, he also emphasized, which was now genuinely accessible to the Chinese people. “The Soviet people with great respect relates to and studies your culture.” The Chinese revolution, the alliance, and the combined resources of the socialist bloc were all contributing to the resolution of the historic dilemmas of the East, and the “rebirth of the peoples of Asia.” Soviet leaders associated imperialism with the Western powers, and instead visualized a new world of ‘proletarian internationalism’ and ‘fraternal’ cooperation with the important new member of the socialist bloc.
Chinese historians generally ignore the rhetoric of the socialist world in favor of a focus on traditional national security interests in Soviet foreign policy, especially in the Far East. Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia contribute to this tradition, and also remind us of Chinese security objectives and interests during the Sino-Soviet alliance, arguing that “the belief in Marxism-Leninism encouraged Sino-Soviet alignment, yet, it did not erase a conflict of interests” (37). This first volume of their planned two-volume study will for some time stand as a significant and important resource on Sino-Soviet relations and the international history of the postwar world. The two scholars have combined their extensive knowledge of Sino-Soviet and Sino-American relations, linguistic expertise, and deep knowledge of the domestic histories of both the Soviet Union and China to produce a volume enriched by numerous Chinese sources rarely used by scholars. The Chinese sources include archival sources not just from the recently closed Ministry of Foreign Affairs archive in Beijing but also provincial archives in Changchun, Shenyang, Fuzhou, and other places, published and even unpublished Chinese memoirs, newspapers, miscellaneous internal sources, and party discussions. These sources complement their use of Russian archival materials, all of which enables them to address the concerns of historical scholarship produced in the West as well.
General Secretary Joseph Stalin was determined to ally with the new Chinese state after 1949 at the same time as he preserved the historic advantages won by the Soviet Union at Yalta and evident in the 1945 Sino-Soviet Treaty signed with the Guomindang (the Nationalists). The Cold War with the Americans compelled Stalin to make concessions to obtain Chairman Mao Zedong’s China as a partner, even if he was suspicious of Mao and his potential similarities to Marshal Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia. The Chinese, for their part, were in “dire need of Soviet assistance” in the wake of the revolution. “The closer the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] came to ruling the country, the more difficult it found the management of the economy,” the authors write (27). Mao and other CCP leaders emphasized to their own party and public the importance of the relationship with the Soviet Union, and led propaganda campaigns to ‘learn from the Soviet Union (xuexi sulian).’ The authors early on point out that the “seeds of the later Sino-Soviet split were planted and grew (62),” and proceed to describe key episodes and moments of Sino-Soviet interaction and discord, from the Korean War through the rebellions of 1956 to the debates over the leadership of the bloc and the changes accompanying the Great Leap Forward. The authors are balanced in their awareness of Chinese motivations concerning the relationship, and also quick to note Chinese sensitivities about sovereignty that in certain cases bordered on paranoia, such as the disputes over the long-wave radio station and joint submarine fleet in 1958. The Soviets might have been too direct and even disrespectful in the negotiations, but the “Soviet leadership had no intention of controlling the PRC” (317). The authors also repeatedly recognize the contributions of the Soviet advisers and programs to Chinese industrial and economic development (110-123).
The ability to explore the domestic politics and culture of both societies allows for interesting insight into Sino-Soviet relations and the broader history of the Cold War. Attention to the influence of domestic culture and politics on foreign policy has long been a method familiar to scholars of China, while scholars of the Soviet Union have been less imaginative in this area. For Shen and Xia this method comes naturally, with intriguing results. Khrushchev, they argue, needed allies in the precarious process of reform and the politics of de-Stalinization, and he looked to the Chinese for support (188-92). The nuclear program in China was part of this gratitude. “We strongly believe that Khrushchev personally made the decision to assist China in building a nuclear industry to repay Mao for his political support,” they emphasize (217). The Soviets reneged on their plan to provide the bomb to the Chinese in June 1959, however (prompting the Chinese to name their subsequent plan to develop the bomb “596,” i.e., June 1959 [ 227]). By that time Khrushchev was talking extensively to the Americans, much to the dismay of the Chinese. ‘Catch up and surpass’ was a struggle to be waged not just in terms of steel and iron production, but in comparative standards of living and consumerism as well. From the Chinese perspective the Soviets were far too interested in opportunities to engage with the United States and the global economic system it led. Similar to the situation in the late 1940s, Soviet policy still seemed to the Chinese to be “more concerned about the interests of the Soviet Union than the fate of the Chinese Communists” (36). The two powers always had contrasting security interests, but for a short time their different needs brought them together and created the basis for the Sino-Soviet alliance.
This comprehensive volume will serve as a crucial guide to a host of issues important to the Sino-Soviet alliance. The authors might devote more attention to emerging issues in the 1950s that subsequently became openly sensitive, such as the following: 1) the conviction among China’s leaders that the Soviet Union was a ‘hegemonic’ and ‘chauvinist’ power that was actually more threatening to China than the United States, which obviously became very sensitive during the border conflicts of 1969, and forms the background to China’s overtures to the United States in the early 1970s; 2) the rivalry and competition in the Third World, already evident in episodes such as the Bandung Conference in Indonesia in 1955, and 3) sensitive political episodes when the loyalties of high officials were perhaps in doubt (such as the Gao Gang affair, Molotov’s relationship to Chinese ambassador Liu Xiao in Moscow, Marshal Zhu De at the 20th Party Congress in Moscow in February 1956, Soviet military hero and high official Klement Voroshilov in Beijing in 1957, Minister of Defense Peng Dehuai at the Lüshan plenums in 1959). The Soviet Union and China learned quite a bit about each other during the intense forms of collaboration that made up the ‘friendship,’ and their respective memories of the relationship shaped the eventual realignment of the strategic triangle of China, the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1970s.
Review by Deborah Kaple, Princeton University
This new volume by Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia is an amazing achievement in the field of Cold War studies. There is nothing else that matches its breadth, coverage, international scope, and detail in one volume. The authors state in the Introduction that “there has yet to be a comprehensive treatment of the rise and fall of the Sino-Soviet alliance from the Chinese perspective and based on international documentation” (3). With this volume that covers the years 1945-1959, and a planned second volume that includes the years 1960-1973, they will have more than fulfilled their aim. Producing this volume is a monumental achievement; scholars will read, agree or disagree, and appreciate it for years to come.
The Korean War (1950-1953) set the tone for the Sino-Soviet relationship in succeeding years. In the Shen and Xia version, one sees how blatantly Soviet leader Joseph Stalin ensured that the USSR’s ‘brother’ socialist countries understood their relationship to him: Stalin was the supreme leader of the Socialist Bloc, while Chinese leader Mao Zedong (and Kim Il-sung of North Korea) were simply leaders of their own countries. Stalin was not interested in Mao’s power, or Kim Il-sung’s terrible wartime situation, he only cared about his bigger power. To read the narrative of Mao trying to work with Stalin during the Korean War is to see this clearly. Mao offered to help the Koreans fight the war, and Stalin promised Soviet air backup for the troops, but then Stalin and his envoys became incommunicative. As the war became more tense and the two ‘fraternal chiefs’ became more frantic for supplies and advice, they tried desperately to reach Stalin and his envoys. Stalin’s tactic was simple: evasion and unresponsiveness, which left the two ‘brother Allies’ to writhe in anticipation and fear over what to do. Stalin did not care that his tactic cost lives and wasted time, his interest was mainly in demonstrating that he was not their friend, but their overlord. Also, Stalin stuck to the belief that the CCP was a nationalist or a “pro-American element” for two weeks after hostilities commenced, thus delaying the provision of air cover for the Chinese troops until 1 November 1950 (81).
The authors point out that that Stalin’s bad treatment of Mao by using Soviet political and economic power, Stalin’s prestige in the international Communist movement and Stalin’s diplomatic skills “forced Mao into a passive and subordinate position” and “this was a humiliation he could not tolerate for long” (92). It says something interesting about Mao’s understanding of Stalin’s power that he even considered himself equal to Stalin at that time. Certainly, in no alliance with other socialist bloc members, for instance, Yugoslavia and Albania, did Stalin treat the country’s leader as an equal. They all understood that Stalin was the Supreme Leader, and that they were his subordinates. I agree that Mao’s feeling of humiliation became “a hidden contradiction in the Sino-Soviet alliance” (92).
To my mind, one of the most valuable contributions of this volume is the authors’ heroic mining of archival data to better understand the parameters of Soviet contributions to China in the 1950s. This has long been a murky area of randomly cited statistics. Under Stalin, the Soviets promised 141 major industrial projects but only provided China with 47 of them; they “established a strong base for China’s economic recovery, and laid a foundation for its continuing industrialization” (89). But the Sino-Soviet friendship really came of age when Nikita Khrushchev took power. He immediately came to China, apologized for Stalin’s mistreatment of the Chinese, and initiated the beginning of genuine Soviet-Chinese cooperation, starting with working out the details of actually fulfilling China’s first Five-Year Plan.
In 1954, assistance from the USSR expanded; the list of Khrushchev’s generosity is far-reaching, almost unbelievable (103.) The aid included providing additional equipment to the original 141 Soviet-funded enterprises, building 15 new industrial enterprises, dispatching thousands of technical experts and advisors, providing a large amount of reference material on science and technology (such as construction designs, draft sketch maps on machinery and equipment, and so on), and the training and educating of large numbers of Chinese in the USSR during this time. In May 1955, just as Khrushchev had promised, the cities of Lushun and Dalian were ceded back to China, ending decades of foreign control and domination. This was an important event in Sino-Soviet relations.
Because Soviet aid to China was so extensive, Khrushchev himself had to overcome his own Politburo’s objections to continue funding the Chinese projects. In the end, this cooperation cost the Soviet Union a huge amount, and ate into its own budget for reconstruction. At the time, the USSR was still in the midst of recovering from the ravages of the devastating second world war fought on its territory. The authors cite Russian figures to the effect that aid to China amounted to 7% of Soviet national income, and according to this analysis, that was money that could have been used to build 2,680,000 sets of apartments that the Soviets desperately needed themselves (105).
A major contribution to our understanding of Soviet aid to China is the authors’ painstaking working out of the issue of Soviet loans to China, as well as the number of experts the Soviets sent to work in China. On the loans, there have been many estimates from both sides. Shen and Xia gathered as much as they could find and determined the amount (See chart on p. 111). In the process, they discovered that China paid all of its debts to the USSR a year early, and also that there is no documentation to prove the allegations that the Soviet Union forced the Chinese to pay off their debts (110).
The authors also set out to determine the number of Soviets experts who worked in China. This is challenging because while the normal term of service for Soviets was two years, there were also many people who went for only several months, some who were supposed to go, did not, and were counted anyway, some who went and returned early and so on. The authors valiantly waded through the available data and in the end conclude that the number of experts and specialists in China in the 1950s was probably around 20,000 (112). Speaking of the experts and specialists, the authors provide good coverage of the positive and negative sides of the cooperation, which seem to have been fairly distributed between the two countries. Concerning the dispatching of Soviet experts, it turns out that here were at times too many or too few experts sent to a work site, Soviet advisors or people who were unprepared and did not have the necessary background arrived to work in China, an often disorganized Soviet mechanism for sending advisors and experts, and there reports of bad behavior such as drunkenness or arrogance. Concerning the Chinese requisitioning of Soviet experts, the authors found incidences whereby Chinese enterprises or ministries sometimes issued the wrong invitations, invited too many Soviet specialists without paying much attention to their qualifications for the job, and asked advisors to come at the wrong time for the work cycle. At times the Soviet experts sometimes arrived in China, but the Chinese side did not have the necessary supplies for the Soviets to do the job properly (118).
The authors state that because of Soviet aid, China was able to fulfill its First Five-Year Plan, which was drawn up under the guidance of Soviet experts, with industrial construction being centered on 156 Soviet-assisted projects. The Soviets not only sent advisors and experts, and built 47 new enterprises that they also designed, they sent thousands of reference materials, documents on technical designs, and actual plans of factories and enterprises. During China’s First Five-Year Plan, 50% of all Soviet aid to socialist countries went to China. The second Five-Year Plan was drawn up by China, but it relied heavily on Soviet technical aid and guidance. Plus it depended on the level of Soviet aid as well as Soviet design plans and the supply of goods and equipment. Many of the industrial projects in the second Five-Year Plan were actually carried out under Soviet guidance.
To this point the story is an inspiring one, with mostly good guys and bad guys all somehow working out a hugely complex relationship. But somewhere in the mid-1950s, the relationship became harder, each leader had domestic issues that complicated things, and of course, the story ends with the infamous ‘split.’ The authors do a good job at laying out the particulars from the Chinese perspective, starting in 1956. They note that “In Chinese historical studies, the understanding and evaluation of the [Soviet] 20th [Party] Congress is still a very controversial topic.” (133) For it is in this very year that the cracks in the Alliance begin to appear.
The authors state quite correctly that there was nothing in the actual program of the 20th Party Congress with which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could disagree, including Khrushchev’s policy of peaceful coexistence, his attention to consumers in the economy, and the strengthening of collective leadership. The ‘Secret Speech’ is another area altogether. Many Chinese people felt “shocked and perplexed” in hearing Khrushchev’s denunciations of Stalin, and many kinds of “chaotic ideas and speculations” arose (144). The Chinese, like the Soviets, printed copies of the speech to be read to the population. In the USSR, that job fell to the local party organizations, with the KGB on hand to record people’s reactions, which were varied but, in the end, exceedingly practical. People worried about where Stalin’s body would go now that he had been denounced, and what they would do with all the Stalin statues and posters in their cities.
At an enlarged Politburo meeting, the CCP leadership discussed the mistakes Stalin had made. There, Mao stated that Stalin had been 30% wrong and 70% right, and that Stalin was a great Marxist-Leninist. The authors, however, note that in private, Mao was somewhat dissatisfied that Khrushchev had criticized Stalin’s cult of personality in his speech. Mao “reserved the right to encourage and promote his own cult of personality” (150). And of course Mao was unhappy because Khrushchev did not consult him on the speech. Mao had every right to be angry, because it meant that the Soviets did not treat the CCP as an important member of the Socialist Bloc. Mao could not help but wonder how everyone had for so long praised Stalin, and now condemned him. In China, as in the USSR, the regime monitored what people were saying about the speech. The authors found many instances of people asking questions about Mao’s personality cult and questioning the leadership of the CCP.
Mao’s understanding of the message of the Secret Speech was that China could go its own way on the path to socialism. Two months after Khrushchev’s revelations, Mao gave a speech “On the Ten Major Relationships,” in which he openly stated that the Chinese must not follow the example of the Soviet Union in concentrating everything in the hands of central authorities, and that when learning from other countries, China must not copy everything indiscriminately and transplant mechanically. “We should adopt the same attitude in learning from the experience of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Some of our people…picked up their weaknesses.” Later in the speech, Mao said that because tsarist Russia had been an imperialist power and because it had the October Revolution, “many people in the Soviet Union are conceited and very arrogant.” Shen and Xia rightly conclude that Mao felt that he could better guide the international Communist movement, and that he would be a much more charismatic leader than Khrushchev.
In celebrating this great new resource that Shen and Xia have provided us, I have very few complaints. Every now and then there are small problems with footnotes. There are many incredibly rich discussions of conversations between the Soviets and the Chinese, for instance, the new interpretation of Soviet Politburo member Anastas Mikoyan’s visit with Mao and the CCP in Xibaopo in 1949. For a scholar conversant with this issue, it is fascinating to read the authors’ interpretations of the meetings. However, the footnote (note 48) to this discussion directs the reader to note 7 for a discussion of how “many scholars have given too much attention to Sino-Soviet divergences and contradictions,” but note 7 does not contain this discussion. It is disappointing not to find this citation. Also, in the very interesting discussions about how Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and Mao influenced Khrushchev’s decisions in the Polish and Hungarian uprisings, it is surprising to see that there are no Soviet archival sources cited about this influence. It would make the point stronger if there were Soviet sources; their inclusion would go very far towards changing the narrative in the Western historiography. And finally, I was amused to see myself included in the “Sources from Russian” section, and cited throughout as D. Keipl. It turns out that a paper I wrote was translated by somebody in Russia, and then translated again into Chinese, Such is globalization.
All in all, this volume gives us much to learn, to discuss, and even argue with, all with the goal of finally, someday, getting closer to the truth. As companion volumes to Shen and Xia’s Chinese story, I recommend that scholars also read the story from the Russian point of view in the recent biography of Mao by Aleksander Pantsov and Steven I. Levine, as well as Hua-yu Li’s book on economic cooperation between the USSR and China in the Stalin years. Shen and Xia tell the Chinese side of this complicated story in an organized and engaging manner, with much new documentation. Scholars of the Sino-Soviet Alliance have been crying out for a source as rich and detailed as this is on the Sino-Soviet partnership. This is very valuable contribution for all scholars interested in Sino-Soviet affairs.
Review by Steven I. Levine, Department of History, University of Montana
It may be unforgiveable, or at least in questionable taste, to begin a review of a serious work by two eminent historians with a bad quasi-pun in Chinese. But as someone well past seventy, the age at which Confucius said (in Simon Leys’ translation of The Analects), “I follow all the desires of my heart without breaking any rule.” (2:4), I, too, will follow the desires of my heart. And the rules be damned. With apologies to the ghost of Cao Xueqin, author of Dream of a Red Chamber (Hong lou meng), I think the book under review might be better titled Dream of a Red Alliance (Hong tongmeng meng), and its forthcoming sequel Mao and the Sino-Soviet Split, 1960-1973: A New History be titled Nightmare of a Red Alliance (Hong tongmeng emeng).
From its formal declaration on 14 February 1950, through its erosion and eventual collapse, all the way to the present, the ill-fated Sino-Soviet alliance has been the subject of intense scrutiny by scholars from a variety of academic disciplines and with different regional expertise. Many of the earlier scholars in the West, including international-relations specialists in the United States, were practitioners of Kremlinology and Pekingology, modern variants of the ancient Chinese arts of scapulimancy and divination using milfoil stalks. Numerous studies were rooted, in part if not entirely, in official U.S. government concerns about the implications of the alliance for American power in what was understood—or perhaps misunderstood—as the bipolar world of the Cold War, a traumatized world living in the shadow of nuclear weapons. Since the end of the Cold War a generation ago, historians with varying degrees of access to Russian, Chinese, and former East bloc archives as well as memoirs and interviews with former officials from China and the Soviet Union have happily occupied the vacancy left by the soothsayers of yesteryear.
The book under review is an important contribution to the new literature on the Sino-Soviet alliance and merits the serious and critical scrutiny which this roundtable provides. In what follows I propose to comment on: (1) the organization of the book; (2) its main thesis; and (3) several of the specific issues addressed therein before providing a summing up.
As the authors note, six of the ten chapters were previously published as journal articles and revised for inclusion in the book. The indefatigable efforts of Zhihua Shen in particular are reflected in the large number of items that he authored or co-authored which are included in the Notes and Bibliography. If one did not know him personally—I had the pleasure of meeting this distinguished scholar on several occasions—so prolific has he been that one might think his name stood for an entire squadron of historians rather than a single remarkable individual. Moreover, Yafeng Xia is a most worthy collaborator in this enterprise.
The authors have provided a signal service in collecting and revising the journal articles and adding important new material to compose this book. Perhaps because of its provenance, however, the book has a curiously segmented quality to it rather than being a well-integrated continuous narrative. The individual chapters are weakly connected and the approach isolates rather than historically contextualizes simultaneous developments in each of the subject areas under discussion. Coupled with what I consider explanatory shortcomings, which I shall address below, I think the book succeeds better as a sourcebook of detailed information on various aspects of Sino-Soviet relations than as an interpretive history. It smacks of the older Chinese tradition of history as chronology—long on facts, shorter on interpretation. Nevertheless, diligent readers can mine the wealth of information, including much new material, to arrive at their own understanding of the alliance.
A central thesis of the book, although one that is not systematically developed, is the assertion that the alliance “was not a product of ideological affinity” (4). Both Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong and his Soviet Communist Party counterpart Joseph Stalin, we are told, forged the alliance on the basis of security concerns. Realpolitik, not ideas, reigned. There can be no doubt that Stalin and Mao were, inter alia, hard-headed, wily realists who sought concrete benefits from an alliance between their two countries. They negotiated at length over specific points of interest and yielded nothing without good reason. Moreover, each of them embodied contrasting memories of the prior history of Sino-Russian relations going back to the era of tsarist imperialism when Russia trampled on Chinese national interests. Mao’s political awakening occurred during the early-twentieth-century nadir of Chinese power. Meanwhile, Stalin, the Georgian avatar of Russian nationalism, sought to recoup the imperial position in Manchuria that Russia had forfeited after its humiliating defeat in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War.
Yet to dismiss ideology as a crucial factor in the formation of the Sino-Soviet alliance is to ignore the entire history of the Chinese Communist Party from its foundation in 1921 through the civil war of the 1940s which brought it to power. It is to ignore the power of Marxist-Leninist ideas, however monstrously embodied in the Soviet Union, to inspire Chinese nationalists-cum-social revolutionaries like Mao and many others like him. It is to ignore Mao’s unswerving fealty to Stalin throughout his rise to power and Stalin’s canny support for his Chinese acolyte as demonstrated in Alexander V. Pantsov’s biography Mao: The Real Story which this reviewer had a hand in. The ideological affinity that was the foundation of the Sino-Soviet alliance imparted to it a very different content than had it been simply the result of national interest calculations on both sides. Among political movements and in the minds of leaders, ideology is expressed concretely in cooperative activity that takes the form of joint action including alliances. Perhaps only among university faculty and other intellectuals is ideology simply an abstract system of thought without concrete expression in real-world politics. Mao and Stalin were both unsentimental realists, to be sure, but they were also both men of ideas rooted in the system of action-oriented politics that was Marxism-Leninism. The germination, flowering, and withering of the Sino-Soviet alliance all demonstrate the influence of ideology on Soviet and Chinese leaders who truly believed the future belonged to Communism and that their cooperation would accelerate the advent of their millenarian fantasies. I am unpersuaded that “The seeds of the later Sino-Soviet split were planted and grew in the process of alliance formation” (62). This is a case of 20-20 hindsight which implicitly and without foundation suggests that the split was inevitable rather than the result of the behavior of leaders on both sides after Stalin died. One does not expect perfect harmony between alliance partners, only a sufficient convergence of core interests and values to impel them to forge an alliance and pursue common interests within the framework of the alliance. That conflicts over secondary matters doomed the alliance from the beginning, as the authors suggest, is an untenable position in my opinion.
Let me address just a few points that I find of particular interest in the book. Shen and Xia’s discussion of Sino-Soviet relations in the run-up to China’s intervention in the Korean War in October 1950 magnifies rather than clarifies the confusion surrounding this decision. Their argument rests on the mistaken assertion that Mao was eager to join in the war early on and was dissuaded only by Stalin’s and North Korean leader Kim Il-sung’s opposition. In fact, the steps that China took after the United States intervened under cover of the United Nations, including formation of the Northeast Border Defense Forces, were defensive measures taken to protect Chinese vital interests in Manchuria, not evidence that Mao was champing at the bit, waiting for a green light from the Kremlin to plunge into the fray. The authors omit any reference to Beijing’s warnings to Washington about the consequences of U.S. forces crossing the 38th parallel after the Inchon landings which Mao had warned Kim Il-sung about, but which the rash and impetuous Korean boy wonder had ignored. (It seems that Kim Jong-un has inherited his grandfather’s unerring sense of strategic folly.) Mao’s vacillation on the eve of China’s intervention points to his struggle over the decision to intervene which many of his colleagues initially opposed. Moreover, the authors’ analysis of Stalin’s thinking regarding the place of Korea in Soviet strategy and the Soviet dictator’s views regarding Chinese intervention is speculative and lacks documentary evidence to support it. On the other hand, their treatment of Sino-Soviet cooperation after China intervened is rich in detail and fully demonstrates the importance of the Korean War in building confidence into the nascent Sino-Soviet alliance. Similarly, Chapter Four, “Khrushchev’s New Policy toward China and the Honeymoon of the Alliance, 1954-1956,” adds valuable new detail to our knowledge of this period and shows beyond a doubt just how important Soviet assistance to China was in every phase of China’s early socialist construction. During this period, China became in effect a technological dependency of the Soviet Union without whose aid far less could have been accomplished. At the same time, however, the Chinese appetite for Soviet assistance was insatiable and nothing Moscow provided could satisfy Beijing’s unrealistic expectations. China was like an open-mouthed fledgling bird in the nest, endlessly feeding.
A major contribution of the book, which the authors remind us, is that it complicates the conventional wisdom about a number of issues in Sino-Soviet relations including what role, if any, the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (February 1956) played in initiating the Sino-Soviet split. They demonstrate that “The 20th Congress had no immediate negative effect on Sino-Soviet relations” (157). They accord detailed treatment to China’s role in managing the Hungarian crisis of October-November 1956 while virtually ignoring the Polish crisis which preceded it. In the aftermath of the bloody suppression of the Hungarian revolution, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai attempted to strengthen the shaken unity of the socialist camp, in part by convincing the Soviet Union to “abandon its hegemonic attitude in dealing with other countries” (182). This attempt, and Shen and Xia’s discussion of it, overlooks the reality that the regimes in these satellite countries were creations of the Soviet Union in the first place and would not have existed otherwise. They were far from being independent countries with which normal alliance relations were possible. They were inherently in a position of permanent subordination to Moscow and no amount of talk about equal relations among fraternal socialist countries could change that reality. In any case, Mao approved the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution by Soviet troops and thereby supported what twelve years later became the so-called Brezhnev doctrine, arrogating to the Soviet Union the right to intervene to save imperiled communist regimes, a doctrine invoked in 1968 to justify the military suppression of the Prague Spring and Czech communist leader Alexander Dubcek’s attempt to introduce ‘socialism with a human face.’ In reality, the human face of Soviet-style socialism was precisely the faces of the bloody-minded autocrats in the Kremlin and Zhongnanhai.
The last several chapters of the book address the turning points in the Sino-Soviet alliance when the arc of cooperation began to bend down toward conflict. In this connection I would like to comment briefly on the Great Leap Forward and the Taiwan Strait crisis of August 1958, both of which were signature products of Mao Zedong. What is missing from Shen and Xia’s discussion of these events is a sense of agency, of personal leadership responsibility. For example, with reference to the Soviet proposal that the two allies jointly build a fleet and construct long-range radio stations for naval communications, proposals which elicited an eruption of bilious rage on the part of Mao Zedong, Shen and Xia note that “Mao knew the [Sino-Soviet] relationship was worsening” (318). Why? They don’t really say. But Mao was not a passive observer of the deterioration of Sino-Soviet relations. Rather he was its primary cause. This is not to deny that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, another choleric despot, certainly deserves a share of the credit or blame. In their telling, however, Stalin, Khrushchev, Mao and the rest of the primary dramatis personae in the drama of Sino-Soviet relations almost always behaved as calculating rational actors. This was hardly so. Shen and Xia’s is a rather wooden, bloodless account which reduces the high drama of Sino-Soviet relations to a series of banal encounters. Mao’s role in Sino-Soviet relations is excused. The Great Helmsman’s hubris, his ignorance of economic realities, his fantasizing about both domestic and international politics are left unremarked by the authors. The tragic folly of Mao’s domestic policy as seen in the Great Leap Forward and the People’s Communes is a case in point, as is his umbrage when the Soviets failed to shout hossanahs of praise in his honor. Mao’s recklessness and utter disregard of his treaty obligations to consult his Soviet partner before initiating the bombardment of Jinmen in August 1958 again demonstrate a leader who was not behaving like a rational actor. While Khrushchev, for all his shortcomings as a leader, took the alliance seriously and desired cooperation and coordination with his irascible Chinese counterpart, Mao had a cavalier and disdainful attitude toward the alliance and behaved not as an alliance partner but as a would-be hegemon with no responsibilities to others. Similarly, Mao’s casual remarks about nuclear war at the Moscow Conference in 1957, excusable perhaps in a bar room conversation, were hardly fit coming from the leader of a major country. His words betrayed the casual disregard for human life which epitomized Mao’s entire political career. The abstraction of building socialism was more important to him than the lives of tens, or even hundreds, of millions of human beings. Shen and Xia more often quote the views of other scholars than expressing their own views about controversial issues.
There are many other points on which I found myself disagreeing with the authors even as my thinking was greatly stimulated by them. My reading notes comprise ten single-spaced pages and it would take many more pages than that to engage all of the points that intrigued me. That is perhaps one indication of the value of this book to students of Sino-Soviet relations in particular and, more broadly, to students of comparative alliance politics. In the historical context of Sino-Russian relations going back to the early Qing dynasty, the Sino-Soviet alliance was little more than a fleeting moment even though it looms so large in the Cold War history of our own times. In the second volume of this work, Li Danhui, in collaboration with Yafeng Xia, addresses the decline and collapse of the Sino-Soviet alliance. I look forward eagerly to reading, learning from, and discussing the work of two very distinguished scholars who, in their contributions to our understanding of Sino-Soviet relations, have few if any peers.
Review by Niu Jun, School of International Studies, Peking University
International scholars of the Cold War have continuously focused on Sino-Soviet relations during the Cold War. This is attested to by the results of research appearing in recent years that has attracted our attention. Such works include, among others, Lorenz Lüthi’s The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World and Sergey Radchenko’s Two Suns in the Heavens: The Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-1967. But my impression is that Chinese scholars of the international history of the Cold War and of Chinese foreign policy are probably the group most interested in studying Sino-Soviet relations. In the past ten years the majority of scholarly discussions among Chinese scholars on the international history of the Cold War have focused on Sino-Soviet relations or topics related to Sino-Soviet relations. We may say that the works of Shen Zhihua, Li Danhui, and Xia Yafeng are the fruit of the labor of the Chinese scholarly community over the past dozen years or so. They basically reflect the efforts of Chinese scholars and indicate the level they have achieved.
In their Introduction, the authors first emphasize one of the most distinctive features of this book, namely, that it makes use “of newly available declassified and published Chinese and Russian sources (including recently declassified Chinese foreign ministry archives from 1949 to 1965) … which are supplemented by a large quantity of secondary sources, oral history, and interviews...” (4). This reflects the enormous efforts made by the Chinese scholarly community in the past dozen years or so. The most important of these efforts was the collection, arrangement, and open publication of a large quantity of archives from the Soviet era preserved by Russia, on the initiative and under the direct leadership of Professor Shen Zhihua. Most significant is the publication in China at the beginning of 2015 of “Selections from Declassified Russian Archives: Sino-Soviet Relations,” [in Chinese] with Professor Shen Zhihua as editor-in-chief.There are twelve volumes in all, including a large number of declassified archives which have been translated and published in China for the first time. This is an extremely useful service for scholars, students, and others doing research and studies. This is the first time such a broad effort to arrange and translate archival documents on Sino-Soviet relations, that has been done in China. This reflects the level of importance accorded to this subject by the Chinese scholarly community and society, and the great conceptual changes brought about by such publication.
There are extremely distinctive historical reasons why Chinese scholars are so interested in Sino-Soviet relations, namely, the profound and lasting influence of Sino-Soviet relations on China, including the fact that certain important aspects continue right up to the present. In the Foreword to the Chinese edition of his book The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, Harvard Professor Odd Arne Westad specially points out that “the influence of the Sino-Soviet alliance on China has been extremely far-reaching, but this problem has not yet received sufficient study.” (Chinese edition, 4) In this respect, the Chinese scholarly community has even more personal experience. This is the main impetus for Shen Zhihua, Li Danhui and other Chinese scholars in this area of study to unremittingly cultivate, actively encourage, support, and train a new generation of historians to enter this field. Without a doubt the Chinese scholarly community has reached a very basic consensus that without understanding Soviet history and the history of Sino-Soviet relations, there is no way to understand the origin and development of contemporary Chinese history or to discover the roots of many of China’s current problems. From this perspective, the works of Shen Zhihua and others are not only a contribution to the collective enterprise of the international scholarly community, even more importantly they respond to the great need of contemporary Chinese society, to the Chinese people’s thirst for understanding their own history.
The first volume of this book covers the period from 1949 to 1959. As I see it, compared to the subsequent dissolution of the Sino-Soviet alliance, this period is particularly important because it encompasses the historical choice of Chinese Communist leaders, Mao Zedong in the first instance, at a crucial moment after the end of a long period of fragmentation in modern Chinese history and large-scale movement toward national reconstruction, to ‘lean to one side’ toward the Soviet camp and to enter into a military alliance with the Soviet Union. The profound influence of this choice has endured to the present. The title of this book informs the reader that the authors have focused on Mao Zedong’s actions as one of their major themes in recounting the origin of the Sino-Soviet alliance. Of course, this is correct. In fact, during the period when Mao Zedong exercised supreme power, the Soviet Union went through three generations of leaders from Joseph Stalin through Nikita Khrushchev to Leonid Brezhnev. Even though it was in the last phase of the civil war, when Mao Zedong himself was implementing ‘democratic centralism’ rather cautiously but seriously, his thinking and decisions were paramount, because at that time there were not many persons in the CCP involved in handling relations with the Soviets. There were even fewer top decision-makers at Xibaipo. We may say that the decision to form an alliance with the Soviet Union was made by a few persons, with Mao as the most important among them (11-46). This book does not focus on probing Mao Zedong’s personal character or the ever-increasing changes in it during the period he exercised power. This is rather unfortunate, because on almost every important occasion, Mao Zedong was the main actor on the Chinese side, standing stage center, as is sufficiently evident from the book.
The first volume of Shen Zhihua and Xia Yafeng’s book contains ten chapters and covers almost every important event in this period from the formation of the Sino-Soviet alliance to the beginnings of its dissolution. What produces a profound impression is that unlike other works such as the aforementioned The Sino-Soviet Split and Two Suns in the Heavens, the authors do not offer a simple and clear conclusion. Whether China and the Soviet Union were seeking to form an alliance or heading toward conflict, one may always discover a single most important reason, even though such analysis itself has great value. In relating every event, the authors analyze the simultaneous existence of both Sino-Soviet cooperation and differences, and the resolution or progress of every issue; the result, it seems, was unsatisfactory to both sides.
But there were exceptions. For example, according to the authors, during the visit of CCP vice chairman Liu Shaoqi to Moscow in the summer of 1949, both sides reached broad agreement and no differences between them emerged (33). There must be an explanation for why this visit was successful. Perhaps it was because both sides avoided certain issues such as those related to Mongolia. The authors write that, “The Mongolian issue was not touched upon in the talks. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Soviet Union effectively delayed resolution of the controversial issue” (32). On the other hand, an important reason why Liu Shaoqi’s secret trip to Moscow was able to lay a foundation for the Sino-Soviet alliance was because this time the Central Committee of the CCP seriously considered the question of ‘Following the Russians’ path.’ During his forty-day stay, Liu Shaoqi met with Stalin just a few times; the rest of his time was spent at various levels of government in the Soviet Union, and visiting factories, enterprises, etc. Everyone could see that he returned home with a contingent of Soviet experts and loans; what could not be directly seen, but could be inferred, was that he had already implanted in his mind the Soviet model of development and his own understanding of this model. Later ‘New China’ commenced its national reconstruction according to this model. Its influence, including its influence on Chinese foreign policy, etc. was extremely profound and long lasting.
In their account of Mao Zedong’s subsequent talks in Moscow with Stalin and ultimate signing of the treaty of alliance, the authors give a rather full explanation of the misunderstandings, divergences, and even suspicions existing between the two sides. Shen Zhihua even suggests that Stalin was somewhat “forced” to accept Mao Zedong’s demands regarding signing of the treaty of alliance (59). He did so because he could receive some sort of compensation in another dimension of the relationship. On the Chinese side, Shen asserts that Mao Zedong and the others at least initially saw “the signing of the Sino-Soviet alliance treaty as a success in the early 1950s because it guaranteed a military alliance with the Soviet Union and direct loans to the PRC” (62). But through a detailed analysis of the negotiations, the authors contend that deep differences and certain mutual suspicions existed between the two sides, which surfaced soon after when the Korean War erupted. Then the Sino-Soviet alliance faced the complicated test which the war presented, and was able to bridge the gaps left over from forging the alliance. This conclusion is very significant. In other words, if not for the Korean War it is doubtful whether the alliance of the two sides could subsequently have developed smoothly for a certain period. Historians generally cannot provide answers to hypothetical events that did not occur, but the logic of a thing may lead one to such questions. Therefore, we should make a provisional judgment regarding the character and seriousness of the differences that were revealed in the process of alliance formation. Under normal circumstances, were they or were they not sufficient to destroy the alliance? From the authors’ subsequent narrative, one may provisionally conclude that since so many problems existed at the genesis of the Sino-Soviet alliance—there was insufficient trust and poor personal relations between the leaders of the two countries—it was obviously difficult for the alliance to endure.
The most compelling chapter in this volume is the one about the Korean War, Chapter Three “Differences and Cooperation during the Korean War” (69-92). According to the authors, Stalin was an extremely realistic calculator. From supporting Korean leader Kim Il-song’s launching of the war to drawing China into the war at a critical moment, to betraying, without hesitation, his promise to provide air cover for Chinese troops, on almost every occasion Stalin engaged in careful calculation, placing the interests of the Soviet Union above everything else. From a different perspective, Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders were in a very difficult position; they had no choice but to send troops to enter the Korean War. The authors provide a rather concrete analysis of the reasons why Chinese leaders persisted in their decision to send troops into Korea despite Stalin’s failure to carry out his promise to provide air cover. According to the authors, one may say that Mao Zedong and others were rational decision-makers who knew that if they did not dispatch troops, “then not only would all Korea have been occupied by U.S. troops, but China’s security would have been threatened and the Sino-Soviet alliance would have existed in name only” (91). If their analysis is correct, then the consequences were very important. But in ultimately deciding to send troops, the Chinese leaders must have had a more complicated calculation. There is still a gap in our understanding of their consideration of how best to promote China’s security interests while maintaining alliance relations with the Soviet Union. This requires further analysis. Logically speaking, as rational decision-makers they not only must have known that it was necessary to maintain the alliance, but also that in planning their course their military objectives would quickly exceed the limits set by actual conditions, and that there could be no guarantee against the possibility of defeat, which would made the situation even worse.
Similarly, the chapter on the years 1958-1959, when the Sino-Soviet alliance was heading toward a split, is extremely riveting. In discussing the issues which arose in the spring and summer of 1958, the ‘long-wave radio station’ and the ‘joint fleet’ issues which caused Mao Zedong to fly into a rage, the authors challenge the traditional point of view of both Chinese and Western scholars. The authors assert that previous works have exaggerated the intensity of Mao Zedong’s reaction to the ‘long-wave radio station’ and the ‘joint fleet’ and also exaggerated the negative influence of these two issues on relations within the Sino-Soviet alliance. They point out that “for a long time this view prevailed in the Chinese historiography, and it still seems to be the historical consensus in both China and the West. Newly available sources demonstrate that things are not as simple as previously assumed” (308). The authors believe that after the November 1957 Moscow Conference of world Communist parties, Sino-Soviet relations entered a “honeymoon phase.” Against this background, cooperation between the countries increased in the area of military security and high-level meetings on security affairs produced concrete results. “... there was information circulated that Chinese and Soviet troops were implementing joint defense operations in border regions” (308). Considering this positive atmosphere, the Soviet proposal to increase military security cooperation via joint measures certainly could not have been a motive for Mao Zedong to quarrel; it was all very natural. The question, then, is why did Mao Zedong suddenly become unusually angry? According to the authors, he was actually beside himself with rage (313) and he demanded that Khrushchev himself come to Beijing as soon as possible to explain things. Khrushchev complied and arrived in Beijing just one week later. Mao and Khrushchev held a summit meeting that got nowhere, its results, to say the least, were not constructive in terms of Sino-Soviet relations. According to the authors, Mao Zedong damaged Sino-Soviet military cooperation for no reason whatsoever, and this had no benefit for China’s military modernization. If so, then can it still be said that he was a rational decision-maker? Doubts must arise in the reader’s mind. But was it the case that Mao Zedong, as an extreme nationalist, because of his oversensitivity, viewed Sino-Soviet disagreement over military cooperation as a sign of Soviet contempt for Chinese sovereignty and lack of respect toward Chinese?
With respect to the Soviets, the authors write that “the way they raised the proposal was too direct and disrespectful, and did not take into account Chinese nationalistic sentiments” (318). This kind of explanation is correct, but obviously insufficient, because as the authors write earlier in the book, during the discussions in Moscow regarding the Sino-Soviet treaty, when there was a much more obvious insult to Chinese nationalist sentiments, Mao made concessions (62-63). Therefore, we need to consider Mao Zedong’s character. At times he dealt with matters that displeased him in a rather petulant manner. In addition, it is especially important to note that Mao detested Khrushchev. He didn’t even bother to try and disguise his contempt. This was evident in how he held nothing back in dealing emotionally with differences that arose in relations between the two countries. One may suppose that had he been dealing with Stalin, Mao Zedong would certainly have brought his emotions under control.
The process of dealing with the issues of the ‘long-wave radio station’ and the ‘joint fleet’ reflects the fact that relations between the two countries already showed signs of a deep and multi-layered crisis and were also rather sensitive. Both the formation and development of the Sino-Soviet alliance depended upon a rather complicated structure, including three norms of mutual relations. They were respectively based on international law and the universal norms of state relations; on the so-called ‘principle of proletarian internationalism’ of the international communist movement; and on the relations recognized in the process of alliance formation, namely, relations between the leader (the Soviet Union) and the led (China). Sometimes these three principles were mutually exclusive. In relations between the two countries, relations between the communist parties were of paramount importance. The system of centralized power in both countries determined that the mutual relations between the top leaders of the two parties were of decisive importance. The two men’s understanding of who was the “leader” and who was the “led,” fundamentally determined both sides’ conduct and attitude toward each other in the summer of 1958. The deepest division revealed at the summit meeting between Mao and Khrushchev really was over their understanding of who was the ‘leader’ and who were the ‘led,’ which put them at cross-purposes. As noted, Mao obviously despised Khrushchev; the latter continued to think that he was the incarnation of Soviet man and was the true head of the great socialist family.
From the authors’ narrative, it seems that the following conclusion may be derived. The foundation upon which the two countries chose to forge an alliance, the degree of mutual trust between Mao Zedong and Stalin in the process of forging the alliance, and the complicated principles they established for managing relations between the two countries, were insufficient to sustain the alliance over the long term. The fundamental reason for this must be analyzed within the framework of the history of Sino-Soviet relations. From the beginning, their bilateral relations were relations between two countries that had been born amidst turbulence and revolution. They both experienced domestic turmoil and radically violent revolutions.
In October 1911, the Xinhai Revolution broke out in China. The two thousand year imperial system was overthrown. In November 1917, Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik party overthrew Russia’s provisional government by armed force, and established the world’s first Communist government. Sino-Soviet relations began from this, and inherited all of the questions left over from history. The establishment of the People’s Republic of China did not automatically make a solution of these historical problems any easier. These problems included Russo-Chinese border issues such as Xinjiang, Mongolia, and Northeast China. The crux of the matter was how to deal with Tsarist Russia’s seizure of rights and interests in China’s borderlands, its intervention in the affairs of China’s borderlands, post-Xinhai Revolution relations between the Soviet Union and various domestic political forces in China, including the Guomindang, the Chinese Communist Party, other political and military groups, and local forces, all of the special rights Tsarist Russia had secured in China, especially in the Northeast, such as stationing troops in China, etc. Through their narrative, unprecedented in its detail, the authors demonstrate that Mao, Stalin, and others were basically unable to solve these historical issues. For Sino-Soviet relations to normalize, the two countries had to become normal countries, at a minimum accepting the universal principles underlying contemporary international relations, and advance toward becoming modern countries. We await the next brilliant narrative so readers may further understand that the so-called ‘principle of proletarian internationalism’ is not only unable to solve problems between modern countries, but is harmful and useless in that respect.
Review by David Wolff, Hokkaido University
Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945-1959 is essential reading for anyone who wishes to rethink the classic bilateral Cold-War chessboard paradigm, the Soviets playing black and the Americans white. Shen Zhihua and Xia Yafeng have put China firmly back on the Cold War history playing field, central to the Sino-Soviet relationship that at first seemed to bind, but then tore apart the world socialist movement. Building on Shen’s voluminous Chinese publications of which some dozens are listed in this book’s bibliography and on seven seminal articles coauthored by this volume’s coauthors and published in some of the field’s top journals between 2009 and 2015, we get an in-depth, archivally based description of Mao Zedong’s coming to power in the postwar after besting his Chinese nationalist rival, Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kaishek) only to come to grips with the Soviet Union headed by Josepf Stalin, claiming rights as the doyen of the socialist camp.
The chapters cover Mao’s relationship with Stalin’s Soviet Union for the first years (eight years, three chapters) followed by Nikita Khrushchev’s first years in somewhat greater detail (six years, seven chapters). This ménage a trois seems appropriate, as the most important personal/political relationship for both Khrushchev and Mao was with Stalin and, even after his death, they both had to deal with Stalin’s weighty legacy for some years to come. The book’s theoretical basis for understanding the ties between and among the top leaders and their Communist parties is realism, with ideology played down as a factor for decision-making whether to tighten or to dissolve the Sino-Soviet alliance (4). Signed in 1945, not by Mao, but by his sworn enemies in the Guomindang, the first ‘friendship’ treaty’s conclusion with Jiang Jieshi and then renewal with Mao in 1950 provides the framework for the first part of the book. In particular, the authors state their aim to write “a comprehensive treatment of the rise and fall of the Sino-Soviet alliance from the Chinese perspective and based on international documentation.” (3)
In this they have succeeded, as the impressive array of Chinese primary sources lays bare the thinking, writing, speeches and negotiating style of China’s top leaders. Citations include central and provincial archives, as well as many documents from authoritative published collections, shaped by Party-approved committees, from the Central Party Archive to which independent (especially foreign) researchers are rarely admitted. The authors’ discussion about the discrepancies between the Russian and Chinese versions of Mao’s October 2 telegram is deeply fruitful to help us understand how complicated the maneuvering around China’s entry into the Korean War was, as well as revelatory of the way that errors of both commission and omission in the publication of documents could result in a slanted view of the historical record. Oral interviews and materials collected, making use of the critical oral history method formulated by James G. Blight, janet M. Lang, and David A. Welch, have added testimony from former leaders, their secretaries and interpreters to the record. We can only wish that we knew as much about later eras of CCP history as we now know about the first 10-15 years in power.
On page 1, we are told that “the focus of the analysis is on political and diplomatic relations, but it encompasses the economic, military and people-to-people relationships as well.” (1) But, in fact, the high-level reporting from the leadership compounds provided by Shen and Xia makes this, more than anything, a study in high politics, with Mao at the center, as the title makes clear. Other top Chinese leaders make cameo appearances: Premier Zhou Enlai, shuttling in 1956 and scolding Khrushchev in 1957; Vice Chairman Liu Shaoqi, sitting in with the Politburo in the Kremlin in 1949. But it would be helpful to the reader to benefit from the authors’ conclusions about the ties among the top leaders, such as Mao and Zhou, as well as their division of labor in international affairs, such as Soviet relations.
The book is simply too rich to review in depth. Each chapter has at least one well-considered new claim or refutation developed on the basis of detailed documentary collection and analysis, which the Center for Cold War International History Studies at East China Normal University, which was founded in 2001, does so well. The Russian-language materials are used effectively and in large number, as well as unparalleled Chinese materials. Russian perspectives are not always as fully represented. So, for example, the best years of Sino-Soviet relations, the heyday of the partnership, according to Shen and Xia, were 1953-1957, but from a Soviet leadership perspective, this would coincide exactly with Khrushchev’s rise to primacy from among the ‘collective leadership.’ It is sad to reduce the friendly and effective cooperation of maybe as many as 20,000 experts to Khrushchev’s Machiavellian urge to power, but he might have seen it that way. Shen and Xia characterize the 1957 Soviet promise of an A-bomb prototype to China as a “reward…for political support” (231).
But this almost sinister bartering of power between Mao (who needed nuclear devices) and Khrushchev (who needed Mao’s mojo), again takes the very human form of E. D. Vorobiev, Director of the Cheliabinsk-40 nuclear facility, sent to China for two and a half years to bring China into the nuclear age. When he arrived there were only 60 physicists, but when he left, forced-march recruitment had driven the community to 6000, who were already training on a research reactor and cyclotron, while the larger industrial objects were being constructed, mainly in China’s western reaches. (213-4) In short, although the leaders never became friends and may have reached agreements for divergent reasons, the partnership ‘on the ground’ was not only real, but filled with warm emotions. This book, focused on top-level decision-making, has more on ‘the Great Friendship’ and less on the ‘friendships’ that it engendered
The earliest chapter covering 1945-1949 is not as rich as the others, for the full complexity of a China not yet under the Communists would not really fit this volume, focused as it is on dynamics among the Communist giants. But even for the intricacies of Soviet (non)support in the years 1945-1948, the authors might draw additional useful material from Odd Arne Westad’s Decisive Encounters to cover the leap from 1945 to 1948 on page 13, in particular the handover of weapons and positions in 1945 as the Soviets occupied the Northeast and again in 1946 as the Red Army evacuated Manchuria. But it is still easy to understand how the CCP and Mao, in particular, might feel that Soviet generosity had been limited, while Stalin might have thought that he had done all that was necessary and advisable, without provoking the Americans. One party’s half-empty could be another’s half-full.
Similarly, in the coverage of the Korean War, Stalin’s unwillingness to commit to air cover for the Chinese Volunteers is often cited both as a reason for Mao’s vacillations when Stalin asked him to send troops to Korea and as proof of Stalin’s prevarications. But given Stalin’s clear statements that he would not commit Soviet troops to places where they would end up in combat with Americans (to Kim Il Sung regarding Korea and Mao regarding Taiwan), his position ultimately seems more or less consistent. As Shen and Xia point out, the Chinese volunteers engaged the United Nations’ troops for the first time on October 25. (81) Soviet planes took the skies above the Yalu on November 1. The most that can be laid at Stalin’s doorstep are the depredations of American air power during the final week of October 1950. In hindsight, Stalin was simply wrestling with the classic alliance dilemma of ‘entrapment,’ where the first member of the alliance to move would end up at war with the U.S., which was then in possession of the world’s most powerful navy and air force. Given geographic realities, all Stalin had to do was wait and Mao would be the first to be burnt by this fire. On the other hand, Shen and Xia’s important point that Mao was ready to intervene even earlier during the summer, while the tactical situation on the Korean peninsula offered better chances for Communist victory, is well-taken. Stalin’s caution worked for him in his management of alliance dynamics, but ultimately cost Chinese lives, a sacrifice to which Stalin (and probably Mao) was inured. In August 1952, when Stalin told Zhou that the Koreans “have lost nothing, except for casualties,” Zhou could easily extrapolate to the conclusion that Stalin would have a similar casual attitude toward the Chinese dead, however many.
As to the very important relationship between Mao and Stalin, Aleksandr Pantsov and Steven Levine’s biography Mao: The Real Story provides important Comintern-era insights into Mao as Stalin’s choice and Stalin as Mao’s “no-choice” (wunai). By 1945 when Shen and Xia’s book beings, Stalin and Mao already had over a decade of sparring behind them, so some prehistory of the relationship might be useful for understanding the events that happened next: Mao’s long road to a summit with Stalin via surrogate meetings by Anastas Mikoyan and Liu; Mao’s bending of Stalin to his will in the matter of a new treaty; and Stalin’s revenge. In this regard, I had reservations about the argument that there was a major shift in Stalin’s policy towards China in mid-1948. There is unfortunately no footnote to cover the statement that “many scholars” think that he “became more positive” then (20). Supporting evidence (18) for a turning point in spring 1948 comes from a speech found in Taiwan’s archives and allegedly made by Stalin to the Politburo on March 14, but its authenticity is called into question by the fact that no Politburo meeting took place on 14 March 1948.
Furthermore, the argument that Mikoyan was sent to Xibaipo in January-February 1949 as a positive step towards alliance can also be interpreted as a downgrading of the meeting that Mao sought with Stalin after the “heated written exchange” in which Mao rejected Soviet intermediation in the Chinese Civil War. (19) Similarly, a year later when Stalin finally agreed to conclude a new Treaty of Friendship with Mao, the key decision occurred on or around New Years Day, but the exact timing and initiative are hard to pin down. (49) Pinpointing shifts in Stalin’s stance and their causes remains a difficult task, as the great Dictator had no obligation to reveal his thinking to anyone. Faced with a deficit on decisive documentation, historians need to consider alternative explanations even more thoroughly.
The second half of the book is even richer than the first, highlighting Khrushchev’s role in providing opportunities for Chinese influence in Eastern Europe during the turbulent events of 1956, as well as in the world Socialist movement. These astute moves flattered and bound Mao to Khrushchev’s quest for supremacy within the USSR. Khrushchev’s memoirs make clear that he saw personality similarities between Mao and Stalin and therefore probably made good use of similar tricks of sycophancy and ‘playing the fool’ to get on Mao’s good side, without provoking suspicions. He had had plenty of practice at this as a member of Stalin’s inner circle. This book indirectly supports Khrushchev’s view by arguing that Mao essentially approved of Stalin’s actions, although he later said otherwise (145-52). Also, in order to ensure Mao’s support, Khrushchev accelerated the huge, multi-faceted aid, promised already by Stalin, but largely delivered by Khrushchev. He also provided detailed reporting on Soviet developments, but always with a pro-Khrushchev slant, both through the Soviet embassy and personal emissaries, such as Mikoyan’s visit in 1956. In return, Mao can be credited with providing key support for Khrushchev’s ascendance.
However, by the time Mao made his second (and last) trip to Moscow to attend the World Conference of Communist Parties in November 1957, Khrushchev was firmly in power and did not need Mao’s support, especially if it meant jousting with the Chairman for leadership of the world Communist movement. Shen and Xia’s textual analysis of the Chinese and Russian ‘stenograms’ of Mao’s extemporaneous speech to the Conference, together with Mao’s parallel remarks from an internal speech in China, provide evidence that 18 November 1957 makes a better historical turning point than the 25 February 1956 Secret Speech, but it is also hard to avoid the impression that Mao’s decision to ‘blindside’ the Soviet leadership by not providing his speech text in advance (and violating his agreement not to mention Molotov) was his response to the lack of prior consultation between himself and the Soviets before the denunciation of Stalin.
But then, why is 1959 the cut-off date for this book, if the highpoint of partnership was in 1957? Ultimately, this does not matter, as the promised sequel to this volume will continue the story of the relationship’s downward spiral. I look forward to the second volume, which will be more required reading for those who recognize the importance of Sino-Soviet relations in both defining and challenging Cold War scholarship and world history that has remained focused on American preponderance in the twentieth century for far too long. Shen and Xia are to be congratulated on raising the bar significantly higher for international research on this topic, both with their mastery of the sources and their nuanced interpretations that challenge accepted historiography on almost every page. Thanks to them, the ‘flat’ bilateral chessboard of Cold War studies is on its way to a new and more realistic three-dimensional narrative.
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Sino-Russian relations, past, present or future. The place of Stalin and Mao in the historical record is vastly discordant. Stalin’s image is largely popular in Russia, both in government and among non-elite groups, giving a clear majority in his favor. Urban, educated elites tend to think otherwise, not forgetting how brutally their grandparents and great-grandparents were purged as unreliable by Stalin, grudgingly granting his victory in World War II, but always reminding us of the incredible price, 27 million dead in the Great Patriotic War. Mao’s historical reputation is also a potentially contentious issue, as China’s generation of high-speed growth gets used to new conditions. Was he the father of Chinese revolution, of Chinese liberation or of Chinese development? To what extent, do these claims overlap or contradict? And how should we balance these grand titles against the incredible price, with estimates for the Great Leap Forward famine ranging from 15-45 million? Shen and Xia’s path-breaking book makes its greatest contribution in gathering and evaluating all the main documents and data on the one time that these two tyrannical giants of twentieth century history met in flesh and blood, but also on how they influenced each other’s conduct in the years before and after.
Author’s Response by Zhihua Shen, East China Normal University, and Yafeng Xia, Long Island University
We are very grateful to H-Diplo for organizing this roundtable review of our book, and to Professors Jeremy Friedman, Austin Jersild, Deborah Kaple, Steven I. Levine, Jun Niu and David Wolff for their comments and critiques, which raise important issues and ideas. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify some of our views regarding Sino-Soviet relations during the Cold War.
First of all, we would like to explain the formation of the book. Starting in the early 1990s, Zhihua Shen and Danhui Li began to study the history of Sino-Soviet relations. After nearly two decades of research and probing, Shen’s two-volume work, Wunai de xuanze: Lengzhan yu ZhongSu tongmeng de mingyun, 1945-1959 [Helpless Choice: The Cold War and the Fate of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945-1959] was published in Chinese in 2013. The book consists of over 600,000 Chinese words and 812 pages (which could be over 300,000 words in English if it had been translated word-by-word). Danhui Li’s forthcoming two volumes, entitled, Wuhui de fenshou: Lengzhan yu ZhongSu tongmeng de mingyun, 1960-1973 [Breaking-up Without Regret: The Cold War and the Fate of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1960-1973], which is thicker than Shen’s, is scheduled to be published in Chinese in late 2016. In the last 20 plus years, Chinese scholars have made great strides in the study of the history of Sino-Soviet relations, but these were represented mainly in the venues of journal articles and conference presentations, and thus had very limited impact on the Chinese general public. Furthermore, the Chinese official line, which is political rather than academic, has dominated in Chinese propaganda and textbooks. Shen’s and Li’s books are the first systematic and academic studies of the history of Sino-Soviet relations conducted by Chinese scholars. The authors intend to provide the Chinese general public with a comprehensive understanding of the subject. They further hope to join foreign scholars in discussing and debating the history of Sino-Soviet relations and to familiarize the English-speaking world with new Chinese scholarship, as well as a wide range of Chinese language documentation. We strongly believe that only through exchanges with international scholars can Chinese academic research make steady progress. Perhaps this could serve as an endnote to the Chinese perspective.
To bring new Chinese research into the international arena, in 2007, Shen and Li invited Yafeng Xia, a U.S.-based Chinese historian, to join their research and writing team in order to prepare a book on the history of Sino-Soviet relations from 1945 to 1973 in English (This collaboration eventually led to two books). Starting with journal articles, this collaboration has proved to be effective and fruitful. From 2009 to 2015, six articles based on Shen’s research and two articles from Li’s research were published in top journals. In addition to the volume being reviewed here, a second volume, entitled, Mao and the Sino-Soviet Split, 1959-1973: A New History is scheduled to be published in the spring of 2017. In view of the length of the Chinese volumes and word limits in the English version, we did not adopt the method of word-by-word translation from Chinese into English. Rather, we redesigned the organization of chapters, edited out large potions of the story already familiar to foreign readers, while adding some information which may not be unknown to foreign readers. More importantly, in the process, we incorporated de novo topical secondary literature in English, attempting a conversation with Western scholars. Perhaps in this process of re-creation, as Steven Levine notes, “the book has a curiously segmented quality to it rather than being a well-integrated continuous narrative.” But we also note Levine’s criticism that “the book succeeds better as a sourcebook of detailed information on various aspects of Sino-Soviet relations than as an interpretive history.” Our hope was to clarify previously unknown or not well-understood events and facts in order to promote new academic understanding and consensus. In our view, for a subject still short on historical documents, and, consequently, inadequate consensus, such as the history of Sino-Soviet relations during the Cold War, the primary task is historical narrative. This is the orientation of the book. But we do not mean that historical narrative does not need ‘interpretation.’ On the contrary, we offered many ‘interpretations’ of the historical facts and the entire historical period covered in the book. We realize, however, that we may have failed to offer sufficient and clear coverage and interpretation of certain historical issues. We will clarify some of them in the following paragraphs.
On the formation of the Sino-Soviet alliance, we argue that practical interests were the primary consideration from the perspective of both Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong, and ideology was a secondary and ‘non-crucial factor,’ (4-5) an opinion which differs from Steven Levine’s view. In 1944-1945, Stalin chose Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) as his candidate for Sino-Soviet cooperation, even while Mao attempted to establish closer contact with the United States. In early 1949, Stalin decisively switched his support from Jiang to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and Mao declared his ‘leaning-to-one-side’ policy—the Soviet side. Both changes were premised on realist considerations. We did not elaborate on the role of ideology in alliance formation from the theory of international relations. We believe that the role of ideology can be seen in the following three aspects in the formation of the Sino-Soviet alliance: first, the acceptance of Marxism-Leninism was the prerequisite for the CCP-led new China to become a member of the socialist bloc. Whether the CCP leaders truly understood Marxism-Leninism was another matter, but it could not do without this “admission ticket”; second, when the CCP declared its policy of leaning-to-the Soviet side on the socialist road, and Stalin decided to support the CCP and align with new China, they had to explain the necessity and rationality of the Sino-Soviet alliance to their respective party members and ordinary citizens; third, the CCP had little experience in managing state affairs. When it suddenly became the ruling party after being an illegal opposition party, the CCP only had the Soviet socialist model to imitate and adopt. Here, Hans Morgenthau’s view of the instrumentality of ideology was in full play. 
We actually agree with David Wolff that there was no major shift in Stalin’s policy towards China in mid-1948. When we write, “At this time, there was a great change in Stalin’s view of the position of the Chinese Communists in the Far East” (at the beginning of the 4th paragraph on page 19), this comes after we already discussed Stalin’s policy toward the CCP in January 1949 (the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs on page19). In our opinion, Stalin’s policy toward China after WWII comprised three phases: from the end of World War II to late 1945, the Soviet Union mainly dealt with the Chinese Nationalist government, and the CCP was only a card in Stalin’s sleeve which he occasionally used to pressure Jiang Jieshi and the Nationalists; from early 1946 when Soviet troops withdrew from Northeast China to early 1949, Moscow began to aid and support the CCP, but only in Northeast China and covertly (primarily through North Korea); third, starting from early 1949, when the CCP’s victory in the Chinese Civil War became a forgone conclusion and Mao clearly indicated the CCP’s policy of leaning toward the Soviet Union, Stalin made a major change in his policy toward China. Although Mao already declared the CCP’s policy of ‘leaning-to-one side’ in mid-1949, it was after a struggle over respective national interests that the Sino-Soviet alliance came into existence from late 1949 to early 1950. We want to thank Deborah Kaple for pointing out the error in note 48 on page 41. This will be taken care of if there is a paperback edition.
We respectfully disagree with Steven Levine on numerous points on the history of Sino-Soviet relations. In his rise to power and supremacy in the CCP, Mao never showed “unswerving fealty to Stalin,” as Levine argues. We may say that Lenin created the Comintern for the purpose of launching world revolution. But the ‘Comintern’ had become a foreign policy tool of the Soviet Union when Stalin took power. Mao was very much aware of that. When we write, “The seeds of the later Sino-Soviet split were planted and grew in the process of alliance formation,” (62) we do not mean that “the split was inevitable.” Seeds may not germinate. It requires certain conditions to do so. The inner connection (between “seeds and germinate”) mainly reflected Mao’s aversion and dislike of Soviet great-power chauvinism. By the time of the eruption of the issues of the Long-wave Radio Station and the Joint Fleet in 1958, the conditions for the seed of nationalism to germinate was in place.
We contended that the issues of the origins of the Korean War and the entry of the Chinese troops to the war, which both Levine and Jun Niu raise in their reviews) are quite distinct and should not be easily mixed. We proposed that the Korean War originated from Stalin’s intention to safeguard Soviet strategic interests in the Far East, i.e. retaining Soviet access to the sea and ice-free ports. This assertion is based on archival evidence, which reveals Stalin’s position and performance in the two negotiations on the Sino-Soviet alliance treaty. When Zhihua Shen wrote Mao Zedong, Shidalin yu Chaoxian zhanzheng [Mao Zedong, Stalin and the Korean War] ten years ago, this view was premised on the inference of the chronological link and logical connection between the signing of the Sino-Soviet alliance treaty and Stalin’s consent to the North Korean leader Kim Il Sung’s request to attack South Korea. More recently, Shen provided archival evidence for this claim. In the draft agreement submitted by Zhou Enlai on 26 January 1950, one sentence might have enlightened Stalin: If there is war or the threat of war in the Far East, Soviet troops may continue to stay in Port Arthur (Lüshun Port). Several days later, Politburo member Anastas Mikoyan by no accident proposed another item: that the Soviet troops should be able to move freely along the Changchun Railway if there is war or the threat of war in the Far East. In other word, the Sino-Soviet agreement on Dalian, Lüshun and the Changchun Railway would be suspended should there be a critical situation. In such a situation, the Soviet Union would be able to retain its access to the sea and ice-free ports. Even if things went as Kim Il Sung had predicted, and that the U.S. had not intervened and the war ended smoothly, the Soviet Union could still move its naval bases to the Korean Peninsula.
The issue of China’s entry into the Korean War is more complicated. Before the outbreak of the war, Mao was opposed to, or at least was unwilling to see war break out close to China when Kim Il Sung visited him in Beijing in May 1950. He unambiguously stated that China should first accomplish its national unification—by liberating Taiwan. But after the outbreak of the Korean War, Mao actively proposed sending Chinese troops to fight in the war (both Russian and Chinese sources recorded that). We posit that Mao hoped to end the war as early as possible so that China could turn its attention to its own affairs. We call attention to one particular issue, i.e., the sending of Chinese troops to Korea depended on Soviet provision of air cover and the U.S. crossing the 38th parallel. By 2 October 1950, the opportune moment for China’s entry had passed, but Stalin demanded that China send troops. The majority of the Chinese leadership pleaded caution. In the small hours on 3 October, Zhou Enlai had an urgent meeting with Indian ambassador to China K. M. Panikkar, warning, “If U.S. troops cross the 38th parallel to the north, we will intervene.” But Washington ignored the Chinese warning, and U.S. troops continued to move northward. At the time, Stalin repeatedly urged China to send troops, and Mao had to make a decision. At that moment, Stalin was very suspicious of and dissatisfied with Mao because of the signing of the Sino-Soviet alliance treaty. The trust between Mao and Stalin was completely lost. To regain Stalin’s trust, which the newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC) badly needed, Mao had to send Chinese troops to save North Korea and safeguard the security of Soviet Far East. By doing this, Mao could utilize the protection of the Sino-Soviet alliance for the security and safety of the CCP regime. In his later conversations with the Soviets and CCP cadres, Mao repeatedly emphasized this point. Mao’s judgment seems to have been accurate. After China entered the war, the Soviet Union promptly provided all-out support and aid. Thus, Stalin’s acts and responses after China’s entry into the War were the results, not the cause of China’s entry. The parlance that Mao was vacillating and inconsistent on the issue of China’s entry was Stalin’s excuse to Kim Il Sung in order to shift the blame to Mao’s shoulders. It is not factually correct.
On Sino-Soviet disagreement regarding the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), we argue that the CCP and the CPSU were in agreement on most issues, with the notable exception of how to evaluate Stalin. (The issue of peaceful transition was not proposed at the time). Even on the Stalin issue, their differences were not as serious as presented in later Chinese official explanation or in Western academic circles. In fact, Mao was not against criticizing Stalin, and his grievances against Stalin were no less than those of the Soviets. Therefore, on several occasions, he said that he wanted to thank Nikita Khrushchev for ‘lifting the lid’ on the topic (146-47). What he worried about was that exposing the Stalin issue would create ideological chaos and undermine morale within the socialist bloc. We believe that this resulted from the different way of thinking between Asians and Westerners. One way to grasp this difference is to consider how Deng Xiaoping, after Mao’s death, reversed Mao’s policy by adopting a “reform and opening up” policy while publicly claiming to hold high the great banner of ‘Mao Zedong Thought.’ When Mao proposed his 3/7 formula in assessing Stalin, he was not sincerely defending Stalin. His real purpose was to maintain the unity of the socialist bloc and the rule of the Communist parties. Even the Soviets deeply appreciated that. The Chinese practice on the Stalin issue actually aided Khrushchev in getting out of trouble or at least reducing the pressure on him. The CPSU resolution “On the Cult of Personality and its Consequences,” which was adopted at the CPSU Central Committee plenum on 30 June 1956, showed movement closer to the CCP position. Thus, we contend that taking the 20th Congress of the CCP as the starting point of the Sino-Soviet split is questionable. This is one of the main viewpoints we propose in this book, which differs from the prevailing Western scholarly view. 
On the Polish and Hungarian Crises of October 1956, we argue that the most important historical role of the Polish-Hungarian Crises, as far as the Sino-Soviet relationship is concerned, is that they made it possible for China to get involved in European affairs. Prior to that, the division of labor between the CPSU and the CCP was that the CPSU was in charge of revolution in Europe, while the CCP was responsible for revolution in Asia. Now, Khrushchev invited the CCP to help deal with the crises in Eastern Europe, thereby promoting the CCP to a leadership position in the socialist bloc beyond Asia. Although the CCP did not play a major role in defusing the Polish Crisis, the Crisis offered Mao an opportunity to criticize Soviet great-power chauvinism. During the Hungarian Crisis, China had a dominant voice in Kremlin’s decision to withdraw troops from Budapest on 25-26 October 1956 and then the decision to send them back in again to suppress the Hungarian people on 4 November. Why did China adopt two diametrically opposed approaches in handling the crises in Poland and Hungary—opposing Soviet armed intervention in Poland while urging Khrushchev to send Soviet troops back to Budapest to suppress the Hungarian people’s uprising? In Mao’s view, the Polish leader Władysław Gomułka was only opposing the Soviet Union, while the Hungarian leader Imre Nagy was anti-revolutionary and wanted to leave the socialist bloc. Mao believed that the positions and actions he advocated were both in defense of the socialist bloc. But in this way, the principle of equality among socialist countries was violated in Hungary. The Soviet Union justified its invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 with the same rationale. We agree with Steven Levine that the Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe did not enjoy true equality and independence. This was the drawback of fraternal socialist intra-state-to-state relations. We regret that we only briefly mentioned China and the Polish Crisis (167-168) because we believe that “China played no role in diffusing the October 1956 Polish Crisis.” There was not much Sino-Soviet interaction during the crisis. But it was our deliberate decision to exclude a lengthy discussion of this in view of the large length of the book.
On Mao’s casual remarks about nuclear war at the Moscow Conference in November 1957: We contend that Mao neither elaborated on the harm of nuclear war, nor discussed the meaning of life. He was only presenting his consistent views: ‘Revolution entails sacrifice of life, and we should not afraid of sacrificing our life if we want revolution. The atomic bomb is a paper tiger, and we should treat it with strategic contempt. But it can be a real tiger because it can cause great harm. If you are afraid of it, it could become a real tiger.’ This is Mao’s view as a revolutionary. In the book, we compared different versions and publication dates of Mao’s remarks, and Deng Xiaoping’s comments on Mao’s remarks in the CCP inner circle (267-270). We argue that Mao’s intension was that revolutionaries should not be afraid of war (including nuclear war). In late Sino-Soviet polemics, the CPSU Central Committee’s accusation of Mao’s disregard for the lives of millions of people was groundless. We argue that one of the major disagreements between the CCP and the CPSU was their divergent views of the epoch and differing positions on revolution. Although we cannot agree with contemporaneous Soviet leadership views and Western scholarly critiques of Mao’s remarks, this does not mean that we support Mao’s view. As Danhui Li and Yafeng Xia point out in the Epilogue of the forthcoming volume, Mao and the Sino-Soviet Split, 1959-1960: A New History, Mao and Khrushchev had serious disagreements over the nature of the post-WWII era, the global situation and its future of revolution. The Chinese insisted that the current world was still in the epoch of imperialism and proletariat revolution, and the main task for the socialist bloc was to prepare for war and support revolution. The Soviet Union maintained that the current epoch was a period of transition from capitalism to socialism and a time of struggle and coexistence between two antagonistic systems. This is the premise for understanding the inner logic of Mao’s remarks. The core issue is not whether or not Mao disregarded human life, it is about Mao’s misunderstanding of the epoch. There is another reason why the Soviet and East European leaders had misgivings about Mao’s remarks, i.e., the context of the Asian revolutionary states and movements. It was impossible for the Europeans to understand and accept Mao’s way of speaking and expression.
Likewise, our discussion on the Great Leap Forward is similar to our discussion of Mao’s view of the atomic bomb, but it involves a more complicated case. Our attention focuses on Sino-Soviet disagreements regarding the Great Leap, and thus we did not provide unnecessary comments on the Leap itself. But we cannot agree with the view that Mao wantonly played with the lives of millions of people while launching the Great Leap Forward. For instance, Frank Dikötter, in his Mao’s Great Famine, distorts Mao’s remarks at the Politburo Standing Committee meeting in Shanghai on 25 March 1959. While commenting on the distribution of industrial resources, Mao said, “To evenly distribute resources is a way of undermining the Great Leap Forward.” He continued, “When there is not enough for every one to eat, every one will starve to death; it is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.” (大家吃不饱，大家死，不如死一半，给一半人吃饱。) We all know that Mao liked to use vivid, and even vulgar language. Here, Mao was talking about letting some factories resume work while others remained shut down (to let half of the people to die) so that there were sufficient raw materials for those staying open (to eat their fill). The whole sentence is figurative. But Dikötter grafted one twig on another, linking “distributing industrial resources” with “grain procurement.” This definitely blackened Mao’s name. Many academic studies have proved that the Great Leap Forward and the People’s Commune Movement are among the direct causes (increasing grain procurement quotas for the Great Leap in industry) of the Great Famine and massive deaths in the rural areas (estimates range in 15-45 millions, and the accurate number of deaths is yet to be ascertained). But these were not the purpose and precondition of the Great Leap, only its consequences.
On the causes of the rupture of the Sino-Soviet alliance: We contend that we should expand the interpretation of the rupture from a dualistic view between national interests and ideology. In particular, we want to emphasize the following three points: First, during the 1958-1959 period, the Sino-Soviet disagreements over domestic (the Great Leap Forward and the People’s Commune Movement) and foreign policies (the bombardment of Jinmen, the Sino-Indian border conflicts and the Soviet-American détente) started to arise. The contention over the Long-wave Radio Station and the Joint Fleet was only a sideshow. We agree with Niu Jun that Mao’s over-reaction to the Soviet proposal to establish a Long-wave Radio Station in China and a Joint Sino-Soviet Submarine Fleet had much to do with the fact that “Mao detested Khrushchev.” Mao’s nationalistic over-reaction was his way to make use of these issues to elaborate his own ideas. The main cause of Sino-Soviet divergences was that China and the Soviet Union were at “different stages of development.” We believe, “It is the temporal gap of 30 or 40 years in the histories of the Chinese and Soviet Communism that inevitably led to Sino- Soviet disagreements about ideas, perceptions and policies.” (350) It is worth noting that what we discuss here are the causes of the Sino-Soviet “disagreements,” not the causes of the Sino-Soviet “split.” For we believe that “disagreements” did not necessarily lead to the “split.” Mao and Stalin had major disagreements, but they did form the Sino-Soviet alliance.
Second, the CCP’s changing status and the changing leadership structure in the socialist bloc were the conditions that turned Sino-Soviet disagreements to a split. During the Stalin era, “in terms of power relations, the Moscow/Beijing relationship, like Moscow’s relations with other Communist bloc countries, was a leader/subordinate relationship. Stalin had the final word on all major decisions” (346). This may explain why Sino-Soviet divergences did not lead to a split in the early period. But during the Khrushchev era, especially after 1956, Sino-Soviet relations entered an era of equality, from ‘father-son relations’ to ‘fraternal relations.’ Now there were ‘Two Suns in the Heavens,’ and the question was who should have the final word? Both the CPSU and the CCP attempted to make their respective guiding principles and policies the ‘general line’ of the International Communist Movement. But what was the basis of their arguments? They both claimed to be the best in representing Marxism-Leninism.
Third, the public face of the Sino-Soviet disagreements and split was expressed through political/ideological polemics. Through the theoretical debates, both the CPSU and the CCP wanted to prove that only one of them was truly Marxist-Leninist, and the other party was either revisionist or dogmatist. Only through this struggle could they emerge as the legitimate leader of World Communism. Behind Marxist-Leninist ideological polemics lay contention for the leadership of world Communism. In the Sino-Soviet great polemic, neither the CCP nor the CPSU felt it could afford to make any concessions to the other side. This was a life-and-death political struggle. By this time, the Sino-Soviet split was evident and unavoidable. This explains why, after Khrushchev’s fall, although new leaders made major changes to Soviet foreign and domestic policies, reverting to the Stalinist system to a certain extent, the Sino-Soviet alliance could not be repaired.
As for the deeper origins of the Sino-Soviet split, we attribute it to the inherent structural drawback of socialist state-to-state relations. The political norms guiding intra-Communist Party relations were incompatible with modern state-to-state relations. Such concepts as sovereignty, equality, and independence have no place in proletarian internationalism. Thus, in our opinion, modern international-relations theories may not be able to fully explain Communist state-to-state relations in the Cold-War era. We understand this is only a cognitive explanation, which needs to be substantiated.
On the issue of the division of labor on international affairs, which David Wolff raises, we think that Mao Zedong, as the CCP chairman and head of state (1949-1959) retained the power of setting the foreign policy agenda and guidelines for the new regime in his own hand. He consigned Premier Zhou Enlai to the role of a manager, to overlook day-to-day operation of foreign affairs. The role of the five-man CCP Secretariat, and later the Standing Committee of the Politburo, was to accord legitimacy to major policy decisions made by Mao. The Politburo meetings were to help him weigh the pros and cons of major foreign-policy decisions. These meetings also functioned to overcome opposition and built consensus once Mao had made up his mind. Mao was serious in guarding his absolute control over foreign affairs in the early years. He insisted that “except [for] routine matters, all relatively important diplomatic replies [to foreign governments] must be submitted to the Premier [Zhou Enlai] and me for approval before they are dispatched.” Liu Shaoqi, the CCP vice chairman and President of the PRC starting in 1959, played a ceremonial role in international affairs. After 1956, Deng Xiaoping, the CCP Central Committee General Secretary, and Peng Zhen, Deputy General Secretary, were heavily involved in party-to-party diplomacy, in particular, in handling thorny issues. The Sino-Soviet relationship was the top priority of the PRC’s foreign affairs in the 1950s and 1960s. The contacts between the two governments and parties were frequent, and bilateral negotiations were often conducted between top party leaders. For a more detailed discussion on the Mao-Zhou relationship, which we think is beyond the scope of this book, interested reader may consult Yafeng Xia’s earlier review article on this issue.
We have not elaborated on Mao’s thinking on diplomacy in the book. But in explaining China’s diplomatic behavior, this could not be avoided, as the reviewers suggest. We agree with Wolff that “Mao’s historical reputation is also a potentially contentious issue.” We want to offer our preliminary thought on this as well. Scholars have long debated whether Mao was a nationalist, a Communist, or a pragmatist. We posit that Mao was a nationalist with Communist aspirations and a pragmatist with idealist tendencies before the CCP seized national power in 1949 and during the first eight years of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. After 1957, especially after the breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, Mao became a Communist with a nationalist orientation, and an idealist with a pragmatist orientation. The background for these changes was his own and the CCP’s standing in the international Communist movement. In the former period, the main agenda of Mao and the CCP was to seize national political power and consolidate CCP control over China. During this period, Stalin was the leader of world Communism and the international Communist movement. He demanded that Mao and the CCP serve the interests of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union dominated international Communism. Mao deeply resented this. Starting in 1957, the CCP began to emerge as a leader of the socialist bloc. As the movement towards the Sino-Soviet split gained momentum, Mao and the CCP really believed that China was becoming the leader of the international Communist movement, and the promoter and center of world revolution. In China’s handling of foreign relations, such as relations with North Korea, Vietnam, and foreign aid, nationalism was subject to internationalism, and national interest was subject to ideology. In Mao’s diplomatic ideal, his nationalism was converged with internationalism, and his pragmatism was converged with idealism. In Mao’s view, China’s national interests were manifested in humanity’s interest of achieving the success of world revolution.
As world revolutionary leaders, Mao and Stalin shared some similarities, but had many differences as well. Stalin was a Great Russian nationalist and pragmatist, while Mao was evolving as an idealist and internationalist with changes in his own political status and the achievements of CCP power. Even when China was facing a very difficult international environment and had to align itself with the United States for China’s national security interests by the early 1970s, Mao was hardly able to detach himself completely from the ideal and even practice of world revolution. Following the steps of Russian leaders like Ivan the terrible and Peter the Great, Stalin attempted to rebuild the Russian empire throughout of his life. Like the great emperors in Chinese history, Mao’s internationalism and idealism consisted of traditional Chinese ideals such as the dream of supreme harmony worldwide and the idea of China as the Celestial Empire.
We are very grateful to the reviewers for taking the time to seriously read and comment on our book. Each one of them has added some new perspective or prodded us towards seeing another aspect in our research, issues too numerous to deal with here but all of which are welcome. This attention and effort will help us in our future work on the Sino-Soviet relationship. We are deeply grateful. Our purpose is meant to clarify issues which we may not have explained clearly enough in the book. This does not in any sense mean that we disregard the criticism and suggestions of the reviewers. On the contrary, we are in agreement with the reviewers that the book is weak in analyzing the process of China’s foreign policy decision-making, “the ties among the top leaders, such as Mao and Zhou, as well as their division of labor in international affairs, such as Soviet relations,” (David Wolff raises this in his review). Also, our book would have been stronger had we utilized the perspective of international-relations theory. These are useful directions for future research. We are honored by the generosity of our distinguished reviewers for their helpful contributions to the roundtable and hope that our work will inform and inspire many future efforts.
 Deborah A. Kaple, Dream of a Red Factory: The Legacy of High Stalinism in China (Oxford University Press, 1994).
 For the sake of readability, I will refrain from putting quotation marks around “Chinese perspective” every time that it appears, though they are implied.
 Li Danhui and Shen Zhihua, After Leaning to One Side: China and Its Allies in the Cold War, (Washington DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2011), 22.
 “Rech’ N. S. Khrushcheva,” 30 August 1954, RGANI f. 5, op. 30, d. 70, l. 77, 85, 96.
 Xue Xiantian, “Zhanhou dongbei wenti yu zhongsu guanxi zouxiang,” and Yang Yulin, “Lun sulian chubing dongbei de lishi houke,” in Zhongguo zhong’e guanxishi yanjiuhui, ed., Zhanhou zhongsu guanxi zouxiang (1945-1960) (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 1997), 2, 121; Li Jie, “Cong jiemeng dao polie: zhongsu lunzhan de qiyuan,” in Li Danhui, Beijing yu Mosike: Cong lianmeng zouxiang duikang (Guilin: Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe, 2002), 439; Niu Jun, From Yan’an to the World: The Origin and Development of Chinese Communist Foreign Policy, ed. and trans. Steven I. Levine (Norwalk, Conn.: EastBridge, 2005), 202.
 For frank comments from Liu Shaoqi to Stalin about the “low cultural level of [our] cadres,” see Liu Shaoqi to Stalin, “Gei sidalin de zhe xiexin,” Jianguo yilai Liu Shaoqi wengao, vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, 2005), 37. See also 7 November 1949, “Zapis’ besedy,” N. V. Roshchin and Liu Shaoqi, AVPRF f. 0100, op. 42, p. 288, d. 19, l. 39; 21 April 1953, “Zapis’ besedy,” V. V. Kuznetsov and Zhu De, AVPRF f. 0100, op. 46, p. 362, d. 12, l. 49.
 For China, note the work of Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, 3 volumes (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974-1997); Lorenz Lüthi, The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2008); Chen Jian, Mao’s China and the Cold War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Thomas J. Christensen, Worse than a Monolith: Alliance Politics and Problems of Coercive Diplomacy in Asia (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2011).
On the Soviet Union, see Ted Hopf, Reconstructing the Cold War: The Early Years, 1945-1958 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). With insight into both the Soviet Union and China in this regard, see Sergey Radchenko, Two Suns in the Heavens: The Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-1967 (Washington, D.C. and Stanford, California: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Stanford University Press, 2009).
 For a new approach to these repeated Soviet efforts to engage with the United States and global capitalism, see Oscar Sanchez-Sibony, Red Globalization: The Political Economy of the Soviet Cold War from Stalin to Khrushchev (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
 On the second issue, see Jeremy Friedman, Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).
 See William Taubman, Khrushchev, the Man and His Era (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003) for the details.
 “On the Response of the Population to the Materials of the 20th Party Congress,” Archives of the KGB of the Lithuanian SSR, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
 Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Speech on April 25, 1956. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-5/mswv5_51.htm.
 Deborah Kaple, “Debunking the Myth of the Soviet-Chinese Monolith, 1949-1960,” unpublished conference paper, 1993, cited as Debora Keipl, “Razvenchanie mifa o sovetsko-kitaiskom monolite, 1949-1960,” in I V Gaĭduk and Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of World History, Kholodnai︠a︡ voĭna: novye podkhody, novye dokumenty (Moskva/Moscow, Rossiĭskai︠a︡ akademii︠a︡ nauk, In-t vseobshcheĭ istorii, 1995), 334-347.
 Alexander Pantsov with Steven I. Levine, Mao: The Real Story (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012).
 Hua-Yu Li, Mao and the Economic Stalinization of China, 1948-1953 (Cambridge: Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).
 The Analects of Confucius. Translation and Notes by Simon Leys (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997), 6.
 Cao Xueqin, The Dream of a Red Chamber (North Clarendon: Tuttle Publishing, 2010).
 Alexander V. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine, Mao: The Real Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012).
 Lorenz Lüthi, The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); Sergey Radchenko, Two Suns in the Heavens: The Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-1967 (Washington DC and Stanford: Woodrow Wilson Center and Stanford University Press, 2009).
 Shen Zhihua, ed., Selections from Declassified Russian Archives: Sino-Soviet Relations (Eluosi jiemi dangan xuanbian: zhongsuguanxi), (Shanghai: Dongfang Publishing Center, 2014), twelve volumes in total.
 Wen Anli (O. Arne Westad), Quan qiu leng zhan: Mei Su dui di san shi jie de gan she yu dang dai shi jie de xing cheng (全球冷战: 美苏对第三世界的干涉与当代世界的形成), translated by Niu Ke, (Beijing: Beijing World Publishing Corporation, 2012), 4.
 This is fully outlined in chapter 1 of the book, “The Political and Economic Foundations of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945-1949,” (11-46).
 SHEN Zhihua (trans. CHEN Jian), “The Discrepancy Between the Russian and Chinese Versions of Mao’s 2 October 1950 Message to Stalin on Chinese Entry into the Korean War: A Chinese Scholar’s Reply,” Cold War International History Project Bulletin 8-9 part 4 (1997): 237-242 provides the two versions in English translation with expert analysis by Shen Zhihua.
 See James G. Blight and David A. Welch, ‘On the Brink: Americans and SovietsReexamine the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: Hill and Wang, 1989).
 Odd Arne Westad, Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1946-1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 31, 35, 52, and 112 with a serious caution about what we know and do not know on 352 fn.7.)
 “Record of Conversation Between Comrade I.V. Stalin and Zhou Enlai,” 20 August 1952 in Cold War International History Bulletin 6-7 (Winter 1995/1996), 12.
 Aleksandr Pantsov and Steven Levine, Mao: The Real Story (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012) first published in Russian in 2007.
 Brian Murray, “Stalin, the Cold War, and the Division of China: A Multi-Archival Mystery,” Cold War International History Project Working Paper No. 12 (June 1995).
 Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia, “A Political Duet: The Twentieth Congress of the CPSU, the CCP’s Eighth Congress and the Sino-Soviet Relations,” Modern China Studies 22:1 (2015), 126-166; Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia, “Between Aid and Restriction: The Soviet Union’s Changing Policies on China’s Nuclear Weapons Program, 1954-1960,” Asian perspective 36: 1 (January-March 2012), 95-122; Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia, “The Great Leap Forward, the People’s Communes and the Sino-Soviet Split,” Journal of Contemporary China 20:72 (November 2011), 861-880; Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia, “‘Whirlwind’ of China: Zhou Enlai’s Shuttle Diplomacy in 1957 and Its Effect,” Cold War History 10:4 (November 2010), 513-535; Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia, “New Evidence for China’s Role in the Hungarian Crisis of October 1956: A Note,” The International History Review 31:3 (September 2009), 558-575; Zhihua Shen and Yafeng Xia, “Hidden Currents during the Honeymoon—Mao Zedong, Khrushchev and the 1957 Moscow Conference,” The Journal of Cold War Studies 11:4 (Fall 2009), 74-117; and Danhui Li and Yafeng Xia, “Jockeying for Leadership: Mao and the Sino-Soviet Split, October 1961-July 1964,” The Journal of Cold War Studies 16:1 (Winter 2014), 24-60; Danhui Li and Yafeng Xia, “Competing for Leadership: Split or Détente in the Sino-Soviet Bloc,” The International History Review, 30:3 (September 2008), 545-574.
 Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1948), 99.
 The note should read “For scholars’ reactions to this report, see Boris Kulik, Sovetsko-kitaiskii raskol: Prichiny i posledstviya [The Soviet-Chinese Split: Causes and Consequences] (Moscow: IDV RAN, 2000), 73-74; Sergei Goncharov, John Lewis and Litai Xue, Uncertain Partners, Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 39-44; and Dieter Heinzig, The Soviet Union and Communist China, 1945-1950: The Arduous Road to the Alliance (New York: M. E. Sharpe, 2004), 135-147.
 Shen Zhihua, Mao Zedong, Shidalin yu Chaoxian zhanzheng [Mao Zedong, Stalin and the Korean War] (Guangzhou: Guangdong Renmin Chubanshe, 2003).
 Shen Zhihua, Mao Zedong, Shidalin yu Chaoxian zhanzheng [Mao Zedong, Stalin and the Korean War] (Guangzhou: Guangdong Renmin Chubanshe, 2015).
 Shen, Mao Zedong, Shidalin yu Chaoxian zhanzheng, 247-249.
 Pei Jianzhang and Feng Yaoyuan, eds., Zhou Enlai waijiao huodong dashiji, 1949-1975 [Chronology of Zhou Enlai’s Diplomatic Activities, 1949-1975] (Beijing: Shijie Zhishi Chubanshe, 1993), 22.
 Lorenz Lüthi, The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 46-80; Jeremy. Friedman, Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 25-59.
 For a detailed study of China and the Polish Crisis, see Shen Zhihua, “The Polish-Hungarian Crises and China,” Part I, Lishi yanjiu 2 (2005), 119-143.
 Danhui Li and Yafeng Xia, Mao and the Sino-Soviet Split, 1959-1973: A New History. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, forthcoming in 2017.
 Frank Dikōtter, Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962 (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010).
 Zhuxi zai Shanghai huiyi jianghua jilu zhengli (Collated Minutes of the Chairman’s Remarks at the Shanghai Meeting, 25 March 1959, 19-18-494 Gansu Provincial Archives, Lanzhou, 48.
 Dikōtter cites this quote out of context at least twice. See Dikōtter, Mao’s Great Famine, 88, 134.
 See Lu Ning, The Dynamics of Foreign-Policy Decision-making in China, 2nd ed. (Boulder: Westview Press, 2000), 161-162.
 Zhonggongzhongyang wenxian yanjiushi ed., Jianguo yilai Mao Zedong wengao (建国以來毛泽东文稿) [Mao Zedong’s Manuscripts since the Founding of the PRC] (Beijing: Zhongyang Wenxian Chubanshe, 1990), Vol. 3: 552.
 Yafeng Xia, H-Diplo Review Essay on Gao Wenqian, Zhou Enlai:The Last Perfect Revolutionary, A Biography. (trans. Peter Rand and Lawrence R. Sullivan) (New York: PublicAffairs, 2007). http://issforum.org/essays/PDF/Xia-Wenqian.pdf.
Book review, Amazon site:
About the Author
Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREEKindle Reading App.