One thing that interested in about the reading this week was just how strained Chinese-Soviet relations were. I had never thought to view Chinese-Soviet relations in this tenuous way. I had wrongly assumed that since both countries self-identified as communist, they would both mostly get along. However, as perfectly illustrated here, that is most definitely not always the case! It has been interesting to track the growth and decline of Chinese-Soviet relations throughout our readings, from the U.S.S.R.’s support of the fledgling Chinese communist party, to the questionable support the CCP received from the Soviets during the civil war and WWII, to the straining of their relationship during this time. Although the two countries both labeled themselves as being communist nations, it is obvious that they were traveling on two different paths.
In my opinion, the main catalyst for their divergence came from the different views that the Soviets and the CCP had on peace. For the Soviet government, peaceful international relations were swiftly becoming a priority. After Stalin’s reign of terror left Russia in tatters, the new First Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, reframed the Russian strategy for international engagement around peace and cooperation. For example, the U.S.S.R. requested to be allowed into NATO, distanced itself from the Algerian National Liberation Front, and encouraged the signing of a Soviet-American friendship treaty. Perhaps the most extreme example of the new Soviet image came in the form of Khrushchev’s Secret Speech, in which he conceded the fatal errors of Stalin and his regime. Thus, the Soviet’s efforts to “De-Stalinize” themselves were beginning to make a real difference both at home and abroad.
China, on the other hand, was still a new-created communist country. While Russia had been established for a while and was evolving their foreign policy to include more cooperative approaches, Mao and his government were still firmly entrenched in the Marxist ideal of revolution. Within Marxist ideology, societal power shifts are constantly taking place and will continue to do so until the final revolution, in which the proletariat will overthrow the bourgeois and equal distribution of the means of production will finally be achieved. Therefore, until this occurred, the proletariat needed to purge all unequal societal influences, or so the CCP believed. Thus, the U.S.S.R.’s shift away from this strictly Marxist model into one that encouraged peaceful cooperation with capitalist countries was very alarming to the newly minted communist nation. Although this is definitely not the whole reason that the two states’ relationship crumbled, I still think these two different approaches to peace played a large role.
Shen, Zhihua, and Yafeng Xia. Mao and the Sino-Soviet Partnership, 1945-1959 : A New History. The Harvard Cold War Studies Book Series. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015.