|Part of Cold War and Sino-Soviet relations|
Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Nikita Khrushchev (China, 1958)
|Caused by||De-Stalinization, peaceful coexistence, Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, Great Leap Forward, 1959 Tibetan uprising|
|Methods||proxy war, border conflict, military alliances, economic warfare|
|Resulted in||End of military alliance in 1965, and party-state relationship in 1966 during the Cultural Revolution|
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The Sino-Soviet split (1956–66) was the breaking of political relations between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), caused by doctrinal divergences arisen from each régime’s different interpretation of Marxism–Leninism, as influenced by the national interests of each country during the Cold War. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, debates of ideological orthodoxy, between the Communist parties of the USSR and of the PRC, became disputes about Soviet policies of De-Stalinization and peaceful coexistence with the capitalist West. Despite such background politics, to the Chinese public, Mao Zedong proposed a belligerent attitude towards capitalist countries, an initial rejection of the Soviets’ peaceful-coexistence policy, which he perceived as Marxist revisionism by the Russians.
Since 1956 — after Nikita Khrushchev denounced Joseph Stalin and Stalinism — China and Russia had progressively disagreed and diverged about orthodox interpretation of Marxist ideology; by 1961, intractable differences of philosophy provoked the Communist Party of China to formally denounce Soviet communism as the product of "Revisionist Traitors". The Sino-Soviet split was about who would lead the revolution of world communism — to whom, China or Russia, would the vanguard parties of the world turn for aid and assistance?  In that vein, the USSR and the PRC competed for ideological leadership through their respective networks of communist parties in the countries of their spheres of influence.
Geopolitically, the Sino-Soviet split was a pivotal event of the bi-polar Cold War (1945–91), as important as the Berlin Wall (1961), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), and the Second Vietnam War (1965–75), because it facilitated the Sino–American rapprochement of the 1972 Nixon visit to China. Internationally, the geopolitical rivalry between communists — Chinese Stalinism and Russian Peaceful coexistence — eliminated the myth that Monolithic Communism was an actor in the 1947–50 period of the Vietnam War and in world politics; such Realpolitik established the tri-polar geopolitics of the latter part of the Cold War. 
- 1 History
- 2 Onset
- 3 Conflict
- 4 Equilibrium
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
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In liberating China from foreign occupation, the leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Mao Zedong fought two wars; the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) against Imperial Japan, and the Chinese Civil War (1927–49), against the Nationalist Kuomintang, led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, an anti-communist. Moreover, because of the practical difficulty in adapting European Leninism to agrarian China, Mao ignored most of the politico-military advice and direction from Josef Stalin and the Comintern.
During the Second World War (1939–45) Stalin advised Mao to enter an anti-Japanese-coalition with Chiang Kai-shek. After the war, Stalin advised Mao against seizing power and to collaborate with the Nationalists, because of Stalin's Treaty of Friendship and Alliance (1945) with the Kuomintang; in communist solidarity, Mao abided Stalin. In the event, Gen. Chiang Kai-shek opposed the USSR's annexation of Tannu Uriankhai; three months after the Japanese surrender, Stalin broke the treaty requiring Soviet withdrawal from Manchuria, gave Mao control of the region, and ordered Gen. Rodion Malinovsky to give the Japanese army's spoils of war to the Chinese Communists.
Meanwhile, in the 1945–49 period of the civil war against the Chinese Communists, Chiang Kai-shek received no U.S. assistance during the Berlin Blockade (1948–49), while the Berlin Airlift of the U.S. Air Force thwarted Soviet interference in Allied-occupied Germany. Hence, the U.S. did not resume help to the anti-communist Kuomintang until they were losing the Liaoshen, Huaihai, and Pingjin campaigns, and thus the Chinese Civil War.
As head-of-state of the Peoples' Republic of China, Mao visited Moscow (Dec. 1949 – Feb. 1950) and returned to China with the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship (1950), which included a $300 million loan, the transfer of former Russian colonial properties, and a 30-year military alliance. Under Soviet guidance, the PRC applied the soviet model of centralised planned economy; the planning and development made heavy industry the priority and consumer-goods production the second priority. Despite Soviet guidance, Mao developed the basic ideas of China's Great Leap Forward (1958–61), from an agrarian society to an industrial society.
Ideologically, to justify realising the modernisation of China, Mao argued that orthodox Marxism, rooted in industrialized Europe, could not readily be adapted and applied to the agricultural societies of eastern Asia, and adapted Marxism to Chinese socio-economic conditions. In 1947, Mao sent the journalist Anna Louise Strong with documents to the West, and to “show them to Party leaders in the United States and Europe”, but that it was not "necessary to take them to Moscow". Mao's trust in Strong derived from her article “The Thought of Mao Tse-Tung” and the book Dawn Comes Up Like Thunder Out of China: An Intimate Account of the Liberated Areas in China (1948), reporting that Mao's intellectual feat was “to change Marxism from a European [form] to an Asiatic form . . . in ways of which neither Marx nor Lenin could dream”; the book was banned in the USSR, as anti-soviet literature.
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In 1954, Nikita Khrushchev used trade agreements to improve the USSR's relations with the Peoples’ Republic of China, acknowledged Stalin’s economic unfairness to China, and negotiated for the USSR to fund fifteen industrial projects, and mutual exchanges of technicians. The trade agreements exchanged economic specialists (ca. 10,000 by 1960) and political advisors (ca. 1,500); and the PRC sent labourers to reduce the shortage of workers in Siberia; nonetheless, despite their economic agreement, personally, the Chinese and Russian heads of state, Mao Zedong and Nikita Khrushchev, disliked each other.
In the field of international relations, the PRC and the USSR strengthened their relationship through diplomacy, by encouraging Vietnamese rapprochement, by way of a peace treaty between communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam, in 1954. In the event, by 1955, 60 per cent of China’s exports went to Russia, and Mao had begun implementation of the Chinese version of the five-year plan, based upon the Soviet model applied in Russia since the 1920s.
In 1956, Sino-Soviet relations began to deteriorate when Khrushchev initiated the de–Stalinization of the USSR with the secret speech, On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences (25 February 1956), to the 20th Congress of the CPSU, which criticized Stalin the man and Stalin’s policies — especially the purges of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, by which Stalin killed personal and political rivals. From Khrushchev’s de–Stalinization of the Soviet Union arose a serious domestic problem for Mao who had emulated Stalin and Stalinism, in the development of Chinese communism.
For Mao, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a serious political concern, because such a revolt questioned the political legitimacy of communist-party government. In response, the Chinese Communist Party formally denounced Khrushchev’s de–Stalinization policies as ideological revisionism of Marx, and reaffirmed the ideological orthodoxy of Mao’s Stalinist government — while preserving diplomatic and economic relations with the USSR; the abstractions of ideology had cracked socialist unity.
Mao perceived that the Soviet Union’s foreign policy of peaceful coexistence with the West would isolate the PRC in every sense of geopolitics. The occurrence of anti–Soviet revolution in the Hungarian People's Republic made Mao aware that such revolts might occur in the PRC, and he sought to counter possible political discontent with the Hundred Flowers Campaign (1956) of political liberalization, which proved too successful when it featured criticism of Mao as communist-party-chairman and as head of state. Hence, Khrushchev's political liberalization of the USSR compelled Mao to retain the Stalinist model of government for the PRC. Moreover, the ideological break was assured when Khrushchev’s Stalinist enemies failed to depose him as leader of the CPSU and of the USSR, which then resulted in China and Russia practicing different forms of Marxism, which then degenerated to ideological quarrels and enmity.
Despite Khrushchev’s efforts to maintain positive Sino-Soviet relations (especially with technical assistance for developing Chicom nuclear weapons) political tensions remained strong, because the USSR’s policy of peaceful coexistence threatened the PRC’s geopolitical credibility, especially after failed rapprochement with the U.S. That diplomatic failure and the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in the Republic of China (Taiwan) led Mao to a Chinese foreign policy of confrontation with the U.S.
In 1958, the ideological differences, especially the Soviet policy of peaceful coexistence with the West, worsened Sino-Soviet relations; notably, Mao’s implementation of the Great Leap Forward, realised with Stalinist policies from which emerged the cult of personality of Mao Zedong as the true leader of the socialist world. As such, Mao widened the ideological divergence between the PRC and the USSR with criticism of Khrushchev’s economic policies, which included foreign aid for China. To the USSR, the ideological radicalism of the PRC destabilized the politics of peaceful coexistence with the West, in response, Russia decreased military and economic aid to China.
In July 1958, Khrushchev went to Beijing to negotiate a naval treaty for Pacific Ocean anchorage for Soviet submarines; instead, Mao accused Khrushchev of trying to control the Pacific coast of the PRC, and Khrushchev returned to Russia without a naval treaty with China. By the end of August, Mao forced the matter of Taiwan being integral to the PRC, and attacked the island of Kinmen and the Matsu islands, which began the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis (23 Aug. – 22 Sept. 1958). That Mao had not informed Khrushchev of the attack forced the USSR to re-think peaceful coexistence with the West, especially after the U.S. publicly committed to the military defense of the Republic of China in Taiwan.
Khrushchev’s ignorance of the PRC’s attack against Taiwan worsened his head-of-state relations with Mao, especially because the U.S. threatened nuclear war if the PRC invaded Taiwan; such Chinese actions then compelled the USSR's involvement in Sino–American quarrels over a lost civil war. In that geopolitical context, Khrushchev became skeptical of Mao’s mental health, given that his confrontational behavior might provoke a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Sino-Soviet alliance. In response, Khrushchev cancelled aid agreements, such as the delivery of a Soviet nuclear weapons to the PRC. That lack of clear and candid communications from the Chinese and the ideological disagreement about the Great Leap Forward had seriously damaged Sino-Soviet relations.
The events of the 1958–59 period convinced Mao that the USSR was not trustworthy. In 1959, Premier Khrushchev met with U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (1953–61) to decrease tensions with the West. To that end, the USSR had reneged an agreement to provide technical aid for the development of a Chicom nuclear weapon; the USSR sided with India in the Sino-Indian War (1962), by way of moderate diplomatic relations with India; each collaboration of the USSR with the West offended Mao. Thereafter, he perceived Khrushchev as too-tolerant of the West, despite the USSR sometimes confronting the Western powers. The Chinese Communist Party believed that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union concentrated too much on "Soviet–U.S. cooperation for the domination of the world", with actions that contradicted the ideology of Marxism–Leninism.
Mao had expected an aggressive response from Khrushchev about the U-2 spy plane incident (1960) over Russia. At the 1960 Paris Summit meeting, Khrushchev demanded an official apology from U.S. President Eisenhower, who refused. Mao and the CCP took Eisenhower's response as a political affront to socialist countries, and the PRC responded with political rallies demanding that Khrushchev act against the American aggressors. To the Chinese Communists, Khrushchev not responding to the U.S. with military force tarnished his image as a Communist leader. At the 1960 International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties, in Bucharest, Mao and Khrushchev argued and each socialist attacked the other's interpretation of Marxist doctrine as the incorrect road to world socialism. Mao argued that Khrushchev's emphasis upon material development would make the people ideologically soft and un-revolutionary; Khrushchev replied, "If we could promise the people nothing, except revolution, they would scratch their heads and say ‘Is’t it better to have good goulash?’ ”
In the 1950s, the Sino-Soviet split was manifested as indirect criticism of the opponent's client states. China denounced the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945–92) and Tito, who had pursued a non aligned foreign policy; neither pro–Russian nor pro–Chinese. The USSR denounced the People's Socialist Republic of Albania and Enver Hoxha, who had refused to abandon Stalinism and had aligned with the PRC, at the height of the de-Stalinization of the USSR. In China, Bao Sansan described the Party's message to the cadres in China, "When Khrushchev stopped Russian aid to Albania, Hoxha said to his people: 'Even if we have to eat the roots of grass to live, we won't take anything from Russia.' China is not guilty of chauvinism and immediately sent food to our brother country." Moreover, in accordance with geopolitical circumstance, the USSR provided moral support to the Tibetan rebels of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the PRC.
By 1960, the Sino-Soviet split was manifested as open criticism, when Khrushchev and Peng Zhen openly argued at the congress of the Romanian Communist Party Khrushchev insulted Chairman Mao as "a nationalist, an adventurist, and a deviationist"; Peng Zhen called Khrushchev a Marxist revisionist whose régime of the USSR showed him to be a "patriarchal, arbitrary and tyrannical" ruler. In the end, Premier Khrushchev denounced the People's Republic of China in an eighty-page letter to the Romanian Communist Party congress.
Khrushchev further responded to Mao's criticism by withdrawing some 1,400 technicians from the PRC, which lead to cancellation of some 200 scientific joint projects intended to foster cooperation between Russia and China. To Mao, the withdrawal of Soviet technicians from China justified his accusation that Khrushchev had caused not only the PRC's great economic failures, but also had caused the famines occurred during the Great Leap Forward.
As socialist countries, the PRC and the USSR still had reason to prefer political unity. In the PRC, Chairman Mao needed to continue economic relations, to alleviate famine in China, and resolve border disputes with India. In the USSR, Premier Khrushchev had lost political ground, because of his policy of détente with the U.S. His accusations of U.S. espionage against the Eisenhower government had generated political tensions that broke USSR–US diplomacy at the Paris Summit meeting, which worsened relations between the American and Russian superpowers; and yet, the PRC remained allied to the USSR.
In November 1960, at the Congress of 81 Communist parties in Moscow, the Chinese argued about the interpretation of Marxist doctrine with the Soviets, and with most of the other socialist delegations, yet compromised in effort to avoid an ideological split among socialist nations. In October 1961, at the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union the USSR and the PRC renewed their conflicting ideological disputes. In December 1961, the USSR broke diplomatic relations with People's Socialist Republic of Albania, a client state of the PRC. which escalating the ideological dispute from political-party level to the national level.
When India annexed Goa,following demand by Goa people,who were flabbergasted by Portuguese resistance to leave it's occupied territory Indian annexation of Portuguese India in 1961, Moscow lauded the action while an unimpressed Beijing declared that "India's apparent contribution to anti-imperialist struggle consists of taking on the world's smallest imperialist power."
In 1962, the PRC and the USSR broke diplomatic relations. Chairman Mao criticized Premier Khrushchev for withdrawing from the Cuban missile crisis (1962), that "Khrushchev has moved from adventurism to capitulationism". Khrushchev replied that Mao's confrontational policies would lead to a nuclear war. At the same time, the USSR supported India against the Chinese invasion of the Indian north east in the Sino-Indian War (1962).
The aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis, placed nuclear disarmament at foremost in 20th-century geopolitics. To limit production of nuclear weapons by other nations, the USSR, the UK, and the US signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty (5 August 1963). In that time, the PRC were developing their own nuclear weapons, and Mao saw the Limited Test Ban Treaty as an attempt to slow China's becoming a nuclear superpower. He was angered by Khrushchev's failure to aggressively deal with the U.S. Premier Khrushchev's failure to confront the West led Chairman Mao to publish nine (Sept. 1963 – July 1964) letters in which he openly and specifically criticized the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev as Premier of the USSR. After the occurrence of the Sino-Soviet split, Chairman Mao turned to the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America to develop new and strong alliances to further the economic and ideological redevelopment of the People's Republic of China.
Formal ideological statements
The governments of the PRC and the USSR supported their actions with formal ideological statements. In June 1963, the PRC published The Chinese Communist Party's Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement, and the USSR replied with an Open Letter of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; such were the last communications to each other, as socialists. By 1964, Chairman Mao said that a counter-revolution in the USSR had re-established capitalism; consequently, the USSR broke relations with the PRC, and the Warsaw Pact soon followed the Soviets.
After Leonid Brezhnev deposed Premier Khrushchev in October 1964, Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai went to Moscow and met with Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin, who were the new leaders of the USSR. The meeting with the Soviet leaders went poorly, and the disappointed Zhou returned to China and reported to Chairman Mao that the Soviets remained firm in their stance, for which Mao denounced "Khrushchevism without Khrushchev"; Mao's dismissal continued the Sino-Soviet split.
China accused the Soviet Union of colluding with the U.S., e.g. during the Glassboro Summit Conference (June 1967), between Kosygin and U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Radio Peking said that they discussed "a great conspiracy on a worldwide basis . . . criminally selling the rights of the revolution of [the] Vietnam people, Arabs, as well as Asian, African, and Latin-American peoples to U.S. imperialists."
Meanwhile, in China, Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) to prevent the development of Russian-style bureaucratic communism of the USSR. The schools and universities were closed as students, following Mao's proclamations, organized themselves into Red Guard, grassroots-led units of radicals. However, this process was chaotic and violent and had no real leadership, and so over time the Red Guard divided into factions, and their subsequent violence provoked civil war in some parts of China; Mao had the Army suppress the Red Guard factions; and when factionalism occurred in the Army, Mao dispersed the Red Guard, and then began to rebuild the Chinese Communist Party.
The vast grassroots experiment that was the Cultural Revolution stressed, strained, and broke China's political relations with the USSR, and relations with the West. Nevertheless, despite the "Maoism vs. Marxism–Leninism" differences interpreting Marxism, Russia and China aided North Vietnam, headed by Ho Chi Minh, in fighting the Vietnam War (1945–75), which Maoism defined as a peasant revolution against foreign imperialism. The Chinese allowed Soviet materiel across China for the North, to prosecute the war against the Republic of Vietnam, a U.S. ally. In that time, besides the Socialist People's Republic of Albania, only the Communist Party of Indonesia advocated the Maoist policy of peasant revolution.
National interests conflict
Since 1956, the Sino-Soviet ideological split, between Communist political parties, had escalated to small-scale warfare between Russia and China; thereby, in January 1967, Red Guards attacked the Soviet embassy in Beijing. Earlier, in 1966, the Chinese had revived the matter of the Russo-Chinese border that was demarcated in the 19th-century, and imposed upon the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) monarchy by means of unequal treaties that virtually annexed Chinese territory to Tsarist Russia.
Despite not asking the return of territory, the Chinese did ask the USSR to formally (publicly) acknowledge that said border, established with the Treaty of Aigun (1858) and the Convention of Peking (1860), was a historic Russian injustice against China; the Soviet government ignored the matter. Then, in 1968, the Red Guard purges meant to restore doctrinal orthodoxy to China had provoked civil war in parts of the country, which Mao resolved with the People's Liberation Army suppressing the pertinent cohorts of the Red Guard; the excesses of the Red Guard and of the Cultural Revolution declined. Mao required internal political equilibrium in order to protect China from the strategic and military vulnerabilities that resulted from its political isolation from the community of nations.
Meanwhile, during 1968, the Soviet Army had amassed along the 4,380 km (2,738 mi.) border with China—especially at the Xinjiang frontier, in north-west China, where the Soviets might readily induce Turkic separatists to insurrection. Militarily, in 1961, the USSR had 12 divisions and 200 aeroplanes at that border; in 1968, there were 25 divisions, 1,200 aeroplanes, and 120 medium-range missiles. Furthermore, although China had detonated its first nuclear weapon (the 596 Test), in October 1964, at Lop Nur basin, the People's Liberation Army was militarily inferior to the Red Army.
By March 1969, Sino-Russian border politics became the Sino-Soviet border conflict at the Ussuri River and on Damansky–Zhenbao Island; more small-scale warfare occurred at Tielieketi in August. In The Coming War Between Russia and China (1969), US journalist Harrison Salisbury reported that Soviet sources implied a possible first strike against the Lop Nur basin nuclear weapons testing site.
The John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson administrations had considered attempting to destroy the Chinese program before it succeeded, but the USSR had refused to cooperate. Now the U.S. warned the USSR that a nuclear attack against China would precipitate a world-wide war, and the USSR relented. Aware of that possibility, China built large-scale underground shelters, such as Beijing's Underground City, and military shelters such as the Underground Project 131 command center in Hubei, and the 816 Nuclear Military Plant in Fuling, Chongqing.
After the Sino-Soviet border conflict (2 Mar. – 11 Sept., 1969), Soviet minister Alexei Kosygin secretly went to Beijing to confer with Premier Zhou Enlai, and by October, the PRC and the USSR began determining the demarcation of their national borders. Despite not resolving the border demarcation, the meetings restored Sino-Soviet diplomatic communications, and, by 1970, the pragmatic Mao understood that the Peoples' Republic of China could not simultaneously fight the USSR and the USA, whilst suppressing internal disorder. In July 1971, the U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, went to Beijing to arrange the Nixon visit to China (February 1972). Kissinger's actions offended the USSR, who then convoked a summit meeting with President Nixon; that action re-cast the Cold War as tri-polar relation among Moscow and Washington and Beijing.
Concerning the 4,380 km (2,738 mi.) Sino-Soviet border, Soviet propaganda agitated against the PRC's complaint about the unequal Treaty of Aigun (1858) and the Convention of Peking (1860), which cheated China of territory and natural resources. To that effect, in the 1972–73 period, the USSR deleted the Chinese and Manchu place-names — Iman (伊曼, Yiman), Tetyukhe (野猪河, yĕzhūhé), and Suchan — from the map of the Soviet Far East, and replaced them with the Russian place-names Dalnerechensk, Dalnegorsk, and Partizansk, respectively. To facilitate social acceptance of such cultural revision, the Soviet press misrepresented the historical presence of Chinese people — in lands gained by Tsarist Russia — which provoked Russian violence against the local Chinese populaces; moreover, politically inconvenient exhibits were removed from museums, and vandals covered with cement the Jurchen-script stele, about the Jin Dynasty, in the Khabarovsk Museum.
Competing front groups
After Mao Zedong broke bitterly with the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, he launched a world-wide rivalry. Mao set up a network of pro-Chinese, anti-Soviet parties and Communist fronts that directly challenged the pro-Soviet organizations in many countries. 
By 1970 Sino-Soviet ideological rivalry extended to Africa and the Middle East, where the Soviet Union and China funded and supported opposed political parties, militias, and states, notably the Ogaden War (1977–1978) between Ethiopia and Somalia, the Rhodesian Bush War (1964–1979), the Zimbabwean Gukurahundi (1980–1987), the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002), the Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992), and factions of the Palestinian people. In Thailand, the pro-Chinese Communist fronts were organized with a violent revolutionary goal in mind, but they were based in local Chinese enclaves and failed to connect with the larger population.
In 1971, the failure of Project 571, an attempted coup d'état against Chairman Mao, and the death of Marshal Lin Biao, Mao's executive officer, concluded the politically radical phase of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76). Afterwards, China resumed political normality, until Mao’s death (9 September 1976), and the emergence of the politically radical Gang of Four.
The re-establishment of Chinese domestic tranquility ended armed confrontation with the USSR, but it did not improve Sino-Soviet diplomatic relations, because, in 1973, the Soviet Army garrisons at the Russo–Chinese border were twice as large as the 1969 garrisons. That continued military threat prompted the Chinese to denounce “Soviet social-imperialism”, by accusing the USSR of being an enemy of world revolution — despite the PRC having discontinued sponsoring world revolution since 1972, when it pursued a negotiated end to the Vietnam War (1945–75).
After thwarting the 1976 coup d'état by the radical Gang of Four, who argued for ideologic purity at the expense of internal development, the Chinese Communist Party politically rehabilitated Deng Xiaoping and appointed him head of the internal modernization programs in 1977. While reversing Mao's policies (without attacking him), the politically moderate Deng's political and economic reforms began China's transition from a planned economy to a semi–capitalist mixed economy, which he furthered with strengthened commercial and diplomatic relations with the West.
In 1979, on the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the PRC, the government of Deng Xiaoping denounced the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution as a national failure; and, in the 1980s, pursued pragmatic policies such as "seeking truth from facts" and the "Chinese road to socialism", which withdrew the PRC from the high-level abstractions of ideology, polemic, and Russian Marxist revisionism; the Sino-Soviet split had lost some political importance.
After the government of Mao Zedong, the Sino-Soviet split about ideology became useless domestic politics, but was useful geopolitics, wherein conflicted the Russian and Chinese hegemonies in the pursuit of their national interests. The initial Soviet–Chinese proxy war occurred in Indochina, in 1975, where the Communist victory of the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) and of North Vietnam in the thirty-year Vietnam War had produced a post–colonial Indochina that featured pro-Soviet governments in Vietnam (Socialist Republic of Vietnam) and Laos (Lao People's Democratic Republic), and a pro–Chinese government in Cambodia (Democratic Kampuchea).
At first, Vietnam ignored the Khmer Rouge domestic re-organisation of Cambodia, by the Pol Pot government (1975–79), as an internal matter, until the Khmer Rouge attacked the ethnic Vietnamese populace of Cambodia, and the border with Vietnam; the counter-attack precipitated the Cambodian–Vietnamese War (1975–79) that deposed Pol Pot in 1978. In response, the PRC denounced the Vietnamese, and retaliated by invading northern Vietnam, in the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979); in turn, the USSR denounced the PRC's invasion of Vietnam.
In December 1979, the USSR invaded the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan to maintain the Afghan Communist government in power. The PRC viewed the Soviet invasion as a local feint, within Soviet's greater, geopolitical encirclement of China. In response, the PRC entered a tri-partite alliance with the U.S. and Pakistan to sponsor Islamist Afghan armed resistance to the Soviet Occupation (cf. Operation Storm-333). Meanwhile, the Sino-Soviet split became manifest when Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of China, required the removal of "three obstacles" so that Sino-Soviet relations might improve:
- The massed Soviet Army at the Sino-Soviet border and in Mongolia.
- Soviet support of the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea (Cambodia).
- The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
In 1981–82 period, Sino–American relations were strained by geopolitical disagreements about wars, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Falklands War. At the CCP's 12th Congress in September 1982, Deng Xiaoping revived the Maoist "Three Worlds" idea that characterized China as a neutral player in a world divided by conflict between the superpowers. Meanwhile, in March 1982 in Tashkent, USSR Secretary Leonid Brezhnev gave a speech conciliatory towards the PRC, and Deng took advantage of Brezhnev's proffered conciliation; in autumn of 1982, Sino-Soviet relations resumed (semi-annually) at the vice-ministerial level.
When Brezhnev died in November 1982, a Chinese delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Huang Hua, attended the funeral, where Huang praised the late Soviet leader Brezhnev as "an outstanding champion of world peace" and expressed hope for normal relations with Moscow. However, Huang's actions at Brezhnev's funeral led to his dismissal from office after he returned to the PRC.
Three years later, in 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev became President of the USSR, he worked to restore political relations with the PRC; he reduced the Soviet Army garrisons at the Sino-Soviet border and in Mongolia, resumed trade, and dropped the matter of the 1969 border-demarcation dispute. Nonetheless, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan remained unresolved, and Sino-Soviet diplomacy remained cool, which circumstance allowed the Reagan government to sell American weapons to China and so counter the geopolitics of the USSR in the Russo–American aspect of the tri-polar Cold War.
Diplomatic relations between China and Afghanistan were neutral during the reign of the Afghan king; yet, when pro-Soviet Afghan communists seized power in 1978, relations between China and the Afghan communists quickly worsened and then became hostile. Although the Afghan communists supported China's enemies in Vietnam, and blamed China for supporting militant Afghan anti–Communists, China responded to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by supporting the Afghan Mujahidin with aid, small arms, and matériel, delivered by the Pakistani military and intelligence and the CIA, and likewise increased their military presence in Xinjiang, near Afghanistan. China acquired American military equipment to defend from Soviet attack.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army trained and supported the Afghan Mujahidin during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. China moved training camps for the Mujahideen from Pakistan into China proper, which were supported with military advisors and soldiers; afterwards, the Mujahidin were provided anti-aircraft missiles, rocket launchers, and machine guns.
Throughout the 1980s, Sino-Soviet political relations improved, by trade agreements and cultural exchanges, however ideological relations between the Communist parties of Russia and China remained unchanged, because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) refused to accept the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) as their Marxist equals.
In May 1989, Soviet President Gorbachev visited the People's Republic of China, where the government doubted the practical efficacy of perestroika and glasnost. Since the PRC did not officially recognize the USSR as a socialist state, there was no official opinion about Gorbachev's reformation of Soviet socialism. Privately, the Chinese Communists thought that the USSR was unprepared for such political and social reforms without first reforming the economy of the USSR.
The Chinese perspective derived from how the paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, effected economic reform with a semi-capitalist mixed economy, while the political power remained with the Chinese Communist Party. Ultimately, Gorbachev's reformation of Russian society ended Soviet-Communist government and provoked the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
- History of the Soviet Union (1953–64)
- History of the Soviet Union (1964–82)
- History of the People's Republic of China
- Sino-Albanian split
- Sino-American relations
- Sino-Soviet relations
- Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship
- Soviet imperialism
- Lorenz M. Lüthi (2010). The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World. Princeton UP. p. 1. ISBN 1400837626.
- Chambers Dictionary of World History, B.P. Lenman, T. Anderson editors, Chambers: Edinburgh:2000. p. 769.
- Robert A. Scalapino, "Sino-Soviet Competition in Africa", Foreign Affairs (1964) 42#4, pp. 640–654 in JSTOR
- Scalapino, Robert A. (1964). "Sino-Soviet Competition in Africa". Foreign Affairs. 42 (4): 640–654. JSTOR 20029719.
- The historian Lorenz M. Lüthi said: The Sino-Soviet split was one of the key events of the Cold War, equal in importance to the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Second Vietnam War, and Sino–American Rapprochement. The split helped to determine the framework of the second half of the Cold War in general, and influenced the course of the Second Vietnam War, in particular. Like a nasty divorce, it left bad memories and produced myths of innocence on both sides.Lorenz M. Lüthi (2010). The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World. Princeton UP. p. 1. ISBN 1400837626.
- Rothbard, Murray N. “The Myth of Monolithic Communism”, Libertarian Review, Vol. 8., No. 1 (February 1979), p. 32.
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