The Soviet-Chinese Split | The Second World War

In 1959 Khrushchev told Beijing that the Soviet Union would not furnish the PRC with atomic weapons and tried unsuccessfully to unseat Mao. PRC bombardment of Quemoy and Matsu (1958), offshore islands claimed by Taiwan, plus a savage conquest of Tibet and an invasion of Indian territory in Ladakh were undertaken without consultation between the PRC and the Soviets. The Soviets publicly declared themselves to be neutral between the

PRC and the Indians, and in 1960 Khrushchev withdrew all Soviet technicians from the PRC. The PRC tried to influence other Communist parties against the Soviets and picked up a European satellite, Albania. The Albanian Communist party had thrown off Yugoslav domination after Tito’s rebellion from Stalin in 1948. More than anything else, the Albanian communists feared renewed control by the Yugoslays. When Khrushchev made his repeated efforts to conciliate Tito, the Albanians found an ally in the Communist Chinese.

In the midst of the 1962 crisis over Soviet missiles in Cuba, the PRC chose to attack India again. The PRC withdrew when it had what it wanted; but the Soviets, though ostensibly neutral, were clearly pro-Indian. India was of great importance in the eyes of both superpowers, and each preferred to see it nonaligned; thus both feared any possible Communist Chinese conquest there.

When the nuclear test ban treaty was signed, the PRC denounced the Soviets as traitors to the international communist movement. Khrushchev tried to arrange for a public excommunication of the Chinese by other Communist parties, but he was unable to win sufficient support. Mao called for Khrushchev’s removal and accused the Soviets of illegally occupying eastern European and Japanese territory. By the time of Khrushchev’s ouster in a bloodless coup in October 1964, the PRC had the support of the North Korean and North Vietnamese Communist parties and enjoyed a special position of strength in Indonesia and Algeria.

In Africa, it had established a predominant influence in two former French colonies, and it took the lead in sponsoring a major rebellion in the former Belgian Congo. In South America, the PRC supported Castroites within the pro-Soviet Latin American parties in the hope of promoting more active revolutionary movements.

Power, Mao pointed out, came from the barrel of a gun, and he feared that the rising standard of living in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, together with doctrinal revisionism, had led the former world center of international communism to go soft. Maoism had become the cutting edge of international revolutionary communism. But 1965 brought major setbacks to the PRC.

A congress scheduled for Algiers, in which they had expected to condemn the Soviets, was canceled, in part because the Algerians overthrew their pro-communist premier. An attempted communist coup in Indonesia failed after the assassination of numerous leading army officers. The Indonesian army took power and revenged itself with the help of the Muslim population upon the Chinese minority and upon the local communists, of whom perhaps 500,000 were killed. A PRC threat to renew the attack on India during the Indian-Pakistani conflict in 1965 evaporated when the United States and the Soviet Union tacitly cooperated in the United Nations to force a temporary cease-fire.

In part as the result of these successive setbacks abroad, and in part because of persistent failures to meet production goals at home, in 1966 the communist regime began to show signs of unbearable tensions. Denunciations and removals of important figures at the top of the government and party were accompanied by a new wave of adulation for Chairman Mao.

Young people in their teens—the Red Guard—erupted into the streets, beating and killing older people whose loyalty they professed to suspect, destroying works of art and other memorials of :hinds pre-communist past, and rioting against foreigners and foreign influences. In October 1966 the PRC successfully fired a guided missile with a nuclear warhead, affirming that the political turmoil had not interfered with the development of military hardware. Yet the turmoil continued. The PRC’s educational system was completely halted, and something like civil war raged in some provinces.

This artificially induced cultural revolution died down gradually in 1969, when the Ninth Chinese Communist Party Congress took place. In 1969 and 1970 the mystery that veiled mainland China from the West seemed to thicken. Since Western and even Soviet journalists, scholars, film makers, missionaries, and business people were not allowed in, foreign observers had to rely on guesswork.

There is still no clear agreement on what happened during the cultural revolution or its immediate aftermath. Something like a fourth of the top party and government officials had been purged, leaving economic stagnation and ideological disillusionment behind. Though Soviet-PRC tension twice broke into open fighting on the frontiers, and though the hostile propaganda of both sides reached a shrill pitch, the two countries continued to negotiate.

Behind the series of incidents that revealed the mounting inter-communist quarrel to the world, there lay theoretical disagreements about the best way to bring communist control to the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The PRC favored direct sponsorship of local communist revolutionary movements; the Soviets maintained that the communists could win the competition without world war by helping along local “wars of national liberation”—revolutions at least partly under communist control. The PRC refused to grant that nuclear weapons had changed the nature of war or imperialism, and they regarded world war as inevitable.

The PRC insisted that communists alone must take charge of all revolutionary movements from the beginning and claimed that aid to non-communist countries was a delusion. They opposed disarmament. They wanted Khrushchev to freeze Soviet living standards at a low level and invest the savings to help the PRC catch up, but Khrushchev preferred to let his people enjoy some of the fruits of their labors. Race was also a factor. The Soviets disliked and feared the communist Chinese, the “yellow peril” on their borders.

The huge Chinese masses frightened the Asian Soviets. Because the threat came from another race, the fear increased. Despite protestations to the contrary, the Soviets were race-conscious, and they reserved for the Chinese the deepest dislike of all. In turn, the PRC openly used race as a weapon in its efforts to win support among Asians, Africans, and Latin Americans, lumping the Soviet Union with the United States as symbols of the white intention to continue dominating the nonwhite world.

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