Yet China's closeness to the USSR and radical politics made it an uneasy bedfellow for many of the newly emerging independent states. Even while it tried to carve out a new status for itself in postwar international society, the PRC remained highly dependent on its relationship with its patron, the USSR. Nevertheless, relations between the two giant communist states led to a split in the early s, which was perhaps the most momentous internal event within the communist bloc during the p.
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Although the fissure had been brewing for years, it took many Western observers by surprise. The split was never total, but it was nearly three decades before it was overcome with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to Beijing in In addition, Stalin's demands for special rights in China's borderlands in —50 had angered Mao greatly. The seeds were sown that would eventually lead to the split with the Soviets. On the one hand, Mao's government wanted to stress that its revolution was indigenous, that it had come to power through its own strategic choices, and that it was genuinely rooted in a popular revolution.
On the other hand, for reasons of ideological commitment and economic and strategic need, it had to be close to the USSR. The relationship between Mao and Stalin had always been marked by distrust as well as admiration: Mao believed that much of Stalin's advice to the CCP before had been mistaken, and Stalin disliked Mao's independence of thought.
However, the two had sufficient respect for each other to maintain effective relations between their two countries. Mao had little respect for Stalin's ultimate successor, Nikita Khrushchev. Furthermore, Mao regarded Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin in the secret speech of as a coded attack on Mao's own cult of personality, which had been developing since the wartime Rectification movements. The international and domestic tensions came together during —9, in the wake of the Khrushchev thaw in the USSR. The Chinese position altered during the Hungarian crisis later that year, however.
The theoretical questions raised by the uprisings in Eastern Europe profoundly influenced the development of Chinese domestic policy. The effect of this was a contradictory turn within domestic Chinese politics. In —7 Mao supported the Hundred Flowers Movement, which actively called for constructive criticism of the Party from the wider population. He intended that the CCP should glean suggestions on how to reform itself. By , however, Mao had become alarmed at the harsh level of criticism that had emerged through the Hundred Flowers; he launched the Anti-Rightist Campaign in which thousands of people who had criticized the party were arrested.
Yet the language that Moscow and Beijing used between themselves over the events of was shared: language, rhetoric, and political understandings genuinely linked the socialist countries and shaped their understanding of what bound them together against the Western bloc.
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This disparity, in which the PRC and the USSR shared goals while disagreeing on approaches, was another factor that would lead to their split. Between and relations continued to deteriorate as Mao demanded more radicalism in the face of Soviet attempts to lessen tensions with the Western bloc. Khrushchev had become increasingly disillusioned by what he saw as both Mao's willingness to risk confrontation with the West and his establishment of a cult of personality. Khrushchev was also motivated by a racism that found it hard to take the Chinese seriously. The most symbolic moment was the withdrawal of all Soviet advisors from China in so sudden was their departure that they left the bridge under construction across the Yangtze at Nanjing half-built.
By that stage, the alliance between the two sides was in tatters. The split with the Soviets meant that China had a new freedom to exercise its influence as a revolutionary actor on the global stage. China projected itself as a role model at a moment when scores of Asian and African countries were decolonizing and seeking to shape their emerging nation-states. Eastern Europe was essentially a colony of Moscow. China's revolution, in contrast, was genuinely indigenous, even if it had received significant Soviet assistance. China provided support for the Vietnamese in their struggle against French colonialism from its earliest days, and then for the North Vietnamese in their war to unify Vietnam under their control.
From the early s to the late s, the CCP exploited their long ties with the Vietnamese Communist movement to offer them support. As with Korea, Chinese policy linked an ideological commitment to a more pragmatic mode of operation. The latter was particularly evident in the Geneva Accords, through which postcolonial Vietnam's borders were defined. These marked one of the major diplomatic successes of Zhou Enlai, China's foreign p.
Chinese involvement in Vietnam would soon intensify significantly. During much of the s, the North Vietnamese found themselves in the curious position of accepting assistance from both the PRC and the USSR even while hostility between the latter two states increased. The troops took part in fighting operating gun positions and also undertook significant construction work, thereby freeing up Vietnamese soldiers for the assault into South Vietnam.
This involvement was never formally acknowledged, nor did the US seek to draw attention to it. Still, it is a marker of the seriousness with which China took its cold war mission. In assisting the North Vietnamese, the Chinese drew attention to their own path for anti-imperialist liberation, which combined allegiance to ideas of radical social change with a strong sense of non-European nationalism. By intervening in Vietnam, Beijing also made up for those occasions when it had had to draw back from involvement, such as the failure to conquer the south in the Korean War or the inability to prevent a right-wing coup in Indonesia in against a leadership that seemed to be orienting itself toward Beijing.
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However, that nationalism also caused one of the major rifts between China and Vietnam, and illustrated a wider problem—that China continued to have a highly sinocentric attitude toward its neighbors. The mids likewise witnessed the most convulsive social change in the whole of Mao's period in power, the Cultural Revolution, which eventually precipitated the biggest ideological shift in China's international behavior: the opening to the United States.
The result was a massive radicalization of domestic policies for the next three years. However, as the most radical phase of the Cultural Revolution ended, prominent figures in the leadership began to feel China's lack of global allies keenly. By the relationship between Beijing and Moscow had become so p. The reasons that Mao's government reversed its ideological strategy and invited the representatives of the greatest capitalist nation on earth to the heart of Beijing were domestic as well as international.
The upheavals of the Cultural Revolution were exposing the contradictions in Mao's vision of modernity. After the departure of Soviet advisors in , it no longer had the indigenous capacity to develop technology, particularly as the Cultural Revolution's initial phase was predicated on breaking down any pretensions to high technical knowledge or expertise.
Although various areas of scientific endeavor, such as the Chinese atomic bomb program, remained protected from the Cultural Revolution, overall the movement was immensely destructive to the country's knowledge base. It was clear by the early s that some source of external technical knowledge was needed to replace the Soviets. Mao himself became a strong supporter of the opening to the US, having read and noted what he took as positive signals from Nixon. The latter's inaugural address had made it clear that he would not be bound simply by ideology in his decisions as to which countries to talk to.
However, it seems that Mao's putative successor, Lin Biao, was not favorably inclined toward an opening toward the US. He appears to have been involved in an attempted coup against Mao, and his disappearance from the scene meant that the Chinese leadership became more unified toward the opening toward the US. He was subjected to robust conversations by Zhou Enlai and other Chinese officials, and this helped to clear the way for the visit by Nixon.
On February 21, , Nixon arrived in Beijing. His visit was only a week long, but it was highly public more so to the outside world than within China itself and demonstrated clearly that the cold war structures had been reoriented. From , however, these efforts were hampered by the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, which made it difficult to have any meaningful communications with the Beijing government. Furthermore, Mao was p. The odd alliance of convenience between the US and China would last for some two decades. The neutralization of China enabled the US to concentrate on the European front of the cold war.
The other government that was most affected by the switch in US policy was the Republic of China on Taiwan, the rump state controlled by Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang had one overriding agenda, which he repeatedly pressed on his American backers: the recapture of the mainland. However, Taiwan under his rule also achieved certain domestic successes that Chiang had failed to gain on the mainland.
The major social change that emerged under American pressure was land reform, the issue on which the Communists had won over much of the peasantry on the mainland. The political constraints of the cold war also allowed Taiwan to maintain a highly protected economy and currency in return for fealty to the US.
This enabled it to build a powerful manufacturing base which enabled the island to become a major exporter from the s onward. In political terms, the Republic of China was an authoritarian dictatorship. The Nationalist government committed many human rights abuses. The regime was particularly discriminatory against ethnic Chinese who had been born on the island as opposed to emigrating from the mainland after or , as well as the island's aboriginal population.
Yet it also followed the example of US-backed societies such as authoritarian South Korea and democratic Japan in using its economic policies to drive down income inequality. Chiang's death in brought his son Chiang Ching-kuo to power, and moves began to legalize the pro-democracy civil society groups, which had started to form on the island. As Taiwan became more diplomatically isolated, it began to use its democratic credentials rather than its anti-communist ones to justify its reluctance to reunify with the mainland. In China, the local p. The Chinese Communist Party, founded in , was just one product of the period.
The second source was the legacy of the wartime period. The Nationalists and Communists had engaged in a deadly dispute, but they had both sought ownership of the language of democracy. Modernization theory is probably the social scientific phrase most associated with the cold war. For a start, because China remained a less developed and more agrarian country than either the US or USSR, its policies were tied to the countryside more than in the other two countries. Therefore, there were strong elements that ran through the Chinese revolution that differentiated it from the Soviet view.
The mobilization of the countryside was central to Mao's view of modernization in the Great Leap Forward of — The Leap was a disaster, leading to a massive famine that killed more than 20 million Chinese. Nonetheless, Mao remained enchanted by the idea of an alternative model of modernization in which the power of rural-dwellers could be unleashed. Other aspects of the Chinese experience did prove inspiring to radical groups and governments as far apart as India and East Africa, and in some cases were assisted by formal Chinese assistance.
The TanZam railway, linking Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to landlocked Zambia, was one of the most prominent projects to use Chinese assistance to construct infrastructure in decolonized Africa as an alternative to Western or Soviet assistance.
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One element of China's discourse that was specifically tied to the cold war was the fetish that it made of the atomic bomb. The cold war globally was associated with a romantic view of technology and its possibilities. Of course, this was not unprecedented Futurism was just one of the artistic trends in the early 20th century which was underpinned by an obsession with technology , but nuclear technology in particular is associated inextricably with the wider trajectory of the cold war.
For smaller, post-imperial p. The US and USSR found themselves torn between stressing the power that atomic weaponry bestowed and reflecting on its destructiveness. Japan, in contrast, heavily tied its postwar self-image to having been a victim of the only atomic bombs dropped. The PRC was unequivocal about stressing the search for an atomic weapon as a powerful symbol of national virility. In general, the PRC embraced the romanticism of technology wholeheartedly, and unashamedly combined it with politics. China tends to fade from the global narrative of the cold war after the Sino-US rapprochement in After the traumas of the Cultural Revolution, it became clear that China had reversed its policy of international revolutionary intervention.
Nonetheless, Chinese policy had begun to change several years before Mao's death. This development was a first step toward socializing the country into the wider international community. The opening to America had been preceded, not followed, by the opening of relations with Japan. No event could have brought the latent distrust in Soviet-American relations to the forefront of international life more effectively than did the Second World War. The combined effort of the two countries assured the destruction of both Germany and the historic European balance of power.
When Soviet armies, in , began to occupy areas of Slavic Europe on the heels of the retreating Germans, he gave the West the choice of recognizing Soviet economic and political interests in Eastern Europe or of courting the destruction of Big Three unity. He understood, moreover, that Russia would be in absolute possession of East-Central Europe when the war ended.
No longer could the common enemy sustain the Grand Alliance.
The task of disengaging massive armies from the heart of Europe, where they had met under conditions that engaged the long-term interests of the major powers, was more than traditional diplomacy could accomplish. For the United States and Britain, the best of all worlds still conformed overwhelmingly to that fashioned at Versailles. Yergin holds to the unspoken assumption, one shared by historians generally, that the U. Thus Yergin views Soviet policies toward Germany, Poland, the Balkans, Iran, and the eastern Mediterranean in part as the defensive maneuvers of an insecure, devastated country; in part, the expression of historic Russian fears and ambitions.
Unfortunately, all such analyses of Cold War causation lack an essential symmetry, for no historian can balance what is known about official American attitudes and behavior with an equal knowledge of Soviet fears and intentions. Whether time will markedly alter the existing perceptions of Soviet purpose as reflected in Soviet action is, at least to this reviewer, doubtful. Byrnes asked V. Molotov what Russia really wanted. Actually, few if any United States officials after Yalta would have accepted such a limited view of Soviet ambition.
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The Real Story of How America Became an Economic Superpower
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