Joseph L. Sutton
Among the many new facets of recent Chinese political participation in world politics, by far the most novel has been the Communist Chinese state's intervention in the affairs of the East Central European people's democracies. This role of course has been noticed by Western observers, but it has not received the attention that it in fact deserves. As a new pattern of relationships, it represents one of the major démarches in the history of modern international relations. Since the eighteenth century the West has played an important role in Chinese affairs. China played largely the passive part of a "prize" in European affairs. At no time did China take an active role as a power in European politics, until the successful completion of the communist conquest of the mainland in October 1949.
There now has been a major reorientation of Chinese foreign relations. The most obvious change was the redirection of Chinese trade and cultural and political relations away from traditional contacts with the West and toward the Soviet Union. There has been much speculation regarding this relationship with the USSR. In many ways, however, it is a traditional relationship between an underdeveloped China and a highly developed European power. China has had many of the problems of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries repeated. How, for example, can the relatively weak Chinese state develop a pattern of independent international conduct while depending upon a European power for financial, political and military support? In fact, many of the tensions discernible just below the surface of Chinese-Soviet relations are akin to former tensions between Nationalist China and the Western powers. Still, there are a number of differences. Although China is weak and dependent upon the Soviet Union, she has been able to develop greater independence than any previous modern Chinese government. With this new strength China has been able to play a new role in Europe.
Never in the long history of China's relations with the West did