The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History

The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History

The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History

The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History

Synopsis

In 1950 the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China signed a Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance to foster cultural and technological cooperation between the Soviet bloc and the PRC. While this treaty was intended as a break with the colonial past, Austin Jersild argues that the alliance ultimately failed because the enduring problem of Russian imperialism led to Chinese frustration with the Soviets.

Jersild zeros in on the ground-level experiences of the socialist bloc advisers in China, who were involved in everything from the development of university curricula, the exploration for oil, and railway construction to piano lessons. Their goal was to reproduce a Chinese administrative elite in their own image that could serve as a valuable ally in the Soviet bloc's struggle against the United States. Interestingly, the USSR's allies in Central Europe were as frustrated by the "great power chauvinism" of the Soviet Union as was China. By exposing this aspect of the story, Jersild shows how the alliance, and finally the split, had a true international dimension.

Excerpt

The specter of an emerging alliance of Russia and China in response to American unilateralism and “hegemony” in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union has attracted the attention of numerous observers of contemporary international affairs. The new “strategic partnership,” as it was called in the 1997 Treaty of Good Neighborliness, Cooperation, and Friendship, has since then featured border agreements, the growth of small-scale trade, arms sales, joint military exercises, exchange in the strategic and sensitive area of natural resources, and the emergence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The two countries again share common suspicions about America, the presumed maker and beneficiary of a unipolar world, and its promotion of NATO expansion, preventive war, the campaign in Iraq, and the abrogation of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty. Both countries are especially sensitive about what they perceive as intrusive American criticism of their supposed human rights violations. This relationship, however, far from an alliance, is a far cry from what was known as the “Great Friendship” established by Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao in Moscow on 14 February 1950. The two societies and economies in their current form cannot possibly reproduce anything close to the forms of collaboration and cooperation once characteristic of the socialist world. The shared perception of America as a threat is significant but less important than the shared hope of greater trade and participation in the global economy. If anything, the relationship borders on what both sides once denounced as the traditional diplomacy characteristic of the world of imperialism and capitalism, the antithesis of socialist “internationalism.” Minus the Chinese purchase of Russian oil, the current relationship is more reminiscent of the earlier history of the Sino-Russian frontier, with its series of treaties clarifying borders, regulating trade, and resolving settlement disputes. The lofty rhetoric and complicated practices of “proletarian internationalism” belong to the past.

The study of this past required fellowship support, advice, and intellectual camaraderie from a wide variety of institutions, friends, and colleagues, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to recognize some of them here. I began research on this project a decade ago, but it occupied some corner of my imagination many years before then. As part of an exchange between St. Olaf . . .

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