Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

A Question of Names: The Solution to the 'Two Chinas' Issue in Modern Olympic History: The Final Phase, 1971-1984

Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

A Question of Names: The Solution to the 'Two Chinas' Issue in Modern Olympic History: The Final Phase, 1971-1984

Article excerpt


Though China entered international sports affairs and initiated a relationship with the IOC as early as May 1915, it did not actually participate in the Olympic Games until 1932. After a long civil war between communists and nationalists (KMT), which intensified after the end of World War II, the People's Republic of China (PRC) came into being on 10 October 1949. The defeated KMT government evacuated to the island of Formosa, now known as Taiwan. Thus, from this time in history, Taiwan and the PRC fomented a series of troubling incidents in international and IOC affairs. For instance, the PRC withdrew from the IOC and from all international sports federations in 1958 due to a series of controversies stemming from the festering issues and differences harboured by both Taiwan and the PRC. The PRC decision taken in 1958 prompted its absence from the Olympic Movement for a period of 25 years. However, world events and the phenomenon of "Ping Pong Diplomacy" in 1971 ushered in the beginning of a new era of detente and problem solution. Eventually, the PRC/Taiwan issue was settled in 1981, resulting in the PRC and Taiwan competing together for the first time in the 1984 at the Games of the 23rd Olympiad in Los Angeles.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, it experienced a series of political movements initiated and controlled by China's venerated Chairman Mao. By 1970, the PRC was exhausted. The economy had collapsed. Mao at last appeared to realize that China must restore and build its economy beyond all other considerations. Germane to this fundamental point, shedding China's long isolation from the international community rose as a priority consideration. Mao and the United States

As is well known, the world entered a state of cold war after the end of World War II. The two conflicting ideological strongholds were the Soviet Union, as the leader of the socialist countries, and the United States, as the leader of the capitalist countries. The relationship between the PRC and the United States was viewed from the start as a class struggle, that is, between the proletariat and bourgeoisie. Particularly during the Cultural Revolution, American imperialism was seen as the foremost enemy of the Chinese.

One may thus be surprised that Mao started with the United States, rather than the Soviet Union, to rectify China's internal problems at that time. One might have thought that Mao would have joined with the Soviet Union, because the PRC and the Soviet Union were both socialist countries. A brief analysis is in order here.

China and the Soviet Union had been in state of hostility since a breaking of relationships between the two in 1958. Actually, the animosity of both sides toward each other had festered for a long time, which can be traced to the time of the Tsars. The two large continental countries share a frontier of some 4,000 miles in a vast area extending from the frozen tundras of Siberia to the stark plains of central Asia. Dividing sovereignty over huge areas without regard to race or language produced major problems. The people straddling the border areas generally spoke the same native tongues, different from either Russian or Chinese. This magnified the insecurity and potential hostility of both regimes. Borders have changed back and forth throughout history due to the ambition and power of the contending parties. Much of Central Asia, appropriated by the Tsars in the nineteenth century, was now governed by new rulers in the Kremlin, ones who rejected the entire legacy of their predecessors except their geographical conquests. This alone dictated Chinese and Russian reciprocal paranoia. The superimposition of ideological conflict and personal jealousies turned inherent rivalry into obsession. (1)

Mao saw no possibility of compromise with the Soviet Union that at the same time would not be grossly debilitating. To Zhou En Lai, the Chinese Prime Minister, China's conflict with the Soviet Union was both indelible and beyond the capacity to be managed without conflict. …

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