Academic journal article Military Review

After Leaning to One Side: China and Its Allies in the Cold War

Academic journal article Military Review

After Leaning to One Side: China and Its Allies in the Cold War

Article excerpt

AFTER LEANING TO ONE SIDE: China and Its Allies in the Cold War

Zhihua Shen and Danhui Li, Woodrow Wilson Center and Stanford University Press, Washington DC, 2011, 331 pages, $60.00

As the Cold War recedes into history, researchers have growing access to the archives of various participants. After several decades of research and at least one period of imprisonment, historian Zhihua Shen has obtained extensive records from both China and the former Soviet Union. This has allowed him and his wife, Danhui Li, to assemble an explanation of the tangled relationships between the two leading Marxist regimes, as well as Beijing's troubled partnerships with North Korea and North Vietnam. The resulting picture, while still incomplete, helps Westerners better understand their former adversaries.

A case in point is the 1950 Chinese intervention in the Korean conflict, an intervention that inflicted a serious, if temporary defeat upon the United States and its allies. The traditional explanation for this intervention was that Beijing was responding to a perceived threat as U.N. forces approached its borders after defeating North Korea. More recently, revisionists such as Sergei Goncharov, John Lewis, and Xue Litai have argued that Mao Zedong was so angered by American intervention in Asia that he concentrated troops on the Yalu River even before the U.N. counteroffensive at Inchon. Mao's principal reasons for delaying his attack thereafter were to obtain more Soviet military aid and satisfy his critics within the Chinese government. Professor Shen combines these two stories, suggesting that while Mao was inspired partly by a sense of international solidarity with the Korean communists, he sought to avoid direct conflict as long as possible. Mao's actual reasons for intervention were a complex mixture of a perceived threat from the United States, a desire to limit Soviet influence in the region, and a need to convince Joseph Stalin of China's loyalty. …

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