Academic journal article Kritika

Identity Discourses and the Sino-Soviet Split

Academic journal article Kritika

Identity Discourses and the Sino-Soviet Split

Article excerpt

Yee-Wah Foo, Chiang Kaisheks Last Ambassador to Moscow: The Wartime Diaries of Fu Bingchang. 256 pp. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. ISBN-13 978-0230584778. $115.00.

Ted Hopf, Reconstructing the Cold War: The Early Years, 1945-1958. 320 pp. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN-13 978-0199379767. $27.95.

Austin Jersild, The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History. 352 pp., illus. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014. ISBN-13 9781469611594. $36.95.

The past decade has witnessed a flood of new publications on the turbulent relationship between the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This new wave of scholarship has increasingly been based on Chinese archival holdings as well. (1) Although the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) Central Archives near Beijing have remained off limits to both foreign and independent domestic researchers, at least the first half of the Hu-Wen administration (2003-12) witnessed unprecedented access to archives at the provincial, municipal, and county levels. The comparatively open archives during these years included the Archive of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which allowed for greater access to its records, especially from the 1950s. The insights gained from these holdings have considerably enriched our knowledge about Chinese foreign policy with regard to both high-level domestic decision making and international relations. (2) Restrictions have tightened in recent years, however, and many previously accessible documents have been reclassified or, under the pretext of digitization, withdrawn from the catalogues. The three books under review here all in one way or another have profited from the short-term liberalization of Chinese archival practices. Two of them heavily rely on Chinese primary sources, and this review is therefore written from the perspective of a historian of China, not the Soviet Union. The books share a focus on the early or even pre-Cold War period of Chinese-Soviet relations between the 1940s and the mid-1960s.

In Chiang Kaishek's Last Ambassador to Moscow, Yee-Wah Foo analyzes Guomindang diplomacy during World War II. More specifically, she traces the life and times of her grandfather Fu Bingchang. The special relationship between author and research subject is not adequately discussed, and the book over long stretches reads like an attempt to cast Fu's historical role in a brighter light. The volume is divided into six parts, starts with a family history prior to 1943, and continues with a cultural history of embassy life and organization in the 1940s. On Fu's farewell visit prior to embarking for Moscow, Chiang Kai-shek personally stated Fu Bingchang's mission to project an image of China as a great power; to minimize Soviet interference, especially in Xinjiang and Manchuria; and to make the Soviet Union join the war against Japan. Parts 3-5 discuss the difficulties of achieving these tasks by looking at Fu's role in the October 1943 Moscow declaration, which granted China great-power status, the removal of Soviet influence in Xinjiang, and the negotiations of the Far Eastern Agreement at Yalta in 1945. All these questions have been extensively dealt with in previous diplomatic histories--for example, by Garver and Heinzig--and despite the author's effort at ascribing a greater role to Fu Bingchang, the utter powerlessness of the Chinese delegate and his country's complete dependence on U.S. backing cannot be dispelled. (3) There are a few interesting new details on the situation in Xinjiang and on the second round of discussions regarding the 1945 Sino-Soviet treaty, which merit the specialist's interest.

The book mostly offers details on the personal relations between Fu and other major ambassadors, as well as relations with the Soviet hosts, which were characterized by mistrust, spying activities among lower-level staff (not to mention infiltration by Chinese Communist Party [CCP] spies, most notably Fu's mistress and press attache Flu Jibang). …

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