The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History

By Stanke, Jaclyn | The Historian, Spring 2017 | Go to article overview

The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History


Stanke, Jaclyn, The Historian


The Sino-Soviet Alliance: An International History. By Austin Jersild. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2014. Pp. xi, 330. $36.95.)

The title of this book is both misleading and accurate. It is misleading because, although the work follows the Sino-Soviet alliance from its inception in 1950 to its demise a decade later, it is not a straightforward political history. Rather, the focus is on how the alliance operated at its lower levels. The title, then, is accurate as the author provides an international history of the alliance, bringing in the perspectives of the Russians, Chinese, Czechoslovakians, East Germans, and others from the socialist world (the extensive research in numerous postcommunist archives and languages is impressive). By examining how bloc collaboration functioned on a day-to-day basis, Austin Jersild finds that the alliance was untenable over the longer term. The parties involved consistently experienced frustration, ultimately resulting in a sense of betrayal and eventual separation.

The first part examines the period following the signing of the 1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, which sought to foster cultural and technological cooperation between the Soviet bloc and communist China. Jersild focuses 011 the komandirovka system, or work-related exchanges whereby Soviet and East European advisers and specialists assisted China in such areas as education, culture, economics, and technology. Exploring the problems and frustrations encountered as the Chinese and their socialist partners learned about each other, Jersild uncovers disputes over compensation and behavior, Chinese frustration with how the Soviet system functioned, shared concerns between the Chinese and East Europeans about Soviet great-power chauvinism, and culturally imperialistic attitudes of the Europeans toward the Chinese, amongst other problems. …

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