The 1990s Chinese Debates concerning the Causes for the Collapse of the Soviet Union among PRC Soviet-Watchers: The Cases of Brezhnev and Stalin

By Li, Jie | International Journal of China Studies, August 2018 | Go to article overview

The 1990s Chinese Debates concerning the Causes for the Collapse of the Soviet Union among PRC Soviet-Watchers: The Cases of Brezhnev and Stalin


Li, Jie, International Journal of China Studies


1.Introduction

The breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991 has had a profound impact on the People's Republic of China (PRC). The Soviet dissolution has had a variety of significant repercussions on Chinese politics, foreign policy, and other aspects. However, many myths about post-1991 Chinese research on the Soviet Union have been circulated and perpetuated by a body of secondary literature written by Western scholars. Some issues have been unclear or misunderstood in previous studies, and one of these inaccuracies has to do with Chinese perceptions of the role of the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

A number of secondary sources written by Western scholars (Rozman, 2010: 464-470; Marsh, 2005: 111; Shambaugh, 2008: 48-56; Wilson, 2007: 272) argued that, Chinese Soviet-watchers began making positive comments about Gorbachev immediately after he assumed power in 1985. However, these Soviet-watchers turned against the last Soviet leader soon after the Tiananmen Incident in 1989. The existing secondary literature seems to have exaggerated the impact of Gorbachev on China. Previous scholarship also suggests that after the mid-1980s Chinese Soviet-watchers identified Gorbachev's concept of glasnost (openness) and his political reform with Western democracy, and used Gorbachev and his ideas to push the Chinese regime towards political democratization on the eve of the Tiananmen Incident. Moreover, some authors (such as Gilbert Rozman and David Shambaugh) indicate that most Chinese Soviet-watchers after 1991 considered Gorbachev and his liberalization to be the fundamental catalysts in spelling the collapse of the Soviet Union. The literature seems to agree that Chinese Soviet-watchers were univocal in assessing Gorbachev's individual actions and failings, and that they overstated the implications of Gorbachev and his liberal programs for China, both in the 1980s and 1990s.

Previously, the author has published two articles in challenging the views of existing scholarship on Chinese debates concerning Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. In my first article (Li, 2016), I argued, firstly, most Chinese academic articles concerning the USSR did not present positive views on Gorbachev in and after 1985. Many of them remained suspicious and wary of the new Soviet leader, and some of them even challenged the sincerity and feasibility of his policies. Only after about a year with Gorbachev at the helm did Chinese Soviet-watchers begin to review his glasnost and political reform positively. This is when three major obstacles (the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; its large troop deployment along the border of China; and Moscow's support of Vietnamese military intervention in Cambodia) plaguing Sino-Soviet relations began to resolve and bilateral relations gradually improved.

Secondly, a full-fledged Chinese attack on Gorbachev did not appear either in the wake of the Tiananmen Incident or after the Soviet disintegration. Instead, strong Chinese criticisms emerged in early 1990, when Gorbachev was elected as the President of the USSR and initiated the process of terminating the power monopoly of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in March 1990. After that, China became aware of the negative ramifications of such a move against PRC communist one-party rule.

Thirdly, few Chinese Soviet-watchers used Gorbachev and his programs to put pressure on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to introduce some form of political Westernization. Instead, most Soviet-watchers manipulated the symbol of Gorbachev to support the reformist wing led by the former CCP Secretary General Zhao Ziyang in his factional warfare against the Party conservatives leading up to Tiananmen. In short, Chinese Sovietwatchers did not regard Gorbachev and his programs as having the potential to transform the political landscape of the PRC; rather, they perceived Gorbachev and his agenda as a tool that could be used to define, create, and legitimize a reformed communist system on their own terms. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The 1990s Chinese Debates concerning the Causes for the Collapse of the Soviet Union among PRC Soviet-Watchers: The Cases of Brezhnev and Stalin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.