China, the United States, and the Soviet Union: Tripolarity and Policy Making in the Cold War

By Robert S. Ross | Go to book overview

5 Soviet-Chinese Relations: The Experience of Two Decades

Herbert J. Ellison

The Soviet-Chinese relationship since the Chinese Revolution is a remarkable story, the centerpiece of postwar international relations in Northeast Asia, and the most important of the many complex relationships within the community of Communist states. It is the story of a dream of ideological solidarity and partnership in world revolution that degenerated into a quarter century of fratricidal strife, contributing much to the collapse of both Soviet leadership of world communism and the movement itself.

During the past decade, it was also a story of gradual compromise and eventual reconciliation, bringing the restoration of interparty relations that had been severed for twenty-three years in the very year that witnessed severe weakening of Communist power in the Soviet Union, its collapse in much of Eastern Europe, and a challenge to its position in China. The conflict and reconciliation occurred within a context of global military and ideological struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, and ended when that struggle too was ending. The combatants emerged from their long conflict into an Asia whose economy and politics had been radically transformed in ways that challenged their system and ideology more profoundly than their own parochial quarrels.


Background

The breaking of relations between the Soviet and Chinese Communist parties in 1966 derived from a conflict that had expanded steadily for a decade. The conflict was partly due to Chinese concern about Soviet influence in China. Stalin surrendered control of Xinjiang after the Communist victory in China, but re-

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