We stumbled upon the Newspaper Museum (not sure of its official name), close to our favourite little restaurant. The rather shabby museum holds some fascinating clippings, articles, and photos from the last century and the beginning of this one.
The highlights are some great photos of Mao and other communist party leaders during the Cultural Revolution. Even in the 1960s one can appreciate the efforts of some sophisticated photoshopping (without photoshop to help) that make the central characters appear more powerful and larger than life.
It’s curious to see the old papers, printed in vertical columns and read from right to left. There are papers in Uygur, Tibetan and Mongolian script and a triumphant cover showing the hand-over of Hong Kong. There are articles about the Cultural Revolution, Mao, Ethnic Minorities, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, as well as foreign news and adverts.
The collection was apparently started by a Chinese farmer who is also an avid newspaper reader and collector who wanted to help his fellow farmers learn about the world.
The earliest newspaper in the collection was Shanghai-published Shenbao in 1872. The shortest lived newspaper featured is Xibao which was the first and final publication (info taken from China.org.cn)
These days, Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province once dubiously famous for being China’s ‘coal capital’, is a largely modern city, home to one of the most outstanding museums in the country.
The Shanxi Museum (Chinese: 山西博物院; pinyin: Shanxi Bówùyuàn),is housed in a handsome modern building, shaped like an inverted pyramid, or a ‘Ding’; an ancient cooking vessel, symbol of harvests and auspiciousness. Inside, the four-storey museum is spacious and light.
The marvelous exhibits are creatively presented in themed galleries that run around a big, open, central space, enabling you to look all the way up to the glass cupola that tops the building.
Each gallery is entered through a hall, beautifully decorated with artwork evocative of its contents, such as a relief of bronze warriors or a giant bull.
The museum houses some 200,000 cultural relics, dedicated to Chinese History and Arts, with a special emphasis on the Jin Dynasty, famous for its high quality green celadon porcelain wares, such as jars whose designs incorporated animal, as well as Buddhist figures.
Among its most important artefacts are those related to Sima Jinlong’s tomb (CE 484), such as a large number of figurines, or a famous tomb plaque. Other artefacts related to Sima Jinlong can be found in the Datong Museum.
During our visit, we marvel at the sophistication of the bronzes in the gallery called ‘The Splendour of Bronze Vessels’, dating from way before Christ.
There are cute, greenish slugs with inquisitive faces, sturdy, homely pigs and elegant geese; many with a lid in their back for storing things, while others were used as oil lamps or lanterns.
The Pottery section
The Pottery section with its chubby, humorous warriors, its grumpy Silk Road camels and temperamental, high-stepping horses, its nimble acrobats and elegant courtiers is always one of our favourites, and the Shanxi one is no exception.
The Relics of Buddhism
‘The Relics of Buddhism’ gallery is an absolute delight: the collection of serene Buddha statues and engraved and carved stelae is displayed inside (mock) rock caves, illuminated by a soft, yellowish light, pretty much as they must once have looked inside the Yungang or Longmen caves.
Even the fire hydrants are discreetly tucked behind fake rock panels depicting lines of miniature Buddhas; which makes us smile.
The interesting section devoted to the powerful, wealthy ‘Shanxi Merchants’ also contains a gorgeous display of colourful Shadow Puppets on sticks, representing undulating dragons, musicians on horseback or oxcarts, as well as twirling acrobats.
The popular Shanxi Opera is also well-represented with carved brick tiles and figurines representing scenes from popular operas, as well as interactive displays.
Ancient Chinese Painting and Calligraphy
Going around ‘Ancient Chinese Painting and Calligraphy’, we are particularly taken by a mysterious scroll painting of gold on black in which groups of monks gather at a night time meeting, some flying in on mythical beasts, others creeping closer among the rocks.
Even the water colours, which we thought we might skip, turn out to be enchanting, with delicate, fan-shaped paintings of birds, fruit, water lilies and other flowers.
Jade and Porcelain
Due to lack of time and exhaustion, we move fairly quickly through the Jade and Porcelain sections, though we make an exception for the characteristic Shanxi yellow and green glazed roof tiles and ornaments, which decorate so many Chinese temples and halls.
Museum / Taiyuan Practicalities:
Since March 2008, admission to the museum is free with a valid ID. You will definitely need 4 to 5 hours to do the place justice.
It’s a great way to get an overview of Shanxi culture and history, either before embarking on a tour of the many, surrounding sights, or afterwards, as a way of making sense of everything you’ve seen.
The museum is located on the west bank of the Fenhe River, some distance away from the centre of town, in a green area that has been developed for rest and relaxation.
The circular building next door which looks like a UFO actually houses a popular Geological Museum.
Places to Eat:
Taiyuan’s food street, Shipin Jie, is a great place to try out all kinds of popular street snacks, such as squid or sausage kebabs, noodles, toffee apples or ice creams. There are plenty of sit down restaurants too, housed in fake Ming buildings, as well as terraces where you can enjoy a cold draft beer.
Places to Stay:
Taiyuan is not that big on the tourist circuit, which is why it’s usually quite easy to find a decent, reasonably priced, mid-range hotel on one of the booking sites. We stayed at the Jinli Dalou on Wuyi Jie near the railway station. Nice staff, comfortable rooms, 138 yuan.
Other Places to Visit:
Close to Taiyuan city, the Jinci Temple or Yuci Ancient City – famous for being the backdrop to many Chinese films and series – make for easy and enjoyable day trips.
Moreover, as an important transportation hub, Taiyuan also has excellent connections, either by train or bus, to Qikou, Pingyao or Wutai Shan.
Quanzhou: A fascinating Chinese City with a long history.
Quanzhou 泉州/Zaitun: the City of Light! Or not!
The City of Quanzhou is a must for any History buff, such as myself. It was made famous by Marco Polo, who described ‘Zaitun’, the name by which Quanzhou was known then, as ‘… one of the two ports in the world with the biggest flow of merchandise…’.
Whether fiction or reality, Jacob’s diary makes for an interesting companion on a visit to Quanzhou. One of the most fascinating parts of the book is Jacob’s account of the many different foreigners living and trading in the city, in the years preceding Marco Polo.
He refers to Franks (Western Christians), Saracens (Muslims) and Jews, among others, all living in the city in their own communities, according to their religion. Who were they? How did they get there? What were their impressions of China, and finally, what traces did they leave?
A visit to the maritime museum and new Islamiccentre provides ample evidence of the early presence of foreigners in Quanzhou, such as tombstones and carvings from the different religious groups.
Besides the many Arab gravestones, there are Christian, and even Hindu, memorials as well. The Museum also houses a fascinating collection of miniature models of all types of Chinese sailing vessels, eloquent witnesses to the advanced stage of Chinese shipbuilding, in comparison with Europe.
Finally, the Qingjing Mosque, established as early as 1009, is further standing proof of the long historical ties that linked Arab traders to the legendary port of Quanzhou.
For the modern- day visitor, Quanzhou is at first sight just another bustling modern Chinese City. However, unlike most of its Southern counterparts, Quanzhou still retains many of its traditional streets and examples of Fukianese architecture.
The square in front of the Confucian temple Fuwen Miao, in particular, has some beautiful low, red-brick houses, with the characteristically sweeping roofs that end in a kind of projecting forks.
The vicinity of the beautiful Temple of Kaiyuan Si is another, recommended area for walking and exploring. Here, the traditional Fukianese courtyard houses rub shoulders with colonial-style buildings, housing all kinds of traditional shops, selling anything from candles and incense, to embroidered shoes and dried food.
Moreover, the temple itself is well worth a visit. It was built in the Tang dynasty and reached its peak of importance during the Song dynasty.
The temple grounds are huge and shaded by venerable, ancient trees under which the locals gather to play cards, or practise tai chi.
They are home to numerous halls, some of which double as museums, and two outstanding, five-storey pagodas. Many of the halls, as well as the pagodas, have wonderful carvings. Besides its architectural and religious charms, the Kaiyuan Si also harbours the hull of a Song dynasty sea-sailing junk, which was excavated near Quanzhou in 1974.
On a practical note, Quanzhou is not an expensive city to visit. Good hotels can be found in the centre, along or just off Wenling Lu, for around 150 yuan, for a standard double with breakfast.
We stayed at the City Holiday Hotel, a typical three-star business hotel for 164 yuan for a standard double (Tel. 0595 – 22989999). It was pretty good value with spotless rooms, friendly service and a reasonable breakfast.
Apart from the prices, what makes Meishijie such a great place to eat is that there are restaurants specialising in all the regional styles of Chinese food, but with the added benefit of using some of the freshest fish and seafood you will find in China.
We discovered an amazing restaurant in the middle of the city in a traditional building serving wonderful seafood but we can remember the name or address. Sorry!
Finally, Quanzhou makes a good base for further exploration of the area, such as excursions to Chongwu 崇武镇 , or Anping Bridge 安平桥 . You can also visit nearby Xunpu Village (Oyster Village). Oyster shells are used in the construction of some of the houses.
We are picked up at 7.30 sharp by Sue Lin in his shiny black car and leave Beijing via a four-lane road, lined with old trees. The road looks innocent and pleasant enough, but apparently people get killed here everyday. Although Sue Lin is a good driver, we ourselves experience a couple of near misses, due to the crazy manoeuvres of other vehicles.
It’s supposed to be only 60 kilometres to the village, but it takes us more than two hours. We have to stop and ask for directions a couple of times and once we even have to backtrack a bit. We don’t mind at all, because the scenery is absolutely gorgeous; we are surrounded by those dark, rolling mountains that I remember from my first visit to the Wall, so many years ago.
In fact, our route takes us quite close to Mutianyu. From time to time we can actually see crumbly bits of the Wall, running along the tops of the hills. At the foot of the mountains there are fields of corn, wheat and beans, and small villages. There is a busy traffic of donkeys and carts because this is September and the harvest is in full swing. We are in the middle of the real, rural China, we have seen so little of on this trip, and so close to Beijing as well!
Our journey ends at the refreshment stall of an incredible old lady who whips out a copy of ‘Lonely Planet’ and explains all the pros and cons of the two possible routes. She proudly shows us her collection of photos, taken by and with foreign visitors.
Apart from selling drinks, snacks and film, she also keeps the most amazing toilet: it’s a concrete box, open to the air and entirely without doors, so that you have to climb over the wall to get in, or out. Most importantly, it’s clean, airy and quite pleasant.
This must be one of China’s most charismatic hotels! It may not win any prizes for luxury, but its location and ambience are unbeatable.
The Inn or hotel, reportedly built some 300 years ago, is set right on the banks of the Yellow River 黄河, just before one of the river’s huge, sweeping bends. On the other side, the dry and barren hills of Shaanxi 陕西省 province stretch as far as the eye can see.
For centuries, Qikou town碛口古城was an isolated but significant outpost as, for kilometer after kilometer, along either bank of the Yellow River, there were no other towns in sight. In its heyday, it served as an important trading port between the provinces of Shanxi 山西省 and Shaanxi 陕西省, with hundreds of boats docking at its wharf. Today, standing on the few remaining, rickety wooden boards and overlooking the placid brown waters, all this activity is hard to imagine.
The Inn has had an equally colorful history, first as home to the various merchants who plied their wares along the Yellow River and later as a base for the Red Army during the War of Resistance against Japan.
The recent reports about the protests in the village of Wukan in Guangdong Province say that the village is continuing to resist the authorities. The police are surrounding the village and an uneasy standoff is taking place. Out of curiosity I looked up Wukan on Google Maps, and to my surprise I found it was right smack in the area of Lufeng.
As part of my Chinese History Degree at SOAS (London School of Oriental and African Studies) we did a course called Peasants and Revolution, a study of peasant revolutions and rebellions throughout China’s turbulent history. Special emphasis was focused on how Mao Zedong 毛泽东 was able to galvanize the peasants and convert them into the vanguard of the Chinese Revolution.
Mao was not the first Chinese Communist to discover the potential force of the peasants to serve the Chinese Communist revolution. Another was Peng Pai 澎湃. Peng fired up the peasants in the area of Haifeng and Lufeng during the 1920’s。 In 1927 he created the first ever Soviet, the Hai-lufeng Soviet. One of Peng’s first and foremost objectives was to single out landowners, the rich and corrupt officials and brutally kill them. Something he did with amazing efficiency until the Soviet was crushed by Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist forces.
What must the current Chinese leadership be thinking when again they see the area of Lufeng at the forefront of anti-official protests? Perhaps the killing in police custody of the village representative, Xue Jinbo, was an attempt to avoid another Peng Pai from arising out of the protests? Is history repeating itself?
This Essay was written as part of the course Opium and Empire at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS): I submitted it on 1/3/1999. The objective of the essay was to analyse if and how the polices of the Imperial commissioner Lin Zexu, sent by the Qing court to put an end to the Opium trade, caught the British at Canton unprepared.
The Result of Lin’s actions led directly to the first Opium War. The War was won by the British and led to the opening of China to the outside world and the subsequent collapse of the Qing dynasty and China’s imperial system.
How far was it reasonable for the British at Canton to be surprised at the policy pursued by Commissioner Lin from 1839?
“Errors of Judgement by the Merchant community towards what Lin planned to do ..”, stemmed from the fact that “Lin was a type of official unknown to their experience.” (Sargent, p.77).
This paper will argue that the British at Canton had every reason to be surprised at the policy pursued by commissioner Lin in 1839. Firstly, by looking at the policies the Chinese authorities adopted towards foreign merchants at Canton over the issue of opium, it will be shown that there didn’t exist any precedent for Lin’s actions. Secondly, by taking a close look at the personal and political motives that were driving Lin’s policies, it will be demonstrated that the British had little or no idea of the kind of man they were dealing with. The final part of the essay will examine how Lin’s policies when implemented caught the British unaware. Continue reading “The Opium War:How far was it reasonable for the British at Canton to be surprised at the policy pursued by Commissioner Lin from 1839?”
Adam Mayo China and International Politics 15/12/1999
Was an alliance between the PRC and The Soviet Union inevitable?
This paper will argue that the Sino-Soviet alliance was inevitable. Following the overthrow of the nationalist regime in 1949 Mao Tze-tung (Mao) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wanted and sought an alliance with the Soviet Union. There were ideological, strategic, economic and personal reasons why Mao leaned towards the Soviet Union.
Recent evidence points to the fact that there was never a possibility that Mao would lean in any other direction and especially not to the American camp. However, an overview of the historical relationship between the Soviet Union and the CCP reveals that there were a number of underlying tensions between the two sides that might have suggested an alliance was far from inevitable and may have been a surprise. It may also be argued, that the alliance was achieved by papering over the cracks in Sino-Soviet relations. Therefore this paper will be divided into two parts. The first part starts with an historical analysis of the tumultuous relationship between the future allies up until the end of the war with Japan. Two important theories will be debated. Firstly, was Mao trying to keep the CCP from Moscow’s dominance? Secondly, how antagonistic were relations between the Mao and Stalin? The second part will analyse how Marxist ideology was always going to drive the CCP into the Soviet Camp and why it was inevitable that relations between the CCP and America would become estranged in a new world order where neutrality was impossible.
The First United Front and the Jianxi Soviet
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s the Soviet Union attempted to subordinate the CCP to the control of the Communist International, the Comintern. In turn, the Comintern became a tool with which Stalin enforced the internationalist line laid down by Moscow. A major element of the internationalist policy was to follow Lenin’s theory that fledgling Communist movements in colonial or semi-colonial countries had to form a united front with national liberation movements despite their bourgeois character. The aim was that the communists would then seize control of the nationalist movements from within. In the case of China this meant the Comintern bringing the CCP into an alliance with the Kuomingdung (KMT).
The First United Front ended in a total disaster, and almost led to the annihilation of the CCP. A mixture of Chiang Kai Shek’s refusal to play by the Comintern rules, and the Comintern tactics based on Stalin’s misinterpretations of events played a major part in the debacle. However, Stalin managed to make the CCP leader Chen Tu-hsiu a scapegoat for the failure of his own Policies. Interestingly, Chen had been sceptical of the alliance.
Having been forced to retreat into China’s remote hinterland, Mao began his experiment with rural soviets. By 1931 a large part of the CCP, including the Red Army was outside of Moscow’s control, and Mao was only paying lip service to orders from the underground and ineffectual Moscow backed Party Central Committee in Shanghai. During the Jianxi Soviet period, Mao was able to put into practice both his ideas on peasant mobilization, land reform, and guerrilla tactics. However, when the situation in Shanghai became untenable, the entire leadership of the CCP moved on mass to the Jianxi Soviet.
Moscow sent twenty-eight trained Chinese cadres under the leadership of Wang Ming to regain control of the party apparatus and contest Mao’s position (Dittmer, 1992, p. 4). With the arrival of the Twenty-eight Bolsheviks, Mao’s ranking in the party hierarchy appears to have been seriously undermined, especially during the later Jianxi period. While at the same time his rural experiment became the subject of leftist excesses. In addition, the Comitern military advisors also reversed Mao’s previously successful guerrilla tactics for more conventional military tactics. The result was the destruction of the Jiangxi Soviet and the start of the Long March.
The Impact upon Mao and the CCP of the continued failure of Moscow inspired internationalist interventions between 1927 and 1935 cannot be underestimated. At the same time Mao had radically turned Marxist-Leninism on its head. The peasants and not the industrial proletariat had become the vanguard of the revolution. Mao had Sinicized Marxism and made it “…specific to Chinese characteristics :”( Dittmer, 1992, p.4). Furthermore, among Mao and his followers in the CCP, a determination sprung up not to allow the party to become subjected to complete Soviet domination (Ibid).
Mao’s leadership and the Second United Front
The following period covers the Second United Front and the war against Japan. The key issues during this phase were over Mao’s leadership that he won during the Long March, Mao’s continuing battle with the internationalists in the CCP, the policy of the Second United Front, and whether Mao was strictly obeying Stalin’s orders or trying to loosen Moscow’s hold on the CCP. Two different interpretations of events will be analysed. The events surrounding Mao’s rise to power in the CCP during the Long March and the subsequent Moscow instigated Second United Front with the KMT have become subject to much debate in recent years as new information has come to light. Much of this information has direct bearing on how Soviet Union and CCP developed between 1935 and 1949.
Micheal Sheng has argued that Mao not only received full support from the Comintern during the leftist deviation period at Jiangxi but also during the period when Wang Ming and the internationalists were launching full speed into the Moscow backed United Front with the KMT. Sheng also tries to dispel the myth that Mao rose to power without Soviet endorsement by arguing that Mao didn’t take advantage of the break in radio contact with Moscow at the Lunyi Conference in order to assume control of the Party by Stealth. Sheng suggests that as soon as it was possible, Mao endeavoured to restore radio links to convey to Stalin the new situation (Sheng, 1992, p.151-153).
John Garver does not support the above view of events. First of all, Garver argues, that Mao won the leadership of the CCP if not in the face of Comintern opposition, he at least won it without Comintern support (Garver,1988, p.10-13). Garver suggests that Mao did indeed take advantage of the break in radio contact with Moscow to take control of the party. After all, Mao had been removed from his position as a top-level leader of the party in 1934 just prior to the Long March (Garver,1988, p.13) and could have expected Soviet opposition to his rise.
There is further disagreement between Sheng and Garver over the degree of discrepancies between the CCP and Moscow on the issue of the Second United Front. According to Garver, Mao was far more opposed to an alliance with Chiang Kai Shek than the Comintern and wanted to continue the armed struggle against the KMT (Garver, 1988, p.171). In addition, Garver argues, that the Soviet Union feared that the CCP might provoke Japan as well as undermining Soviet–KMT diplomacy. Sheng’s point is that Mao’s central concern was the armed struggle but he tried to combine it with the United Front, Sheng claims that some of the internationalists in the CCP harboured even deeper anti-Chiang sentiments than Mao. It was Mao after all who carried out Stalin’s instructions (Sheng, 1992, p.150/159/165). What does become clear is that the Soviet Union had to reign in the CCP in order to cement the anti-Japanese alliance; the Xian incident is a prime example. Stalin’s reasons for forming an anti-Japanese alliance with the KMT did make strategic sense, given the military weakness and geographical isolation of the CCP in 1935/36. It would also not be the last time that the Soviet Union would put its own interests ahead of those of the CCP.
During the anti-Japanese struggle Mao again had to battle with the internationalists in the CCP, According to Garver, Mao feared that the internationalists wished to once again subordinate the CCP to complete Moscow control (Garver, 1988, p.276). Garver argues that the German invasion of the Soviet Union gave Mao the room he needed to loosen the shackles of Soviet domination over the CCP. Just as he had done at Zunyi, Mao took advantage of the changed situation and Moscow’s distractions. The fact that the Rectification Campaign of 1942 (Zheng Feng) was launched during this period lends credence to Garver’s argument. Mao purged many of his opponents during this campaign and gained a free reign again in the CCP while weakening the position of the internationalists (Garver, 1988, p. 274).
Garver has again challenged Sheng on a number of points over the CCP-Moscow relationship during the Second United Front. Garver admits that Mao never sought to openly reject the Comintern, neither was he antagonistic or confrontational towards it. Mao was too aware of the need not to alienate the Soviet Union. First of all because he needed their aid, no matter how little it was. Secondly, Garver claims Mao saw a time when the Soviet Union would be an ally helping to liberate China. However, Graver also adds that Mao interpreted Moscow’s directives as he saw fit, believing that Moscow was out of touch with Chinese realities (Garver, 1992, p.177). Mao’s aim was the expansion of revolutionary power and past experience had taught him that Moscow’s lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in China could result in disaster. On this evidence it would appear that Mao was a “master of deception” (Garver,1988, p.274) by giving a public image of loyalty to Moscow on the one hand, and defying comintern directives on the other hand. Garver’s overriding point is that Mao was both a revolutionary and an ardent Chinese nationalist. Stalin believed Mao could become a loyal internationalist and what Stalin didn’t know was that Mao would “…ultimately emancipate the CCP from Moscow’s Control”(Garver, 1992, p.173).
Sheng argues, that Garver is wrong to put Mao in the Category of a dissident Communist, who defied Stalin and defeated the Internationalists led by Wang Ming, while conducting the diplomacy of Chinese nationalism with Moscow. Firstly, Sheng claims that Mao was sensitive to rather than confrontational with Moscow. Their differences were of “emphasis rather than substance” (Sheng, 1992, p.150). He also suggests that the relations between Stalin and Mao were harmonious and that Mao was responsive and amiable towards Stalin’s advice (Sheng, 1992, p.181). Sheng’s point here is that Stalin’s role in the development of the CCP wartime strategy was important and constructive and Mao was generally obedient to Moscow’s directives.
Conclusion Part 1
Two major issues arose from the first period of contact between the CCP and the Soviet Union. Firstly, there was the attempt by Mao and his supporters in the CCP to maintain a degree of independence from Moscow. Secondly, there was the need to adhere to the discipline of the international socialist line. The early disasters of the CCP under the guidance of the Comintern made Mao and other members of the CCP suspicious of Moscow’s ability to understand Chinese realities. Garver is right to point out that Mao wanted to keep the CCP free from Moscow’s domination. A large part of that struggle appears to have been waged against those, who, like Wang Ming and the internationalists were contending for power in the CCP. However, Garver over emphasises the animosity between Mao and Stalin, in fact Mao derived a lot of his legitimacy from Stalin, and Sheng is right to suggest that many of their differences were of emphasis rather than substance. Part two will analyse how these two contending Strands developed as result of the changed international environment in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The New World Order
The end of the war in Europe and with Japan in Asia ushered in a new era in world politics. The two wartime allies, the United States and the Soviet Union, had become the dominant contending powers in a bipolar conflict that saw them bitterly divided by ideology and strategic concerns. It was world in which other nations had to choose between one side and the other. Zhdanov’s speech at Wiliza Gora in 1947 set the tone for international relations in the Cold War era by dividing the world into two camps. There was the “imperialist and antidemocratic” camp, headed by the United States and the capitalist world, and there was the “democratic and anti-imperialist” camp which was led by the Soviet Union, and included the Communist countries of Eastern Europe, and colonies well on there way to independence (McLane, 1966, p.353).
Stalin’s oriental specialist Zhukov applied Zhdanov’s thesis to the East. Firstly, he emphasised that the Soviet Union was in the same camp as the national liberation movements. Secondly, and crucially, on the issue of neutrality, Zhukov claimed it was only possible to be in support of the Soviet Union’s position, or to be against it (McLane, 1966, p.353-355). The following part of the Paper will argue that the CCP never doubted which side it would take and neutrality or even leaning towards the American camp was never an option.
There was speculation that in the aftermath of the Sino-Soviet alliance that events could have turned out different. In some quarters in the United States it was argued that there had been a ‘lost Chance’ with China. The argument ran that in 1945 there was a ‘window of opportunity’ for dialogue with Mao and if US policy had been more flexible and neutral it was possible that Mao could have been won over. In addition, the Americans also appear to have held out hope that Mao was more of a nationalist than a full blooded communist and that even if the CCP did come to power, China would be like an Asian Yugoslavia and keep out of Moscow’s umbrella ( Gaddis,19997, p.61/62). However, recent evidence doesn’t appear to support either of those theories.
Arguing that the “lost chance” theory was in fact a delusion, Sheng points out, that the direction in which the CCP would lean was clear even before 1945. Mao saw himself as a Marxist, and ideological ties between the CCP and Moscow predetermined the CCP’s decision to move towards the Soviet Union (Sheng,1993, p.136). In addition, Gaddis claims that the relationship between Mao and Stalin was of a fan to a superstar, with Mao being eager to receive Stalin’s recognition (Gaddis, 1997, p.66). This was in spite of all the past problems that had resulted from Stalin’s bad advise and meddling in CCP affairs. Drawing from such conclusions it becomes clear that the American experts on the ground in China appear to have been sold a false impression of the ideological disposition of the CCP.
The CCP and the United States 1945-1950
An important part of the US-CCP relationship revolved around how the CCP interpreted the war time alliance in the Anti-Japanese Struggle and what would happen when the Japanese were defeated. Mao always knew that when push came to shove the US, despite what ever differences it may have had with Chiang Kai Shek, would always come down on his Chiang’s and oppose the CCP (Sheng, (1993, p137). Events seem to have proved Mao right. The US broke assurances that they had given Mao over US neutrality in the civil war by air lifting thousands of nationalist troops to the north to head off the communist attempt to seize Manchuria. This experience left Mao feeling betrayed, and according to Gaddis, Mao swore he would not be cheated again.
However, Deception was not always one way traffic. The CCP’s wartime policy was one of extreme expediency. The false impression the US derived from the communists largely comes from the success of CCP expediency. It was a policy in which diplomacy with the US mirrored the formation of a United Front with the KMT. Both were tactical short-term objectives that subordinated the revolutionary struggle until it was time to renew it again (Sheng, 1993, p.136). As Sheng points out, for Mao “…anti-imperialism was an extension of the class struggle paradigm” (Ibid). The principal objective of the CCP was to win over the American officials and citizens at Yenan by trying to convince them that the CCP was not a Communist party in the same mould as the Russian equivalent. New Democracy, not Communism was emphasised, and formal ties between Moscow and Yenan were denied. It was hoped that the US would become convinced that the CCP wanted good relations and that they were a party of moderates and not communists at all. The goal of this policy was for liberal opinion in the US to put pressure on the US government in order to persuade the KMT to stop its attacks on the CCP (Shum, 1988, p.226-227). There were too many hawks in the Truman administration to buy the whole CCP yarn. However, confusion in American assessments of the CCP in the ensuing years, certainly seems to have been influenced by the image that the CCP was able portray. US policy does not seem to have predicted that the CCP would lean towards Moscow.
Once ties between the US and the CCP had begun to deteriorate Mao became convinced from 1946 onwards that the US would openly intervene in China’s civil war on the side of the KTM. Mao mistakenly thought China was the centre of the US theatre of operations. According to Gaddis nothing could have been further from the truth, but Mao could never have understood that China was on the periphery of US foreign policy priorities. Mao continued to perceive that the US would intervene in China, directly or through its ally Japan, even after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This mistaken assumption hastened the strategic reasons for concluding an alliance with the Soviet Union.
The CCP and the Soviet Union 1945-1950
During the civil war the CCP’s relations with Moscow were somewhat strained by continued Soviet recognition of Chiang Kai shek’s regime. Stalin had believed that following the defeat of Japan, the KMT would re-instate its authority over China. Elleman suggests that Stalin’s policy was even more cynical than first thought and that the Soviet Union resorted to playing off the KMT and the CCP against each other in order to gain territorial concessions. Stalin wanted to separate Outer Mongolia from China, and in order to do so he promised Chiang Kai Shek that if he signed away Chinese Suzerainty over Outer Mongolia, the Soviet Union wouldn’t help the communists. As soon as the nationalist regime acquiesced in January 1946, the Soviet Union turned its support to Mao (Elleman, 1997, p.245-247). Elleman has argued, that the Soviet Union, through secret protocol, conducted an imperialist policy in China on a scale almost equal to that of the Japanese and the Tsarist regime before it (Elleman, 1997, p.247/285). The USSR took control of 600,000 square miles of Chinese territory and Elleman points out, that only after coming to power did Mao realise the extent of Soviet imperialism (Ibid, p.247).
Certainly some of Stalin’s actions during this period must have sent mixed signals to the CCP. First of all, after Soviet forces liberated Manchuria from the Japanese, they handed over surrendered Japanese weapons to the communists, and then proceeded to strip Manchuria of its entire industrial base and cart it back to the Soviet Union.
Secondly, Stalin was surprised by the swiftness of the communist successes on the battlefield in 1949 and feared that the Chinese civil war would “…overturn the spheres of influence arrangement set up at Yalta and lead to a United States intervention in China” (Garver, 1990, p.303). The spectre of a conflict with the US in China for which the Soviet Union was not prepared, led Stalin to warn Mao against driving south of the Yangtse (Gaddis, 1997, p.65). Stalin tried to manipulate Mao’s fears of US intervention. Advise that Mao ignored. Again the Soviet Union’s national interests took priority over those of the Chinese communists. Zhou En-lai even feared that China might be partitioned into North and South like Korea (Garver,1990, p.303).
Despite so much Soviet duplicity and CCP misgivings over Soviet strategy, the CCP continued to adhere to the “…discipline of international democratic centralism,” (Dittmer, 1991, p.210). Neutrality was never really an option for the PRC. The perceived threat from the US and the need for China to rebuild its economy meant it had to lean towards the Soviet Union. Mao saw in the Soviet economic model, the opportunity to use the same techniques to transform China. Undoubtedly this would involve a transfer of technology and expertise. The fact that contemporary economic growth was superior in the Communist counties in Eastern Europe than in their Western counterparts may also have been influential in convincing Mao that socialist economic development was the right route to take.
The speed with which the PRC and the Soviet Union entered into negotiations in the aftermath of the communists’ victory is evidence that an alliance was being sought. The attitude of the Chinese Communists is clear from the statements made in 1949 when Mao announced that he was going to join the Soviet camp. This position was re-enforced by Deng Xiao Peng’s comments, explaining that it was better to join an alliance voluntarily, and on their own initiative rather than be forced into one in the future (Gaddis, 1997, p.65/66). The Soviet Union was initially cautious to the PRC overtures; after all they did not control the Chinese Communists as they did the communist parties in Eastern Europe, but then welcomed the PRC into their camp. As Gaddis points out world communism would be stronger with the inclusion of the PRC and it would seem that that the inherent dangers in such a treaty would outweigh the alternatives (Ibid, p.69).
The Sino-Soviet alliance was inevitable. On the one hand Marxist ideology ensured that Mao wanted to be in the Soviet camp, and on the other, the Cold war balance of power realities meant both countries realised the advantages of facing the perceived if not real US threat together. However, it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that this was unnatural alliance. So many underlying tensions had been covered up under the discipline of Marxist rhetoric and socialist solidarity, the issue of Outer Mongolia was never mentioned in the 1950 friendship treaty (Elleman,1997, p.245). After Stalin’s death, relations between the two communist giants fell apart.
The bitter experiences and double standards that the CCP and China as a whole had had to suffer at the hands of the Soviet Union during the inter-war years, and the revolutionary struggle exploded into a diatribe of bitter recriminations. As Adam Ulam pointed out, “The Chinese pitilessly dissect the selfish and nationalist motivations hidden beneath the Soviets language of international solidarity and devotion to the Soviet camp” (Ulam, 1976, p.681). The Sino-Soviet alliance was inevitable; its break up may have been equally inevitable.
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