The Sino-Soviet Split: Cold War in the Communist World

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A decade after the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China established their formidable alliance in 1950, escalating public disagreements between them broke the international communist movement apart. In The Sino-Soviet Split, Lorenz Luthi tells the story of this rupture, which became one of the defining events of the Cold War. Identifying the primary role of disputes over Marxist-Leninist ideology, Luthi traces their devastating impact in sowing conflict between the two nations in the areas of economic ...
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Overview

A decade after the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China established their formidable alliance in 1950, escalating public disagreements between them broke the international communist movement apart. In The Sino-Soviet Split, Lorenz Luthi tells the story of this rupture, which became one of the defining events of the Cold War. Identifying the primary role of disputes over Marxist-Leninist ideology, Luthi traces their devastating impact in sowing conflict between the two nations in the areas of economic development, party relations, and foreign policy. The source of this estrangement was Mao Zedong's ideological radicalization at a time when Soviet leaders, mainly Nikita Khrushchev, became committed to more pragmatic domestic and foreign policies.

Using a wide array of archival and documentary sources from three continents, Luthi presents a richly detailed account of Sino-Soviet political relations in the 1950s and 1960s. He explores how Sino-Soviet relations were linked to Chinese domestic politics and to Mao's struggles with internal political rivals. Furthermore, Luthi argues, the Sino-Soviet split had far-reaching consequences for the socialist camp and its connections to the nonaligned movement, the global Cold War, and the Vietnam War.

The Sino-Soviet Split provides a meticulous and cogent analysis of a major political fallout between two global powers, opening new areas of research for anyone interested in the history of international relations in the socialist world.

About the Author:
Lorenz M. Luthi is assistant professor of the history of international relations at McGill University

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Editorial Reviews

Historian
This persuasive, thorough, and balanced history of the breakdown of Sino-Soviet relations in the late 1950s and 1960s should be considered essential reading for scholars interested in the Cold War.
— Peter C. Pozefsky
The Moscow Times - Charles K. Armstrong
An astonishingly well-documented, densely detailed history of the causes and development of the Sino-Soviet conflict from virtually every relevant perspective. . . . The Sino-Soviet Split is a major achievement in Cold War history and the standard against which future scholarship on this subject likely will be judged for many years to come.
Choice - R.M. Farley
[The Sino-Soviet Split] is well-researched and compellingly-argued, and helps illuminate a critical portion of the Cold War.
Slavic Review - Shu Guang Zhang
This is a solid study of the breakup of the Sino-Soviet alliance. . . . Of all the available English-language works on this topic, this study stands out as the most extensive as well as balanced in using both Russian and Chinese materials. . . . [T]his book is a welcome addition, not only to the Cold War international history literature, but also to the studies on contemporary alliance politics. Methodologically, too, it stands as a wonderful example of how effectively a multiarchival and multilinguistic approach can and should be used in Cold War studies.
International History Review - Gilbert Rozman
Lorenz M. Lüthi's well-informed book supersedes the others in its thoroughness in covering the critical events and drawing on archival evidence and memoirs that were unavailable until recently. It nicely balances treatment of both countries, carefully follows changing emphases as the split widened from 1956 to 1966, and keeps the focus on identifying the causes.
American Historical Review - Austin Jersild
Lüthi offers new insight into numerous foreign policy relationships central to the Cold War, while also directing our attention to a series of still unexplored issues pertinent to the vast socialist bloc and the fascinating alliance between the Russians and the Chinese.
Russian Review - Czeslaw Tubilewicz
The Sino-Soviet Split is an excellent study of how China's domestic politics (and particularly Mao's efforts to remain at the helm of China's political and socioeconomic development) informed its foreign policy in general and relations with the Soviet Union in particular. Seen in the context of China's domestic-foreign policy nexus, Lüthi's monograph will be of great value to scholars who are interested in China's Cold War diplomacy and, more generally, an analysis of Chinese foreign policymaking.
China Quarterly - Steven M. Goldstein
It is clearly the work of an industrious and skilled researcher in control of his material. The Sino-Soviet Split is a valuable work that provides a bounty of raw material and research leads for others who seek to understand the course of the Sino-Soviet split.
Historian - Peter C. Pozefsky
This persuasive, thorough, and balanced history of the breakdown of Sino-Soviet relations in the late 1950s and 1960s should be considered essential reading for scholars interested in the Cold War.
From the Publisher
Co-Winner of the 2010 Marshall Shulman Book Prize, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Winner of the 2008 Edgar S. Furniss Book Award, Mershon Center for International Security Studies at The Ohio State University

"An astonishingly well-documented, densely detailed history of the causes and development of the Sino-Soviet conflict from virtually every relevant perspective. . . . The Sino-Soviet Split is a major achievement in Cold War history and the standard against which future scholarship on this subject likely will be judged for many years to come."—Charles K. Armstrong, The Moscow Times

"[The Sino-Soviet Split] is well-researched and compellingly-argued, and helps illuminate a critical portion of the Cold War."—R.M. Farley, Choice

"This is a solid study of the breakup of the Sino-Soviet alliance. . . . Of all the available English-language works on this topic, this study stands out as the most extensive as well as balanced in using both Russian and Chinese materials. . . . [T]his book is a welcome addition, not only to the Cold War international history literature, but also to the studies on contemporary alliance politics. Methodologically, too, it stands as a wonderful example of how effectively a multiarchival and multilinguistic approach can and should be used in Cold War studies."—Shu Guang Zhang, Slavic Review

"Lorenz M. Lüthi's well-informed book supersedes the others in its thoroughness in covering the critical events and drawing on archival evidence and memoirs that were unavailable until recently. It nicely balances treatment of both countries, carefully follows changing emphases as the split widened from 1956 to 1966, and keeps the focus on identifying the causes."—Gilbert Rozman, International History Review

"Lüthi offers new insight into numerous foreign policy relationships central to the Cold War, while also directing our attention to a series of still unexplored issues pertinent to the vast socialist bloc and the fascinating alliance between the Russians and the Chinese."—Austin Jersild, American Historical Review

"The Sino-Soviet Split is an excellent study of how China's domestic politics (and particularly Mao's efforts to remain at the helm of China's political and socioeconomic development) informed its foreign policy in general and relations with the Soviet Union in particular. Seen in the context of China's domestic-foreign policy nexus, Lüthi's monograph will be of great value to scholars who are interested in China's Cold War diplomacy and, more generally, an analysis of Chinese foreign policymaking."—Czeslaw Tubilewicz, Russian Review

"It is clearly the work of an industrious and skilled researcher in control of his material. The Sino-Soviet Split is a valuable work that provides a bounty of raw material and research leads for others who seek to understand the course of the Sino-Soviet split."—Steven M. Goldstein, China Quarterly

"This persuasive, thorough, and balanced history of the breakdown of Sino-Soviet relations in the late 1950s and 1960s should be considered essential reading for scholars interested in the Cold War."—Peter C. Pozefsky, Historian

Choice
[The Sino-Soviet Split] is well-researched and compellingly-argued, and helps illuminate a critical portion of the Cold War.
— R.M. Farley
Slavic Review
This is a solid study of the breakup of the Sino-Soviet alliance. . . . Of all the available English-language works on this topic, this study stands out as the most extensive as well as balanced in using both Russian and Chinese materials. . . . [T]his book is a welcome addition, not only to the Cold War international history literature, but also to the studies on contemporary alliance politics. Methodologically, too, it stands as a wonderful example of how effectively a multiarchival and multilinguistic approach can and should be used in Cold War studies.
— Shu Guang Zhang
International History Review
Lorenz M. Lüthi's well-informed book supersedes the others in its thoroughness in covering the critical events and drawing on archival evidence and memoirs that were unavailable until recently. It nicely balances treatment of both countries, carefully follows changing emphases as the split widened from 1956 to 1966, and keeps the focus on identifying the causes.
— Gilbert Rozman
American Historical Review
Lüthi offers new insight into numerous foreign policy relationships central to the Cold War, while also directing our attention to a series of still unexplored issues pertinent to the vast socialist bloc and the fascinating alliance between the Russians and the Chinese.
— Austin Jersild
Russian Review
The Sino-Soviet Split is an excellent study of how China's domestic politics (and particularly Mao's efforts to remain at the helm of China's political and socioeconomic development) informed its foreign policy in general and relations with the Soviet Union in particular. Seen in the context of China's domestic-foreign policy nexus, Lüthi's monograph will be of great value to scholars who are interested in China's Cold War diplomacy and, more generally, an analysis of Chinese foreign policymaking.
— Czeslaw Tubilewicz
China Quarterly
It is clearly the work of an industrious and skilled researcher in control of his material. The Sino-Soviet Split is a valuable work that provides a bounty of raw material and research leads for others who seek to understand the course of the Sino-Soviet split.
— Steven M. Goldstein
The Moscow Times
An astonishingly well-documented, densely detailed history of the causes and development of the Sino-Soviet conflict from virtually every relevant perspective. . . . The Sino-Soviet Split is a major achievement in Cold War history and the standard against which future scholarship on this subject likely will be judged for many years to come.
— Charles K. Armstrong
Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Lorenz M. Luthi is assistant professor of the history of international relations at McGill University.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Sino-Soviet Split Cold War in the Communist World
By Lorenz M. Lüthi Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2008
Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13590-8


Introduction BEFORE OLEG TROYANOVSKII left his position as the last Soviet ambassador to the People's Republic of China, he met Wu Xiuquan for a chat about old times. The former vice-head of the Central Committee Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party remarked to the past adviser of Nikita Khrushchev: "When you now read the messages that our countries exchanged at a time not too long ago, you don't know whether to laugh or cry." The pettiness and hyperbole of the Sino-Soviet polemics and their impact on the foreign and domestic policies of both countries, from the Great Leap Forward to the war scare of 1969, forces any contemporary observer to pause in incredulity. The Sino-Soviet Split was one of the key events of the Cold War, equal in importance to the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Second Vietnam War, and Sino-American Rapprochement. The split helped to determine the framework of the second half of the Cold War in general, and influenced the course of the Second Vietnam War in particular. Like a nasty divorce, it left bad memories and produced myths of innocence on both sides.

Until very recently, much of the source material that could shed light on the dynamics of the Sino-Soviet Split was stashed away in inaccessible archives. While the literature onthe topic is vast, much of it was written during the Cold War on the basis of selective published sources or tends to be speculative and theoretical. Since its slow opening in the early 1980s, China has produced a wealth of published primary and secondary sources and, recently, even made some archives accessible to foreign researchers. The collapse of the Soviet Union and communist East Europe threw open the doors of countless party and governmental archives.

The newly available documents point to the vital role of ideology in the Sino-Soviet Split. Both the Chinese Communists and the Soviets were true Marxist-Leninist believers. Discord between Beijing and Moscow arose over the method of establishing a socialist society domestically and over the direction of the joint policy of the socialist camp toward the capitalist world. Furthermore, while ideology was central, it increasingly became entangled in internal politics. Leadership conflicts led Mao Zedong to exploit the worsening of Sino-Soviet relations for his goals abroad and at home.

The first point of ideological disagreement emerged in 1955 over the Stalinist socioeconomic development model. Facing a structural economic crisis, Mao replaced the development model that the People's Republic of China (PRC) had inherited from the late Iosif Stalin with a development strategy resembling earlier Soviet policies that had already been discredited in the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR). Despite its failure, Mao returned to their basic ideas in the Great Leap Forward of 1958-60, only to reap disaster.

De-Stalinization in the Soviet Union provided the second moment of ideological conflict. While Khrushchev's Secret Speech in February 1956 was rooted mainly in domestic necessities, it reverberated throughout the socialist world. As a result, over the course of 1956 and 1957, Mao and Khrushchev took up opposite positions on Stalin as a theoretician and practitioner.

Third, Sino-Soviet ideological disputes arose over the correct method of dealing with imperialism. Launched in early 1956 as well, Khrushchev's policy of peaceful coexistence with the United States did not cause immediate conflict with the Chinese Communists because they were preoccupied with de-Stalinization. From late 1957, however, tensions over this policy grew, and, by the mid-1960s, dominated Sino- Soviet relations.

Most other points of Sino-Soviet conflict were either the result of these ideological disagreements or of lesser importance. Security disputes-such as the Second Taiwan Strait Crisis in 1958-and economic disagreements-in particular trade and the sudden withdrawal of the Soviet specialists from China in 1960-arose as the consequence of ideological arguments. Similarly, territorial disputes that predated the Sino-Soviet alliance did not threaten the relationship until the two countries had developed their ideological disagreements. Finally, personality clashes contributed to but did not cause the existing ideological problems.

In the end, the new documents suggest that the Chinese side was far more active in pursuing ideological conflict. The PRC established itself through the alliance, in both positive and negative terms. Although China had sought the alliance in 1949 and 1950, Mao eventually pushed for its collapse after 1959, when he decided that it had run the full course of what he considered its usefulness to the country. Moreover, the Chinese leader increasingly linked Sino-Soviet disagreements with his internal disputes. In 1962, the struggle against domestic ideological revisionism merged with his battle against its counterpart in the policy of the socialist camp toward imperialism.

Previous Lines of Explanation

Before the end of the Cold War and the gradually increasing accessibility of new archival and documentary evidence, scholars offered four main explanations for the Sino-Soviet Split. First, some have argued that the split resulted from conflicts of national interest. As early as 1952, one observer predicted the Sino-Soviet Split in light of the aspiration of Stalin's totalitarian regime to control its allies; inevitably, according to this line of thinking, this would violate their national interests. Other authors identified nationalist conflicts, such as claims of fear of foreign domination or claims of cultural superiority, as a cause for the split.

Second, the concept of the strategic triangle appealed to many observers, especially with the Sino-American Rapprochement since 1969. This theory posited that the United States, the Soviet Union, and China formed a triangular great power relationship; within this unique setup, the two weaker countries allied to balance against the strongest. Proponents of the strategic triangle tried to explain the Sino-Soviet Split as the result of relative changes in the military and political power of the three countries-changes that gradually questioned the rationale for the Sino-Soviet alliance and eventually triggered its collapse.

Third, a small body of literature attempted to locate the source of the Sino-Soviet Split in domestic politics. Scholars have argued that unrelated Chinese domestic leadership conflicts had a negative impact on the Sino-Soviet alliance, that Mao's anti-Soviet policies led him to undermine "the positions of all those [fellow] leaders who did not fully support his tough stance toward the USSR," or that the Chinese leadership attempted to use anti-Soviet policies to divert attention from internal legitimacy problems. Others have focused on Soviet domestic politics by identifying factional infighting after Stalin's death as a source for the Sino-Soviet Split.

Fourth, the role of ideology in the Sino-Soviet estrangement attracted scholarly attention as soon as public disputes started in 1960. In a seminal study published the following year, Donald Zagoria offered a multicausal interpretation that combined ideological with other causes (historical, personal, contextual, economic, and political). Subsequent early authors saw the split as purely ideological, or as the result of a mix of ideological and national interest factors. Another interpretation promoted the idea that the split was not principally about ideology but merely articulated in ideological rhetoric. Since the early 1980s, the "China under threat" interpretation garnered much academic interest; it promoted the idea that security concerns arising over an ideologically influenced threat perception shaped Chinese foreign policy behavior. In a more general debate, early observers of the collapse of socialist unity after Khrushchev's Secret Speech argued that the intrinsic nature of Marxism-Leninism tended, over time, to create friction among its adherents. According to this argument, the absolute assertions of Marxism-Leninism (in the form of a dogma) and its promotion of hierarchical political structures (one leading communist party worldwide and one vanguard communist party within each country) made it liable both to degenerate into factional battles over the correct interpretation of Marxism-Leninism and, in the process, to increase competing claims to sole leadership of the international communist movement.

The examination of the newly available evidence allows us to reconsider these arguments. Conventional wisdom defines national interest in terms of securing the physical survival of the country and developing its economic potential. There is no evidence that a clash of national interest emerged because one of the two partners entered the alliance with the intention of undermining the military or economic security of, or even of obtaining control over, the other. The major lines of Sino-Soviet conflict emerged over unrelated issues at a time, in 1955-57, when clashes of national interest, such as conflicts over unresolved territorial disputes, were irrelevant. Sino-Soviet debates over the correct handling of imperialism are the closest to a national interest interpretation, but they occurred only after ideological conflict had already emerged.

In any case, the discussion of the national interest interpretation must focus on China, since it was more active in pursuing the split. Starting in 1958, it was Mao who vigorously implemented policies that destabilized the alliance and eventually led to the country's self-imposed isolation from the world and its economic impoverishment by 1969. On the one hand, proponents of a national interest approach might object that this could have been the unexpected result of sensible, but ultimately unsuccessful, policies. However, belligerent self-isolation from the world and the insistence on ideological correctness rather than the pursuit of friendly external relations and economic prosperity were conscious policy choices by Mao. Barbara Tuchman called such a pursuit of policy contrary to the country's interest a "folly." On the other hand, adherents of the national interest interpretation might argue that Mao misperceived China's national interest, but by doing so they merely acknowledge that national interest is dependent on another variable at the heart of the split. In essence, Mao's pursuit of what he considered to be China's global interests poses a methodological problem for existing academic definitions of national interest. Only if one accepts Mao's extreme conviction that China's national interest was its duty to spread world revolution aggressively or to follow his brilliant policy of withdrawing the PRC from a putrid world into the splendid isolation of a solitary model society, one might agree that Mao acted in the country's national interest.

Nationalism similarly seems not to have been a major contributing factor in the Sino-Soviet Split. Certainly, the Chinese Communists had been nationalists even before they became communists in the early 1920s, and Mao appealed to Chinese national feelings when he claimed that the PRC was the center of world revolution in the 1960s. These, however, were subsidiary aspects rather than central factors in his pursuit of policies that were designed to prove the ideological correctness of Chinese Communist-that is, his own-positions in the leadership conflict at home and in the struggle against Soviet ideological revisionism.

Explanations that rely on the relative changes in the strategic triangle between the PRC, the USSR, and the United States also seem unsuccessful in explaining the Sino-Soviet Split. The vast majority of the literature focuses on the period after the late 1960s and thus is outside the scope of this book. Although some authors have applied it to the post-1949 period, others have suggested that the strategic triangle has limited or even no explanatory power because China was too weak to count as a great power during the years covered in this book. I tend to agree with the critics of the triangular concept, though for different reasons. Despite its descriptive appeal, there is little evidence from the post-1949 period that can support its claims. While it is true that the Sino-Soviet alliance was directed against the United States, and that the Americans tried to drive a wedge into the partnership, no documentary evidence that the Chinese or the Soviets thought about their relationship within a triangular framework during the period covered in this book has surfaced. Maoist thinking from the 1940s to the 1960s proceeded from the assumption of a Sino-American conflict over the intermediate zone-basically, over the rest of the world. Thus, when Mao's PRC turned away from the Soviet Union in the 1960s, it did not turn toward the United States but toward one of the two intermediate zones he had just redefined, claiming to be the head of, even the model for, the international movement of national liberation in the Asian-African-Latin American intermediate zone (the other intermediate zone, according to this idea, consisted of Europe and other developed countries). Similarly, in 1949, Moscow looked at Beijing as an asset in its world revolutionary enterprise that had fallen into its lap rather fortuitously. In the end, the triangular concept is, methodologically speaking, an ahistorical model that greatly limits the ability to explain the inner dynamics of the split.

In a related discussion, scholars have addressed the U.S. role in the Sino-Soviet Split. The focus on an outside factor, however, also tends to obscure rather than explain the inner dynamics of the split. There is no evidence that "the root cause of the Sino-Soviet dispute was ... the fear of [a] potential [U.S.] nuclear attack that made the Soviet leadership ignore Chinese interests in favor of détente with the West," as one author maintained. Similarly, the study of American policies toward the Sino-Soviet alliance tends to overestimate their effects on it. In general, I contend that American policies-including the wedge strategy that attempted to split the alliance through a combination of punishments and enticements-only worked in the later stages of the Sino-Soviet breakup, thereby exacerbating a process that had started for independent reasons.

Those authors who have investigated the role of domestic politics in the split have pointed out important pieces of the puzzle. There is no doubt that Khrushchev's de-Stalinization, though launched mainly for domestic reasons, reverberated throughout the socialist world. The central question is why only Mao's China (together with Enver Hoxha's Albania) sought sharp conflict with the Soviet Union while most other socialist states and communist parties merely used de-Stalinization to enhance their autonomy. In my view, it was China's internal conditions that provided a ripe environment for ideological radicalism in the late 1950s and the manipulation of ideology for domestic aims throughout the 1960s.

The greater availability of primary documentation helps to refine the scholarly understanding of how domestic politics influenced Sino-Soviet relations. Roderick MacFarquhar's three volumes on the origins of the Cultural Revolution provided abundant evidence for the important role of Chinese domestic politics in the Sino-Soviet Split. While these tomes supplied many important details for this book, their focus was not primarily on the increasingly close links between internal and external Chinese behavior I identify during the 1956-66 period.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Sino-Soviet Split by Lorenz M. Lüthi
Copyright © 2008 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Maps     viii
Acknowledgments     xi
Abbreviations and Terms     xiii
Transliteration and Diacritical Marks     xix
Introduction     1
Historical Background, 1921-1955     19
The Collapse of Socialist Unity, 1956-1957     46
Mao's Challenges, 1958     80
Visible Cracks, 1959     114
World Revolution and the Collapse of Economic Relations, 1960     157
Ambiguous Truce, 1961-1962     194
Mao Resurgent, 1962-1963     219
The American Factor, 1962-1963     246
Khrushchev's Fall and the Collapse of Party Relations, 1963-1966     273
Vietnam and the Collapse of the Military Alliance, 1964-1966     302
Conclusion     340
Essay on the Sources     353
Index     361
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