ARMY AREA HANDBOOK access is provided courtesy of UM-St. Louis Libraries
Program :ARMY AREA HANDBOOKS
Update sched. :Occasionally
Title :CHAPTER 12.02: AN OVERVIEW OF CHINA'S FOREIGN RELATIONS
Date of record:04/19/1994Text : AN OVERVIEW OF CHINA'S FOREIGN RELATIONS
Affected by the confluence of a myriad of factors, including its
historical legacy, worldview, nationalism, ideology, the
decision-making process in Beijing, and the international
situation, China's foreign relations have had a rich and varied
development in the years since 1949. Two aspects of Chinese
foreign policy that have led to wide fluctuations over time are
the degree of militancy or peacefulness Beijing has espoused and
its ambivalence in choosing between self-reliance and openness to
the outside world. Although dividing something as complex as
foreign policy into time periods necessarily obscures certain
details, Chinese foreign relations can be examined roughly by
decades: the Sino-Soviet alliance of the 1950s, isolation and
radicalism in the 1960s, increased international involvement in
the 1970s, and the independent foreign policy of the 1980s.
During each of these periods, China's relations with the rest of
the world underwent significant changes.
After the founding of the People's Republic, the Chinese
leadership was concerned above all with ensuring national
security, consolidating power, and developing the economy. The
foreign policy course China chose in order to translate these
goals into reality was to form an international united front with
the Soviet Union and other socialist nations against the United
States and Japan. Although for a time Chinese leaders may have
considered trying to balance Sino-Soviet relations with ties with
Washington, by mid-1949 Mao Zedong declared that China had no
choice but to "lean to one side"--meaning the Soviet side.
Soon after the establishment of the People's Republic, Mao
traveled to Moscow to negotiate the 1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty of
Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance. Under this
agreement, China gave the Soviet Union certain rights, such as
the continued use of a naval base at L_da, Liaoning Province, in
return for military support, weapons, and large amounts of
economic and technological assistance, including technical
advisers and machinery. China acceded, at least initially, to
Soviet leadership of the world communist movement and took the
Soviet Union as the model for development. China's participation
in the Korean War (1950-53) seemed to strengthen Sino-Soviet
relations, especially after the UN-sponsored trade embargo
against China. The Sino-Soviet alliance appeared to unite Moscow
and Beijing, and China became more closely associated with and
dependent on a foreign power than ever before.
During the second half of the 1950s, strains in the Sino-Soviet
alliance gradually began to emerge over questions of ideology,
security, and economic development. Chinese leaders were
disturbed by the Soviet Union's moves under Nikita Khrushchev
toward de-Stalinization and peaceful coexistence with the West.
Moscow's successful earth satellite launch in 1957 strengthened
Mao's belief that the world balance was in the communists'
favor--or, in his words, "the east wind prevails over the west
wind"--leading him to call for a more militant policy toward the
noncommunist world in contrast to the more conciliatory policy of
the Soviet Union.
In addition to ideological disagreements, Beijing was
dissatisfied with several aspects of the Sino-Soviet security
relationship: the insufficient degree of support Moscow showed
for China's recovery of Taiwan, a Soviet proposal in 1958 for a
joint naval arrangement that would have put China in a
subordinate position, Soviet neutrality during the 1959 tension
on the Sino-Indian border, and Soviet reluctance to honor its
agreement to provide nuclear weapons technology to China. And, in
an attempt to break away from the Soviet model of economic
development, China launched the radical policies of the Great
Leap Forward (1958-60; see Glossary), leading Moscow to withdraw
all Soviet advisers from China in 1960. In retrospect, the major
ideological, military, and economic reasons behind the
Sino-Soviet split were essentially the same: for the Chinese
leadership, the strong desire to achieve self-reliance and
independence of action outweighed the benefits Beijing received
as Moscow's junior partner.
During the 1960s the Sino-Soviet ideological dispute deepened
and spread to include territorial issues, culminating in 1969 in
bloody armed clashes on their border. In 1963 the boundary
dispute had come into the open when China explicitly raised the
issue of territory lost through "unequal treaties" with tsarist
Russia. After unsuccessful border consultations in 1964, Moscow
began the process of a military buildup along the border with
China and in Mongolia, which continued into the 1970s.
The Sino-Soviet dispute also was intensified by increasing
competition between Beijing and Moscow for influence in the Third
World and the international communist movement. China accused the
Soviet Union of colluding with imperialism, for example by
signing the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the United
States in 1963. Beijing's support for worldwide revolution became
increasingly militant, although in most cases it lacked the
resources to provide large amounts of economic or military aid.
The Chinese Communist Party broke off ties with the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union in 1966, and these had not been
restored by mid-1987.
During the Cultural Revolution, China's growing radicalism and
xenophobia had severe repercussions for Sino-Soviet relations. In
1967 Red Guards besieged the Soviet embassy in Beijing and
harassed Soviet diplomats. Beijing viewed the Soviet invasion of
Czechoslovakia in 1968 as an ominous development and accused the
Soviet Union of "social imperialism." The Sino-Soviet dispute
reached its nadir in 1969 when serious armed clashes broke out at
Zhenbao (or Damanskiy) Island on the northeast border (see fig.
3). Both sides drew back from the brink of war, however, and
tension was defused when Zhou Enlai met with Aleksey Kosygin, the
Soviet premier, later in 1969.
In the 1970s Beijing shifted to a more moderate course and began
a rapprochement with Washington as a counterweight to the
perceived threat from Moscow. Sino-Soviet border talks were held
intermittently, and Moscow issued conciliatory messages after
Mao's death in 1976, all without substantive progress.
Officially, Chinese statements called for a struggle against the
hegemony of both superpowers, but especially against the Soviet
Union, which Beijing called "the most dangerous source of war."
In the late 1970s, the increased Soviet military buildup in East
Asia and Soviet treaties with Vietnam and Afghanistan heightened
China's awareness of the threat of Soviet encirclement. In 1979
Beijing notified Moscow it would formally abrogate the
long-dormant Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and
Mutual Assistance but proposed bilateral talks. China suspended
the talks after only one round, however, following the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
In the 1980s China's approach toward the Soviet Union shifted
once more, albeit gradually, in line with China's adoption of an
independent foreign policy and the opening up economic policy.
Another factor behind the shift was the perception that, although
the Soviet Union still posed the greatest threat to China's
security, the threat was long-term rather than immediate.
Sino-Soviet consultations on normalizing relations were resumed
in 1982 and held twice yearly, despite the fact that the cause of
their suspension, the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, remained
unchanged. Beijing raised three primary preconditions for the
normalization of relations, which it referred to as "three
obstacles" that Moscow had to remove: the Soviet presence in of