Sino-Soviet relations 1949-76

  • Created by: Megan
  • Created on: 07-06-15 13:56

Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistan

Stalin and Mao were able to work together because:

  • Mao respected Stalin
  • Mao had no alternative allies 
  • Mao and Stalin had common enemies


  • China accepted Soviet leadership of the communist world
  • China and Soviet Union formed a military pact against invasion from capitalist nations
  • China was to be given economic and technical aid ( $300 million) but aid was to be repaid at a high rate of interest
  • China's sovereignty in Manchuria was restored 
  • Mongolia remained in Soviet sphere of influence
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The Korean War 1950

  • First test of the new alliance 
  • Stalin wanted to avoid direct military confrontation between the superpowers but didnt want North to be defeated
  • Mao was willing to send a volunteer force of 270,000 to defend North Korea
  • This allowed Stalin to achieve both of his objectives
  • The conflict was highly significant; it drained China's financial resources making it more dependent on the SU and demonstrated the courage and expertise of Chinese troops, persuading Stalin that China was a useful ally 
  • The Korean War helped to solidify the Sino-Soviet relationship
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After Stalin; positive

Relationship seemed to improve:

  • SU increased the amount of technical support it offered 
  • With Soviet help 116 fully equipeed industrial plants were constructed
  • Also aid for producing metal, prospecting oil, the development of machine tools and the manufacture of locomotives
  • 8000 Chinese students were also invited onto advanced training courses in the SU
  • Khrushchev appeared to be more accomodating than Stalin
  • He signed an agreement giving up Soviet territory in Lushun
  • There seemed to be a more positive working relationship between the two at the Geneva Conference 1954
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After Stalin; negative

Personal mistrust

  • Mao had little respect for Khrushchev; he believed he was nothing more than a timid bureacrat
  • Mao's doubts were confirmed by the 1956 Secret Speech which promoted de-stalinisation
  • The secret speech criticised Stalin's 'cult of personality' something which Mao himself had created.
  • Following the speech Mao branded Khrushchev a dangerous revisionist 

Tension over Taiwan

  • Taiwan Crisis 1954-55; 1954 Mao began to bomb Taiwan, the US signed a Mutual Defence Treaty, in private Khrushchev was clear he didnt want to jeopardise peaceful coexistence 
  • Taiwan Crisis 1958; US provided matador missiles to defend Taiwan, Mao bombarded Quemoy and Matsu in august 1958 as a way of exerting pressure on the US, Khruschev refused to support China and China was forced to back down
  • These crises showed that Khrushchev was unwilling to support Mao's attempts to conquer Taiwan and this deepend mistrust
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After Stalin; negative 2

Nuclear weapons:

  • Mao stated that he was willing to see half the world's population die in order to advance communism which shocked Khrushchev
  • Mao also viewed Khrushchev's committment to peaceful coexistence between capitalism and communism as a sign that Khrushchev was a coward who was betraying communism.
  • Khrushchev was horrified by Mao's willingness to use nuclear weapons and refused to help China develop its own nuclear weapons.
  • Mao felt betrayed
  • As an alternative Khrushchev proposed the establishment of a radio station in China which would monitor US submarines
  • But Mao saw this as a patronising gesture- part of what he believed to be a cat and mouse relationship.
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Ideological rivals 1958-66

  • In 1958 Mao launched the Great Leap Forward, an economic policy claimed to be superior to the Soviet model.
  • Khrushchev was frustrted by this clear criticism of Soviet policy 
  • Mao's new policy reflected the growing ideological differences between China and the SU
  • The policy was based on the creative power of China's peasants over the technical expertise of Soviet advisors. It clearly reflected Mao's increasing self-confidence and desire to replace Khrushchev.
  • Khrushchev understood this and criticised the policy which caused greater strain between the two, these tensions came to the surface when in 1960 Khrushchev ordered the removal of all 1390 Soviet experts from China and cancellation of all 257 joint projects 
  • Mao's policy was ultimately a spectacular failure and resulted in a major famine. Mao even refused Soviet offers of emergency supplies showing the extent to which relations had deteriorated 
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Public dispute

  • 1963
  • Soviet communist party and Chinese communist party criticised each other more formally
  • The Open Letter of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union argued that China was no longer on the true path to communism.
  • Mao responded with even greater criticism that the Soviet party had re-established capitalism 
  • Mao's refusal to compromise with the Soviet Union was based on a genuine ideological rejection of 'Soviet revisionism'
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Moscow meeting, 1964

  • Brezhnev held talks in Moscow with Zhou Enlai, China's Foreign Minister, during the celebrations of the 47th anniversary of the Russian revolution
  • The talks were unsuccessful as China was unwilling to compromise.
  • China had successfully tested a nuclear device and had less need for Soviet protection
  • Also, communist Albania had rejected Soviet leadership and allied with China
  • The Soviet government itself was also inflexible as they believed Mao would soon be ousted 
  • With no sign of compromise talks broke down.
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Chinese domestic politics

  • Since the faliure of the Great Leap Forward Mao had been forced to play a smaller role in government.
  • By the mid 1960s he was determined to reassert his authority and eliminate his rivals
  • In 1966 he launched the Culutral Revolution, designed to purge 'soviet revisionists'
  • During this time Mao's anti-soviet rhetoric intensified 
  • Mao's main rival was branded the title of the 'Chinese Khrushchev' 
  • Student activists besieged the Soviet embassy in Beijing, Zhou Enlai had to intervene to prevent it being burnt down.
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The Sino-Soviet border conflict 1969

  • There had been border clashes since 1967
  • But in 1978 Brezhnev ordered Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia to overthrow the government who had left the true path of communism.
  • Mao was affraid that the Brezhnev doctrine would then apply to China
  • Fearing a Soviet attack China built up its forces on the Sinp-soviet border
  • Soviets, also fearing war established a network of new command centres 
  • This convinced China that the SU was preparing for attack
  • China adopted the policy of 'active defence' which included a pre-emptive strike
  • 2 March 1969 Chinese troops ambushed a Soviet border patrol in the Ussuri River region.
  • The situation escalated and nuclear attack was threatened by the Soviets which prompted China to hastily construct shelters in Beijing
  • The crisis was resolved in September at a meeting between the foreign ministers at an airport in Beijing. They both gave assurances that they had no intention of invading and agreed to maintain the existing border and avoid military clashes 
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Why did the US move closer to China?

  • Nixon wanted to end involvement in Vietnam- he felt Mao could pressure on North Vietnam to negotiate with the US
  • A closer relationship could further weaken the SU 
  • Nixon hoped to moderate China's influence and stop the spread of communism in Asia
  • Nixon feared a Sino-Soviet war leading to Soviet domination of Asia
  • Nixon wanted new strategic alliances 
  • A better relationship would allow the US to focus its nuclear arsenal on the SU
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Why did China move closer to the US?

  • Tension between China and SU was high, Mao feared Soviet attack
  • China was encircled by unfriendly states
  • Relationship with India had become hostile, and the SU showed support for India
  • US was leader in Petroleum industry and China's petroleum industry was in need of investment 
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Ping-pong diplomacy

  • 1969 Nixon began secret talks with China
  • Jan 1970 Chinese and US ambassadors to Poland met, China wanted to arrange talks at a high level 
  • April 1971 US Ping-pong teams met during a tournament in Japan and the US team was invited to China. This is why steps towards a Sino-US relationship became known as 'ping-pong diplomacy'
  • Late 1971 Kissinger secretly visited Beijing it was agreed Nixon would visit in 1972
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The week that changed the world

  • Nixon travelled to China Feb 1972
  • The Summit between the two leaders was an indication that the bi-polar world was at an end
  • The meeting didn't lead to a formal Sino-US alliance but was successful
  • Both powers released a statement condemning 'Soviet Imperialism'
  • The visit concluded with the publication of  a basic agreement drawn up by Kissinger and Zhou.

The Shanghai Communique set out:

  • No single power should attempt to dominate Asia
  • US would not tolerate an invasion of China
  • The US and China should develop closer cultural and educational links
  • Trade developmed from $5 million in 1972 to $500 million within the decade 
  • The US also acknowledged that Taiwan was part of China
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Impact on Soviet Union

  • Horrified Soviet leaders
  • Forced Soviet leadership to cultivate better relationship with US
  • Soviet leaders started to prepare for a war on two fronts
  • This forced them to divide its forces and therefore diminished its effectiveness 
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Sino-US relations 1973-76

1965 Ford and Kissinger visited China


due to the Watergate Scandal Ford was in a weaker position than Nixon; he hadn't been elected president and could not claim to represent the people. Consequently he wasn't able to compromise on important issues.

The meetings consolidated the link between the two powers rather than leading to a full normalisaiton of the Sino-US relationship

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