Dasvidaniya China

Besides impacting domestic political issues, the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 changed the Soviet Union’s relationship with China as Nikita Khrushchev’s ideological differences and anti-Stalinist reforms drove a wedge between the two communist neighbors.

Stalin and Mao

After the formation of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921, China developed a very close relationship with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Mao Zedong and the CCP leadership chose to rebuild China after the Soviet model, recreating the “Stalinist version of Marxism-Leninism and its centralized economy” (Cheek 18). When China began its first 5 Year Plan in 1953, the Chinese received technological and economic assistance from the USSR, helping the newly Communist nation to industrialize. China experienced solidarity with the Soviet Union during Stalin’s regime, as both nations were led by authoritarians and had a centralized state administration. Additionaly, they exercised hegemony over the government and military, as well as purges, censorship, and forced labor (Cheek 20). Despite these similarities, the relationship between the People’s Republic of China and the Soviet Union did not retain its strength after Stalin’s death and the following reforms.

Mao at Stalin's 70th birthday in Moscow, December 1949

Mao at Stalin’s 70th birthday in Moscow                       December 1949

As Khrushchev rose to power, his moderate views and lack of appreciation of Stalin became increasingly clear to Mao. The future Khrushchev planned for the Soviet Union was formally described when his campaign of de-stalinization became publicly known in 1956, after his speech to the Communist Party’s Twentieth Congress was leaked. He personally attacked Stalin, calling him “a very distrustful man, sickly suspicious”, as well slandering the cult of his image, which caused the “rude violation of party democracy, sterile administration, deviations of all sorts, cover-ups of shortcomings, and varnishings of reality”. Besides resulting in unrest in western regions of the Soviet Bloc, Khrushchev’s harsh words of condemnation shocked Mao and insulted the memory of his recently departed socialist hero.

Khru Speech

This speech was the first moment in a serious events that would eventually lead to the Sino-Soviet Split. Mao was insulted by Khrushchev’s lack of appreciation for Stalin’s legacy, blaming Khrushchev for interrupting the great work of Stalin and leading the nation away from the socialist goal through his anti-Stalin reforms. In addition to the heightened, personal tension between Mao and Khrushchev, which “fatally undermined the alliance from the top down”, the USSR began to pursue détente with the United States, breaking the communist bond it held with the PRC in their stand against the Western imperialists. Overall, Khrushchev’s speech and reforms initiated an era of separation between the Soviet Union and China, eventually causing a major shift in power during the Cold War.


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  7 comments for “Dasvidaniya China

  1. Jimmy Jewett
    October 27, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    I have always been curious as to why China and the Soviet Union were not closer allies during the later years of the Cold War. It seems common in history for dictators to align themselves with other dictators, and Mao was sure to have done this in order to further legitimize his rule. If Stalin, the great socialist of his time, was seen endorsing Mao, it was sure to have struck a chord with Mao’s supporters.

  2. gracehemmingson
    October 27, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    There are a lot of interesting comparisons to be drawn between China and Russia. In fact the crisis over the soviet revisionism was part of the backdrop to the Great Leap Forward in China, which was their first five year plan. The GLF was a dismal failure and ended around 1961 with an estimated death toll of 18 to 38 million.

  3. jslattery
    October 27, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Thank God that alliance didn’t last! I would hate to think what may have happened during the Cold War if the USSR was allied with the PRC throughout. Very well written post.

  4. mikegancio
    October 28, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Mao was probably just mad Khrushchev didn’t have a mustache like Stalin. In reality, this was probably a super complicated relationship because both China and the USSR supported Vietnam against the American “imperialists”, despite their own disagreements.

  5. afoutz
    October 28, 2014 at 1:20 am

    I too was also curious as to why the Soviet Union and The Peoples Republic of China were not stronger allies during this time. I think its pretty silly how petty the reason for the crumble of the alliance was. Simply because Khrushchev did not like Stalin and said a few bad things about him, Mao Zedong started to distrust him and not feel a bond with the Soviets. However I’m very happy the friendship broke apart because if it hadn’t I can only imagine how different the world would currently be…

  6. caitlin6
    October 28, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Great post! I wonder if Khrushchev would have spoken so harshly about Stalin in his speech to Congress if he’d known how China would react. If the two countries had remained friends, I wonder how different the world would be today.

  7. GPittard
    November 3, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Honestly, I do not think we would have had much to worry about if we were engaged in war with both Russia and China. If nukes were not used, China would have lots of trouble mobilizing their army along with not receiving a lot of support from their people. If any of you remember the quote about the “Billion screaming China men” from the original Red Dawn, I think that situation would have been likely if a war had started.

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