Introductory Circumstances: The Sino-Soviet split took place during the 60’s. It was caused by the divergence of ideals behind communism. Disagreements about peaceful co-existence with the west led to disagreements in the co-existence of the two countries. “They denounced the Soviet emphasis on “peaceful coexistence” with the capitalist world as kowtowing to the “paper tiger” of imperialism, considered de-Stalinization as “revisionism,” and, in Enver Hoxha, the leader of tiny Albania, found an ally among ruling Communist parties” (Seventeen Moments in History, Siegelbaum). Because of this split in idealisms, the People’s Republic of China began denouncing the Soviet Union’s ideals of communism and both countries began to compete to influence countries around them with their own ideals of communism. The Soviet Union and China maintained borders with each other for many generations so when the split came into action they were no longer considered allies. Their lengthy border historically created tensions amongst the two giant countries. “The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China became embroiled during the 1960s in ideological controversy, political rivalry, and, towards the end of the decade, armed clashes along their lengthy common border” (Seventeen Moments, Siegelbaum). The tensions between these two countries slowly began to rise. The tensions were especially high where the two countries met at each other’s border.
The Boiling Point: Soviet and Chinese soldiers had patrolled the long tundra border that they shared since the 1800’s. Soldiers notoriously clashed at the border where they would shove and shout at each other. The early 1970’s tensions between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China peaked in a conflict between armed forces on the Sino-Soviet border on March 2, 1969. This conflict took place over control of Damanskii Island. Mao Zedong’s soldiers (the leader of Communist China), ambushed Soviet border patrol troops and killed seven soldiers. In response, roughly “300 more PLA soldiers burst out of foxholes and opened fire on the remaining Soviets” (History of War, Hoare). The Red Army had developed a strong presence in the area with a variety of military assets in case of a conflict arising. The Soviet’s responded to the Chinese with immediate quick reaction force elements. KGB border guards shot down the Chinese detachment with machine guns and small arms fire. After a short period of time passed by in the battle, the Soviet Union also called in tanks and artillery fire. They utilized “state-of-the-art T-62 medium tanks and devastating BM-21 Grad rocket artillery were brought up, resulting in what CIA reports described as ‘several hundred’ Chinese casualties” (History of War, Hoare). The battle resulted in approximately 70 killed and 70 wounded
The Response, Long Term: “On August 28, 1969 Pravda called on China to give up its “absurd territorial claims” and warned that if war broke out, the Soviet government would not shrink from employing its nuclear arsenal” (Seventeen Moments in History, Siegelbaum). Eventually Mao withdrew from the conflict and diplomatic negations began to ensue. The Sino-Soviet disputes came as a big surprise to the rest of the world who was under the impression that communism had been an alliance that operated under a coalition of similar intentions. The split essentially created another Cold War between the Republic of China and The Soviet Union. The two countries engaged in proxy wars against each other in several different instances. The Sino-Soviet split also brought about mass military mobilization between the two countries. They each emplaced large military elements on their borders which ultimately increased the tensions between the two countries and the rest of the world as well. This escalation of force taught a lesson to the rest of the world in regard to how close a potential nuclear battle could really be. These two powerful countries could have easily engaged in a nuclear war at any time and possibly even triggered a World War Three. This war could have ensued because of small border disputes which seemed so miniscule in comparison to the rest of the world.
“The Chinese Border.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 1 Sept. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1968-2/the-chinese-border/.
Edmund Valtman: The Cartoonist Who Came in From the Cold (Library of Congress – Swann Foundation), www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/valtman/presentation.html.
Hoare, James. “The Sino-Soviet Border War: Why the USSR Nearly Nuked China.” All About History, www.historyanswers.co.uk/history-of-war/the-sino-soviet-border-war-why-the-ussr-nearly-nuked-china/.