Sino-Soviet Split: The possibility of real conflict?

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Player 0, May 22, 2011.

  1. Spartan95
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    Spartan95 Junior Member

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    In 1979, Deng thought there was a real possibility of all out war between PRC and USSR because PRC was attacking an ally of USSR (Vietnam). He thought that there is a real possibility that USSR will enter the war on the side of its ally (Vietnam), which was why millions of PLA troops were deployed on PRC's border with USSR.
     
  2. siegecrossbow
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    siegecrossbow Brigadier
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    While the war lasted a short time skirmishes continued well into 1989.
     
  3. cirvine11
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    cirvine11 New Member

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    My sense is-it was quite real. China was always concerned about what might happen if NATO was defeated and split. Where might the USSR's attention turn then? Probably the Middile East and Asia. That was the jist of the Kissinger talks with the Chinese.

    Chinese Army deployments always worried STAVKA and they were forced to deploy a significant number of Category A divisions to the Chinese region. This division of force would become crucial during 1981-1986 as the US neared conventional force parity with the Warsaw Pact in Germany... and closed the door to any political coercion of individual NATO countries using their conventional forces.

    In a sense-you could say that the Chinese Army played a central role in winning the Cold War. ;)
     
  4. Spartan95
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    There were plenty of border skirmishes along PRC's borders since its founding in 1949. Border skirmishes occurred not only along the border with Vietnam (which was not properly demarcated by both sides due to territorial disputes), but with USSR (and later Russia) and India.

    On a positive note, most of the poorly demarcated borders have now been resolved. This has removed the need for border skirmishes along a large stretch of PRC's borders.
     
  5. Schumacher
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    Schumacher Senior Member

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    Very true. The Cold War was from 45, end of WW2, to 91, collapse of USSR.
    Let's split it into before and after 72, the year Mao and Nixon decides to normalize relations.
    In the first 20 years, without China on its side, the West arrives at 1972 very weak with US on the verge of being kicked out of Vietnam and USSR near its strongest.
    Post 72, China neutralized USSR's ally, Vietnam, in Asia. Supported the resistance in Afghanistan against USSR. Not to mention tying down millions of Soviet troops in the Far East.
    Less than 20 years later, USSR is history.
     
  6. Mightypeon
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    Mightypeon Junior Member
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    The threat was quite real, and contentionally, my bet would have been with the USSR.
    Operation August Storm of 45 had 3 millions Soviet Soldiers in it, with worse railroads through a war torn country, and the Peoples Liberation army of the 1970s is not the peoples liberation army of today (its not the near defunct Kwantung army either of course). Given that China was conventionally weaker (as in not really being able to attack the USSR on its territory) than the USSR, and Dengs plan was "Nukes and peoples War" (or at least that was what the USSR believed to be Dengs plan)....

    For the USSR, it appeared that Vietnam was holding out (and according to the Soviet side, partly because a tipoff from Soviet satellite intelligence resulted in the Chinese not trapping several Vietnamese divisions during a Viet counterassault), and they could not "believe" that China would risk (mutual) destruction for protectorating Vietnam.

    From the Soviet PoV, they were vindicated with the Chinese retreat after a month of fighting (and with the Vietnamese in control of much of Cambodia).
    There is also the explanation that Deng wanted the public/his enemies in the military preoccupied/killed by the Vietnamese adventure.
     
  7. MarxistMaoits
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    MarxistMaoits New Member
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    For the 1st post:
    Not at all.
    Mao Zedong splitted from USSR because of the Kruschev coup against Stalin and later the invasion of Tchecolosvak, what he (Mao) thought it was a Revisionist Attack.
    Mao, Being a good Communist and, consequently, Anti-Revisionist; thought that he should make clear for his people (and the world) that the Revisionism and Social-Imperialism of the Kruschev's USSR were not his intentions and ideology. But, besides the ideologic divergences, he did not intended to have any military contact with USSR, that's I'm sure.
    It was like Stalin's Split with Tito.
     
  8. jamesmcvey
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    Hey, good question. I wrote an essay on the Sino- Soviet split to examine where the split was solely due to ideological differences. It may help you in discovering whether you think by 1969 there was ever a chance of Sino- Soviet war. However, remember that conflict did actually occur in 1969 at the Ussuri river.

    'How far was the Sino- Soviet split of the late 1960’s a result of ideological differences between the two communist powers?

    When China turned communist in 1949, relations between China and the Soviet Union looked promising; Mao, viewing Stalin as the Father of communism, was willing to edge towards the Soviets and agree a defensive treaty against the communist West in the hope of propelling China onto the world stage as a super power. Whilst Stalin recognised the importance of securing Chinese allegiance for different reasons, most probably the fact that communist alignment would increase Soviet national security but at the same time, encourage the West into presuming communism now had a greater foothold than capitalism in the Cold War struggle, the Sino- Soviet treaty of 1950 marked the start of a relationship that, despite US predictions, would steer the nations into dispute, misconception and uncertainty. Whilst this newfound communist coherency did initially hold potency and stability, demonstrated in 1953 by the two nations’ reciprocity ending the Korean War conflict, Stalin’s death that shortly followed brought about drastic and devastating consequences for the relationship; Stalin’s successor, Khrushchev, would not inherit Stalin’s ruthless ideological ambitions and absolute hostility when addressing the West; two characteristics that Mao had greatly admired and respected. This shift in ideology, caused by the death of Stalin, undoubtedly commenced the gradual deterioration in Sino- Soviet relations that ultimately resulted in the Ussuri River conflict of 1969 between the two communist powers.
    After snatching authority in 1956 following a three-year struggle against his competitors Makarov and Molotov, Khrushchev unveiled a clear message in his secret speech that under his new leadership, the Soviet Union would reverse all repression and censorship that Stalin had previously installed during his dictatorship. Commencing by releasing millions of Soviet political prisoners from Gulag labour camps, as well as relaxing Soviet control over Eastern European countries like Finland and Austria, Khrushchev’s new policy of de-Stalinization alerted Mao into recognizing that his previous northern ally, of whom he admired for it’s staunch hardline approach to enforcing communist control across Europe after the second World War, was steering clear from Stalin’s ruthless and oppressive tendencies and instead, was moving more towards the policy of ‘peaceful- coexistence’. Khrushchev’s belief that the Soviet Union, who were viewed by both China and the West as the figure head of the communist movement, could peacefully coexist with the capitalist Western block, directly contrasted Mao’s antagonistic contradiction principle that was fuelled by his intensive Leninism philosophy that Communism and capitalism could never coexist in peace. Consequently, this momentous difference in ideological principles strained the Sino- Soviet relationship significantly; Mao and Khrushchev now had different perceptions of communism, henceforth resulting in contrasting foreign and domestic policies.
    The second Taiwan Strait crisis of 1958 demonstrates this ideological and political divergence. Mao’s endeavor to neutralise the offshore threat of Chaing Kai-shek in an attempt to intensify Chinese national security by bombing the island of Quemoy resulted in direct disagreement between the two communist nations. With Western presence in the form of the United States Navy looming off the Chinese peninsula intending to support the Chinese capitalists, Mao looked towards the Soviet Union for nuclear support in the hope that Khrushchev would aid the Chinese military in oppressing capitalism from China’s immediate sphere of influence. Unlike Stalin’s approval and financial support in the Korean War, Khrushchev followed his peaceful policy, acknowledging that under no circumstances would the Soviet Union physically or financially support any communist military actions against the capitalists positioned on Taiwan. Oblivious to the rationality behind Khrushchev’s response, and the threat of Western nuclear intervention, this decision profusely aggravated Mao and had enormous repercussions for the Sino-Soviet relationship. Mao not only proclaimed that Khrushchev was degrading communist prestige, appearing weak against the capitalist West, but he also recognised that China could no longer rely on the Soviet Union to propel the movement forward; Mao needed to let go of the Marxist- Leninism safety net Stalin had woven into Chinese society and take matters into his own hands; a decision that would only push the communist powers further apart.
    In an attempt to supersede Marx and Lenin, and to make himself communist legend, Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ between 1958-1961 focused greatly on stablising the Chinese economy through mass domestic steel production and largely transpired from the single belief that China no longer needed the Soviet Union to survive. Mao publically condemned Khrushchev’s policies and, despite the catastrophic failure of his domestic venture resulting in the death of 26 million civilians, no longer viewed the Soviet Unions as his neighboring communist nation as an ally, but more so as a rival and threat. Similarly to Mao’s response to the Soviet Union’s ideological and political alteration, Khrushchev highly criticized Mao’s Great Leap Forward, proclaiming that it was in fact Mao who was weakening the communist movement, and not the Soviet Union. Consequently, tensions between the nations escalated and not only were there several heated verbal confrontations between the communist leaders, but both nations drastically increased military presence on their borders. Any ideological symmetry between Chinese and Soviet was now truly demolished and with it, so were Sino- Soviet relations.
    Whilst this ideological bend did spark China’s repel from the Soviet Union, the fact that Khrushchev’s Peaceful co-existence policy allowed the opportunity of the Soviet Union establishing relations with the West only enraged Mao, consequently pushing China further from the Soviet Union. ‘The Geneva Spirit’, formed from several meetings between the Soviet Union and the West that commenced in 1954 with the Geneva Conference, had severely negative affects on Sino- Soviet relations, contributing greatly to the eventual split. Not only did Mao intrinsically disagree with Khrushchev’s willingness to compromise with Capitalism, but the thaw in relations between the Soviet Union and the West also resulted in three crucial events that epitomized Mao’s belief that Khrushchev was demoralizing communism by following an ideological policy that China could simply not adhere to. Firstly was the lifting of the Berlin Ultimatum. Since 1945 Berlin had been the heart of the Cold War struggle and when announced, Khrushchev’s Berlin Ultimatum of 1958 was strongly supported by Mao. Demanding the West to withdraw from the city or else fear Soviet invasion, the warning was viewed by China as a direct declaration against capitalism. However, with Khrushchev’s policy of peaceful co-existence catalysing a thaw in Sino- American relations, the ultimatum was eventually lifted at the 1959 Camp David Summit in America after a conference with Eisenhower. Once again Mao recognised that Khrushchev’s ideological stance was very different from his own. In Mao’s eyes, Khrushchev had publically humiliated communism; not only had he visited the heart of capitalism, America, but more importantly he had appeared immoderately weak to Eisenhower, allowing the West to postulate the philosophy that communist aggression can be neutralised via leadership correspondence.
    The lifting of the Berlin Ultimatum led to the further two significant events that effectively hammered the nails into the coffin of mutual Sino-Soviet ideology. For Mao, both the creation of the Berlin wall in 1961, and then the Cuban Missile Crisis of the following year confirmed his communist hypothesis; China and the Soviet Union now had completely contrasting ideological perceptions, let alone an astronomical lack of trust. Mao, adamant to maintain a hostile stance when viewing the Capitalist West, once again needed to further detach China from the Soviet Union in order to obtain communist leadership. China’s deliberate retaliation to the atomic weaponry Test Ban Treaty in 1963 by successfully testing their first nuclear bomb in 1964 demonstrated China’s determination to liberate itself from its ‘patriarchal father’, the Soviet Union. By 1964 ideological differences between the two communist powers had played a fundamental role in the gradual deterioration in Sino-Soviet relations however,

    with Khrushchev leaving office later that year, it would be Brezhnev, the new Soviet leader, later renowned for drastically increasing Soviet global influence, who would prompt Mao into recognizing the importance of stablising Chinese national security through geopolitics and consequently cause the final Sino- Soviet split.
    Releasing the ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’ in 1968 that publically declared that any communist countries intending to branch off from the Soviet Union would be invaded, Mao recognised that due to his own domestic liberation attempts at securing communist authority, such as China’s independent approach to nuclear weaponry and his cultural revolution of 1966 that secured his own national supremacy, China was now in direct threat from the Soviet Union on it’s northern border.
    It appears that from 1968, Chinese national security outweighed previous ideological disputes; the xenophobic Mao, now isolated from the Soviet Union on the northern border, Korea on the East, and the two capitalist giants Japan and India from the South, recognised that despite all previous ideological disagreement, Sino- American rapprochement was the only avenue available in order to secure national safety. A Sino- American relationship would not only allow Mao to focus all attention on his northern border against the Soviet Union, but would also pressure the Soviet Union into seeking relations with the West and China after realizing their disadvantaged and outnumbered Cold War position. Mao had passed his ideological philosophies aside; whilst Sino- Soviet ideological differences had deteriorated relations up to the late 1960’s, the threat to Chinese national security had driven Mao into recognizing the importance of securing relations with the West; an action that completely opposed his private communist beliefs.
    In fact, it may be appropriate to state that the Ussuri River conflict between the Chinese and the Soviet Union in 1969, the event that generally marks the official Sino- Soviet split, owed little to ideological differences between the communist nations; if Mao was primarily focused on ideology then he would never have delved into the possibility of improving relations with the West. Further more, the Soviet Union’s retaliation to the Chinese offensive at the Ussuri River was merely in response to a national threat of security from the Chinese on the southern border. Consequently, when assessing the Sino- Soviet split in the late 1960’s, it may be necessary to proclaim that whilst ideology did play a significant role in the initial deterioration of relations between the two communist powers up to the mid 1960’s, it was in fact both nations’ adamancy to secure their own national securities towards the end of the decade; Mao’s nuclear activity and geopolitical rapprochement that were both intended to secure China’s isolated position against both capitalist and communist nations, and Brezhnev’s oppressive doctrine intending to maintain a strong Soviet buffer zone, that were truly responsible for the final Sino- Soviet split.

    '
     
  9. Arthur Borges
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    Arthur Borges Just Hatched
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    James, you did a good deal of research but it has a few built-in assumptions and misconceived details.

    For the little details, Finland was never communist; it was consistently even more right-wing than Sweden. In exchange for avoiding Soviet occupation, Stalin asked Helsinki to switch sides immediately and expel all German forces on its territory. The Finnish Army used force to do that. It had to pay reparations in ships, trucks and other finished products when it had no such industries and had to cede two strategic locations until the reparations were paid off. Finland paid off and the USSR returned control of those two locations to Helsinki.

    You should also know that, until a few years ago, the entire Chinese ICBM arsenal capable of covering the entire US Mainland consisted of 16 to 20 missiles, each fitted with a 1MT warhead. Although they are still up, they are 1950s liquid-fuel technology and make a poor match for the five to eight Trident-firing submarines _on station_ in the Pacific 24/7. As the US was far slower to assess, strategic nuclear weapons are militarily useless although of indispensable political value as "ante" to play at the table of the superpowers.

    The other assumption is that Soviet forces would have gladly rolled across Western Europe if only NATO had been weak enough. Um, in the 1960s, the Soviet leadership and all the other survivors of World War II in the USSR had direct, personal experience of the cost of taking on Germany twice in the same century: nobody was in any mood for another shooting match with a Western power. Indeed, retrospective assessments of Soviet weapons programs and troop deployments show the Moscow mindset was always thinking defensively.

    On China, Stalin had promised Mao the technology to build a nuclear weapon. Although Mao had other priorities at first, public threats by Gen. MacArthur and Gen. Lemay to "nuke" the country caused him to change his mind. This was all well and fine until Khruschev and Mao met and Mao said something that freaked out Khruschev into reneging on Stalin's promise. Coming on top of ideological differences you broadly sketch out, Mao broke all relations and paid off aid debts in farm produce: this led to years where Chinese farmers were turning over to the government more of their output than prudent to survive themselves until the next harvest.

    On Cambodia, at the time of the Vietnamese assault, the Vietnamese standpoint is that historically, Vietnam has been a viable kingdom/nation-state without control of Cambodia. Obviously, the West wanted to contain the emergence of a newly reunified communist Vietnam and so did China: the upshot was that both Beijing and Washington supported Pol Pot. Um, yeah, hard to swallow, I know. The CIA justification was that he was the only man with an organization capable of running the country. There is also a "Golden Triangle" dimension to all of this that nobody really wants to talk about.

    Then there's just a bit of spelling to clean up: It's Kuomintang (Wades-Giles) or Guomindang (Pinyin); it's also Chiang not Chaing befor the given name, Kai-shek.

    ---------- Post added at 05:21 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:20 PM ----------

    James, you did a good deal of research but it has a few built-in assumptions and misconceived details.

    For the little details, Finland was never communist; it was consistently even more right-wing than Sweden. In exchange for avoiding Soviet occupation, Stalin asked Helsinki to switch sides immediately and expel all German forces on its territory. The Finnish Army used force to do that. It had to pay reparations in ships, trucks and other finished products when it had no such industries and had to cede two strategic locations until the reparations were paid off. Finland paid off and the USSR returned control of those two locations to Helsinki.

    You should also know that, until a few years ago, the entire Chinese ICBM arsenal capable of covering the entire US Mainland consisted of 16 to 20 missiles, each fitted with a 1MT warhead. Although they are still up, they are 1950s liquid-fuel technology and make a poor match for the five to eight Trident-firing submarines _on station_ in the Pacific 24/7. As the US was far slower to assess, strategic nuclear weapons are militarily useless although of indispensable political value as "ante" to play at the table of the superpowers.

    The other assumption is that Soviet forces would have gladly rolled across Western Europe if only NATO had been weak enough. Um, in the 1960s, the Soviet leadership and all the other survivors of World War II in the USSR had direct, personal experience of the cost of taking on Germany twice in the same century: nobody was in any mood for another shooting match with a Western power. Indeed, retrospective assessments of Soviet weapons programs and troop deployments show the Moscow mindset was always thinking defensively.

    On China, Stalin had promised Mao the technology to build a nuclear weapon. Although Mao had other priorities at first, public threats by Gen. MacArthur and Gen. Lemay to "nuke" the country caused him to change his mind. This was all well and fine until Khruschev and Mao met and Mao said something that freaked out Khruschev into reneging on Stalin's promise. Coming on top of ideological differences you broadly sketch out, Mao broke all relations and paid off aid debts in farm produce: this led to years where Chinese farmers were turning over to the government more of their output than prudent to survive themselves until the next harvest.

    On Cambodia, at the time of the Vietnamese assault, the Vietnamese standpoint is that historically, Vietnam has been a viable kingdom/nation-state without control of Cambodia. Obviously, the West wanted to contain the emergence of a newly reunified communist Vietnam and so did China: the upshot was that both Beijing and Washington supported Pol Pot. Um, yeah, hard to swallow, I know. The CIA justification was that he was the only man with an organization capable of running the country. There is also a "Golden Triangle" dimension to all of this that nobody really wants to talk about.

    Then there's just a bit of spelling to clean up: It's Kuomintang (Wades-Giles) or Guomindang (Pinyin); it's also Chiang not Chaing befor the given name, Kai-shek.
     

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