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Soviet Union

SINO-SOVIET RELATIONS

Soviet relations with China have, on the whole, been cool since the 1950s. In 1959 and 1960, the Soviet withdrawal of all economic advisers, Khrushchev's renunciation of the agreement to provide a sample nuclear weapon to China, and increasing mutual accusations of ideological deviation were all evidence of the political rift between the two countries. After Khrushchev's ouster in 1964, Brezhnev attempted to establish better relations with China, but his efforts foundered in the late 1960s. Riots by Chinese Red Guards in January-February 1967 led to the evacuation of nonessential Soviet diplomatic personnel from Beijing. In 1968 and 1969, serious Sino-Soviet border clashes occurred along the Amur and Ussuri rivers. Beginning in the late 1960s, Brezhnev proposed an "Asian collective security system," which he envisioned as a means of containing China. This proposal, repeated by successive Soviet leaders, has been rejected by most Asian countries.

During the 1970s, China began its policy of improving relations with the West to counter Soviet political and military pressure in Asia. After Mao Zedong's death in September 1976, the Soviet Union sought to improve relations with China, but by early 1977 the polemics had renewed, and by mid-1978 increasing military tensions between Cambodia (China's ally) and Vietnam (the Soviet Union's ally) contributed to a return to poor relations. At the Eleventh National Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), held in August 1977, CCP chairman Hua Guofeng declared that the Soviet Union represented a greater threat than the United States to world peace and Chinese national security. In keeping with this assessment, the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship, signed in August 1978, contained an "anti-hegemony clause" in which the signees renounced the pursuit of hegemony and opposed the efforts of other states--implying the Soviet Union -- to gain hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region. The Sino-American joint communiqué of December 1978 contained an analogous clause.

In February 1979, China launched a limited military incursion into Vietnam in retaliation for the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, a Chinese ally. The Soviet Union harshly condemned this Chinese incursion and stepped up arms shipments to Vietnam.

In April 1979, China declared that it would not renew the 1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance, but it offered to begin negotiations with the Soviet Union to improve relations. These negotiations began in late September 1979 (separate border negotiations had been ongoing since 1969), with China demanding a cutback in Soviet troop strength along the border, withdrawal of Soviet troops from Mongolia, an end to Soviet aid to Vietnam, and a Vietnamese military withdrawal from Cambodia. These negotiations were cut off by the Chinese in January 1980 after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the previous month. The Chinese thereafter added the demand that an improvement in SinoSoviet relations required Soviet withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

At the Twenty-Sixth Party Congress in February 1981, Brezhnev reported that "unfortunately, there are no grounds yet to speak of any changes for the better in Beijing's foreign policy." Relations began to improve, however, after Brezhnev delivered a conciliatory speech at Tashkent in March 1982, and in October the Sino-Soviet border "consultations"--broken off after the invasion of Afghanistan--were reopened.

After Gorbachev became general secretary in March 1985, relations with China did not improve markedly at first. Nevertheless, high-level visits and discussions were encouraging enough that Gorbachev, at the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in February-March 1986, was able to "speak with satisfaction about a certain amount of improvement" in relations with China. In his Vladivostok speech in July 1986, Gorbachev promised to remove some of the obstacles to better Sino-Soviet relations, announcing that six Soviet regiments would be withdrawn from Afghanistan, that some troops would be withdrawn from Mongolia, that Soviet negotiators would discuss a reduction in Soviet forces along the Sino-Soviet border, and that the Soviet Union would commit itself to certain methodologies in delineating the Sino-Soviet borders. Another Soviet gesture was the removal of SS-20 missiles from the border with China as a result of the Soviet-American INF Treaty of December 1987. In April 1988, the Soviet Union signed accords calling for the total withdrawal of Soviet military forces from Afghanistan, which were a serious obstacle to better Sino-Soviet relations. During 1988 Vietnam committed itself to removing troops from Cambodia, overcoming another obstacle to improved relations and a summit. In 1987 and repeatedly in 1988, Gorbachev proposed a Sino-Soviet summit meeting, which was finally scheduled for June 1989. It was the first since the Khrushchev period.

Data as of May 1989


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