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Today: Sino-Soviet split, June 22

Remember: every day is history.

Putin about the Russian-Chinese relationship:

“To say we have strategic cooperation is not enough anymore. This is why we have started talking about a comprehensive partnership and strategic collaboration. ‘Comprehensive’ means that we work virtually on all major avenues; ‘strategic’ means that we attach enormous inter‑governmental importance to this work.”

Who would imagine this 50 years ago?

On June 22, 1960, the official break up of the Soviet-Chinese relationship took place, when Chinese leader Mao Zedong and his Soviet colleague Nikita Khrushchev exchanged humiliating nicknames. Khrushchev called Mao Zedong a Stalinist, while Mao called him a “revisionist traitor.”

Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev (China, 1958)

The split occurred mainly for two reasons: differing national interests and various interpretations of communist ideology.

The tension in the Soviet-Chinese relationship had started with Khrushchev’s appointment as the Soviet leader and his “destalinization” campaign that he launched after the 20th Congress of the Soviets in 1956.

Moreover, Mao viewed Khrushchev’s rapprochement with the United States nothing but trouble for Soviet-Chinese relationship, especially in the course of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and American President John F. Kennedy (1961)

In Mao’s view, pursuing such policy was revisionism on the Soviet side, which posed a threat in two directions: a bourgeois invasion and surrender to imperialism. Mao even considered the possibility of a World War III, as he was convinced it would only help spread socialism worldwide.

Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (China, 1949)

By the summer of 1960, Khrushchev informed his Chinese colleagues about nuclear bomb testing being put on hold. Many Soviet-Chinese projects were left unfinished. The Soviet Union even demanded the repayment of China’s old debts.

The relationship further deteriorated resumed in 1963, when Chinese severely criticized Khrushchev’s “capitulationism” in the media, and released a general accusatory document officially condemning the Soviet Union’s policy. In response, all Chinese diplomats were immediately expelled from the Soviet Union “for anti-Soviet propaganda.”

While Khrushchev openly praised the benefits of détente relief with China, an outraged Mao denounced Khrushchev’s viewpoint and condemned the Soviet Union for straying away from true Marxism-Leninism and yielding to revisionist trends.

The critical point in the Soviet-Chinese relationship was the borderline territorial conflict on the Ussuri River in 1969, which ended in 56 casualties for the Soviet soldiers and more than 800 for the Chinese.

Sino-Soviet War

Soviet KGB Border Guards on Damansky Island, site of fierce battles with Chinese forces.

Relations between China and the Soviet Union remained strained until the visit of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to Beijing in 1989.

Who knew, that after all these years, the two superpowers would have peaceful and fruitful relationship today?

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