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Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights : Class : Democracy : Imperialism : International Relations

Maoist China foreign policy: 1970s and 1980s

The Mandate of Heaven (Excerpt). A detailed account of Maoist Chinese foreign policy is beyond the scope of this article, but some examples will illustrate the central thesis: that China’s foreign policy is in no way different from that of other world powers. The Three-Worlds Theory was used to justify Chinese alliances with right-wing reactionary governments during the 1970s and 1980s.
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The Third World


(a) SOUTHEAST ASIA. Only in China’s traditional “sphere of influence” has the People’s Republic given consistent material support to powers abroad – to North Korea and North Vietnam – and verbal support to movements against governments with which it has friendly diplomatic relations.

In the case of VIETNAM extended recognition and material aid before the Soviet Union, and its artillery was an important factor in the final siege of Dien Bien Phu. However, at the Geneva Peace Talks in 1954, both the Soviet Union and China tried their utmost to persuade the Vietminh to accept partition and not to sweep the French out of Vietnam. [36] It was not clear whether this flowed from the same fear of extending the war as guided Stalin in his efforts to force the Chinese Communists to make concessions to the Kuomintang in the 1930s. However, the Vietnam problem remained unsolved and broke out in a much more massive form in the 1960s.

As we have seen, China’s role in the second war in Vietnam involved both an expanded flow of aid and a careful stabilization of its role with the United States. The détente with Nixon provoked a reaction in Hanoi, but perhaps the Vietnamese simply wished to keep both its powerful patrons at arm’s length. The new united State took over the claims of its southern half, including the Paracel (Hsisha) and Spratly (Nansha) islands in the South China Sea, both of them also claimed by the People’s Republic. It is said there may be oil reserves beneath the islands, and also that China fears the establishment of a Soviet base in the area which would dominate the far eastern shipping lanes. Whatever the reasons, China stated her position unequivocally: “All islands belonging to China must certainly return to the bosom of the motherland”, and “The archipelagos of the South Sea are our sacred territory and we have a responsibility to defend them.”. [37]

Perhaps this territorial issue became as sharp as it did because of the estimate of the Soviet threat, which also caused China to revise her attitude towards four countries hitherto seen as US clients – Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

In 1971, THAILAND, in the view of the People’s Republic, was ruled by the “Thanom clique” of American puppets. However, the first contacts between the two regimes were made in that year. They agreed to end hostile radio propaganda and open up trade. The Thai Prime Minister, Pramoj Kukrit, made a State visit, and signed an agreement with China, Article 8 of which instructed Chinese nationals in Thailand to “abide by the law of the Kingdom of Thailand, respect the customs and habits of the Thai people and live in amity with them”. [38] that is, not to “make revolution”. Mao, according to Kukrit, denied that any aid was given to insurgents in Thailand or to the clandestine Voice of the Thai People radio; he advised Kukrit not to be troubled by the insurgents of the Thai Communist Party – “since it is small, it should not be dangerous”. No protest was made when the Thai civilian régime was once more overthrown with great bloodshed in the autumn of 1976.

In the PHILIPPINES President Marcos was engaged in a four-year programme of establishing a civilian dictatorship, destroying all opposition, including both supporters of Mao Tse-tung thought (operating for several years as partisans in the Central Luzon province) and a Muslim rebellion in the south. In September 1974, Marcos’ wife, Imelda, was invited to China where she met Mao and was offered Chinese crude oil in a trading agreement. In June the following year, her husband followed her on a State visit. Marcos was overwhelmed by the hospitality, referring to China as the “natural leader of the Third World” (Chou reassured him that no material aid went to the Communist rebels in Luzon), and adopting the slogan of “self-reliance”. Indeed, the President, one of the closest allies of the United States in the east Pacific, despatched a stream of missions to China to learn how to copy certain institutions, and even set up a “Commune” in Leyte, Manila.

MALAYSIA made the same transition. In 1970, the NCNA reported that the “Rahman-Razak clique” was terrified by the guerillas of the Malaysian Communist Party and its power was crumbling. [39] Nonetheless, diplomatic relations were announced in 1974, and half of the “clique”, Tun Abdul Rahman, duly made the pilgrimage to Peking. He was assured no material aid was being given by the Chinese to the Malaysian guerillas. Later, in April 1975, the Prime Minister was upset by the Chinese Communist party’s greetings to the Malaysian party on the occasion of its forty-fifth foundation anniversary (the actual message was critical of the warring factions of the party, and urged it to stay away from the urban areas). No doubt the Chinese ambassador reassured the Malaysian Prime Minister that the message had no real significance. However, it could be used as a bargaining counter on some future occasion, much as Stalin tried to use the Chinese Communist party in bargaining with Chiang Kai-shek.

SINGAPORE's opposition has been successively repressed by the régime of Lee Kuan Yew. On his State visit in 1976, Prime Minister Hua Kuo-feng assured him that Singapore’s treatment of rebels would evoke no protest from China (an assurance published in the Singapore press but not in the Chinese).

What were the contradictions the People’s Republic sought to exploit in these four cases? They were not utilizing any “major contradictions” at all, nor were they trying to compete with the United States, which was no longer seen as an enemy. It was a simple territorial security exercise, an exercise that in all but open expression consigned the domestic rebels to insignificance and permitted the regimes concerned to claim that they had Chairman Mao in their support.

INDONESIA remained, at the time of writing, the last country of the area (apart from Singapore) without diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic. The régime under General Suharto originally came to power through a military coup in 1965. Up to that time, Indonesia was governed by President Sukarno, basing himself latterly on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and the army. The PKI had followed a policy of creating a United Front, but without independent territories or armed forces. In practice, this meant sacrificing its radical policies – for example, land reform – to maintaining the alliance with forces that, in some cases, represented those liable to suffer in any land reform. It meant also that the PKI offered entirely uncritical support for Sukarno, calling for a strengthening of his government (his so-called “Guided Democracy”). Sukarno, on the other hand, needed a civilian counterweight to the powerful army, which the PKI provided. Sukarno therefore protected the party from the army and advanced its position in the government (although never in the decisive agencies governing the defence forces). Under Sukarno’s patronage the party became the largest Communist party outside the Eastern Bloc, with a claimed membership of three million, and between eight and ten million in party front organizations. But it was captive to Sukarno’s purposes, for it could raise radical demands for domestic change only at the cost of its position in the Indonesian government.

China gave strong support both to the PKI and to Sukarno, even though the PKI’s policy was one of united front without armed struggle. It was impossible to have the one with the other; had the PKI tried to create its own military forces, the army would have seized power.

In September 1965, a section of the palace guard launched a coup against the main leadership of the army. The army counter-attacked, alleging that the conspiracy was hatched by the PKI and China; it was further alleged that China had flown arms in to the leading air force base for use in the coup. The military rapidly won control, and there followed one of the most appalling massacres in modern history. More than half a million people were slaughtered by the army and its supporters; 200,000 PKI members lost their lives, including forty-five of the fifty central committee members. Many hundreds of thousands of others were gaoled.

China did not comment publicly at the time of the coup, nor has any balance sheet of lessons drawn from the catastrophe appeared since. For the ordinary Chinese newspaper reader, revolutionary Indonesia simply disappeared, in due course surfacing as fascist Indonesia. The People’s Republic continued its aid programme to the new military régime and did not break off diplomatic relations until an attack was launched on the Chinese embassy in April 1966, The Russians behaved in a similar fashion. Pravda published no protest at the destruction of the PKI, and the 700 Soviet advisers in Indonesia continued at work. But the political role of the Russians in Indonesia is not as important as that of the Chinese, who form a large minority in control of much business and commercial activity. The attack on the PKI and China could therefore draw on anti-capitalist sentiments.

In these circumstances, the restoration of diplomatic relations is more of a problem than elsewhere in south-east Asia. However, it will almost certainly come. Then China’s criticism of Indonesia’s repression of the Freitlin struggle for national independence in East Timor will disappear in time for the arrival of General Suharto (or his successor) in Peking. The fate of the survivors of the PKI, the insurgents lying low in Central Java, is of less importance to Peking.

(b) SOUTH ASIA. Asia was China’s main area of operations in the 1950s. INDIA was an important ally, and given that, after China, it was the most populated country in the world, what the Indians called “Hindi-Chinni bhai bhai” included over half the population of the “third world”. However, the two countries had a common border and were also competitors. At various times India attempted to dabble in China’s “sphere of influence” in Tibet. Yet in terms of its domestic régime, India seemed to be a natural candidate for the title of “progressive State”; it was republican, secular, and operated a planned economy within “a socialistic framework”. It was also “non-aligned” between the two major blocs, a position it reached in advance of China.

Such details, however, were irrelevant compared to the imperatives of the defence of Chinese territory. After the much publicized clash of 1962, India was excluded from the grand design. Mao put it thus: “We have an anti-imperialist task. We have the task of supporting national liberation movements, that is, we must support the broad masses of the people in Asia, Africa and Latin America, including workers, peasants, the revolutionary national bourgeoisie, and the revolutionary intellectuals ... But they do not include the reactionary national bourgeoisie like Nehru.” [40] Why did the commitment exclude Nehru, but not Emperor Hailie Selassie of Ethiopia or General Ayub Khan of Pakistan? Supporters of China later argued that India’s close relationship to the Soviet Union was the reason. However, at the time when strains began, 1959-60, it was China who was the close ally of the Soviet Union and the recipient of Russian aid. Since Mao did not discover that the Soviet Union was “fascist” until 1964, Nehru was perhaps to be forgiven for not having discovered earlier. What, for Mao, determined the character of India’s domestic order was not the Soviet relationship, but the actions of Indian troops in Ladakh.

The break with India led to the rapid promotion in Peking’s eyes of PAKISTAN, up to that time considered the closest ally of the United States in south Asia. An equally important factor, however, was the attempt by the Soviet Union to establish its influence in Pakistan (Russia assumed the role of mediator in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, and instigated the agreement signed between the two countries in Tashkent). China’s promotion of General Ayub Khan from “American puppet” to “anti-imperialist force” was not an idle commitment, since, as earlier mentioned, Chinese intervention in the 1965 war on Pakistan’s side divided the Indian forces. China’s role placed its sympathizers in India in an extraordinarily difficult position, only exceeded by that of its supporters in Pakistan. In the case of Maulana Bashani, one of the leaders of the Pakistani Left, he was induced – after a visit to Peking – to give “critical support” to the quasi-military dictatorship, and to its role in exploiting the Maulana’s own province, East Pakistan. It was also China’s interests which led the East Pakistan Left to oppose the demand for Bengali independence, so giving the movement up to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League and to Indian influence.

Between 1968 and 1971, both wings of Pakistan – East and West – were in revolt, culminating in the collapse of Ayub Khan’s power and the demand from the Bengalis of the East for the “right of national self-determination”. However, China’s geopolitical considerations took priority in Peking over the national liberation of Bengalis. In June 1970 the Soviet Union received a State visit from Ayub Khan’s successor, General Yahya Khan, who accepted a Russian offer of aid in constructing a heavy industrial sector. China could scarcely risk losing its most consistent ally in south Asia to “social imperialism” for the sake of a handful of Bengalis. Accordingly, the Bengali revolt became a “CIA-Soviet Union-Indian” plot to destroy the Pakistan nation. As the Pakistan army moved to crush the revolt in the East, China extended material and moral support to the Pakistan régime. [41] Maulana Bashani might appeal directly to Mao, but Chou En-lai congratulated General Yahya Khan on “safeguarding national independence and State sovereignty”. [42] The Chinese people were given the General’s speech justifying the repression, and the General in turn quoted China in explaining his action to the Pakistanis.

The repression produced an enormous flight of refugees to India. The Indian régime could not afford to neglect the opportunity. Only a few days after the repression began, the Indian high command began to formulate plans to achieve the central aim of Indian foreign policy since 1947, the destruction of the threat of Pakistan. Thus, Chinese policy both directly and through its influence over the Pakistani Left was instrumental in achieving the exact result it was supposed to be aimed to prevent; it opened the door to Indian intervention, and made it possible for the Indian government to establish a dominant position in the independent Bengali State of Mujibur Rahman. To compound the paradoxes, in August 1972, the Chinese delegate at the United Nations vetoed the entry of the new State of Bangladesh; and in May 1975, Pakistan reaffirmed its fundamental loyalty to CENTO at the Ankara meeting of the alliance.

Some supporters of China have attempted to protect Peking’s honour by suggesting that officials in the Chinese foreign ministry were privately appalled by events in East Pakistan. No doubt in the high days of the US war in Vietnam, the State Department was full of officials grieving over the behaviour of American troops in Vietnam, Such private qualms may be face-saving, but they do not relieve the regimes concerned of their responsibility. Others have found retrospective justification in the corruption of the Bangladesh régime and the famine of 1974. Yet China was indirectly instrumental in permitting that régime to come to power; no alternative was offered by the Bangladesh Left. Forcing East Pakistan back into the authoritarian rule of Islamabad would in no way have prevented the famine. But none of this was acknowledged in Peking or in the Chinese press; no lessons were drawn, no explanations offered either to the Chinese people or China’s supporters abroad.

For SRI LANKA, China has been an important ally since 1952. By 1975, China took eleven and a half per cent of the country’s exports and supplied twelve and a half per cent of its imports. In 1972, China’s financial aid covered three-quarters of Sri Lanka’s budget deficit.

1971, however, was a difficult year. Mrs Bandaranaike’s government, having done very little in its short time in office, provoked a Left-wing mass revolt in the rural areas. [43] Possibly three to four thousand young people were killed, and many thousands imprisoned. China – along with the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, India and Yugoslavia – rallied to give moral and material help to Mrs Bandaranaike’s government. The Sri Lanka press published an official letter from Chou En-lai, released by the Sri Lanka government (but not published in China), which offered a further long-term interest-free loan of £10.7 million (extended twice later in the year) and congratulated the government on defeating the insurgents – Chou was “glad to see that the chaotic situation created by a handful of persons who style themselves as Guevarists ... has been brought under control”. On her State visit to China two months later, Mrs Bandaranaike was able to thank her hosts publicly for their support; in return, Chou thanked Sri Lanka for supporting China’s application to enter the United Nations.

(c) MIDDLE EAST. China appears to have given some aid to the Palestinian Liberation Organization until King Hussein of Jordan endeavoured to destroy the movement; then China assisted the government of Syria (the main force seeking to destroy the PLO in Lebanon in 1975-6). But although Chinese propaganda made much of this aid at the time, it was the least important component in China’s foreign policy in the area.

What raised the most difficulties for the supporters of China was the relationship between the People’s Republic and the Imperial State of IRAN. As a long-standing ally of the United States and a pillar of CENTO, the régime of the Shah was at once aligned with a superpower, internally repressive and “feudal”. Yet in April 1971 when the indefatigable Chou En-lai was busy congratulating General Yahya Khan of Pakistan and Mrs Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, he also found time to receive Princess Ashraf Pahlevi, sister to the Shah, on an official visit to Peking. The Princess was received by Chairman Mao, and even accompanied him on the rostrum during the May 1st celebrations, no doubt to the delight of the parading masses. Simultaneously, the Shah’s notorious secret police, SAVAK, were launching a widespread attack on all opposition in which thirteen urban guerillas were summarily executed. Chou praised the Shah’s “struggle against foreign aggression and for national construction”, a phrase that possibly referred to Iran’s massive military expenditure. In August, diplomatic representatives were exchanged, and the Chinese people informed that it had congratulated the Shah on his sterling work for his people. [44] The following year, the Shah himself and Empress Farah Diba “were accorded a warm welcome by tens of thousands of people lining the streets” of Peking. In return, Chinese representatives graced the Shah’s grotesque extravaganza, the Persepolis celebrations of 2,500 years of Persian “feudalism”.

The Shah had joined the “progressive forces”. The clandestine Iranian Left might denounce the corruption and repressive character of his régime, but this was an entirely marginal matter so far as China was concerned. The Left might deplore the continued arms drive of Iran and the use of Iran’s oil revenue to finance Western arms manufacturers, but the People’s Republic decreed otherwise: “As an independent sovereign State, Iran has the right and every reason to ensure her self-defence by strengthening national defence. As to the kinds and number of weapons it intends to buy and from where it buys them, it is the internal affair of Iran and other countries have no right to intervene.” Whence came this “right”? From Iran’s 1,562 mile border with the Soviet Union.


The creation of national States on the African continent coincided with the development of an independent Chinese foreign policy. As a result, it was possible for China to be more effective in contest with other world powers which had not had time to consolidate positions. It is said that African guerillas were trained in China in the early l950s. But by the late 1950s, it seems, diplomatic representatives of China were engaged in training militia and youth organizations in some African countries that received financial aid. Those financed included Ethiopia, the Batutsi government in the former Ruanda-Burundi, Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Somalia and Congo. However, a contradiction soon emerged; training youth organizations could only take place if there was no hint of mobilizing an opposition to the established régime (the United States was prepared to manufacture such hints to secure influence among independent African States). Revolutionary propaganda opened the door to United States, and later Soviet, intervention. Thus the military government of Congo (B) was induced to disband the youth movement. In Mali, a military coup against President Modibo Keita ended the Chinese link. Chinese diplomats were expelled from Burundi, Dahomey and Central African Republic.

In 1964, a new diplomatic offensive took place, culminating in an African tour by Chou En-lai. Although a number of African States were irritated by Chou’s declaration, “Africa is ripe for revolution”, the visit had solid achievements. Before his visit, seven countries recognized the People’s Republic, and fifteen Taiwan; afterwards, fourteen recognized China, sixteen Taiwan and four remained neutral.

These efforts were slightly nullified by the neglect of external relations during the Cultural Revolution. However, immediately afterwards Peking began a new drive to win diplomatic recognition as the stepping stone to membership of the United Nations. Financial aid was expanded, but this time without any hint of organizing subversive youth groups. Aid went overwhelmingly to established governments, although some assistance is said to have been given to the liberation struggles in Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau (and possibly some, but very little, to the Zimbabwe guerillas in Rhodesia). The largest share went to Zambia for the building of the Tanzam railway. President Kaunda has divulged that, at one stage, Chinese representatives did distribute propaganda in Zambia, but withdrew it and apologized when he complained. China’s aid tends to contradict its stress on “self-reliance”, and possibly raises problems at home. During the negotiations for the Tanzam railway, it was rumoured that there was opposition to the project in Peking because it would considerably delay China’s own railway programme, and would do so for a country, Zambia, where the per capita income was double that of China.

To Hailie Selassie of ETHIOPIA, China was a generous patron from the mid-1950s, despite the presence of US military bases in the country. The Emperor made numerous State visits to Peking. Chou, in October 1973, toasted the aged scoundrel: “We admire the Emperor of Ethiopia, Hailie Selassie ... I raise my glass to commemorate his struggle against colonialism, racialism, and slavery.” Chinese loyalty was in no way deflected by the protracted war of national liberation forces in the province of Eritrea, a revolt the heroic Emperor endeavoured to root out. Nor was China more than embarrassed by the student movement in Addis Ababa which precipitated a general strike and the collapse of the imperial régime in 1974. The Chinese people were told nothing of these events. Peking rapidly recognized the new military rulers, extended financial aid to the Emperor’s successors and refrained from comment on the escalation of the war against the Eritreans and the savage persecution of the Ethiopian trade unions and Left.

Nineteen seventy-one was a year of embarrassment for the People’s Republic not only in Asia. In July, a section of the Sudanese army, with the support of the pro-Moscow Communist party, carried out a short-lived coup against the régime of President Nimeiri. The President reacted in force with a severe repression of the Communists. In Peking, the China-Sudan Friendship Society organized demonstrations in support of Nimeiri. [45] Officially, the People’s Republic congratulated the President on his victory and offered him a grant equivalent to US $45 million. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union and North Vietnam made strong protests at the slaughter. China saw the events in the Sudan not as they affected the Sudanese, but only as they affected its competition with the Soviet Union (an attitude shared in Moscow and Washington).

However, it was in the south that Chinese foreign policy received its greatest humiliation in Africa. The disunity of the liberation forces in the former Portuguese possession of ANGOLA provided an opportunity for both Soviet and South African influence there, which in its turn divided the loyalties of the African States. Zambia, already immersed in a détente with South Africa, called for no more than an end to foreign intervention. Nyerere of Tanzania, the recipient of much Chinese aid, and Machel of the recently victorious Mozambique, led the majority of the Organization of African Unity in support of the MPLA, Russian and Cuban assistance or not, and against the South African-backed UNITA and the Zaïre-backed FNLA (the two subsequently allied).

Zaïre, a corrupt and brutal right-wing régime under General Mobutu, financed the FNLA, a force based upon the old tribal kingdom of the Bakongo. The leader of the FNLA was Holden Roberto, the ex-king of the Bakongo, and a successful businessman in Kinshasa, the Zaire capital. Like his father-in-law, General Mobutu, Roberto is reputedly strongly anti-Communist. By contrast, the MPLA had a much less defined tribal base, had a major following among the urban working class of Luanda (the Angolan capital) and was explicitly opposed to private capitalism and foreign domination of an independent Angola. However, General Mobutu has received financial aid from China for a number of years (as well as military assistance from the United States). In December 1974 the General made the customary State visit to Peking. Both the MPLA and the FNLA sent representatives to Peking to secure aid. [46] However, China, presumably on the grounds that the Russians were assisting the MPLA, chose to support the weaker of the two, the FNLA. Roberto himself claimed in May 1974 that 200 Chinese instructors were in Zaire to train his troops. As a result, China found itself supporting a front, the FNLA-UNITA, which was not only defeated, but was supported by South Africa and the United States, a factor sufficient to shift the loyalty of virtually all the African States to the MPLA. It was an ignominious disaster.

China will live down the exposure, and the tides of rhetoric wilt once more cover the credibility gap. Yet the case illustrates the relative weakness of China’s foreign policy as an instrument of change. China lacks the material power to be as effective as its rivals. As a result, it has too often been compelled to fall in with purposes it has previously condemned, simply in order to retain influence. For example, China condemned all talk of détente between the independent African States and South Africa, but by 1975 it was obliged to accept this if it wished to retain its influence in Zambia. [47] Again, despite having fostered a long relationship with Ethiopia, China was displaced by the Soviet Union in 1977 with the onset of war with Somalia; China could not match Russia’s arms supplies.


Latin America, most advanced of the three backward continents and most penetrated by foreign capital, was the least suitable for Chinese preoccupations. For no amount of argument could have persuaded the Left there that the threat of the Soviet Union was greater than that of the United States. In any case, there was a home-grown revolution, that of Cuba (in 1959) which more clearly epitomized the conditions of the continent for the Left (and without the obfuscation of Peking’s jargon). Fidel Castro in the 1950s opposed forming a “united front” with the “national bourgeoisie” of Cuba in order to create “new democracy”. Guerilla struggle, its class basis unspecified at the time, led straight to “socialism”. Peking might ritually intone in 1960 that “the tide of national and democratic revolution in Latin America is surging to unprecedented heights”, but Fidelismo blocked any real influence. For a time it looked as though the two might collaborate, but the importance of Russian aid for Cuban survival (despite the Soviet defeat in the 1962 missile crisis) finally proved decisive.

China turned to “material incentives” for established governments. Peru, governed by a military régime but with the largest Chinese minority in the continent (estimated at 60,000) became the main recipient of Chinese aid. A Sino-Peruvian trade agreement was signed in June 1971, shortly after the signing of a Soviet-Peruvian treaty.

In the case of CHILE, China warmly supported the Allende government of Popular Unity, despite the fact that it was not the result of a revolutionary seizure of power and despite the warning of the Indonesian disaster. One week after the Sovet Union offered Allende a loan of US $150 million, China capped it with an interest-free loan of US $65 million. By 1972, China had become the fourth largest buyer of Chile’s copper. The Chinese press described Chile as a revolution, without qualification or warning. The coup by General Pinochet might have been an embarrassment, except that coups were by now a frequent occurrence among China’s associates abroad. The embassy of the People’s Republic was one of the three foreign legations in Santiago (the others were the British and the French) that refused to offer refuge to the hunted supporters of the government, and China was the first country in the Eastern Bloc to recognize the new régime. No official statement was published in China on the question of how another progressive force had slipped through the interstices of history, although in the United Nations delegate Huang Hua expressed regret at the murder of Allende and the attack on the Cuban embassy as “in violation of international practice”. Subsequently, China extended the financial aid made to Allende to Pinochet. The régime was grateful; under-secretary of foreign affairs, Cmdr. Claudio Collados specifically praised the People’s Republic as one of the few countries which had not tried to isolate Chile. [48] The opportunity to scoop the Soviet Union by securing privileged access to the new régime proved a temptation too great to be resisted.

Hypocrisy is the stock-in-trade in relations between States, each flattering the other while arming. What is surprising is not that China conforms to this rule but that so many people should be able to disregard the evidence and believe that China’s activities abroad reflect the cause of world revolution. The consistency of Chinese policy is impressive; its principles have remained constant throughout the period. What has changed, unfortunately for Peking, is the world. That is not China’s fault, but it is the source of the “mistakes”. Policy is tested not by its rhetoric in times of stability. It is in crisis that the test comes. Unswervingly, each crisis finds the People’s Republic “failing” by the criteria laid out in the opening section of this chapter.

The current changes in the world signify the onset of a long-drawn-out crisis, and herald a new opportunity for revolution. If China were devoted to world revolution in anything other than a rhetorical sense, now would be the time for a radical change of gear and the creation of an International. Foreign policy would be subordinated to building mass movements dedicated to the overthrow of the States with which the People’s Republic has relations. Yet the Chinese State has consistently sacrificed that purpose to the maintenance of its competition with the Soviet Union. Its material support to national liberation struggles has been too marginal to affect the domination of the major powers. Its border conflicts, the defence of its “sacred territory”, has been the primary concern of its foreign policy: which is why the Soviet Union, still economically far weaker than the advanced capitalist bloc, is offered as the main threat. As a result, China is more often used by the other powers of the world than it is able to use them; it is China which is dragooned behind the United States or Holden Roberto.

Many of China’s supporters abroad do not examine the record closely. They claim that the People’s Republic has policies superior to those of other States, not that it practises something different, “proletarian internationalism”. Then the fact that the terms of Chinese aid are better than those of its rivals, and its rhetoric borrows on a tradition of using the word “revolution”, becomes the substance of the case. The evidence proves otherwise.


15. Edgar Snow, Red Star over China, London, 1937, p.95.
16. For details, cf. Gittings, in Horowitz, op. cit., p.182 passim.
17. Mao, 8 December 1956, in Miscellany I, p.37.
18. June 1964, ibid. II, p.364.
19. NCNA Peking, 19 May 1970, SCMP 4665, 27 May 1970; cf. also NCNA, 20 May 1970, SCMP 4666, 28 May 1970.
20. May 1958, in Miscellany I, p.115.
21. Reported, The Times, London, 24 October 1975.
22. Neue Zeit, No.13, Moscow, 1961, p.23, cited T. Cliff, China-Russia: the monolith cracks, International Socialism 14, Autumn 1965, p.6.
23. The origins and the development of the differences between the leadership of the CPSU and ourselves, JMJP, 6 September 1963.
24. May 1964, in Miscellany II, p.349, cited Joint Editorial, JMJP Hung-chi, 1 January 1970, and PR 17, 1970.
25. For a lasting peace,for a people’s democracy (journal of the Cominform), 1 September 1949, cited by Ian H. Birchall, Workers against the Monolith, London, 1974, p.49.
26. Vice-minister of Foreign Trade, Chou Hua-min, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Nairobi, 11 May 1976.
27. A structure outlined by Teng Hsiao-p’ing to the United Nations, reported PR 15, 12 April 1974.
28. NCNA Peking, 7 July 1974.
29. JMJP, 27 February 1973, reported by Peking correspondent, The Times, London, 1 March 1973.
30. JMJP, 18 September 1971; see also, Down with revived Japanese Imperialism, JMJP, 3 September 1970.
31. PR 39, 1971.
32. Interview, The Times, London, 27 October 1972.
33. NCNA Peking, 22 December 1973, SCMP 5527, 4 January 1974.
34. The Vision of Judgement, in Byron: Poetry and Prose, Oxford, 1940, p.111.
35. NCNA Peking, 21, 22 and 23 November 1975, SWB 3, FE/5066/i, 22 November 1975.
36. Chou En-lai: “he had wrongly persuaded the Vietnamese to make concessions at Geneva in 1954 to get a settlement: he was wiser now than then” – Interview, The Times, London, 13 July 1972.
37. Kuang-ming JP, 24 November 1974.
38. PR 27, 4 July 1975.
39. NCNA Peking, 23 April 1970, SCMP 4647, 1 May 1970; see also ibid., 14 May 1975, SCMP 4662, 22 May 1975.
40. Tenth Plenum (8th Central Committee), 24 September 1962, in Mao Unrehearsed, p.189.
41. See 23 March 1971 message of support, Chou En-lai to General Yahya Khan; NCNA 2 April 1971, and JMJP, 11 May 1971 – “The relevant measures taken by President Yahya Khan in connection with the present situation in Pakistan are the internal affairs of Pakistan in which no country should, or had the right to, interfere.”
42. Bashani’s telegram to Mao: “The ideology of socialism is to fight oppression ... and if Mao refused to protect against the atrocities of the military junta, the world may think you are not the friend of the oppressed.”
43. For details, cf. my: Ceylon 1971, International Socialism 48, June-July 1971.
44. The NCNA statement reads: “Today, under the direction of his Imperial Majesty, the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi, the Government and the Iranian people work without cease to safeguard the sovereignty of the State, to protect national resources, to advance the programme of national culture and to educate the country, and has registered success in these aims. The Chinese Government and people congratulate them sincerely and applaud their efforts to achieve new victories in their march forward.”
45. The People’s Daily reported that the coup had been undertaken by “some Sudanese officers” – JMJP, 27 July 1971.
46. MPLA’s Augustinho Neto visited Peking in 1971; both organizations sent delegations there in June 1975 – cf. NCNA Peking, in SCMP 75-24, June 9-13 1975, and Le Monde, 6 June 1975.
47. Vice-premier Li Hsien-nien, at a banquet in honour of the secretary of the Zambian UNIP, 16 September 1975, in PR 38, 19 September 1975.
48. Press statement, Santiago, 26 January 1975, reported The Times, London, 27 January 1975.

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