A detailed account of Chinese foreign policy is beyond the scope of this book, 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 revision of Lenin’s concept of imperialism did not originate with the Chinese, but with Stalin. He needed to portray a world in which the Soviet Union was not bound by an external logic, but could present whatever it did as freely chosen by a free society. He needed also a justification for distinguishing between the “peace-loving democratic” imperialists who became his allies in the Second World War and the “warmongering fascist” imperialists. For Mao also, some imperialist powers were “aggressive”, and others “anti-war, anti-aggression, anti-Fascist”.  It seemed historical accident, or the function of the temperament of the leaders. Mao did not explain, as Lenin might have done, that the “anti-war” ones were on top and holding down the “pro-war” ones.
In the Chinese context, the distinction before 1949 meant an orientation on the main foreign power influential there, the United States. The policy had no ultimate success since American strategic interests changed when it was decided not to invade the north China coast.  The Cold War made this early lack of success into something of a principle. The prowess of Chinese arms in Korea perhaps also led the People’s Republic to reassess its relative weakness. Nonetheless, American rivalry with the Soviet Union ruled out any rapid restoration of relations, even though China displayed great “reasonableness”§ at the Geneva Talks in 1954. It became taken for granted that: “The US is not dependable. She would give you something but not much ... How could we expect imperialism to give us a full meal? It won’t ... Imperialism is stingy”  and that “US imperialism is a very ferocious imperialism”.  Foreign minister Chen Yi was even so rash in 1965 as to formulate this tactical rift as a principle: “Peaceful co-existence with US imperialism, which is pushing ahead its policies of aggression and war, is out of the question.”
It was rash because the late 1960s produced a reversal of this position. It was rash also since throughout these years, overshadowed by the US war in Vietnam, representatives of the United States and China held regular talks with each other – up to May 1971, there were 137 Sino-American discussions in Warsaw.  These talks, it was presumed abroad, stabilized China’s relationship to Vietnam -the PLA would not intervene in Vietnam unless American troops crossed the seventeenth parallel dividing south and north. China was thereby enabled to undertake the Cultural Revolution without fear of US intervention. On the other hand, the United States was assured that China would not, for example, launch attacks on Taiwan (as occurred in 1954 and 1958) in order to divide American forces operating in Vietnam and so relieve the National Liberation Front; this was no idle threat, since in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965 China had divided Indian forces by threatening India on the Sikkim border.
What caused the reversal in Chinese foreign policy? It was the change in the situation of the United States. President Nixon was faced with military stalemate in Vietnam and heavy American losses; the costs of the war were fuelling world inflation and jeopardizing the ability of American businessmen to compete abroad (a situation reflected in a steadily weakening dollar and increasing currency instability). Furthermore, opposition to the war was mounting in the United States. It was therefore urgent that the United States extricate itself from Vietnam, but without appearing to have been defeated. On the Chinese side, the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 (illustrating the willingness of Moscow to put down rebels within its own “sphere of influence”), and armed clashes on the Sino-Soviet border in 1969, sharply brought home China’s relative isolation. China needed allies and entry to the United Nations, particularly after having allowed external relations to decay during the Cultural Revolution.
Contrary to Chen Yi’s promise in 1965, China did not require an end to American “policies of aggression and war”. Mao had, at the height of the Cold War, laid down the correct line: “Our policy is that we will not invite him [US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles] as a guest, but if he should knock on our door, we would entertain him.”  In 1969, Nixon instructed his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, to “knock on Mao’s door”, perhaps calculating that the Soviet threat would induce Mao to open it, despite the continuation of the war in Vietnam. In December 1970, Snow interviewed Mao, who invited Nixon to visit Peking. The following spring, an American table tennis team visited Peking; the US government relaxed its embargo on trade with China, and ordered the mining of North Vietnam’s harbours (China protested when two Chinese ships were damaged). The US announced that it had dropped 6.2 million tons of bombs in Vietnam, or 262 pounds per head of the Indo-Chinese population. In June, China condemned the United States for having extended its bombing raids in Vietnam right up to the Chinese border, but when Kissinger visited Peking the same month, he was received with “extraordinary courtesy”. In July, the United States had some 100,000 troops in Vietnam, and again extended the massive bombing of the North; President Nixon, it was announced, would make a State visit to China. The Hanoi daily, Nhan Dan, attacked Nixon – for “dividing the socialist countries” (19 July 1971).
Publicly, the attacks on Nixon and US government policy – “Nixon’s fascist atrocities”, as Mao put it in 1970, “have kindled the raging flames of the revolutionary mass movement in the United States” – ceased, although not the atrocities themselves. The crowds turned out in their millions to cheer the American architect of Vietnam’s destruction. Nixon was received by Mao, and duly secured his release from Vietnam (in return, China gained entry to the United Nations, and was permitted access to the US market – it purchased ten Boeing aircraft in September 1972). Who was using whom? The United States could claim with more substance that it had “exploited the contradictions” between China and the Soviet Union – to the loss of Vietnam.
Mao’s support did not, to his regret, save Nixon from the consequences of his appalling record. The Watergate scandals forced him from office. They were a dramatic revelation of the corruption of the most powerful State in the world, yet they were not reported in the Chinese press. Furthermore, in the autumn of 1975, Mao personally invited the ex-President, then the least popular American in the world, to make a further visit to China, despatching an aircraft to California to collect him, and greeting him as “one of the greatest leaders of our time”. Presumably, the Chinese Communist party were not concerned about the effect of this quixotic behaviour on their supporters in the United States. The suggested explanation – the possibility of embarrassing the new President, Ford, just entering his first election campaign, and so forcing him to make greater concessions on the question of Taiwan – was of greater significance.
China had too little weight in the world system to influence the major powers in conditions of relative peace. It might complain bitterly that Ford had dispensed with the services of a leading anti-Communist, James Schlesinger (who was promptly invited to China to inspect the Chinese defence preparations); that the West was appeasing a Hitlerite Soviet Union; that the Helsinki agreement was a second Munich, with Kissinger playing the role of Neville Chamberlain and anti-Communist Senator Jackson that of Winston Churchill; but it did not influence US policy. 
The relationship between the Chinese party and Moscow was, as we have seen, full of difficulties, but Chinese self-restraint ensured that these did not become public. The Cold War prevented any independent initiatives on the part of China and although the PLA performance in the Korean War was highly creditable, outside its own “sphere of influence” in east Asia China remained dependent upon Soviet nuclear and military power.
However, as China’s strength grew, its tolerance decreased. The Russians were more concerned with their rivalry with the United States and with competing for allies in the “non-aligned” world, than with helping China to build an industrial economy (for example, Soviet aid in 1959 to Iraq was 78 roubles per head of the population; to Egypt, 154 roubles; and to China, 9 roubles).  The Russians were more worried about the danger of world war than helping China to regain Taiwan; the launching of the first sputnik in 1957 gave the Soviet Union a military lead over the United States, and China inferred from this that the threat of US attack need no longer intimidate the Eastern bloc. The Russians refused to help during the Great Leap Forward and afterwards; and supported India in the Sino-Indian dispute which began in 1959. Finally, the Russians unilaterally withdrew all aid from China in 1960, the onset of the most severe crisis in the history of the People’s Republic.
To that date, however, the Chinese leadership made no public criticism of Russia. They apparently accepted the nature of Soviet power in Russia and East Europe. The beginning of a workers’ revolution in Hungary in 1957 found the Chinese party insisting “on the taking of all necessary measures to smash the counter-revolutionary rebellion in Hungary”, and attempting to stiffen the resolve of Moscow when it “intended to adopt a policy of capitulation and abandonment of socialist Hungary.” 
Twelve years later, an identical action by the Russians in Czechoslovakia evoked a completely contrary response from China – fierce protests at the denial of the Czech right of national self-determination.
In the early 1960s, the Chinese view was still expressed as irritation. The fierce attacks were reserved for Yugoslavia, the surrogate for Russia, just as Albania became the whipping-horse for China. All those inside the semi-secret debate knew the code – China’s delegate to the Sixth East German party (SED) Congress in January 1963 was howled down for criticizing the “Tito clique”. The only people left in the dark were the mass of the population in Russia and China. However, the split was open by 1962 but not until 1964 did Mao suddenly announce: “The Soviet Union today is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, a dictatorship of the grand bourgeoisie, a fascist German dictatorship, and a Hitlerite dictatorship. They are a bunch of rascals.”  In the ensuing years, this startling reassessment was explained in more detail – a “monopoly bourgeoisie”, presumably lurking in the Soviet Union through the years of Stalin’s rule, had seized power by a coup between 1953 and 1956 under the leadership of N.S. Khrushchev, and “restored capitalism”.
We have some idea of the massive social upheaval required in Weimar Germany and Italy to bring the fascists to power – and in particular, the role of a major threat from working-class parties. There is no evidence of such an upheaval in Russia, nor of the appearance of a new class, a “monopoly bourgeoisie”, qualitatively distinct from the ruling order of Stalin’s years. The changes in the Soviet Union of the 1950s were trivial in comparison to those of the 1920s and 1930s. The Chinese press might proclaim that, “Fascist white terror reigns in Soviet society today”, but to all appearances, there were fewer political prisoners, arbitrary arrests, sudden disappearances than in the 1930s. To make any sense, Mao would have had to examine the years of Stalin’s rule; but if he had done that, not only would he have jeopardized the apostolic succession he claimed, he would have challenged a social order based on the imperative to accumulate, an order he was seeking to duplicate in China: State capitalism.
Mao’s “analysis” was no more than an expression of extreme irritation after the Sino-Soviet break, not the theoretical justification for the break itself. It was not a new use of the term “fascist”. Stalin identified Tito as a fascist at the time of the break between Russia and Yugoslavia: “The bourgeois nationalist Tito clique in Yugoslavia, having taken the anti-Soviet, anti-Marxist path, has reached the logical end of its anti- Communism – fascism.”  The Chinese shared this view, but it did not prevent them giving a hero’s welcome to Marshal Tito on a State visit to China in August 1977. As we shall see, the term “fascism” describes only the attitude of the State concerned to either the Soviet Union or China; it denotes nothing about the domestic order.
The Chinese party set out to split Communist parties round the world and organize a counterforce loyal to its own position on the questions in dispute with the Soviet Union. They did not pursue their goal with great zeal or publicity, so that results were meagre. The only major party to accept Chinese leadership was the Indonesian, the PKI. Others moved towards a position of neutrality.
Although the private polemics against the Soviet Union were sharp, publicly China was still restrained. What changed the situation was the increasing military competition of the mid-1960s (the Soviet Union placed forty to fifty divisions along the 6,850-mile Sino-Russian border) and the events of 1969. Now, China’s “sacred territory” was at stake. The United States was defeated in Vietnam, and, in any case, had begun a withdrawal from south-east Asia (a withdrawal partly contingent upon its new capacity to fly American troops to most parts of the world at short notice, without the need for fixed bases; partly to force US allies to provide their own troops). It was further constrained by domestic political difficulties, and again defeated, politically if not militarily, in Angola. China was vulnerable, and began to identify the Soviet Union as the main threat to the world: “This superpower is even more greedy and more cruel than old-line imperialism in its plunder and exploitation of the third world.” 
The United States, fresh from the ruins and terrible death toll in Vietnam, became a friendly neighbourhood imperialism. There was no coherent argument, merely the assertion that the Soviet Union was in an “expansionary phase” and the United States in decline, as if somehow national souls, the rise and decay of civilizations, so beloved of conservative historians, were at stake.
Characterizing Tito as “fascist” did not prevent the Soviet Union from once more embracing its old ally, Yugoslavia, and the same is true of China. Since the “theory” is only a rationalization of short-term tactics, it can be reversed by a change in the tactical situation. At which stage, the Soviet Union will become a secondary “superpower”, perhaps another “superpower” will appear (Japan or West Germany), the Chinese press will switch off its ferocious anti-Russian propaganda, and a few of China’s supporters round the world will be shed.
At one stage, the “intermediate zone” was composed of all the powers between the United States and the Soviet Union. Today, however, there is a hierarchy in which the “first” world is not the Western industrialized bloc (as opposed to the “second” world, the Eastern Bloc, and the “third” world, the economically backward countries) but simply the two superpowers. The “second” world, the new “intermediate zone”, becomes the advanced industrialized countries other than the two superpowers, a kind of world middle-class between the two ruling powers and the proletarian-peasant masses of the backward countries.  The structure is pure fantasy in Marxist terms since the participants are not world classes but national States; the States are not peoples but national ruling orders.
The “intermediate zone” is identified solely by its relationship to the “superpowers”. It therefore has no independent competitive role; American fear of competition from Japan and the European Common Market is thus merely private foolishness. On the analogy of the “middle class” China’s role is to show the regimes of the intermediate zone that they are oppressed by monopoly capital (alias the two superpowers) and ought to ally with the proletariat (alias the third world), under the leadership of China. As Teng Hsiao-p’ing described the task to the audience of the United Nations in 1974: “The developed countries in between the two superpowers ... are in varying degrees controlled, threatened or bullied by the one superpower or the other ... all these countries have the desire to shake off superpower enslavement or control and safeguard their national independence and the integrity of their society”. The industrialized powers of Europe are invited to demand their right of national self-determination, their right to break up the international economic system which grants them power and wealth. In the 1960s, this meant the encouragement of France under De Gaulle in its challenge to NATO, and Romania in asserting its independence from the Soviet Union. Indeed, China went so far as to denounce East Germany’s demand to be recognized as an independent power, and champion West Germany’s “right of national self-determination” – that is, the unification of Germany under the West Germans. 
However, once the Soviet Union became the main threat, the disunity of the Europeans, their continued maintenance of elements of national autonomy, became a factor of vulnerability. China began to urge unification in the Common Market, which, in practice, now means the acceptance of West German hegemony. Chou described the official position in 1973: “The cause of European unity, if it is carried out well, will contribute to the improvement of the situation in Europe and the whole world.” The fact that much of the European Left regards the European Economic Community as a rationalization of “monopoly capital” – and some even see it as a plan by the United States to create a large market for its industries – is of no significance for Peking in comparison to the Russian threat to China.
This produces curious paradoxes. Elements of European and American domination of the world become favoured by China – from the Commonwealth military security arrangements for south-east Asia to that traditional object of the Left’s opposition, NATO. The NCNA published in the People’s Daily extracts from the British Conservative Government’s Defence White Paper on the need to increase military spending and to strengthen NATO against the Russian threat.  It is the most anti-Communist Right-wing politicians who are received with most warmth in Peking – the Cold War warriors of the United States, the Conservative politicians of Europe – Heath of Britain, Franz Joseph Strauss (of the CSU, the right wing of the Christian Democratic party) of West Germany, Tanaka of Japan, Frazer (rather than Whitlam of the Labour party) of Australia, and Muldoon of New Zealand (who had for twenty years opposed the diplomatic recognition of China).
The paradoxes are more extreme. In February 1974, the British Conservative government was overthrown by a miners’ strike. In the union, the leader of one of the most militant sections was a Communist, Mick McGahey, president of the Scottish miners. China invited the leader of the Conservative party, and, although now only an ex-Prime Minister, he was accorded a reception appropriate to a head of State – a guard of honour, gun-salute, military band playing God Save the Queen, and a personal interview with Mao. The new Labour Prime Minister was not invited. But the miners’ union had been invited to send a delegation, and appointed McGahey as its leader. While Heath, the man the miners had defeated, was feted in China, McGahey, one of the miners’ leaders, was refused a visa as leader of the delegation (the British Communist party was pro-Moscow).
China’s relationship to Japan illustrates the predominance of tactical questions in Chinese foreign policy. In the 1960s, Peking criticized the Liberal Democratic government for being instruments of American imperialism. In the late 1960s when negotiations were under way with the Soviet Union for Japanese exploitation of raw materials in Siberia, the attacks became sharper. The People’s Daily put the official view confidently in 1971: “Look at the past of Japanese imperialism, and you can tell its present; look at its past and present, and you can tell its future.”  What was its future?
“Japanese monopoly capitalism is sure to protect its colonial interests by armed force and scramble for spheres of influence. An ‘economic power’ is bound to become a ‘military power’, and economic expansion definitely leads to military expansion. This is the inexorable law of development of Japanese militarism ... What Japan should take is another road, the road of independence, democracy, peace and neutrality. That is to say, Japan must free herself from US imperialist control, dismantle US military bases and achieve national independence; she must renounce fascist dictatorship.”  The advice might seem a little irrelevant, given the “inexorable law” which indicated that Japan must become a “military power”. In fact, it turned out to be quite unnecessary for Japan to follow China’s advice in order to buck the “inexorable law”. It required only a visit by Prime Minister Tanaka (a millionaire, subsequently imprisoned for implication in the Lockheed scandal). He met Mao, and the “inexorable law” disappeared. The joint declaration provided a brilliant explanation: “China and Japan are neighbouring countries separated by a strip of water, and there was a long history of traditional friendship between them. The two peoples ardently wish to end the abnormal state of affairs that has hitherto existed between the two countries.” Chou En-lai, with admirable discretion over the record of Japanese pillage of China in the preceding one hundred years, welcomed the agreement with a country, “with whom government relations had not been good since 1894 ... The new relationship was not directed against third parties. Neither was seeking hegemony in the Pacific region, and both were opposed to those who were.”  Those alarmed at the possibility of Japanese expansion were no doubt reassured; that is, until new irritations re-created the instant theory of Japan’s inexorable imperialism.
Spain has a special place in the history of the European labour movement. When Franco led the forces of Spanish fascism to overthrow the elected government in the 1930s, an international brigade of volunteers fought alongside the Spaniards to save the republic. The bitterness of their defeat, compounded by Franco’s collaboration with Nazi Germany and fascist Italy during the civil war and the Second World War, made Spain and Franco outcasts even in establishment circles in Europe. The Soviet Union did not restore diplomatic relations with Spain until February 1977.
In 1973, Franco’s Prime Minister, Admiral Carrero Blanco, was assassinated, no doubt to the moderate delight of the clandestine Spanish Left and those in the European labour movement who remembered the past. But China’s response was to despatch its Prime Minister to Sr. Jaime de Ojeda to express condolences to the Spanish chargé d’affaires in Peking, an event solemnly publicized in China.  Two years later, the admiral’s master declined in health, but held off death for an extended period. A group of socialist dockers in east London endeavoured to hasten Franco’s departure by despatching him a telegram, “Die, you bastard, die!” (it was sadly refused by the telegraph authorities).
When Franco’s end finally came, there was much opposition in the British government to sending a representative to his funeral; Labour MPs boycotted the House of Commons in protest at the government’s decision to despatch a Cabinet minister. They might have quoted Byron’s comment on the burial of George the Third:
“It seem’d the mockery of hell to fold
Of the European powers, only Monaco sent its head of State; in Latin America, only Generals Banzer (of Bolivia) and Pinochet (of Chile) attended.
The People’s Republic did not send its head of State (the post had been vacant since the fall of Liu Shao-ch’i), but, as the Chinese press reported to the masses of China: “Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, Chu Teh, mourns the death of Spanish Chief of State Franco.” Wreaths were sent from Chu Teh, premier Chou, and the foreign minister; and the following day Chu Teh sent the official congratulations of the People’s Republic to King Juan Carlos on his coronation. 
Such niceties are the trivia of relations between States, but China claims to be something other than an ordinary State. In the case of Spain, it might – wrongly – have been thought to be committed to the forces fighting to overthrow Franco and his heir, the King.
(a) South-east 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, China 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.  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.”. 
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”.  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 twenty 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.  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.”  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.  Maulana Bashani might appeal directly to Mao, but Chou En-lai congratulated General Yahya Khan on “safeguarding national independence and State sovereignty”.  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.  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) The 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.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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.
Last updated on 26.1.2002