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UCLA Historical Journal

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‘Father-and-Son’ or Communist ‘Brothers’? The Significance of ‘Socialist Solidarity’ in the Sino-Soviet Split


The split between Communism’s most powerful exponents, the USSR and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), shocked socialists and non-socialists alike when it became public in the early 1960s. Enjoying vastly greater access to relevant documents, many historians today lend credence to a domestic politics interpretation of the split, with strong emphasis upon the role of ideology in shaping Soviet and Chinese decision making. This ideology-informed approach, however, should extend beyond domestic politics to encompass alliance relations as well. Surprisingly little attention has been dedicated to the differing ways in which Beijing understood its alliance relationship, as a mediating variable between the domestic and international realms. This paper examines how Chinese perceptions of the alliance shifted over time, with particular emphasis on the period between 1960 and 1962, an interregnum that is not particularly well explained in the existing literature. Throughout the life of the alliance there was a fundamental misunderstanding between the two sides over obligations of “international socialist solidarity”; such misperceptions would ultimately prove fatal as the Chinese came to question not simply the policies of the Soviets, but the very legitimacy of Soviet Union as a socialist state.

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