Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
THE grip of the Soviet Union on the great Chinese province of Sinkiang is now complete. The pattern of conquest is the same as that which brought Tannu Tuva and Outer Mongolia under Russian control--patient and remorseless pressure by means of commercial treaties, intrigue, propaganda and force of arms, behind a façade of pious assurances of nonintervention. That the U.S.S.R. has picked up the policy of imperial expansion in Asia where the Tsarist Government left off is now generally realized in the West, but the full story of Soviet penetration of Sinkiang has never been told. That is not surprising, since essential episodes of earlier years were concealed within secret treaties only recently brought to light, and the terms of the latest arrangements between the Kremlin and the Chinese Communist régime in China are still carefully hidden from the Chinese people and the rest of the world.
Sinkiang borders Russia for more than 1,000 miles. The Trans-Siberian Railway, with its connecting link to Tashkent in Soviet Central Asia--the Turk-Sib Railway--forms an arc around its northern and northwestern frontiers. The province is larger than France, Germany and Britain combined. It is rich in minerals, including oil, and of vital strategic importance, especially to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. In Soviet hands, it is a wedge into the heart of Asia.
The year 1928 was a turning point in the history of Sinkiang. From 1912 to 1928, the province had been administered by an able and autocratic governor, Yang Tseng-hsin, whose policy of isolation had sealed the province from foreign influence. He was assassinated on July 7, 1928, after 17 years of undisputed rule, and the ensuing period of chaos gave the Soviets an opportunity for conspiratorial aggression.
The misgovernment and oppression of Chin Shu-jen, who succeeded Yang, provoked Moslem rebellion and civil war, which lasted from 1930 to 1934. The Moslem insurrection was stiffened by an invasion of their coreligionists, the Tungans (Chinese Moslems) of Kansu, headed by a remarkable young general, Ma Chung-ying, only 23 years old. He inspired utmost devotion in his men, and was leading what promised to be a successful advance on the provincial capital when he was wounded in both legs and forced to withdraw. Meanwhile, racial animosity increased and in a short time Kazakhs, Turkis, Tungans and Kirghiz were involved and the whole province was ablaze. Chin turned to the Soviet Union for aid. Since the Moslem rebellion was a wide popular movement, Moscow might, in theory, have been expected to associate itself with the oppressed peoples. Realpolitik as practised by the Kremlin led to a different conclusion. Chin's weakness offered the possibility of an agreement for economic concessions in Sinkiang which could never have been obtained from his predecessor and could not be wrung from Nanking. Moreover, General Ma, for national and religious reasons, was strongly opposed to the Soviet Union. His advisers were Turkish, and he hoped to create a Pan-Islamic state in Central Asia. The Japanese were also supporting him, with the object of making Sinkiang a bulwark against Bolshevism.
As the price of arms to Chin, the Soviets gained his assent to a treaty which gave them far-reaching trade concessions. It was a secret agreement, concluded on October 1, 1931, between Chin's Commissioner of Foreign Affairs, Chen Ch'i-shan, and the Soviet Consul General at Tabriz, Slavutsky, who later became Ambassador to Tokyo. The text of the agreement with its four annexes[i] was never reported to Nanking, and not revealed until June 1933. The signing of an independent agreement with one of China's provinces was a violation of the country's sovereignty. (China had broken diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1929.) The agreement gave the U.S.S.R. the following privileges: 1, the right to open commercial offices in Urumchi, Chuguchak, Ili (Kuldja) and Kashgar, and to appoint representatives to enter contracts with local merchants in Turfan, Karashar, Aksu, Yarkand and Khotan; 2, the right of unrestricted movement for employees of these offices and other Soviet citizens for purposes of trade over the whole of Sinkiang. It also provided for reduction of custom duties on goods of Soviet origin, telegraphic connection between Chuguchak and Bahkti, and wireless communication between stations in Sinkiang and the U.S.S.R. In return, the treaty granted Chinese merchants dealing with goods of Chinese origin the right of transit across Siberia from Sinkiang to China proper and vice versa. The Soviets further promised to supply machinery and send technical experts for the development of Sinkiang. Obviously, Soviet influence would expand in proportion to the assistance rendered.
While Slavutsky was negotiating this agreement with the provincial government, Postnikov, the Soviet Consul at Kashgar, supplied the Civil Governor of that area, Ma Shao-wu, a Tungan, with rifles, machine guns and cartridges to carry on the revolt against that same government in the southern part of Sinkiang.[ii] Duplicity could scarcely be carried further. The reader will not be surprised to be told that this pact with Soviet Russia did not save the situation for Governor Chin, and did not end the civil war. Despite Soviet protests, Chin enrolled 1,800 White Russian émigrés under the command of Colonel Pappengut, but although the contingent proved efficient, it was unable to subdue Ma Chung-ying and his riotous followers.
Partly to counter possible penetration by Japan into northwest China, and partly as a way of getting further concessions, the Soviet Union now came forward openly on China's side, enabling 10,000 men of the North Manchurian Chinese army, who had been defeated by the Japanese and interned in Siberia in 1932, to be "repatriated" to Sinkiang. They reinforced the provincial government, but Chin, unpopular and utterly incompetent, had played out his hand. A coup d'état engineered by his own Chief of Staff on April 12, 1933, resulted in his downfall. Sheng Shih-tsai, who had received his military training in Japan, succeeded him as Border Defense Commissioner. Nanking, which could not help itself, later made the appointment official, and Sheng ruled Sinkiang for 11 years until his removal in July 1944.
In the meantime, the youthful General Ma Chung-ying gathered a large force and established his control as far as Kucheng, 126 miles east of Tihua (Urumchi). The Tungans in the north were ready to join forces with him in an attack on the capital, while Moslem chiefs in the south either openly proclaimed their allegiance or were secretly in communication with him. These were indeed troubled waters, and Moscow was fishing in them busily. In the Ili area, the Garrison Commander Chang Pei-yuan revolted, and 3,000 of his men marched on the capital. The Russians had supplied him with arms also--and when Sheng, the new Defense Commissioner, threatened on three sides and unable to win a decisive victory, appealed to them for assistance they were as obliging as they had been to his predecessor. This, plainly, was the situation they had been preparing.
In December 1933, the Soviet General Pogodin appeared on the scene to conduct negotiations. All was secret; we do not know whether any written agreement was made. But a comprehensive understanding was certainly worked out, and its result was the sovietization of the province of Sinkiang. Military, economic and political developments make plain the nature of the agreement. Early in 1934, 7,000 Soviet troops disguised in Chinese military uniforms and equipped with tanks, artillery and aircraft were smuggled into Sinkiang. General Ma's troops were badly demoralized by gas bombs dropped by the Soviet airmen. In his book "Flight of the Big Horse," Sven Hedin gives a vivid account of how 28 bombs were dropped on Korla in one day. Ma withdrew to Kashgar, and, after holding out for some time, mysteriously left for the Soviet frontier at Irkeshtan on July 16, 1934, accompanied by Constantinoff, the Secretary of the Soviet Consulate and by some members of the Soviet Trade Agency.[iii]
Under the command of General Pogodin, the Peace Preservation Corps--a counterpart of G.P.U.--was organized. The White Russian Army was purged, and Colonel Pappengut (denounced by his aide, Bukhteyev) and several of his colleagues were shot. The following passage from the former Soviet official, Alexandre Barmine, is most revealing:
The great province of Sinkiang in Western China was another object of our attention. . . . At the moment when I started the new trust, the Politburo decided to give full aid to the Governor of Sinkiang, who was besieged in his capital by a number of rebel Moslems, incited, in our opinion, by the British. The job of sending arms to Sinkiang was left to me. It turned out a very difficult task.
The capital of the province was already menaced by the rebels. The Politburo ordered two brigades of G.P.U. troops with air units of the Red Army to clear the roads and liquidate the rebellion. Meanwhile, on the order of the Politburo, we shipped a number of planes and bombs to the borders of Sinkiang. There they were stuck for some time, as the road to Urumchi, capital of Sinkiang, was blocked by the rebels. Finally the command of the Red Army Air Force operating there took charge of this shipment. They "delivered" our cargoes, consigned to the Governor, by dropping the bombs on the rebel forces gathered round the capital, and by landing the planes right on the airfield of the besieged fortress. I was instructed to send the bill for the bombs, as well as the other goods, to the Governor.
Breaking through Urumchi, the Soviet troops swept the rebels before them. Soon the pro-Soviet governor of Sinkiang was firmly established in power.
According to Stalin's plan, Sinkiang was to become a sphere of exclusive Russian influence and to serve as a bulwark for our power in the East. We had to equip 10,000 Sinkiang troops completely, from boots to Kuomintang insignia. Soviet advisers, who actually exercised the authority of ministers, were placed at the Governor's elbow. A commission headed by Stalin's brother-in-law, Svanidze, was sent to Sinkiang to draw up a plan of reconstruction for the province. My trust was instructed to send engineers to build roads, airdromes and hangars all over Sinkiang.[iv]
An armored unit of the Soviet Army, 3,000 strong, dressed in Chinese uniforms and known as "Altai Volunteers," was stationed at Hami, 350 miles east of Tihua, guarding the approach from Kansu. The Soviet Government maintained that these troops, stationed on Chinese soil, were there to forestall possible Japanese attack from Inner Mongolia. They, of course, served to keep Sheng firmly under Russian control.
Economic penetration was no less flagrant. The completion in 1930 of the Turk-Sib Railway, which flanked the Chinese frontier in many places, had put the Soviet Union in position to exploit the markets of Sinkiang. It soon came to enjoy a monopoly of Sinkiang's trade, obtained exclusive mining concessions, including those for oil and gold, and introduced its own Soviet experts to investigate mineral resources. The establishment of commercial offices was followed by the influx of a host of technicians and economic and political "advisers." An "anti-imperialist" movement was launched to facilitate this expansion by subjecting British and Indian traders to inconveniences at the hands of customs officials and police; in March 1939, they were requested to surrender their goods and leave the country. The British Consulate General at Kashgar was boycotted and its couriers were molested along the route from India.[v]
A Russian loan of 5,000,000 gold rubles was negotiated in 1933-34, though the contract was not signed until May 16, 1935, owing to repeated protests from Nanking. According to Sheng, the Soviet Consul General assured him that in accordance with confidential instructions from Moscow, the loan would be granted if Sheng would be friendly with the Soviet Union and "anti-Japanese." Svanidze, Stalin's brother-in-law and President of the Soviet Bank for Foreign Trade, was sent to Sinkiang to sign the agreement. The loan was to be paid with livestock. There were no secret clauses, but what the Soviet Union had loaned turned out to be silver, not gold rubles, which could not be circulated.[vi]
Soviet economic interests were closely linked with political activities. As a result of this loan, financial sections of the five Soviet consulates were reorganized as offices in charge of trade and all financial matters. Soviet advisers stationed in the office of the Commissioner of Finance, as well as in the local administrative agencies, exercised strict control over the financial affairs of this Chinese province. No checks could be drawn without their approval.
The upshot of all this was complete political domination. Under Soviet tutelage, Sheng geared his policies to the slogans of "anti-imperialism" and "kinship to Sovietism." Soviet advisers held key positions in his administration and became unchallenged masters in Sinkiang. The right-wing nationalists in the administration and in the army were purged. Spies and agents supplied a highly organized system of intelligence: liquidations and strange disappearances became the order of the day. Sinkiang became a police state on the Soviet model. The postmaster at Urumchi gave the following advice to Sven Hedin: "Never talk to anybody; let the others talk, listen, but appear indifferent; believe nobody--they are all liars, spies, informers and traitors. Any one may disappear at any time, and it is best not to ask where he has gone."[vii]
Hypocrisy put the finishing touch on the picture. On January 22, 1935, Foreign Minister Hirota of Japan spoke in the Diet on the subject of Soviet encroachment in Sinkiang. Molotov replied to these charges in his speech to the Seventh All-Union Congress of the Soviets:
It remains for me to say a couple of words on the slanderous rumors about the sovietization of Sinkiang. . . . I consider it necessary to emphasize the real Soviet policy toward China: the Soviet Union considers the seizure of foreign territories incompatible with its policy, and is an absolute adherent of the independence, integrity, and sovereignty of China over all of her parts including Sinkiang.
Japan's invasion of China on July 7, 1937, opened the door to the completion of the Soviet design. Six weeks later the Soviet Union and China signed a pact of nonaggression. By June 16, 1939, Russia had granted China credits totalling U.S. $250,000,000--very helpful to China's war effort--and a commercial treaty signed on that date by A. L. Mikoyan and Sun Fo further strengthened Sino-Soviet friendship. The Soviets gave China more material assistance than did Britain and the United States together at this time. But in dealings with Soviet Russia, an offer of a nonaggression pact is a warning signal. Now that the U.S.S.R. and the National Government were on very friendly terms the conquest of Sinkiang went forward rapidly. In November 1940, a series of unconditional demands for the exploitation of the mines was presented to Sheng and signed by him as "Representative of the Government of Sinkiang," and by Bakulin and Karpov as "Representatives of the Government of the U.S.S.R." on November 26, 1940. This procedure of negotiating with a local governor for concessions which he had no power to grant was the one followed by the Japanese in China, and was, of course, utterly illegal. These demands were a closely-guarded secret, still largely unknown. The following are some of the most pertinent clauses:
ARTICLE 1. The Government of Sinkiang agrees to extend to the Government of U.S.S.R. exclusive rights to prospect for, investigate and exploit tin mines and their ancillary minerals within the territory of Sinkiang.
ARTICLE 2. The Government of U.S.S.R. will enjoy the following rights in the territory of Sinkiang:
(a) To exploit and investigate deposits of tin and its ancillary minerals and to make adequate geological and geographical surveys and carry on other work; . . .
(d) To utilize all natural resources to obtain power, with the right to install hydraulic power and other plants;
(e) To construct power stations, including hydraulic power stations, and to erect networks of transmission lines, transformers, etc.;
(f) To supply the needs of the concessions, the right to make use of all existing means of transportation in the territory of Sinkiang, the right to construct roads and necessary building equipment for the roads, including railways, and to organize and utilize all kinds of means of transportation; . . .
(h) To import without hindrance into the territory of Sinkiang all necessary engineering equipment and material, to repair and rebuild all machines and equipment and parts thereof, and to transmit the same from one enterprise to another;
(j) To employ laborers in Sinkiang and to employ engineers, technicians and workers from the U.S.S.R.; . . .
ARTICLE 4. For the implementation of the provisions of this Agreement on Concessions, the Government of U.S.S.R. will establish a trust to prospect for and exploit tin mines and their ancillary minerals, to be known as "Sin-tin," enjoying all the rights and privileges of an independent juridical person. Its operations will be regulated by a constitution which will be enacted in accordance with the legislative procedures of the U.S.S.R. "Sin-tin" shall have the right to establish without hindrance branch offices, sub-branch offices, and agencies within the whole territory of Sinkiang.
ARTICLE 5. During the period of validity of the present Agreement, the Government of Sinkiang shall guarantee the acquisition of lands, including the felling of timbers, the mining of coal and areas for the procurement of building materials which may be necessary for the carrying on of the various kinds of works referred to in this Agreement. The Government of Sinkiang shall remove all the population residing in such areas as may have been allotted to "Sin-tin." Such areas of land shall be allotted on the application of "Sin-tin." . . .
ARTICLE 7. During the first five-year period, commencing from the day of the signature of this Agreement, "Sin-tin" shall pay the Government of Sinkiang 5 percent of the tin and its ancillary useful minerals mined in Sinkiang . . . .
On the other hand, the products to be paid to the Government of Sinkiang in accordance with Paragraph 1 of this Article shall be sold to the Government of the U.S.S.R.; at the price of delivery at the Soviet-Sinkiang border, the said price to be at par with the average annual price (the year preceding the sale) of the principal centers of the world market for tin and its ancillary useful minerals. . . .
ARTICLE 8. In compensation for its privilege of exemption from customs duties, "Sin-tin" shall contribute annually to the Government of Sinkiang a sum equivalent to 2 percent of the price of the products exported by "Sin-tin," the price to be fixed in accordance with the provisions of Article 7 of this Agreement. . . .
ARTICLE 10. "Sin-tin" shall have the right to deal with all its capital, to raise loans, to have current accounts with banks in either local or foreign currencies, to carry on within or without the territory of Sinkiang remittance and exchange operations; to exchange foreign currencies into Sinkiang currency, et vice versa.
ARTICLE 12. For the protection of its houses, buildings, factories, plants, godowns, etc. and to ensure the security of its transport service, "Sin-tin" shall have the right to establish armed guards.
ARTICLE 15. The period of validity of this Agreement shall be 50 years, commencing from the date of signature.[viii] . . .
This document, imposed, we may note once more, when China was engaged in a life and death struggle with Japan and just after the Soviets had signed a nonaggression pact with China, may be supplemented with another which throws some light on the methods which the Soviet Government and its representatives Bakulin and Karpov used to force the governor of the province to accept these demands. Sheng has given the following account:
In September 1938, when I went to the Soviet Union and saw Stalin, I again brought up the question of my joining the Party. They were agreeable, however, that I should become a member of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party first and then have my membership transferred to the Chinese Communist Party. . . . But for a long time afterwards no one attended to the transfer, and I could not help becoming suspicious.
Unexpectedly, in November 1940, the Soviet Union sent an emissary to Sinkiang with a most confidential document addressed to me concerning the lease of the Sinkiang tin mines, the terms of which were most ridiculous and unreasonable, and most aggressive in character. At that time, I demanded that the terms be revised and that the duration of the lease be shortened. I was told by the emissary, however, that not a single word was alterable and that, being a member of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party, I should obey the orders of the Party and should struggle more vigorously in the interests of the Soviet Union.
The Altai rebellion was then in the making. Further, I was ill. Under the circumstances, I was obliged to affix my seal to the document. In addition, they wanted me to have the seals of the Provincial Government and the Border Defense Commissioner's Office attached to it. But I refused. This agreement was initiated and presented to me by the Soviet Government. It was, however, stated in the document that it was concurred to by the Provincial Government of Sinkiang, which of course was contrary to the facts. I demanded a correction, but was told that I should let it go and that I would understand the whole thing when I saw Stalin later on. I also demanded that the exploitation of the tin mines be made a joint Sinkiang-Soviet enterprise. To this the emissary said, I ought to remember on the one hand, that I was a member of the U.S.S.R. Communist Party, and that on the other during the rebellion of Ma Chung-ying, much of Soviet blood was shed in Sinkiang for which Russia had not yet been compensated.[ix]
As early as 1935 the Russians had begun prospecting for oil at Tu Shantze, near Wusu, 235 miles west of Urumchi, without any written agreement with the provincial government. According to an estimate made in 1937, the oil deposits totalled 120,000,000 tons. Two years later a refinery was built, and, by the spring of 1942, 35 wells had been drilled with a daily production of 67.3 tons. Probably with a view to legalizing the undertaking, Dekanozov, the Vice Commissar for Foreign Affairs, presented Sheng with a series of demands for oil concessions on the occasion of a visit to Sinkiang in July 1942. The 18 articles included the following stipulations:
(1) The oil fields were to be owned jointly by a trust to be known as "Sinkiang-Soviet Oil Corporation," managed and controlled by a General Manager and a Chief Engineer, both of whom were to be appointed by the People's Commissariat for Petroleum Industry in Moscow.
(2) The U.S.S.R. would lend the provincial government a sum of money at 4.5 percent interest for a period of three years (April 1, 1942-April 1, 1945) to enable it to refund on specified dates half of the expenses for the equipment installed at Tu Shan-tze up to January 1, 1942.
(3) The amount to be refunded by the provincial government together with the interest would be used by the U.S.S.R. to buy cattle, wool and gold in Sinkiang, the export of which would be free of duty.
(4) The provincial government would guarantee the free use of land for the purpose of exploring for and exploitation of oil, as well as for free use of construction materials and labor. All machinery and materials imported from the U.S.S.R. for the use of the Corporation would be exempt from custom and other duties.
(5) The People's Commissariat for Petroleum Industry at Moscow would enjoy the right of planning and giving technical assistance in the development of oil and its allied industries, for the dispatch of Soviet advisers and technicians and for the training of the necessary number of Chinese workers and cadres, the expenses of which were to be paid by the Corporation.
(6) One-half of the output would be purchased by the provincial government, the other half by the U.S.S.R. at a price to be agreed upon by both sides, the export of the output to be exempt from custom duties.
(7) The term of the agreement would be 25 years, to be renewed thereafter every five years as long as the assets of the Corporation were not redeemed by the provincial government. In the redemption of the assets, no foreign financial assistance would be permitted, nor could the rights be transferred or sold in whole or in part to the government, individuals or corporations of a third country.[x]
The move was not well timed. Contrary to Soviet expectations, the pressure thus brought on Sheng drove him closer to Chungking. He had been shocked and disillusioned by a series of events which included the murder of his brother and an alleged plot on his own life. He describes his response in the following words:
The sincerity of my motives was not only unrewarded, on the contrary, my close affinity with the Soviets had been used, whenever possible, to bring destruction to Sinkiang.
The many sporadic and abortive uprisings were cases in point. After investigation, every one of them was found to be a result of Soviet machination. The insurrection scheduled to take place at the time of the April 12th Conference (1942) was the most malicious and heart-rending of all. It was well timed and planned and participated in by a greater number of important politicians and soldiers than had ever taken part in any uprising before, by all the Soviet nationals in Sinkiang, including consuls, advisers and instructors, as well as all the Chinese Communist workers in Sinkiang. Its program was extremely ambitious. The blacklist not only included myself, but also all the important loyal political and military leaders. All were to be assassinated. The existing administration was to be overthrown and a Soviet régime, independent of the Chinese Government and under the wings of Soviets and the Chinese Communists, was to be instituted. . . . Fortunately, as a result of an investigation following the assassination of Brigade Commander Sheng Shih-ch'i, the plot was nipped in the bud.[xi]
After the plot miscarried, Sheng waited for a suitable opportunity to throw off the Soviet yoke. By the end of June, the Soviet armies began their retreat in the Caucasus and their collapse seemed imminent. Sheng shifted his allegiance from Moscow to Chungking. On July 17, he wrote Molotov, then Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs, that since Sinkiang was a province of China, it would be more appropriate for the U.S.S.R. to negotiate directly with the National Government for the oil concessions. On August 20, Molotov reluctantly agreed.
A series of conferences on Sinkiang oil concessions were held, from October 1942 to March 1943, between Alexander Paniushkin, the Soviet Ambassador, and the Chinese authorities at Chungking. As might have been expected, no progress was made in these protracted negotiations. Meanwhile, Sheng abrogated the tin-mines agreement, demanded that the Soviet concessionaires withdraw from Sinkiang, and arrested Communists and leftist officials in his administration.
In the circumstances, Moscow had no choice but to yield. On April 10, 1943, Sheng was informed by the Soviet Consul General that, on instructions from Moscow, all work on the tin mines would be stopped, all technical personnel withdrawn and all machinery dismantled. Similarly, Paniushkin abruptly broke off the oil negotiations, notifying the Chinese Foreign Office that all installations at Tu-Shan-tze, including the drilling and refining equipment, would be removed. The regiment of Soviet troops maintained at Hami was withdrawn to Outer Mongolia. The Sovsintorg (Soviet-Sinkiang Trade) and its various agencies were closed. All Soviet "advisers" disappeared.
However, the Soviet evacuation was merely temporary--a tactical move. When the defeat of Nazi Germany was assured at the end of 1943, plans for the penetration of Sinkiang were put in action again. As usual, aggression was cloaked by a move to disarm suspicion. On November 2, 1943, the Soviets surprised the Chinese by offering to sell all the equipment of the oil wells which could not be moved for U.S. $2,012,630, and all buildings on the site for U.S. $490,000. The total purchase price was reduced to $1,700,000, which the Chinese Government, in February 1944, paid to the Chase Bank in New York to the credit of the Soviet State Bank. The Chinese Government hoped that this was the end of Soviet intervention in Sinkiang.
But trouble soon began again, this time in the areas rich with deposits of tungsten ore, one of the "ancillary" minerals stipulated in the tin-mines agreement. While a limited amount of tungsten comes from the tin districts its main source in Sinkiang is the Altai area, on the Chinese side of the Russian-Chinese border, as well as in the districts of Fu-yun (Kokotohai), south of Altai. It occurs on and near the surface, and can be mined by simple methods. The Chinese Government discovered that without its approval or even its knowledge, more than 150 tons of tungsten had been sent to the Soviet Union from April 1941 to April 1943. More than 60 engineers and technicians, together with 3,000 drafted miners, were engaged in this work, under cover of "geological surveys."
These areas became the scene of armed revolts by the non-Chinese population. While Moscow remained officially aloof, Soviet emissaries set up puppets, supplied ammunition to the rebels, and helped create border incidents. From 1944 to 1948, rebellions and riots broke out not only in the north, but also in the south of Sinkiang. On both sides of the Chinese-Soviet frontier, in the Tadjik, Kazakh and Kirghiz Republics of the U.S.S.R. as in Sinkiang, there are large masses of Moslems speaking the same Turki language and belonging to the same race. The situation was one inevitably breeding political unrest. But a brief review of events of the major outbreaks shows how the Soviets used the ethnic situation to further their aggressive purposes.
1. Kazakhs' Revolt: As soon as the tide of war on the Western front turned in favor of the Soviets, a revolt of the nomadic Kazakhs of the Altai area broke out in February 1944. In support of the rebellion led by Usman, the Kazakh chief, mysterious formations of Soviet airplanes based on Outer Mongolia severely bombed Chinese government troops. Supplied with arms and ammunition from Outer Mongolia and assisted by Outer Mongolian troops under the command of Soviet officers, Usman succeeded in wiping out the entire Chinese garrison of three regiments. Charging that Chinese troops had violated the territory of Outer Mongolia, the Tass news agency stated on April 3 that "the Soviet Government will be forced to give the Government of the Mongolian People's Republic every necessary help and support." The Chinese Government thereupon demanded an explanation from the Soviet Ambassador. None was offered.
Meanwhile, Vice President Wallace was sent on a special mission to Soviet Asia in the spring of 1944. It was reported at the time that it was on his advice that Sheng was removed, in July, from the governorship. With this gesture to the Soviets, China hoped that peace along the Sino-Soviet border would be restored.
2. Ining Incident: In spite of Sheng's removal, another revolt by the non-Chinese population occurred on November 7, 1944, in Ili near the Soviet border. Aided by forces from across the frontier, the rebels drove out the Chinese garrison and came within 70 miles of the capital. Thus, the whole of Ili-Tacheng-Altai--known as the "Three Areas," and rich in mineral resources--was now under Soviet control. A Soviet-oriented puppet régime known as the "Republic of Eastern Turkestan" was set up, headed by Ashmed Djan, who kept his Soviet citizenship and bore the Soviet name Kasimov.[xii]
In the Sino-Soviet Treaty of August 14, 1945, the Soviet Union had pledged that "as to the latest events in Sinkiang, it has no intention of interfering with China's internal affairs." Usman, who at first coöperated with the Ili rebels but later broke with them and came over to the Chinese side, describes thus the Soviet rôle in the events which took place a month after the Treaty was signed:
On September 6, 1945, 6,000 Ili troops arrived at Ch'eng-hua, the capital of Altai. They wore Russian uniforms and spoke Russian. . . . The troops were commanded by a Lieutenant-General Birkdorff and under him were two regimental commanders called Liesskin and Dostgonoff. I coöperated with these people until April 1, 1946, when I left for Pei-ta-shan. A Russian police chief called Sembayeff came with the Ili troops. They summoned me to a meeting in Ili and demanded that I bring all my Kazakh troops to Ili, while they garrisoned Altai themselves. This I refused to do. For this reason, and because they started to take Kazakh women to Ili, I broke with them. Another demand that I refused to comply with was that we should surrender all our arms. The Ili people also took away 28,600 ounces of gold from the Ashan Gold Mining Bureau which rightly belonged to the government. The Russians are now in charge of the gold and wolfram mines in Altai and are increasing production daily.[xiii]
3. Raids on Southern Sinkiang: In the autumn of 1945, there were unexpected air raids on posts and villages in the Chinese Pamirs and along the frontier of southwestern Sinkiang. The raids were made by planes, based on Qizil Rabat, a military post in Soviet Tajikistan.[xiv] A revolt by the Tajiks threatened Kashgar, captured Kaghilik (Yeh-cheng) and invested Yarkand (Sache). Chinese officials in various posts were murdered and the Chinese garrison driven out. According to a British Consul General at Kashgar, a considerable number of the so-called rebels came from across the border, and the arms and ammunition for the revolt came from the same source.[xv]
4. Peitashan Affair: It was Usman who reported to the Chinese Government how tungsten mines, and also gold mines, had been secretly exploited by the Russians with armed miners. Once he had turned against the Soviets they spared no effort to destroy him. An attack by the puppet régime compelled him to retreat to Peitashan (Baitik Bogda), and troops of Outer Mongolia were then ordered to cross the Chinese border in pursuit of his forces. The "Peitashan affair" was the result. On June 5, 1947, Outer Mongolian troops attacked the Chinese positions in support of the ground attack. When the Chinese Foreign Office charged that Soviet aircraft had taken part in the incident, the Tass news agency stated that the charges "did not correspond to the facts and constituted a provocative fabrication." In spite of this denial, fighting was resumed in July and again in January and February 1948. The area is more than 200 kilometers outside the Outer Mongolian border, and contains uranium deposits.
While all these attacks were going on--some intended to seize vital areas, others probably diversionary--the Soviets had resumed the extraction of oil and tungsten. Work in the oil fields was resumed on July 1, 1947, after Wusu had fallen into the hands of the rebels. New machinery from the Soviet Union was installed and a Russian Tartar appointed as General Manager. The daily output was reported to be 20 tons of gasoline and 30 tons of petroleum, all exported to Alma Ata via Ili and Holkutz. More intensive efforts were directed to the mining of tungsten and other metals in the "Three Areas." According to information received in 1948 by the Chinese Ministry of National Defense, operation of the tungsten mines in the districts of Wen-chuan and Po-lo went forward as follows: 1945, 150 tons extracted, with 3,000 workers; 1946, 450 tons with 10,000 workers; 1947, 1,000 tons with 20,000 workers. More than 1,000 Soviet technicians, 3,000 workers and 120 armed guards were employed in the districts of Fu-yun and Cheng-hua, bordering Outer Mongolia. Besides the tin and tungsten, deposits of diamonds, gold, bismuth, beryl, talc, asbestos, gypsum and quicksilver have been found. Samples of each metal or saline deposit were collected by Chinese refugees and identified by the National Resources Commission at Nanking. As early as November 4, 1946, China had proposed measures for Sinkiang-Soviet trade and economic coöperation, as a countermove against Soviet encroachment. This proposal remained unanswered until January 24, 1949, when the Soviet Consul General offered the Commissioner of Foreign Affairs at Urumchi an outline for a three-year trade agreement. The Soviet Union asked the privilege of importing and exporting freely in Sinkiang. No corresponding privileges would be granted to China--a provision which meant that the monopolistic Soviet trade agency could impose any terms it wished on individual Chinese traders. The Soviets further proposed that a new 50-year agreement be concluded, setting up Sino-Soviet joint stock companies to explore and exploit the mineral and oil resources of Sinkiang. The U.S.S.R. would be granted rights not only to the resources already known, but also to those not yet explored. The proposal also specified that the general managers of these companies would be Soviet nationals appointed by Moscow.[xvi]
While China was anxious to develop trade relations with the Soviet Union, she did not want to hand over half the oil and mineral resources of Sinkiang. The negotiations dragged on from March to August--and then the story came abruptly to its climax. On September 25-26, 1949, the military and political leaders of Sinkiang severed relations with the Central Government and formally joined the Communists. What the Nationalist Government had refused, the Chinese Communists conceded. Mao Tse-tung's two months' visit in Moscow resulted in the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance. A Sinkiang mission headed by Seyfuddin, one of the Ili rebels and now Vice Chairman of the Sinkiang Provincial Government, had arrived at Moscow on January 30, 1950. On March 27 agreements for two Sino-Soviet joint stock companies were signed, one for oil and the other for non-ferrous and rare metals. Under the terms of these agreements, valid for 30 years, half of the minerals and petroleum extracted in Sinkiang will go to the U.S.S.R. China's sovereignty is thus officially relinquished. Details are, of course, buried in secret clauses, but it seems safe to assume that they follow the pattern of Soviet Russian demands in the past. Future events may bring them to light.
While the above agreements were taking shape, two other agreements were reported to have been concluded. An Indian source asserted that the Soviet Union had forced Communist China to sign a secret pact giving the Russians full control of the uranium-bearing areas. Such areas have been declared "closed territory" and only Soviet technicians, experts and workers are engaged in mining uranium. The ore reportedly is being dispatched to an atomic plant in Soviet Asia for processing.[xvii] Another agreement covers the construction of railway lines linking Sinkiang with the Turk-Sib railway. To that end, a railway line from Tacheng (Chuguchak) to Wusu is reported to be under construction. The Lanchow-Sinkiang Railway, a part of this network, is also being built from Lanchow northwestward. These lines will be a controlling factor in the development of Sinkiang. According to Soviet plans, Wusu will be the main junction point, from which one line will run from Ili to Alma Ata and another from Tacheng to Sergiopol.
With the Chinese Communists dominant on the mainland and with Soviet puppets at the head of the Provincial Administration, the Soviet Union is now master of Sinkiang.
[i] cf. "China and the Soviet Union," by Ai-ch'ên Wu. New York: John Day, 1950, p. 376-379.
[ii] "In Kashgar, December 1927-October 1931," by Dr. Cherbakoff. Royal Central Asian Journal, October 1933, p. 532-543.
[iii] Royal Central Asian Journal, January 1935, p. 102.
[iv] "One Who Survived," by Alexandre Barmine. New York: Putnam, 1945, p. 231-232.
[v] The Times, London, March 25, 1939.
[vi] Interview with Sheng by an official of the Chinese Foreign Office, March 2, 1950.
[vii] "Silk Road," by Sven A. Hedin. New York: Dutton, 1938, p. 144-145.
[viii] Original agreement (photostatic copy in Russian) in "Soviet Economic Aggression in Sinkiang" (in Chinese), published by the Chinese Foreign Office, Taipei, Taiwan, 1950, p. 45-53.
[ix] Sheng's letter to Chiang Kai-shek dated July 7, 1942; ibid. p. 64-66.
[x] Original draft agreement (in Russian) on file in the Chinese Ministry of Economic Affairs, Taipeh; ibid, p. 82-87.
[xi] Sheng's letter, op. cit. p. 61-62.
[xii] Cf. "Soviet Russia and the Far East," by David Dallin. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948, p. 366.
[xiii] "Some Notes on the Kazakhs of Sinkiang," by Ian Morrison. Royal Central Asian Journal, January 1949, p. 70.
[xiv] "The New Dominion," by Major N. L. D. McLean. Royal Central Asian Journal, April 1948, p. 133.
[xv] "Mountains of Tartary," by Eric Shipton. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1950, p. 52-55; also "Antique Land," by Diana Shipton. London: T. Brun, 1950, p. 129.
[xvi] Telegram from the Commission of Foreign Affairs at Urumchi to the Chinese Foreign Office.
[xvii] "Communist New Deal in Sinkiang," by Amar Lahiri, United Asia, v. 3, no. 2, 1950, p. 141-144.