Courtesy Reuters

Tension on the Sino-soviet Border

In the past, when a bitter quarrel broke out between neighboring nations, rival territorial claims were often the underlying cause. France and Germany remained hostile to each other for a long period over the question of Alsace and Lorraine; the slogan "Italia Irredenta" so embittered the relations between Italy and Austria that the residue of this feeling contributes to the present unrest in the Italian Tyrol. China's conflict with her great southern neighbor, India, along the disputed Himalayan boundary seems to conform to the classic pattern of territorial disputes (although the Indians do not altogether agree).

In the early stages of the Sino-Soviet dispute, on the other hand, ideology seemed to be the only point at issue. Russia was denounced as revisionist for believing in the false theory of a "parliamentary road" to socialism and faintheartedness in backing revolutionary wars. Her boundaries with China seemed no part of the problem. Recently, however, the Russians and the Chinese have themselves hinted at incidents along their common frontier, which extends from Mongolia eastward 1500 miles to the sea, and westward from Mongolia 1200 miles to the Wakh panhandle of the Afghan frontier. (See map.) If they had kept silent, it is unlikely that the rest of the world would have had any information about what was going on in these vast areas so far from Western observation.

While it is not at all clear how much credence can be given to the mutual accusations of China and the U.S.S.R., it is at least probable that some real friction exists. What began as an ideological dispute may have become inflamed by territorial ambitions or resentments. If so, it is necessary to consider the problem from three aspects: the historical basis for a territorial dispute between China and Russia; whether there is a real danger of a broader war; and what would be the objectives of either side.


From a historical point of view the Chinese have several just grievances, at least in

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