Among the issues on which Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill differed, none was more pregnant with meaning for the future than their respective assessments of the coming international role of China. The American President saw China as a potential major power, a force that would bulk large in the postwar era, particularly in Asia. The British Prime Minister regarded China as an "emerging society," to use the vernacular of today, one certain to be beset by multiple internal problems for the foreseeable future and hence incapable of sustaining a consistent, forceful international position. In retrospect, one can say that vital elements of truth lay with both assessments, and from this fact stem the complexities of Chinese foreign policy today.

At the outset, therefore, let us focus briefly upon those contradictory elements of power and weakness that give to China her unique qualities, and shape in such considerable measure Chinese attitudes and policies in the international arena. After two decades of being consigned to the role of outlaw among nations, the People's Republic of China with dramatic suddenness has been elevated to the status of great power in the United Nations, achieved near-universal diplomatic recognition, and even acquired client states in the fashion of other major powers. Nor are the recent changes confined to status. China now visibly possesses one of the world's significant military forces, with rapidly expanding nuclear as well as conventional capacities. To the extent that power is psychological, moreover, the Chinese leaders appear to have adjusted to the role of "world leadership" with minimal difficulty. Indeed, some would assert that given China's historic cultural traditions and the intense nationalist tides currently running, this was the easiest of all adjustments. The present Chinese political elite are proud men, determined to avenge China's past humiliations in the briefest possible time. In the fashion of the Meiji leaders of late nineteenth-century Japan, they want a "rich country-strong soldiery" so that they can face the world on at least equal terms. Meanwhile, they have shown little hesitation in expressing themselves eloquently on a wide range of global issues, and accepting command responsibility on the few occasions when the opportunity presented itself.

It is symbolic of recent developments that presidents, prime ministers and emperors now visit Peking in a steady stream, and represent a wide political spectrum. The leaders of the United States and Western Europe have made the pilgrimage, as have those of Iran, Greece and Ethiopia, to mention but a few-taking their places in the guest rolls beside such "old friends" as the Albanians, North Koreans and North Vietnamese. Nor are the visits confined to political leaders. Americans, Europeans and Japanese from various circles, together with their counterparts from the Third World, come in great numbers as guests of China. Peking has become an international crossroads, with only the Russians and their closest supporters currently unwelcome. The mystique of Chinese authority and power is correspondingly enhanced.

Yet uncertainty continues to hover over the Chinese domestic scene. How could it be otherwise in a society of 750 million, still in the preliminary stages of its struggle toward political stability, economic modernization and social change? The big questions that relate to China's future remain unanswered, and more than that, unanswerable. On the political front, the issues cover a wide gamut: the training of new elites in a society professing egalitarianism; authority relationships among center, region and locality in a system with strong centrist proclivities; and above all, the character of top leadership after the first-generation revolutionaries have passed from the scene.

The Tenth Party Congress has come and gone, giving us painfully few clues as to the chief political actors a few years hence, the character of the institutions they will operate, or the nature of the policies they will execute. The Congress of August 24-28, 1973, in comparison with other recent party congresses (in 1956 and 1969), was highly secret, very brief, and remarkable for the sparse, laconic manner in which vital issues were presented to the Chinese public and the world. Moreover, the most dramatic event of the Congress, the emergence of a young Shanghai cadre of worker background from a relatively modest party position to that of Number Three, at least nominally standing next to Mao and Chou, raises far more questions about the political future than it answers.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, solid gains have been achieved, and there are signs that the present economic system can be a viable one if relative political stability is maintained and no massive errors are made. Nevertheless, foreign observers and Chinese leaders alike recognize that the gains thus far are marginal in proportion to requirements, that the line between production and population increases remains a narrow one and that, in the vital agricultural arena, dependence upon climatic conditions continues to be depressingly great. In sum, economic modernization for China even under optimal conditions is a task of decades, and it is by no means certain that conditions will be uniformly optimal.

It is thus abundantly clear that most of the critical problems confronting other emerging states are present in China, exacerbated in certain instances by the size, complexity and economic backwardness of this massive society. Those who bet on China's success in overcoming domestic obstacles-and they are many-tend to rest their case at least as much upon the capacities of the Chinese people as upon those of the system under which they live. Be that as it may, the prevailing domestic situation bears heavily upon Chinese foreign policies in a variety of ways. It contributes to the element of insecurity and defensiveness, particularly vis-à-vis the two great powers, that stands in juxtaposition to those airs of superiority and assuredness historically associated both with China and with Marxism. It also makes logical China's identification with the rest of the emerging world. And it adds to the premium upon a minimal-risk foreign policy, one having due respect for the nation's fragile political and economic condition.

Yet another major effect of China's domestic weakness upon her foreign policy is sometimes overlooked. For more than a decade, foreign policy has been a weapon, occasionally a key issue, in the bitter, deadly struggle within China's ruling circles. A legacy of arguments and positions has been established. Current foreign policies and pronouncements are influenced, and in some measure bound, by this fact, the more so because future internecine battles are anticipated. Hence, foreign policies must be fashioned with one eye to a shaky domestic political scene, at a time when no full consensus upon basic policies has been achieved.

So a curious mixture of power and weakness operates in contrapuntal fashion upon China's attitudes and policies. If power is defined as the capacity to influence events and affect responses, the role of the People's Republic of China in the world today is a substantial one. At nearly every point, however, the weaknesses associated with the birth pangs of a new nation place their imprint upon policy, affecting substance and style alike.

Another basic factor involving contemporary China must also be accorded recognition, one not anticipated by either Roosevelt or Churchill. The People's Republic of China is a socialist state which proclaims itself the upholder of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung's Thought. It is now customary to downgrade the importance of ideology in the foreign policies of Communist states. To some extent, this is justified. Many of China's policies, like those of the Soviet Union, stem from what we loosely call national interests, and are advanced irrespective of the contradictions they may pose to Marxist tenets.

In at least two important respects, however, ideology exerts its influence. First, all policies must be continuously rationalized with reference to the particular Weltanschauung under which a Communist society is expected to operate. At the very least, this affects the vocabulary of presentation, and hence the tone and style of policy. It is a central reason why cold-war terminology is more easily abandoned by democratic than by Communist states. Moreover, ideology cannot help but affect more fundamental matters, including the patterns of logic and reasoning that are applied to the construction and defense of foreign policy.

In addition, ideology-more specifically, contemporary Marxist ideology-lends itself perfectly to the extensive use of certain techniques in international relations. Drawing upon the distinction between state and party, policy-makers think in terms of three basic relationships in pursuit of their goals: state-to-state, people-to-people, and comrade-to-comrade relations, in the nearly endless permutations possible, provide a flexibility not easily matched by more prosaic diplomacy-albeit a flexibility laced with contradictions. The People's Republic, as we shall see, has grounded its foreign policies on the interplay of these three relationships.


Thus, in any analysis of Chinese foreign policy, three massive forces, those of nationalism, emergence and ideology, must be kept constantly in mind, with the effort to accord to each its appropriate weight and coloration. (Nationalism as used here should be understood to include those elements of Chinese tradition or political culture that have been transmitted in some form into the dynamics of the modern state, influencing both attitudes and actions.) These constitute the wellsprings from which all policies flow, the primordial sources giving to each policy its raison d'être.

Yet, a single issue has dominated Chinese foreign policy so formidably in recent years as to overshadow all others, namely, relations with the Soviet Union. This is the specific issue which has evoked sharp disagreements within China's top leadership for nearly two decades and been instrumental in shaping Peking's varied responses to the world since the mid-1950s.

The basic history of the conflict is now well known. Its genesis and evolution can be put succinctly as follows: Two major societies, seeking to coexist in close proximity, shared a common commitment to Marxism-Leninism and were thus "Communist," as that term is currently used, but they also shared a history of troubled relations and a deep ethnic consciousness. They differed, moreover, in political culture, the timing of revolution, stages of development, and levels of power. Elite perceptions of national interest were thus likely to differ, and this in turn led to the formulation of different policies. Because of the requirements of the Communist movement, moreover, both felt the necessity of defending those policies on ideological as well as pragmatic grounds. The legitimacy of each regime came to be challenged, with arguments over orthodoxy versus heresy moving to center stage; domestic politics became inextricably connected with Sino-Soviet bilateral relations. Finally, from a multiplicity of issues one became dominant, namely, basic security.

This analysis, however, needs a word of caution. Although strong potentialities for conflict certainly existed from the beginning, it would be a mistake to regard the timing, scope and depth of that conflict as predestined to follow the course that actually occurred. Once it was fashionable in the West to view the Sino-Soviet alliance as indissoluble. Now it is conventional wisdom to assert that the events of 1956 and thereafter could not have been avoided. A less deterministic position, allowing ample room for the role of the principal actors, would be more appropriate. Although some degree of conflict in this as in all alliances was inevitable, one should not ignore the role of men like Khrushchev and Mao. Only if due allowance is made for the human factor can one be prepared for the possibility of change in the Sino-Soviet relationship at some point in the future.

Our immediate concern, however, is with the impact of this evolving dispute upon Chinese foreign policy. The initial impact was one of radicalization. Peking seemed determined to prove itself more revolutionary, hence more pure than Moscow. In the 1960s the new turn was symbolized by a widely publicized image of the world drawn from Chinese revolutionary experience. Afro-Asian and Latin American societies were depicted as the vast, global countryside. The advanced capitalist West was identified as the city. The task was proclaimed to be that of using the countryside as the base from which to surround and ultimately seize the city, in the same manner as had occurred in the successful Chinese revolution.

To stimulate these efforts, aid was given to such "liberation movements" as those operating in the Congo, Mozambique and Yemen. Special attention was devoted to the Communist parties of Asia, and Peking's influence upon them greatly increased. A united front was effected with Indonesia, and encouragement given to Sukarno's project for a separate international organization, based upon the "Newly Emerging Forces," which would rival the United Nations. Implicit in some of these policies were racist appeals, a call for the colored peoples of the world to overthrow white (including Russian) supremacy.

The ideological component in Chinese foreign policy rose significantly in this period, yet even the boldest actions were carefully calculated not to exceed the risks acceptable to a society with severe internal weaknesses. Radicalization was thus confined essentially to the political arena and the murky field of guerrilla warfare-where actors are seldom held fully accountable. Peking had no intention of walking into another Korea. On the contrary, one initial purpose of the new policy was to force the Soviet Union, now a nuclear power of consequence, to take upon itself the major risks in confronting the United States on behalf of revolutionary comrades, a fact quickly appreciated by the reluctant Russians.

The "turn to the Left," however, proved generally to be a failure. The great majority of the revolutionaries aided by the Chinese did badly. Indeed, it was difficult to find a single place where guerrilla warfare on the Chinese model was succeeding. In Vietnam, moreover, it provoked massive American retaliation, and then it was only the Russians who could provide the sophisticated equipment necessary to meet the American onslaught. Suddenly, Peking found itself confronted by the close-in presence of both the United States and the Soviet Union in Southeast Asia.

Nor was Peking's radical rhetoric uniformly welcomed by the "newly emerging states." Many of their leaders felt that they had already had their revolution, and they were not about to encourage another one. Now they wanted to place the emphasis upon nation-building and economic development, where Peking could be of only limited help.

Such was the situation when internal developments plunged China into the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. There is no evidence that foreign policy issues were the primary causes of this upheaval, although there were undoubtedly differences of opinion within the Chinese elite on two vital and interrelated matters: the risk of war with the United States and the possibility of limited rapprochement with the Soviet Union. The critical issues, however, appear to have been domestic ones, culminating in a power struggle which dominated Chinese politics for three vital years.

During this period China turned inward, and in so doing revealed the continued existence of deep xenophobic and exclusivist strands in her political culture. At the height of the turmoil, it was legitimate to question whether the People's Republic had a foreign policy, or even a functioning policy-making body. Both the attitudes and actions displayed in relations with other states could only be regarded as totally antithetical to China's own interests. Disputes were promoted not merely with old opponents like the British and the Russians, but also with such inoffensive nations as Kenya and even Switzerland. It is small wonder that U.N. Secretary-General U Thant suggested at one point that China appeared to be a nation suffering a nervous breakdown. To others, the days of the Boxers seemed to have returned.

Isolation was the keynote of the era, and some predicted that China, plagued by internal chaos, would remain essentially withdrawn from the world for the foreseeable future. Why did they prove to be so wrong? First, of course, when it threatened political unity and economic production, the Cultural Revolution was brought to a halt, with the People's Liberation Army taking over the major role in governance and initiating an era of law and order. Equally important, the survivors of the Cultural Revolution, including Mao, soon discovered that isolation spelled danger. Once again, Sino-Soviet relations proved to be the critical element. With almost no one except Albania at her side, China witnessed Czechoslovakia, the enunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine (that no state was free to leave socialism-as defined by the U.S.S.R.), and veiled Soviet threats to the effect that if the border controversy with China led to serious conflict, the war would not be restricted to conventional weapons.

The events of 1968-69 unquestionably caused the most profound soul-searching in Peking. At this point, real fear of a Soviet attack existed within Chinese elite circles. All earlier matters dividing China and Russia, as previously noted, now merged into one overwhelming concern, that of security. Men like Mao and Chou must have sworn that never again would China face the Soviet Union weak in every sense, and hence vulnerable whether in a bargaining situation or in conflict.

The key to a new policy was the United States. Rapprochement with the United States would provide the means for entering the United Nations; alter relations with Japan under conditions of maximum advantage; and secure recognition from other American allies who had delayed such an act primarily out of a desire to avoid antagonizing Washington. Secret negotiations, with Pakistan serving as intermediary, apparently got underway in early 1970. Full marks should be given the Nixon administration for its clear and repeated indications of receptivity (some in 1969), but it was the People's Republic of China that made the major policy shift and-one suspects-the critical suggestions for breaking out of the impasse by dramatic visits.

Could such a major volte-face be made palatable to the implacably anti-American elements within the Party and the military services? One can reconstruct the arguments used. We shall not compromise with any of our basic principles, it was pledged, nor desert any of our allies. Moreover, it was asserted, this is the time to press for our solution in Asia. The United States is beset with internal problems, weary of the Vietnam War and preparing to conduct at least a partial withdrawal from East Asia. The foreign policy of Japan is not yet fixed, and subject therefore to influence. Chiang Kai-shek, symbol of one China, still lives, and the Taiwan independence movement can be nipped in the bud. Thus, this is the time to seize the initiative, enter the international arena and make clear China's special interests in the Asian-Pacific region. Action now will produce maximum gains, including that of weakening the ties between the United States and its Asian allies, as well as forestalling Soviet containment policies.

Notwithstanding these arguments, was active or covert opposition encountered from elements who would have preferred that the initiatives be directed toward rapprochement with the Soviet Union, or who were prepared to run the risks of minimal, essentially hostile relations with both of the major powers? At this writing, one cannot know, although there are signs that some opposition to the new policies has continued down to the present. If Mao and Chou came close to obtaining a consensus upon their new foreign policies, however, it must have been because the themes outlined above were forcefully advanced both at home and with comrades like the North Koreans. One critical fact, nonetheless, should not be overlooked. Despite the arguments just set forth, China was interested in the Americans because she assumed that the United States would continue to be both strong and present in the Pacific-Asian area. Peking would have found little benefit in dealing with a weak, isolationist America. In its essence, the new Chinese policy relies upon a balance of power in which American strength is a central assumption.


The foreign policies pursued by China since 1969 have been far more successful than those previously advanced. In part, to be sure, this is due to the international environment in which they operate, but in considerable measure it is due to Peking's capacity to follow a multi-track course, lacking in internal consistency but reconciling in some measure national interests with both domestic constraints and ideological commitments. Realism and rhetoric are juxtaposed in such a fashion as to make both work for China. Current policies, moreover, preserve a number of options, as befits a transitional period.

China's image of the contemporary world is basic to her policies. In Peking's eyes, the international political scene is composed of three distinct elements: the two superpowers, the Second Intermediate Zone, and the Third World. The second group is composed of Japan and Western Europe, "advanced, capitalist nations," but ones possessing more limited international power and influence than the superpowers. The third category is more or less coterminous with the Afro-Asian and Latin American countries. In a broader sense, it comprises the "emerging societies," that 90 percent of the world's people with whom one must align oneself to secure victory.

Since Chinese Communist leaders have had a penchant for applying the class concept to state categories, the new policies might be interpreted as a movement from reliance upon a worker-peasant alliance (China and the Third World) to a broad united front, with the national bourgeoisie (the Second Intermediate Zone) solicited as a part of an anti-imperialist alliance. The change is powerfully reminiscent of events within the Communist world in the 1930s when Stalin, alerted to the German threat, directed an end to the earlier "left" line and opened a massive campaign for an international united front against fascism.

But from whence comes the threat? Who is the enemy? If the pronouncements of the People's Republic are taken literally, the danger comes from the forces of imperialism and social-imperialism, labels today for the United States and the Soviet Union. To everyone who will listen, China sounds the following warning: All nations are currently threatened by the drive of the two superpowers, singly and jointly, for global hegemony. In the long run, their mutual relations will be dominated by contention, but in the short run, collusion between them is extensive. Both in contention and collusion, however, the forces of (U.S.) imperialism and (Soviet) social-imperialism represent the chief risk of this era to the independence of other states and to the success of revolutionary movements.

It comes as a shock to find that in this period of Sino-American rapprochement, cold-war rhetoric still abounds in Peking's treatment of the superpower issue, with the United States subjected to attacks only a few decibels in intensity below those directed against the Soviet Union. A random sample of recently published authoritative speeches and articles reveals wide-ranging assaults upon American policies, not merely in Indochina but throughout the world. Thus, one article charges that U.S. imperialism, saddled with a series of economic and fiscal crises, is using "every means" to shift the burdens to the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Another portrays American policies in Europe as "economic imperialism in its purest forms," and calls upon all Europeans to resist American dominance. Similar themes can frequently be found with respect to American policies toward Japan.

The choicest epithets, however, are currently reserved for the Russians. In his recent report to the Tenth Party Congress, Premier Chou En-lai summed up:

Over the last two decades, the Soviet revisionist ruling clique, from Khrushchev to Brezhnev, has made a socialist country degenerate into a social-imperialist country. Internally, it has restored capitalism, enforced a fascist dictatorship and enslaved the people of all nationalities, thus deepening the political and economic contradictions as well as contradictions among nationalities. Externally, it has invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia, massed its troops along the Chinese border, sent troops into the People's Republic of Mongolia, supported the traitorous Lon Nol clique, suppressed the Polish workers' rebellion, intervened in Egypt, causing the expulsion of the Soviet experts, dismembered Pakistan, and carried out subversive activities in many Asian and African countries. This series of facts has profoundly exposed its ugly features as the new czar and its reactionary nature, namely, "SOCIALISM IN WORDS, IMPERIALISM IN DEEDS." The more evil and foul things it does, the sooner the time when Soviet revisionism will be relegated to the historical museum by the people of the Soviet Union and the rest of the world.

As if this bill of attainder were not enough, a variety of added charges relate to Soviet-American "collusion." Here the pattern was set in the late 1960s over the nonproliferation treaty-that the two superpowers, intent upon preserving their exclusive control, are committed to secret diplomacy designed to force all other states to concur in agreements in the drafting of which they have played no part.

More recently, similar charges have focused upon the Middle East, with heavy emphasis on "the dirty deal" to ease restrictions on Soviet Jewish emigration to Israel; this is cited as one more piece of evidence that Russian-American collaboration is dedicated to "the destruction" of the Arab cause. And, of course, this fall's war has given the Chinese a field day on the superpower theme, both in the Security Council and in their propaganda-with no end in sight.

Moreover, Peking habitually seeks to put multilateral issues, such as territorial waters and fishery rights, into a "superpowers-versus-the-world" framework. Although China herself holds to a 12-mile limit at present, she is championing the right of a state to establish any limit it chooses (including the 200-mile limit) as a part of its sovereignty. Calling the United States and Russia "the fishing overlords," Peking asserts that their mutual aim is "to plunder" the fishing resources of all other states. To be sure, China may have broader objectives in this particular instance: given the vital new role assigned the sea with respect to natural resources of all types, is Peking pondering its own future policies here?


Surveying Peking's numerous pronouncements on the superpower threat, one must ask: what part political game, what part genuine fear? Are the enemies real and is the threat imminent in the minds of the men who govern China? Unquestionably, the attack upon the superpowers is good politics, and will always have a considerable appeal to the small and weak states, especially when it is couched in stridently nationalist tones. Moreover, within the Communist world, a strong attack is the best defense against charges that Peking itself is "selling out to American imperialism"-as of course the Soviets delight in claiming.

Alongside these obvious advantages, there remains the element of genuine fear. Weak as she is in comparison with either of her defined enemies, China under Mao and Chou finds it vital to prevent any sweeping Soviet-American détente. To keep that détente as limited as possible and make it costly to other Soviet relationships, to put the superpowers on the defensive vis-à-vis the rest of the world, to align China herself loosely with all non-superpowers-all this is part and parcel of China's reliance on balance-of-power politics to protect her national interests. Happy is the nation for which, on a main theme of foreign policy, sentiment and Realpolitik coincide.

Yet, of course, only in the realm of rhetoric does Peking bracket the two superpowers. In practice, relations with Moscow are bleak and minimal, whereas those with the United States-despite expressions of hostility in the international arena-continue to evolve, as of late 1973, in the direction of rapprochement. Obviously, deep hatred and fear toward the Soviet Union continue to preoccupy Peking's current leaders and to provide the central explanation for Chinese foreign policy.

Is the fear one of imminent war, of a Soviet nuclear strike? Many Americans, official and otherwise, believe this to be the case, and after a visit to China one could easily hold that view. In the recent past, Peking has been at great pains to emphasize the continuing danger of a Soviet attack. The foreign guest is shown one of the air-raid shelters being constructed throughout the land at great cost. He is repeatedly told that a million-odd Russian soldiers and vast amounts of military equipment menace China to the north and west. No effort is made to hide from him the anti-Soviet campaign that permeates schools, work places, and all other outlets-a campaign that seems to be aimed in part at steeling the populace against any and all Soviet actions.

This evidence notwithstanding, a very strong case can be made for the thesis that the primary concern of men like Mao and Chou today is not the threat of imminent war, but the possibility-indeed, the inevitability-of the reëmergence of the Russian issue in domestic Chinese politics. If one tries to assess current Soviet policies toward China, the Russians appear to be saying to Chinese leaders, "If you insist upon confrontation, we will make it as costly as possible. But if you-or those who come after you-want some accommodation, we are prepared to be reasonable." Under present circumstances, the pressure is kept on. Soldiers and weapons remain in place or are augmented. No ground is given, literally or figuratively. And on occasion tensions may be heightened, deliberately or otherwise. At the same time, a willingness to scale down this pressure appreciably is signaled periodically, with the proviso being an element of reciprocity. The most recent instance of such a signal was the private offer of a nonaggression pact advanced to Peking by Moscow in mid-June 1973, and revealed by Brezhnev some three months later. Meanwhile, the attack is focused ever more sharply upon Mao himself, in an effort to make him the fountainhead of deviation and error, and to separate him from both his people and his elite.

In its main elements, this is a strategy aimed at internal Chinese politics, a fact of which Mao and those around him are completely aware. Soviet advocates of a preëmptive nuclear strike no doubt continue to exist. Given the high levels of tension and emotionalism, and the human elements involved, moreover, a Sino-Soviet armed conflict cannot be declared inconceivable. It is also clear that the Russians have abandoned all hope in Mao. Having made these points, however, one must underline the fact that current Soviet policies toward China appear to aim not at war but at the politics of the post-Mao era. The Russians hope that by making the alternatives as graphic as possible, "rational" men will ultimately come to power in Peking, "good Marxists" prepared to resume some degree of coöperation with the Soviet Union.

Is such a hope reasonable? Let us now look at the Chinese side of the coin. While many of the details remain obscure, Soviet policy has been the subject of repeated discussions, debates and divisions within the Chinese ruling circle for at least 15 years. Careers have been made or broken over this critical issue. Every key argument and prediction must have been indelibly engraved upon the minds of the leading participants. This type of issue does not go away.

The current Peking leaders, and Mao in particular, have long since crossed the Rubicon on Soviet policy. Even they, however, must realize that the current policy of confrontation presents its costs and risks to China. At a minimum, it requires that the crash program directed toward nuclear and conventional weapon development continue, a massive armed force be maintained on the Sino-Soviet frontier, and various other defensive preparations be forwarded-expensive activities for a society still groping its way from backwardness. But in addition, the present level of confrontation canalizes Chinese foreign policy in general, blurring the desired image, accentuating certain contradictions. It also engenders deep, costly divisions within Communist and revolutionary movements everywhere, weakening the political front upon which Peking once counted so strongly. All in all, the costs of confrontation are formidable.

On the other hand, some advantages do accrue from the present state of affairs. It is helpful, possibly even indispensable, to have a foreign enemy-and one that can be depicted as an immediate, overt threat-both to induce the sacrifices demanded of the Chinese people in this spartan era and to preserve the elitist unity so important in an initial nation-building stage. Moreover, to foreign nations, the Soviet threat explains, even sanctions, China's unrelenting drive to become a major military power, one armed with a full array of nuclear weapons-so that this drive does not arouse the fear and hostility it otherwise might. For all of these purposes, Russia now plays the role earlier occupied by the United States.

One must also note certain broader factors that work against a Sino-Soviet rapprochement. Quotients of xenophobia, exclusivism and racial consciousness are high in both societies, augmented by the powerful nationalist tides now running. Moreover, no buffer-state system comparable to that existent in Europe is possible; two major societies must live cheek-by-jowl with each other along a vast expanse of territory, with the borders being rapidly populated-in the case of China through a massive relocation of the nation's youth.

Taken together, these factors make Sino-Soviet rapprochement far from inevitable. Given the alternatives, however, the issue will continue to be debatable-and debated. It is precisely this fact, not the imminence of war, that probably most concerns Mao. He and those who are committed to the current policies must realize that at some point in the future, certain figures within the top elite will once again argue that China's national interests would be better served by a policy of limited rapprochement with Russia. It will not be necessary to push for any return to the old alliance-only to reduce tensions and begin a process of step-by-step normalization, making possible the reallocation of some of China's scarce resources and a greater flexibility with respect to other foreign areas. Moreover, it is possible to conjure up a somber setting for such a debate. In the event of a serious internal political crisis, might not one of the factions involved in the struggle for power take this position and, in addition, possibly turn to the Russians for active support? Presumably such assistance could take any one of a wide range of forms: from the furnishing of arms to direct intervention; from encouragement given to autonomous or secessionist efforts, possibly involving border regions, to support for a new coterie of central leaders. Indeed, whatever the precise facts, the Lin Piao case is being presented as one illustration of this general threat.

It is thus the potential interaction between the Soviet issue and Chinese domestic politics that must concern Peking's leadership in these twilight years of rule by first-generation revolutionaries. Concrete indication of this fact is to be found in Chou En-lai's Tenth Party Congress report. On both domestic and foreign policy issues, that report was relatively hard-line, suggesting either the need to fend off some continuing "left" opposition to present policies or another Mao-directed swing of the pendulum. The present international situation, Chou declared, was characterized by great disorder. This would continue, and it was good since it threw the enemies of the people into confusion and division. Collusion between the two superpowers was temporary, contention was absolute. Both of the superpowers were accused by Chou of a desire to "devour" China, a nation saved because it was "too tough even to bite." The more serious threat, however, was clearly perceived to come from the U.S.S.R., as we have seen from the Premier's recitation of Soviet "crimes."

But the most interesting section of Chou's report dealt with the problem of internal subversion and the purported Soviet link. The Brezhnev group, proclaimed Chou, remained unreconciled to the downfall of men like Liu Shao-ch'i and Lin Piao, men who had worked "under the baton of Soviet revisionism." The Chinese Premier then asserted, "Enemies at home and abroad all understand that the easiest way to capture a fortress is from within." And he continued, "Lin Piaos will appear again and so will persons like Wang Ming [currently an exile in the U.S.S.R.], Liu Shao-ch'i, Peng Te-huai and Kao Kang." A bleak prospect this, and presumably not the type of disorder desired by Chou.

How, then, will the People's Republic of China seek to meet the total Soviet threat in the years immediately ahead? Given prevailing trends, Peking will drive relentlessly toward two primary objectives: a defense in depth with Russia as the potential enemy and a major political counterattack on all fronts to nullify Soviet containment efforts.

At the military level, the quest for a credible nuclear deterrent will continue, together with the selective modernization of conventional military forces. One key item, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, capable of reaching Moscow and most parts of Asia, may already have been deployed.

Peking is painfully aware of the fact that its conventional forces are much weaker in equipment and mobility than those of the Soviet Union. Today, the three million-man People's Liberation Army, the approximately five million-man public security force and civil militia, and the 300,000-man para-military security and border force are all essentially defensive in structure and orientation. Military capacities, however, are steadily being enlarged at many levels. Given current trends, by 1980 the picture will be decidedly different. Already, moreover, China is the most impressive Asian military power by a wide measure, her military capacities matching her intention to be a regional power of significance and wherever possible to bargain from strength.

China's annual military budget constitutes a heavy burden to this poor nation. It is an expenditure, however, not likely to be reduced. The chances are slim that the People's Republic will enter into any meaningful discussions in the near future regarding nuclear weapon controls or general disarmament. Privately, key Chinese leaders even advance the argument, "The more nuclear states, the less the threat of nuclear war." One senses that the argument is a rationalization to fit a policy already fixed, and that Peking would not view with equanimity the acquisition of such weapons by Japan or India. Nevertheless, little coöperation can be expected from China with respect to arms control except in those areas (for instance, a Latin American nuclear-free zone) where her own military establishment is not involved.

Yet this and succeeding Chinese governments confront a dilemma. No matter what the sacrifices made, the People's Republic cannot hope to match the military might of either superpower. Parity is simply not an obtainable goal. Consequently, whatever the Chinese may regard as a credible deterrent, the political dimensions of defense take on a vital and long-term importance. The effort to turn back Soviet encirclement and deflect Soviet power away from China shapes in cardinal respects Peking's policies toward both the Second Intermediate Zone and the Third World.

Chinese leaders presently regard Soviet policies as aimed at the containment of China via a giant arc of alliances and forward military positions reminiscent of earlier American policy. In response, Chinese actions are directed toward undermining Soviet credibility with both friend and foe; cultivating any nation bearing a relation to Soviet power, particularly those on Russia's peripheries or within the historic Soviet sphere of influence; and fighting vigorously for the support of the "revolutionary" world. These policies involve not merely the effort to thwart or break the Soviet system of alliances, but also to penetrate "the Soviet empire," and indeed to appeal to the Soviet people themselves to turn against their current government. Thus, the policies of both Moscow and Peking currently involve each party in attempted interference in the internal affairs of the other, repeated affirmations of the principles of peaceful coexistence notwithstanding.


China's complex, evolving policies toward the United States now become more understandable. To those who regard the path of Sino-American relations as a simple one, Chou's report to the Tenth Party Congress can only be disconcerting. There is a distinction, he asserted, between the "necessary compromises" between revolutionary countries and imperialist countries and the sinister compromise between "Soviet revisionism" and "U.S. imperialism." Quoting Lenin, "one learns to distinguish between a man who gives bandits money and firearms in order to lessen the damage they can do and facilitate their capture and execution, and a man who gives bandits money and firearms in order to share in the loot." Such a position falls somewhat short of all-out friendship with the United States.

Yet the joint communiqué of November 14, 1973, following Secretary Kissinger's five-day visit to Peking, referred to talks with Mao conducted in a "friendly atmosphere," a phrase always used purposefully by the Chinese; promised frequent consultations on concrete issues; pledged increased exchanges and trade, and expanded functions for the liaison offices. Some observers even see full diplomatic relations being established in the not distant future. Thus, today, Peking's position in the global political spectrum underwrites a contradictory set of policies encompassing both conflict and accommodation with the United States. First come certain basic strategic and political considerations. On the one hand, if Soviet-American rapprochement proceeds too far, Peking's interests may be threatened. On the other, both the logic of China's position and her national interests support the effort to isolate the two superpowers from the rest of the world, even at the risk of contributing to their further collaboration.

In their own view, Peking's leaders are reacting now to the primary threat, the rising power. The United States is the only available counterweight on the global scene to the Soviet Union. Yet the United States is a "declining power" despite its awesome military might, past its peak as an international force. Hence, at this point, another contradiction is posed. Precisely because it is (probably) a diminishing threat, the United States must not become a paper tiger overnight. Reversing an earlier position, Peking does not want American power to decline too precipitously or too far at this point, either in Europe or in Asia, for in China's present state, the Soviet Union might well fill the resulting vacuum, even in Asia.

Finally, China's internal economic needs may be a factor. In China today, self-reliance remains a key slogan. Yet there are signs that fundamental economic policies have been intensively debated among Chinese leaders in the recent past. Probably foreign economic intercourse will now rise in importance, especially the desire for technology from the advanced societies, although initially at least the pace of change will be modest and "within the system." In time, trade and investment could grow rapidly, but for the time being my own predictions are cautious. What one can predict is that China will insist on diversity-and that she fears any undue dependence on Japan in particular. All in all, economics are probably an additional factor tending to accommodation with the United States-but not by any means a decisive one.

Several specific issues in Asia, however, continue to pose difficult challenges for the new Sino-American relationship, namely, Taiwan, Korea and Indochina. The Taiwan issue remains thorny, but the feeling grows that it can and will be finessed. The official Chinese position is that the issue has been solved, given the concessions made by the United States and Japan in the recent past, with only the timing and nature of Taiwan's union with the People's Republic unsettled. Although it is making no preparations for a military campaign, Peking refuses to commit itself to a peaceful solution of the Taiwan issue, insisting that the question is purely an internal one. For its part, the United States "does not challenge" the position held by "all Chinese" that there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China, and indicates that any peaceful settlement of the Taiwan issue reached by the Chinese people themselves is acceptable to it. But it has also repeatedly stated that it will honor its defense treaty commitments to the Republic of China on Taiwan. Moreover, full diplomatic and extensive economic relations with the Taipei government remain in effect. As long as this continues to be the American stand, a military contest is very unlikely; by the same token, the Taiwanese independence movement in its old forms has been undermined.

Nevertheless, in de facto terms, Taiwan is independent today, with most present trends widening rather than narrowing the gap between it and the People's Republic. Peking seeks to appeal to the people on Taiwan by two themes: the importance of being a part of a New China that is en route to power and progress; and the inevitability of union on Communist terms, hence the benefits of consummating the union quickly-with pledges of considerable local autonomy during a transitional period. The effect of this campaign is unclear. It is hampered by the extraordinarily rapid economic development on Taiwan and by the political uncertainties characterizing the People's Republic. Neither economic nor political comparisons are favorable to the mainland at present. On the other hand, Taiwan has been handed a series of psychological and political shocks in recent years, many of them coming from the United States and Japan. If the credibility of allies continues to drop, mainland conditions stabilize and improve, and the feeling that amalgamation is inevitable increases, political sentiments on the island might undergo a rapid shift. Meanwhile, many abroad remain convinced that the fifteen and a half million people on Taiwan ought to have some right to determine their own future-although in recent times the rule of the strong has generally taken precedence over self-determination.

Is the Taiwan issue destined to be solely or even primarily an American-Chinese issue in the future? To ask this question is to raise another, namely, how much China's absorption of Taiwan would alter the long-term character of China's strategic position and thus affect the other major (and minor) states of the region. Historically, China has been a continental power; until the advent of the European challenge of the early nineteenth century, her primary concerns were with the "barbarians" along her vast interior borders. Confronted by the West, China's problems-and her vulnerability-came to center upon the seacoast, although more recently the critical challenge has once again been from the interior. The acquisition of Taiwan would push China significantly further in the direction of becoming a Pacific as well as an Asian power, with far-reaching implications, especially if China should at some point join with other states in radically expanding her jurisdictional claims to neighboring waters. This has implications for all of the other major nations, but most particularly Japan. The Soviet Union has also given a few indications that it would not view Peking's annexation of Taiwan lightly (although as long as it chooses to gamble on China's future leadership, it faces a dilemma over voicing its concerns). It is thus possible that a threatened Taiwan could find new allies, and become a broader international issue.

The future of the Korean peninsula also directly concerns both China and the United States. China must now view Korea, and particularly North Korea, in the light of her serious problems with the U.S.S.R. Juxtaposed between two Communist giants, North Korea fronts on the crucial industrial cities of Manchuria, and indeed hundreds of thousands of Koreans live in northeast China. A hostile North Korea, aligned with Moscow, would pose a serious security problem for Peking. It is not surprising, therefore, that Chou En-lai's first act, after the inanities of the Cultural Revolution, was a concerted and seemingly successful drive to mend his diplomatic fences with Kim Il-Sung, sole ruler of the North.

On the surface at least, the Chinese have been working in close harmony with Pyongyang since 1969, giving full support to every twist and turn of the Kim line. At the same time, however, since the very beginning of Sino-American rapprochement, Chinese spokesmen have repeatedly suggested that the Korean problem is susceptible to constructive approaches, and that actions should be taken promptly.

The Korean peninsula has now become one crucial test case for peaceful coexistence, both as it relates to the two Korean states and to the attitudes and actions of the major powers with which they are affiliated. The South has recently taken some important foreign policy initiatives, indicating its willingness to coexist with the North in the international community, and to engage in reciprocal relations with Communist as well as non-Communist states. Faced with these proposals, the North has retreated at least temporarily, demanding the U.N. admission of a single, federated Korea-a position bearing no relation to reality. Will Peking continue to lend its full support to this position, with all its implications, or is it prepared to live with the two Koreas for the indefinite future, accepting a formula whereby a gradual development of North-South contacts unfolds in the fashion of the two Germanys, and using its not inconsiderable influence upon Pyongyang in this direction?

Finally, there is the enormously troublesome problem of Indochina, where hot wars still rage and both military and political futures are impossible to predict. It could make a great difference if China were prepared to lend her weight to compromise solutions that would permit an end to large-scale bloodshed under conditions providing some rights and opportunities for non-Communists as well as Communists. For Indochina is inextricably related to the broader issue whether the principles of peaceful coexistence can have meaning for Southeast Asia.

So there are potential trouble spots. These could flare up to limit Sino-American rapprochement. On the other hand, progress toward their resolution would abet relations. At least they illustrate the variables that make prediction concerning the long-term future of Sino-American relations extremely hazardous.

Nevertheless, one may venture a few broad predictions for the near term. The likelihood is for a peaking out of the upward curve, followed by a slower rise in relations. In the cultural field, the excitement of contacts long forbidden will gradually fade. In a number of areas, moreover, cultural contacts will be proscribed or strictly limited-notably in the social sciences and in the creative arts. Sports, science and technology will continue to offer opportunities for expanded exchange, but with problems in effecting a balanced relationship. One "plus" of possibly major significance, however, should not be overlooked. As individuals, Americans and Chinese have a remarkable capacity to interact with each other effectively-a capacity cutting across political lines and communications barriers. This could prove to be highly important.

Economic interaction between the two countries will surely grow. In 1971 bilateral trade amounted to only $5 million; in 1973 it has been an estimated $800 million. U.S. grain and select high-technology products such as aircraft will remain of importance to China, with the possibility that the exploitation of Chinese offshore oil deposits might involve American capital and technical assistance. Given the nature of the two economies, however, and the probable course of Chinese economic policy, Sino-American economic intercourse will not be the dominant feature of the relationship. For the United States, indeed, it will be a quite limited element.

As indicated by Henry Kissinger's numerous trips to Peking, political relations will remain highly important. In addition to the specific issues noted above, two broad subjects may well produce sustained negotiations during the decade ahead: how to make peaceful coexistence operational and how to attain concrete results in nuclear weapon control and general disarmament. Progress is likely to be slow, however, as was earlier indicated.

The American-Chinese relationship will surely stop well short of alliance. This is not to minimize recent developments nor to take a gloomy view of the future. The movement away from isolation and near-total hostility in our mutual relations has been both dramatic and healthy. For the present, moreover, the United States and the People's Republic of China share several very broad objectives. Both desire a military-political equilibrium in the Pacific-Asian region that will prevent any single power from dominating the area-because each currently lacks either the will or the capacity to play that role itself. Hence, both states are committed at this point to balance-of-power politics.

Will this always be true? China is a massive and resident Asian state, en route to formidable military power. She has indicated that she has "special responsibilities" in Asia, as might be expected. At some point, particularly if the perception of a Soviet threat were to disappear or diminish, will China acquire hegemonial tendencies, her present protests notwithstanding? Both Chinese history and the record of the major modernizing states of the past century make it unwise to rule out this possibility. The United States, on the other hand, having played a major and largely unilateral role in East Asia for more than three decades, is weary and intent upon some degree of withdrawal. Will the thrust in that direction reduce American credibility to the point that it diminishes China's interest in reaching or maintaining agreements with us?

It is thus not clear how long American and Chinese interests will display the present or a higher level of compatibility. This is not merely a bilateral issue, to be sure. Should China pursue expansionist policies, the tension or conflict provoked might first be with Japan, or with the Soviet Union, for both have formidable interests in the Pacific-Asian region. It is unlikely, however, that the United States could remain uninterested or uninvolved, given our stake in this part of the world.


Let us turn now to China's perceptions of the Second Intermediate Zone. Here a change of startling proportions has taken place. Only a few years ago, Japan was regarded in Peking as "a running dog of U.S. Imperialism," and a nation headed down the militarist path. Western Europe, with the exception of France, was also seen as solidly in the American camp, and of little interest to China except as its "progressive" antigovernment elements could be activated. The Second Zone, in sum, was a part of the global urban sector, to be surrounded and conquered via revolution.

Today, state-to-state relations with Japan and the major nations of the West range from normal to very good. Moreover, people-to-people diplomacy with these nations has reached new heights, with conservative and official circles strongly represented. Concern about Japanese militarism appears to have dropped drastically. In certain respects, Peking even cultivates Japanese nationalism today. It repeatedly urges Tokyo to demand its territorial rights in the southern Kuriles from the Russians, and Chinese leaders have also indicated privately that, unlike Douglas MacArthur, they have always believed that every nation has the right to possess military forces for purposes of self-defense-thereby setting themselves apart from some of their strongest supporters, the Japanese Socialist Party leaders.

Current Chinese policies toward Western Europe are no less intriguing. Peking now couples its attacks upon superpower domination with a blunt warning that the Western European nations will ignore the threat of Soviet aggression at their peril. Thus, nations like France are praised for their dedication to the principles of European independence and unity, and at the same time every Western European leader is urged to keep the military strength of the region high as well as to eschew precipitous détente with a totally untrustworthy Eastern Goliath. "The words and deeds of the Brezhnev clique show that it will not lay down the butcher's knife and turn Buddha," Peking Review commented recently in commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Czechoslovakian invasion. The implication is that even NATO may be a necessity at present.

Once again, it is obvious that preoccupation with the Soviet problem is the dominant consideration. In his Tenth Party Congress report, Chou revealed in a startlingly frank manner why Western détente with Russia troubles Peking. Strategically, he said, the key point of superpower contention is Europe-but the West has always wanted to "urge the Soviet revisionists eastward" so as to "divert the peril." Shades of Stalin's 1939 concerns over Britain, France and the Hitler peril!

The new relationship between China and Japan deserves an especially close look. What are the broad goals of Japanese foreign policy? Ideally, Japan would like to normalize her relations with both China and the Soviet Union in such a fashion as to keep these two sets of relations relatively equal and upwardly mobile. At the same time, she intends to retain her alliance with the United States, albeit with certain modifications (and some continuing tensions). And in all respects Japan seeks to rely almost exclusively upon her economic strength, avoiding major military or even political responsibilities outside Japan proper, counting upon the maintenance of a broad political-military equilibrium in the area and the continuance of Sino-Soviet rivalry. Japan, in sum, is the first major society to experiment with a foreign policy of relying predominantly upon economic power to maintain her national interests.

The experiment is destined to be both fascinating and of great importance. It is already clear, however, that the achievement of Japan's balancing goals will not be easy. Although Sino-Japanese normalization was consummated with remarkable speed and thoroughness in 1972, keeping relations with the two Communist giants in tandem has already proven to be very difficult for the Japanese. In point of fact, in any competition over Japan, China and Russia have very different major weapons, as the events of the last year have shown.

In Sino-Japanese relations most experts had anticipated that economic transactions would shoot up but that political relations would remain relatively static. Trade did increase substantially in dollar terms, going from $1.1 billion in 1972 to an estimated $1.8 billion in 1973. (Some of the increase reflects higher costs.) Yet trade with Taiwan remains larger than that with the mainland, despite the enormous disparity of size and the abrupt severance of Japanese official diplomatic relations with Taipei; it went from $1.5 billion in 1972 to an estimated $2.2 billion in 1973. Meanwhile, political interaction between the People's Republic and Japan skyrocketed. Nearly 7,500 Japanese visited China and over 1,000 Chinese came to Japan during the first eight months of diplomatic relations, with the highlight being the visit in April 1973 of a 55-person Chinese mission headed by the Japanese-educated Liao Cheng-chih.

Why has the China fever subsided somewhat in Japanese business circles? First, there is the question of what China can or will produce for the Japanese market. (Will offshore oil eventually prove a significant asset?) The more fundamental issues, however, relate to Peking's basic economic policies. Thus far, the proclivity is for short- and medium-term loans on a commercial basis-not long-term loans or investment. If this position is maintained and "self-reliance" continues to be the major goal, the barriers to large-scale expansion of Sino-Japanese economic ties will remain substantial. Finally, China is very desirous of limiting her dependence upon any single nation. She is not likely to want to see the Japanese share of China trade go above 20-25 percent, but the Japanese are already inside this range.

Thus, in the wooing of Japan, China has uncertain economic weapons. In contrast, the Soviet Union appears bountifully endowed. The development of Siberia is high on its priority list partly because of "the China problem," and partly because the natural resources of that region are vast-timber, minerals, and above all oil and gas. In theory at least, Soviet-Japanese economic coöperation on a rapidly growing basis seems natural, with Japan furnishing capital and technical expertise, and receiving much-needed raw materials and energy sources.1

On the political side of the ledger, however, the situation is reversed. China and Japan have no major points of conflict at present. Meanwhile, China has unexcelled access to Japanese society-as was magnificently illustrated by the Liao Mission. Carefully chosen to represent different fields and walks of life, its members fanned out over the country, contacting every important interest group in the style of a political campaign, and receiving massive media coverage. Liao himself, for example, was pictured on the front pages of leading newspapers wearing his old Waseda University school cap, and singing the school song. No Russian could top this!

Indeed, the Russians have a signal handicap in the distance that separates them from Japanese culture, and in the legacy of hostility and suspicion that has marked relations down to contemporary times. Even now, Japanese fishermen are being held in Soviet camps (with Chinese news reporters interviewing their wives and publishing the stories!), and the issue of the Northern islands remains unresolved, despite Tanaka's recent trip to Moscow. Under the general conditions now prevailing, Russian relations with Japan will be plagued by limited cultural ties, few political friendships and very little goodwill.

In approaching Japan with a formidable combination of state-to-state and people-to-people diplomacy, however, China runs certain risks. At what point can Peking be accused of deep involvement in the internal affairs of the Japanese people? When does campaigning in the fashion of the Liao Mission become interference? It is no secret that Liao and his colleagues made it clear privately to the Japanese that any agreement to participate in the laying of pipelines from the Tyumen oil fields to the Siberian coast would be regarded as an action inimical to Chinese interests, since it would enable an easier expansion of Russian Far Eastern military facilities. The Japanese, to be sure, scarcely needed to be told this. It has been a matter of some concern in Tokyo. The broader issue, however, is this: how strong will the pressure from China become, and will the Japanese find that Peking can use heightened economic relations as leverage in an effort to force the Japanese hand on this or other issues?

In any case, there is little prospect of a Sino-Japanese alliance. Pan-Asianism-desired by some, feared by many-will not be recreated in this or any other form. The respective stages of development, political systems and patterns of foreign affiliation-thus the basic goals and instruments of foreign policy-are not sufficiently compatible. Competition will be as prominent as cooperation. Indeed, as has been emphasized, two issues involving the Northeast Asian region could cause future trouble. Chinese concern over Japanese militarism grew sharply with the Sato-Nixon communiqué of 1969, because in that document Korea, and to a lesser extent Taiwan, were declared to be areas related to Japanese security interests. It is of great satisfaction to Peking, therefore, that Japanese foreign policy has moved in an opposite direction recently, with ties to these two countries largely economic, and diplomatic relations with the Nationalists now severed. China's drive to contain Japan in Northeast Asia appears to have met with resounding success.

The political future of both the Korean peninsula and Taiwan nevertheless remain of vital importance to Japan, and no document such as the Tanaka-Chou communiqué of September 1972 can eliminate this fact. A unified Communist Korea would present Japan with enormously complex political and security problems, just as a unified non-Communist Korea would do for China. The Korean problem is further exacerbated because some 600,000 Koreans live permanently in Japan, many of them strongly politicized. The Taiwan issue is also of consequence. In both Korea and Taiwan, Japan has a large and growing economic stake. Beyond this, however, an independent Taiwan is far more advantageous to Japan; the incorporation of Taiwan into the People's Republic, as has been suggested, could have far-reaching strategic as well as economic implications for Japan. Thus, the unresolved issues of Northeast Asia each involve Sino-Japanese relations as well as China's relations with the United States and the U.S.S.R.

For the time being, Chinese interest in the political-military containment of Japan and in keeping Japan from becoming too intimately involved with the Soviet Union takes precedence over China's long-term interest in loosening Japanese-American ties. Indeed, China sees certain short-range advantages in an American presence in this area; her leaders recognize that the Security Treaty reduces the possibility of Japan taking the nuclear path. At a later point, of course, Chinese perspectives may be quite different.

In Western Europe, the role of China is considerably less; both geographically and culturally, Western Europe lies largely beyond China's reach. Nevertheless, with the region as a whole assigned a new role in Chinese foreign policy, a pronounced increase in interest has taken place. Western European statesmen are invited to Peking in ever-increasing numbers, and the coverage of European events in the Chinese media has significantly increased. Chinese students are being sent to various West European countries, mainly for language training. Trade and other forms of economic relations are growing.

As has been suggested, Peking sees all of Western Europe (along with Eastern Europe) as a region that can be separated from the superpowers and caused to play an independent role. Via some combination of nationalist and community sentiments, the Second Zone in Peking's eyes can make a significant contribution to a global balance of power benefiting China. Certain immediate priorities nonetheless modify, even contradict, this strategic view; in particular, an American military presence in Europe is not only acceptable, but desired to the extent that it makes West European defense against the Soviet Union credible. At this point, in sum, China is prepared to sustain the American military role in the Second Intermediate Zone where it is directed primarily against the Soviet Union, even as she attacks American economic and cultural interactions.


It remains to examine China's relations with the so-called Third World. In a banquet speech welcoming President N'gouabi of the Congo in mid-1973, Premier Chou En-lai proclaimed, "Both China and the Congo belong to the Third World. The Chinese and Congolese peoples are brothers and comrades-in-arms on the anti-imperialist front." In these typical remarks, there is a central policy thrust-and a less obvious but profound change in China's perception of herself over the past two decades.

For 20 years ago the People's Republic proudly proclaimed itself a member of the socialist camp and, while not denying its affinities for the emerging world (witness its leading role in the Bandung Conference of 1954), stressed its loyalty to that bloc of nations "led by the great Soviet Union." Today, the socialist bloc scarcely exists; both Moscow and Peking have read each other entirely out of the socialist world. Instead, China associates herself with that large portion of the globe now deeply involved in nation-building and economic development, and correspondingly sensitive to the attitudes and actions of the major powers. For this purpose the Chinese have a slogan endlessly repeated on official occasions: "Countries want independence, nations want liberation, and people want revolution."

In its combined Third World and Liberation Movement policies, the People's Republic once again lives with a number of contradictions. Here the ideological quotient remains highest, but it is also here that pragmatic individual policies are displayed in most striking fashion.

In one aspect, the Third World is treated as a unit by Peking and its multiple diversities and internal conflicts minimized or ignored. By definition, it is regarded as a revolutionary unit, being disposed against the status quo and also against the affluent, advanced and powerfully entrenched states. Still bearing the deep psychological scars of her own recent past, China-the world's largest society-now seeks to speak in a voice consonant with those of the small and weak.

What are the immediate revolutionary tasks confronting the Third World in Peking's eyes? These were defined most recently by Chou in his message of September 3, 1973, to the fourth conference of nonaligned states in Algiers. To win and safeguard national independence and state sovereignty, to develop the national economy, and to defend national resources and maritime rights-these, he declared, are the central tasks of the Third World.

In all of this, Chou is being a good Leninist. Nationalism, not socialism, is to provide the initial force welding together the non-Western world in a renewed battle against the capitalist-imperialist camp (the U.S.S.R. now included). Once again, that camp is to be attacked through its soft underbelly-its need for resources, markets, and investments. China's own strident nationalism is thus to be linked to that of many others in a manner that at once provides a revolutionary mission and projects Chinese influence beyond the regional level with minimal risks and costs.

To a very considerable degree, this identification with the Third World is an ideological and psychological necessity for old first-generation revolutionaries who held for decades a commitment to internationalism via the Communist cause alone. With that commitment rudely shattered by events, on what other sources can one's identification with internationalism now rest? Where are susceptible proletarian-peasant masses to be found? How, in short, can one exhibit one's Marxism-Leninism in the late-twentieth-century world except through union with the Third World?

If successful, China's alignment and influence in this group of states would strike a serious ideological as well as political blow at the Soviet Union. Russia too acknowledges the Third World as possessing revolutionary potential and proclivities for socialism. Thus, if the "first Socialist state" were to lose out in the competition for influence here, its legitimacy as the logical leader of "the progressive forces of the world" would be further and seriously undermined.

How well is the People's Republic doing with respect to the Third World? On balance, Peking has reason to be relatively pleased with current developments. The resolutions and speeches of the recent Algiers conference testify that on many matters Peking is on the same wavelength as a number of the Afro-Asian and Latin American states. At that meeting, the United States and the Soviet Union were classified by diverse speakers as superpowers threatening to other states, despite Brezhnev's specific plea that the nonaligned not turn away from their "natural and surest allies, especially the Soviet Union," in response to Chinese blandishments. Economic nationalism in various forms was strongly supported, partly as a means of altering the economic balance of power and partly as a political weapon. And on such specific matters as racial issues (black versus white Africa), the Arab-Israeli struggle, and the principle of an expanded nautical jurisdiction, Peking proved to have taken a position widely popular in the Third World.

On the global scene, in truth, China is credible as a developing nation, facing problems common to others and constituting no appreciable threat. Having had a record of limited involvement, moreover, her policy legacy is largely clear of the blemishes, errors and failures characterizing the record of major actors. Only occasionally-and primarily in Africa-have the Chinese been heavy-handed in areas outside of Asia. As we have noted, moreover, China is now calling for nationalist, not Communist, revolutions and orienting her attention toward state-to-state rather than comrade-to-comrade relations. This is exceedingly wise, since effective Communist comrades in the Third World, especially in Africa and Latin America, are rare indeed.

From China's strengths in dealing with the Third World also stem her weaknesses. To the extent that these states and movements require concrete military, economic and technical assistance, the People's Republic is of limited utility. Peking's foreign aid programs, while generally "cost-effective" in both economic and political terms, can only be small when measured against the vastness of the needs. Thus, nations once strongly wooed by China, notably Cuba and Egypt, must continue to depend upon the Soviet Union. Cultural links between China and much of the Third World are also tenuous; problems of language, custom and outlook abound. It is not easy for the Chinese, long self-sufficient and inward-looking, possessors of a great cultural legacy, to exhibit the traits associated with fraternity, egalitarianism and internationalism. For many within the Third World, even among those who admire them, the Chinese remain exotic and indisputably foreign.

It is not surprising, moreover, that the steadfastness of Peking's revolutionary zeal is being questioned in some quarters. Who would have believed a few years ago that the leaders of such nations as Greece and Iran would be going to China as state guests? If these states are members of the Third World, they are scarcely "progressive" elements. In truth, of course, in her effort to counter Russian containment policies, China has logically paid special attention to those states on the periphery of the Soviet Union irrespective of their political coloration. Realistic balance-of-power considerations thus compete with, even submerge on occasion, ideological commitments. And suitable complexities have inevitably accompanied China's movement in status and role from international rebel to active participant in such institutions and patterns of multilateral politics as the current world affords. In these respects, the People's Republic of China is simply exhibiting the traits of an important society.

These various factors are graphically illustrated by Chinese policies toward the small states of Asia, a region where China is already accepted as a major power. Here, tradition as well as the forces of nationalism and ideology comes into play. Historically, in meeting the problem of the "barbarians" on their borders, the rulers of China pursued a carrot and stick policy. Those who behaved "correctly" were invited to the Chinese capital as guests, with gifts exchanged and cultural contacts established, enabling the Chinese model to be appreciated and adapted. Toward those who misbehaved, sanctions or threats of sanctions were applied.

The current leaders of China have once again made it emphatically clear that the People's Republic has special interests and responsibilities in Asia. What does this mean? Aware of a reduction in the American commitment, various states of Southeast Asia are now seeking to find out. Malaysia and Thailand, for example, have begun the process of negotiation, seeking to discover whether diplomatic relations can be established, but also whether Chinese support to guerrilla movements confronting them can be ended or reduced. That support has been of three types: China has allowed clandestine radio stations purporting to be the voice of the Free Malaysians (Thai, Burmese, etc.) to operate from locations within China, broadcasting in the indigenous language in an effort to cultivate the climate for a Communist revolution; she has also invited as guests, and on occasion given long-term asylum to various Communist leaders of the area, with the presumption that periodic discussions of concrete tactics and strategy take place; finally, some training and military-economic support have been given to guerrilla groups.

In the private discussions thus far, Peking has apparently taken an ambiguous position when these matters have been raised. Questioners are either told flatly that China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other states, or that a distinction must be made between the Chinese state and the Communist Party of China-hence that the Party cannot be expected to sever all fraternal ties with fellow parties upon the establishment of state-to-state relations. These are scarcely satisfactory answers, and there can be little doubt that most Southeast Asian leaders from Burma to Indonesia are worried about China's future role in this region. It is possible that this concern extends to Hanoi as well.

Almost certainly, China's minimal demands upon these states will include the proviso that they not be closely affiliated with any "threatening" major state, or be members of a potentially hostile military bloc. Ideally, the People's Republic would probably prefer to deal with small, discrete political units in the region. Hence it is questionable whether Peking would actually favor a Hanoi-controlled Indochina, though perhaps equally questionable whether it would be prepared to take positive steps to prevent such an occurrence. There can be no doubt, however, that China remains concerned lest the Soviet Union play a larger role in this part of the world. Could this along with other considerations induce Peking to accept the neutralization of Southeast Asia, and work toward making the five principles of peaceful coexistence operational here? A cautious exploration of these possibilities is now underway, with views ranging from moderate optimism to deep doubt being expressed in the region.

Whatever course prevails, it is extremely unlikely that China will totally abandon those Communist movements of the area which have been closely affiliated with Peking. To do so would risk cleavages within China herself, and would also leave the People's Republic extremely vulnerable to a Soviet counter-attack. The mix, however, can and quite possibly will be changed. As the emphasis upon state-to-state relations rises, comrade-to-comrade relations can be made more discreet and lower key. The Chinese might also encourage a shift in Communist tactics, with greater attention to legal and quasi-legal activities, urban-centered. Such a trend would be less embarrassing to Peking, and possibly less demanding. In any case, the People's Republic could be expected after the establishment of formal diplomatic relations to behave with great circumspection insofar as its official staff was concerned, fully aware that its activities were being closely watched.

The current governments of Southeast Asia, however, remain nervous about China's intentions. Continued Chinese support for the White Flag Communists in Burma despite Ne Win's efforts to practice neutralism; the sizable body of Overseas Chinese in this region, many of whom have legitimate grievances against the governments (and people) of their adopted lands; and the rising force of Chinese-affiliated guerrilla communism in certain areas combine to keep apprehensions high. Peking's attitudes and actions to date have been insufficient to reassure most Southeast Asian leaders. Viewed from Bangkok, Singapore, Rangoon or Djakarta, Peking appears as something more than just a developing state, and the crucial tests of peaceful coexistence may well take place here.

It can thus be seen that while the rhetoric applied to China's Third-World policies is simple, the policies themselves are complex, extraordinarily varied, and susceptible to change-with East Asia a special case. If there is a broad trend, it is toward accommodation with the existing order from country to country, working on a state-to-state basis to support perceived Chinese interests.


In many respects, China resembles all other major societies en route to power and prestige. Although her policies contain strands of tradition and ideology, the dominant element is clearly nationalism-in the modern sense of that term. As this is so, China's present foreign policies are vastly more complex and also more contradictory than in the past, but equally they are more suited to China's interests and probably to those of the international community in general. China today has regional power and global presence. In both settings, she manipulates state-to-state, people-to-people, and comrade-to-comrade relationships, with the current emphasis sharply on the first two of these. The old ideology continues to be enshrined as ritual and recited as dogma, but it is increasingly separated from the dynamic processes of Chinese society, in foreign as well as domestic policies.

Yet the ideological quotient in Chinese policy must still be reckoned with. As we have seen, the image of a world divided into three basic elements is rich in ideological connotations, albeit ones different from those advanced by Marx. There is still an international proletariat, with peasant and national bourgeois allies, but now these are states, not classes! Moreover, in one part of themselves, the current Chinese leaders, it must be emphasized, are deeply ideological, and it is always possible that circumstances, at home and abroad, might produce another swing to the "Left," bringing rhetoric and policy into closer alignment.

As the Mao era comes to a close, the essence of the struggle lies precisely here. A satisfactory synthesis rather than a constant struggle between theory and practice may ultimately evolve, but it is not yet in sight nor is it implicit in the Maoist style.

Only the present trend is clear. Progressively, Chinese foreign policy has become state-oriented. And within this orientation, the most immediate, crucial relationship is that contained in the China-U.S.-U.S.S.R. triangle. Denunciations of hegemony and attacks upon the two superpowers are the natural responses of the weakest member of the triangle. Yet China must also lean to one side under present circumstances, and there can be little doubt as to which side she has currently chosen, even if the decision is less fulsome and more tentative than that involving the Soviet Union in 1950.

Additional political leverage and economic advantage are sought by moving into closer relations with states of the Second Intermediate Zone. In this fashion, China's needs as a modernizing state can be given higher priority, and at the same time, political combinations potentially harmful to China's national interests can be discouraged or diluted. Meanwhile, Peking makes a concerted effort to identify itself with the Third World, and beyond this, to compete with the Soviet Union as inspiration, supporter, and leader of the world's "progressive" forces. Linkage and consistency in the policies toward the Third World and various revolutionary forces, however, now constitute troublesome problems. Today, security considerations and major power aspirations are more clearly and consciously juxtaposed against ideological purity and the drive to be the world's foremost revolutionary force.

One final consideration of importance remains. Which elements within China's present foreign policies are likely to be permanent, which subject to change? No question is more difficult to answer, but a few hypotheses might be advanced. Certainly the history of the last two decades suggests that changes can and will occur in the future, including some of major significance. No matter what the course of internal Chinese politics, however, it seems likely that a strong nationalism will continue to dominate China's rulers, affecting foreign as well as domestic policies. Thus, China is not apt to join herself to any state or international community, whatever the commandments of Marxism-Leninism. Nor is there any indication that China will cease to cultivate power in its various forms-military, political and economic-whatever may be the future of major power relations. The current nationalist thrust compels this course.

One can presume, therefore, that barring some internal catastrophe, China will play an increasingly large role in the international relations of the Asian-Pacific region. Any return to isolation appears improbable. By the same token, however, it is difficult to perceive China becoming a truly global power, at least in the traditional sense. Domestic fragilities will remain prominent features of this massive society, influencing both the extent and nature of its foreign policies. Thus, for a considerable period of time the People's Republic of China can play contrasting roles: that of major power on the regional level and developing society in the global arena.

Within this framework, relations with other major powers are certainly not fixed. A movement toward the extremities of either war or close alliance seems unlikely. One can conceive, however, of a range of adjustments in these relations, some of which could be of major importance. Two in particular warrant mention: limited rapprochement with the Soviet Union, and heightened conflict with Japan. It is entirely possible also that, within the broad trends outlined above, periods of greater and lesser international involvement, stronger and weaker ideological emphasis, and harder and softer approaches to other states, particularly neighboring states, will ensue. Such tactical changes would undoubtedly be connected with the domestic scene, as well as with the results achieved from policies already in effect.

If these projections are basically correct, what are the implications for American policy? In establishing a far-reaching network of relations with the People's Republic of China, the United States brought its policies into line with reality, a necessary act for a major nation and a healthy one for the world. If we can assume that China is destined to become an increasingly important force in international politics, especially in the Asian-Pacific region, and further that the contest between "extremists" and "moderates" within China is likely to be recurrent, the American interest clearly lies in seeing the latter group prevail. (Admittedly, these terms lack precision and can easily be deceptive, but for our purposes "extremists" can be classified as those who would inject strongly militant, ideological-cum-nationalist elements into foreign relations, displaying a rigidity that brooks few compromises.) To these ends, it is essential that China's involvement in the international order be continued, since that encourages, indeed makes inevitable, the complexities of policy that challenge extremism.

Meanwhile, the American-Chinese dialogue must be broadened so that no issue affecting peace and development remains outside the arena of discussion. The era of intense, prolonged negotiations is upon us, demanding sophistication, stamina and a greater degree of unity on the part of both our people and our leaders. Certain issues will be susceptible to solution or a movement in that direction. Others will prove intractable, at least for the time being. We must also be prepared for the possibility of a downward trend in relations should the political course within China or in Sino-Soviet relations move in certain directions. In any case, however, complexity and some element of antagonism will continue to characterize our interaction with Peking. The new relationship, nevertheless, holds vastly greater promise than the undiluted hostility of a few years ago.

At this point, as should be clear, we can dispense with neither our strength nor our flexibility in approaching the problems of the Asian-Pacific region, recognizing that both of these attributes take on new meaning in the rapidly evolving world of the late twentieth century. Relations with China will be a preëminent test of our capacities in these respects.


1 See Elizabeth Pond, "Japan and Russia: The View from Tokyo," Foreign Affairs, October 1973.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now