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Digital Archive International History Declassified

July 31, 1958


This document was made possible with support from the Leon Levy Foundation

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    Conversation between Nikita Krushchev and Mao Zedong, where Krushchev denies any Soviet desire to build a joint naval fleet with China, terming it a misunderstanding. The two argue briefly over criticism of Stalin, each pointing out what they see as his faults. Concludes with an emphasis on the need for the two to cooperate, hemmed in as they are by the military bases of the capitalist countries.
    "First Conversation of N.S. Krushchev with Mao Zedong in Huairen Hall in Beijing," July 31, 1958, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Arkhiv Prezidenta Rossiiskoi Federatsii (APRF), f. 52, op. 1, d. 498, ll. 44-77, copy in Reel 17, Dmitrii Volkogonov Collection, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; translation from Russian by David Wolff. Published in CWIHP Working Paper No. 30.
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31 July 1958 in Huairen Hall [in Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound]

Present: Coms. B.N. Ponomarev, Deng Xiaoping

KHRUSHCHEV N.S. transmits greetings and [good] wishes from the CC CPSU Presidium members.

MAO ZEDONG thanks him and says it is easier to solve world problems when there is cooperation between the leaders of the two parties.


MAO ZEDONG: Without guessing at more distant periods, it is possible to say that our cooperation is assured for ten thousand years.  [Ten thousand is a symbolic number in Chinese (wan) expressing any large quantity.]

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: In that case, we can meet again in 9,999 years to agree on cooperation for the next ten thousand years.

MAO ZEDONG:  There are, however, several differences of opinion between us.  On individual questions, such differences were, are and will be.  If you compare this with ten fingers, our cooperation is nine fingers and our differences are one [finger] …

[Khrushchev suggests that they focus on areas of disagreement.]

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I would like to discuss the question that disconcerted [ogoroshil] us directly. This is about the construction of a navy.  You said you couldn’t sleep because of this. I also couldn’t sleep, when I heard about this.

MAO ZEDONG: I was amazed [porazhen] and therefore couldn’t sleep. KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Never did anyone, starting with myself for I in the main talked

with Iudin and then he was given instructions by the Presidium, understand the matter as your

comrades interpreted it.  There was no thought of a joint fleet.  You know my point of view.  I

was against joint companies during Stalin’s lifetime and against his senile foolishness [starcheskaia glupost’] about the canned pineapple concession.  I emphasize aging foolishness, for Stalin was not so stupid as to not understand this.  Here sclerosis was at work.

MAO ZEDONG: I also gave these examples and said Khrushchev eliminated this heritage.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I was one of the Politburo members who told Stalin directly that he shouldn’t send such a telegram about concessions to Mao Zedong, since this was incorrect at the level of principle.  There were other Politburo members, with whom I have now parted, who also did not support Stalin’s suggestion.  Right after Stalin’s death we liquidated the mixed companies and now we don’t have them anywhere.

MAO ZEDONG: There were also the two semi-colonies – Xinjiang and Manchuria. KHRUS HCHEV N.S.: The abnormal situation there was also eliminated.

MAO ZEDONG:  Citizens of third countries were not even allowed to live there according to the agreement.  You also eliminated these semi-colonies.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes, for this contradicted basic Communist principles.

MAO ZEDONG: I agree completely.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Even in Finland, a capitalist country, we eliminated our military base.

MAO ZEDONG: And you yourself eliminated the base in Port Arthur …

[Khrushchev repeatedly assures Mao tha t Iudin simply misunderstood and therefore misrepresented for lack of a military background.  Iudin, “seriously ill,” was not present to respond.  Mao finally agrees that he lost sleep over nothing.  Then Mao suggests ways of satisfying Soviet military needs without building a joint fleet.]

MAO ZEDONG: A fifth variant is that we give you Port Arthur. We’d still have several ports.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: What? Do you consider us red imperialists [krasnye imperialisty]?

MAO ZEDONG: It’s not a matter of red or white imperialists.  There was a man by the name of Stalin who took Port Arthur and changed Xinjiang and Manchuria into semi-colonies, and also created four mixed companies. These were all his good deeds …  [Probably with irony, but not marked in original text]

[Khrushchev defends the Port Arthur decision and Mao continues to attack Stalin.] KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: You defended Stalin. They criticized me for criticizing Stalin.

And now it’s the other way around.

MAO ZEDONG: You criticized him for other [matters].

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: At the [20th CPSU Party] Congress [in February 1956], I spoke of this too.

MAO ZEDONG: I always said, both now and then in Moscow, that criticism of Stalin’s mistakes is correct.  We only disagree with the absence of a clear limit to the criticism. We consider that of Stalin’s ten fingers, three were rotten [gnilykh].

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I think more [were rotten].

MAO ZEDONG: Wrong.  His life was mainly one of merit. [v ego zhizni osnovnoe –


KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes. We speak of Stalin’s achievements and we are also among those achievements.

MAO ZEDONG: Correct.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Stalin was and remains Stalin.  But we criticized the scum [nakip’] and scabs [korostu] that accumulated in his old age.  It’s another matter when Tito criticizes him.  In 20 years, students will search the dictionary to discover who Tito was, but they’ll all know the name of Stalin.  The dictionary will say that Tito was a splittist [raskolnik] of the socialist camp who tried to undermine it, but Stalin will be [described as] a fighter, who battled the enemies of the working class, but committed major errors.

MAO ZEDONG; Stalin’s main errors regarding China are not about the semi-colonies. KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I know. He incorrectly evaluated the CCP’s revolutionary

possibilities, wrote obliging [liubeznye] letters to Jiang Jieshi, and supported Wang Ming.

MAO ZEDONG: Even more important is something else.  His first major error left the CCP with only a tenth of the territory it had had.  His second error was that when the revolution in China had ripened, he advised us not to carry out the revolution, saying that if we began to fight with Jiang Jieshi, it might threaten the whole nation with destruction.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Incorrect. It couldn’t destroy the nation.

MAO ZEDONG: But that’s what it said in Stalin’s telegram.  Therefore, I think that the relations between the parties were incorrect.  After the victory of our revolution, Stalin doubted its character. He thought that China was a second Yugosla via.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes, he thought that possible.

MAO ZEDONG: When I arrived in Moscow, he didn’t want to conclude a friendship treaty with us and annul the previous treaty with the Guomindang.  I remember Fedorenko and Kovalev passed on his [Stalin’s] advice to travel around the country and have a look.  But I told them that I had only three tasks: eating, sleeping and defecating [isprazhniatsiia].  I didn’t come to Moscow just to congratulate Stalin on his birthday.  Therefore, I said, if you don’t want to conclude a treaty, it’s not necessary.  I’ll carry out my three tasks.  Last year when we were in Moscow, when Bulganin was still present, we heard that Stalin had us tapped.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes, I said that.  He had us tapped too. He even bugged himself. Once, when we were relaxing together, he admitted he didn’t trust himself.  I’m a hopeless case [propashchii], he said.  I don’t trust myself.

[Mao switches back to the joint fleet discussion.]

MAO ZEDONG: We’ll talk about the international situation tomorrow.  I consider that the naval question is decided.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Without a battle and without a defeat for both sides. MAO ZEDONG: There won’t be a joint fleet?

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: We didn’t raise this question at all.

MAO ZEDONG: But three Soviet comrades spoke of a joint fleet.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Now there are four Soviet comrades here.  And we say there will not be a joint fleet.

MAO ZEDONG: We won’t return to this question.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: The question does not exist.  It was a misunderstanding. MAO ZEDONG: I agree. Let’s write – question removed.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I agree. Let’s write: there neither was, is, nor will be a question. It’s the result of a misunderstanding, the incorrect presentation of this matter by Iudin.  I think we’ve exhausted it.

MAO ZEDONG: Now I’m calm.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Me too.  We’ll sleep calmly now.  Now I’d like to talk about the radar [radiolokatsionnyi] station.

[The Soviet military needed a radio transmitter to control its Pacific submarine fleet and the Chinese agreed that one should be built in China for joint use, but constructed and owned by China.  Khrushchev offers funding at a 70/30 ratio and Mao refuses, threatening not to build at all.  The Soviet military’s lack of political sensitivity is blamed for any misunderstandings that may have occurred.  Mao then goes on to complain about A. I. Mikoian’s “patronizing” (otnoshenie ottsa k synu) speech at the Eighth CCP Congress in September 1956 and “high- handed” (vysokomernyi) attitude during his earlier visit, in Jan.-Feb. 1949, to Xibaipo. Mao then complains about some of the Soviet advisors in China, in particular military and security specialists, and Khrushchev pleads ignorance of these matters, but offers to remove them all.

Mao demurs and accuses Khrushchev.]

MAO ZEDONG: We are asking you to leave them and you want to take away the advisors.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: We won’t do anything without you[r consent].

MAO ZEDONG: The difference between them [the advisors] and our own workers is only one of citizenship.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: I agree that it is a temporary difference.  The main thing is communist ties.

MAO ZEDONG: Yes. Even inside the nation there are contradictions.  For example, our northern workers are not very welcome in Southern China …

[A short discussion of the Soviet military presence in Eastern Europe concludes with Mao encouraging aid to Albania.]

MAO ZEDONG: In case of war, we’ll definitely have to cooperate.  Look at all the

bases, like nails pounded in around us: in Japan, in Taiwan, in South Korea, in [South] Vietnam, in Malaya, and so on.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes. And how many in Europe?  Bases all around.  It’s a good thing we developed the economy and our scientists invented rockets.

MAO ZEDONG: We’re all living off [za schet] yo ur rockets.

KHRUSHCHEV N.S.: Yes, in some degree, we can say that without excessive modesty. It’s holding back the enemies …