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Digital Archive International History Declassified

March 09, 1954

FROM THE JOURNAL OF AMBASSADOR PAVEL YUDIN: MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION WITH LIU SHAOQI AND ZHOU ENLAI

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    A conversation between Soviet Ambassador to China Pavel Yudin, CCP Secretary Liu Shaoqi and Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. The primary topic of discussion was the Gao Gang case and the attempts to splinter the Chinese Communist Party.
    "From the Journal of Ambassador Pavel Yudin: Memorandum of Conversation with Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai," March 09, 1954, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Archive of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation (AVPRF). Obtained by Paul Wingrove. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/111377
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TOP SECRET,

Copy Nº 1

from the journal of

P. F. YUDIN

[date left blank] May 1954

Nº [left blank]

RECORD OF A CONVERSATION WITH

LIU SHAOQI, CCP CC SECRETARY, AND ZHOU ENLAI, CHAIRMAN OF THE STATE ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL AND PRC MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

9 March 1954

Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai invited me to their [offices] and for five and a half hours familiarized me with the specific facts and additional circumstances of the factional activity of Gao Gang and Rao Shushi. At the beginning of the conversation Liu Shaoqi declared that the CCP CC thinks that Gao Gang and Rao Shushi tried to avoid self-criticism in their speeches at the Plenum in spite of the fact that the participants of the Plenum insisted that Gao Gang and Rao Shushi admit their mistakes and show remorse for them. Inasmuch as Gao Gang and Rao Shushi did not do this, after the Plenum the CC CCP Politburo created two commissions to further examine the cases of Gao Gang and Rao Shushi and talk with them. Zhou Enlai headed the commission charged with dealing with an examination of the case of Gao Gang and Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yi headed the commission about the case of Rao Shushi.

Sixty CC members and high-ranking Party officials attended the meetings of the commission about the case of Gao Gang. Their statements provided much additional material exposing the harmful activity of Gao Gang. The commission meetings lasted eight days. Gao Gang attended only the first two days. On the third day, seeing that his dark deeds were becoming ever more well known, Gao Gang made a suicide attempt. This attempt took place at his apartment in the presence of his son and secretary. Thanks to the intervention of the secretary, who knocked the revolver out of the hands of Gao Gang, the bullet hit the wall. After the suicide attempt Gao Gang refused to appear at the commission meetings any more. He is now at home under the careful observation of the security organs.

The commission meetings on the case of Rao Shushi lasted one week. Rao Shushi attended all the meetings.

After the commission about the case of Gao Gang ended its work Zhou Enlai was charged with drawing up the main points about the case of Gao Gang and making a report at a meeting of senior Party officials of HQ [Tsentra], of North China, and of East China. Chen Yi spoke at this meeting, giving the report about the case of Rao Shushi. Twenty-four hundred people were present at the meeting. The wide scale of the factional activity of Gao Gang and Rao Shushi was a great surprise to a majority of those present. After this meeting many letters came to the CC from participants of the meeting in which they reported additional facts of the factional activity of Gao Gang which had previously not been given serious attention.

After Liu Shaoqi Zhou Enlai dwelt on the specific facts and additional circumstances of the factional activity of Gao Gang.

Zhou Enlai said that the factional activity of Gao Gang had a particularly conspiratorial nature. Gao Gang did not speak openly of his views in the CC but disseminated them secretly among individual comrades. He set some comrades against others, and misled and deceived them. It was possible to finally expose Gao Gang after a large number of people were gathered together who knew Gao Gang earlier to a greater or lesser degree and whom he had tried to manipulate.

Zhou Enlai again stressed that Gao Gang's main goal was to seize power in the Party and government. As has now been established, Gao Gang had been systematically pursuing his activity in this direction for a long time in the Northwest, Northeast, and finally at HQ. When his activity which was hostile to the Party began to be revealed he started to be concerned when faced with complete exposure and embarked on the path of suicide since he saw that his entire careerist plans had collapsed. Zhou Enlai noted that Gao Gang's attempt at suicide cannot be evaluated as anything other than a malicious attack against the Party regardless of how serious the attempt was. Zhou Enlai then said that obviously lengthy and serious educational work will have to be conducted with Gao Gang.

Zhou Enlai said that the facts of the disruptive factional activity of Gao Gang can be reduced to the following main points.

1. The spreading of the so-called "theory" of the military origin of the Party. Beginning last year he began to spread this "theory" among some high-ranking Party officials of the CC staff and senior military officials. With this "theory" of his he pursued the goal of splitting the Party and sowing discord in its ranks. He also counted on winning the trust of the military and drawing them to his side. Gao Gang counted on it being easier for him to achieve his careerists goals when the Party was split. He actually placed the Army over the Party.

Zhou Enlai then dwelt on Gao Gang's views about the CCP allegedly not being a monolithic organization but an organization consisting of two parts (the first, main, part of the Party comes from military organizations, and the second, minor, part was formed in the white Kuomintang regions). Gao Gang spoke in favor of the need to reexamine and correct the well-known "Decisions About Several Questions of CCP History" adopted by the CCP CC Plenum in April 1945 (see Mao Zedong's Collected Works, Vol. 4).

In preparing to seize power, Gao Gang declared in discussions with some comrades that it was necessary to plan beforehand the delegations to the 8th Party Congress, to determine the regions of the country that they would come from, who would be in the delegations, etc. Although the 8th Congress would obviously not be convened before two or three years, said Zhou Enlai, Gao Gang had now already been trying to secure support from possible delegates to the Congress and secretaries of local [na mestakh] CC bureaus who ordinarily head the delegations to the Congress. Being himself the Secretary of the Northwest Bureau, in the course of preparations for the Congress Gao Gang tried to manipulate some senior officials of the CCP CP North China and East China bureaus. He declared to a number of comrades that at the 8th Congress it would be necessary to remove Peng Zhen from the Politburo and expel Bo Yibo and several others from the CC. Gao Gang wanted only people he liked to be in the CC and Politburo.

2. The struggle against senior comrades from the CCP CC. In the struggle against Liu Shaoqi and others Gao Gang tried to forge a group of people around him who were personally devoted to him. Beginning in 1949 Gao Gang began to strenuously collect materials to compromise Liu Shaoqi. In discussions with Gao Gang Mao Zedong twice directly suggested that he talk with Liu Shaoqi but Gao Gang avoided this and continued to secretly spread false rumors about Liu Shaoqi's mistakes. Gao Gang went so far as to start collecting an archive of uncorrected drafts of Liu Shaoqi's speeches, hunting for mistakes, exaggerating them, and telling those around him of them.

Gao Gang spread false rumors about intra-Party matters and the situation in the Politburo among a wide circle of people, even to his own secretaries. For example, he spread a lie that Mao Zedong was supposedly extremely dissatisfied with Liu Shaoqi for his mistakes. People have been found who believed Gao Gang's slander since they did not know the true state of affairs.

As has now been established, Gao Gang spread provocative rumors that various groups and factions supposedly existed in the CC, a Mao Zedong group, a Zhou Enlai group, etc. He declared that the main group in the CCP, its backbone, was Mao Zedong's group, that Mao Zedong trusts him, Gao Gang, most of all. Gao Gang created this slander in order to conceal his factional work and draw people to his side.

3. The fabrications and provocations of Gao Gang with respect to drawing up lists of people intended for the Politburo, Secretariat, and the CC. Some restructuring of the CCP CC staff was planned to improve the work of the CC and strengthen the collective nature in [its] work. Liu Shaoqi once consulted with Gao Gang about this question and the latter used this occasion to float a provocative rumor that Liu Shaoqi was supposedly preparing lists of the new composition of the Politburo and Secretariat and that Bo Yibo would supposedly figure in the list of future Politburo members but not Lin Biao. Gao Gang himself hastened to inform Lin Biao and some of the military of this crude lie. Gao Gang also provocatively told Chen Zhongzhen that they wanted to appoint him to the post of Chief of the CC Organizational Department but that Liu Shaoqi was supposedly categorically against this. This could naturally cause some displeasure with Liu Shaoqi among the comrades.

Gao Gang used the most varied incidents for his provocative ends. For instance, he made use of a mistake made by An Ziwen, Deputy Chief of the CPC CC Organizational Department. At a planned Party conference the question of a certain expansion of the CC membership was to have been discussed. In connection with this An Ziwen had prepared a list of candidates at his own initiative and, thinking that Gao Gang was closer to Mao Zedong than others, went to him to consult about the list. Having familiarized himself with the list, Gao Gang began to spread various tales among part of the senior Party officials. He told some that An Ziwen had supposedly compiled the list at Mao Zedong's instruction to bypass the Politburo and told others that Liu Shaoqi had compiled the list and that a number of deserving people were not on the list, for example, Lin Biao, at a time that Bo Yibo was on the list, etc. These fabrications of Gao Gang led to many senior officials becoming resentful about the matter of the list. They developed a feeling of uncertainty and various doubts. The CC had to spend a lot of effort to eliminate the consequences of this provocation by Gao Gang.

4. Factionalism with regard to people. Gao Gang advanced and praised only those people devoted to him; those who were not were slandered and removed from [their] work. In the past year when the question of convening a Party conference was raised and candidates for CC membership needed to be selected to replace the seven CC members who had died or been expelled, Gao Gang compiled a list of new members and, without coordinating with the CC, began to talk with those whom he had selected for the CC and gave them promises that they would be promoted to the CC. He declared to two other comrades that they would be promoted to the Politburo although one of them was not even a CCP CC member.

For example, Gao Gang declared to Wang Jiaxiang, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, that he intended to make him the Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, Wang Jiaxiang did not fall for this provocation.

5. Being Secretary of the CC CCP Northeast Bureau, Gao Gang tried to manage the Northeast like his private domain and did not want to report to the CCP CC about his work.

In 1949, when the large cities in the interior of the country had just been liberated from the Kuomintang, Mao Zedong gave an order that a comparatively lenient policy be pursued with respect to the national bourgeoisie. In connection with this one of the comrades from the Northeast sent a letter to the CC in which he proposed examining the question of a certain softening of the policy with respect to the national bourgeoisie in the Northeast, too, although this region was liberated before the others. Mao Zedong recognized that it was advisable to discuss this question and gave instructions to send the letter to all large Party organizations. When Gao Gang found out about this letter and Mao Zedong's instruction, he expressed extreme displeasure. When in connection with this same question of the national bourgeoisie Li Fuchun was charged with going to Harbin and taking a number of steps there Gao Gang spoke against Li Fuchun since he thought that Li Fuchun was supposedly acting at the bidding of Liu Shaoqi and against Gao Gang.

Letters about came to the CCP CC from the Northeast during the campaign against the so-called "three and five" abuses that some senior officials in the Northeast were behaving badly in the moral and ordinary sense. Mao Zedong gave Gao Gang instructions to look into this matter and if necessary take measures to eliminate the unhealthy occurrences. Gao Gang was dissatisfied with this, in his opinion, "interference" in the affairs of his region and took no steps. Gao Gang began to persecute Lin Feng, Deputy Secretary of the CCP CC Northeast Bureau, suspected of being the author of the letter.

When the CC formed a commission to inspect the operation of the Anshan combine Gao Gang took this CC decision as a personal insult and interfered in the commission's work in every way.

Gao Gang initially did not agree to take the post of Chairman of the Planning Committee since he thought it had few powers and authority; in addition, he did not want to leave his private domain in the Northeast. He agreed to work in the Planning Committee after he found out that its powers would be broadened and that he would remain Secretary of the CCP CC Northeast Bureau. He said this frankly in a conversation with one of the comrades.

6. Undermining the authority of CC members and self-praise. Gao Gang systematically spread false rumors that Mao Zedong entrusted all the most important and difficult questions only to him (Gao Gang), that he was close to Mao Zedong, that he always sits next to him at all meetings, etc.

While a Korean delegation headed by Kim Il Sung was in Peking a commission including Gao Gang was created for talks with it. The commission developed specific proposals which were to be discussed during the talks with the Koreans. Gao Gang appropriated authorship of these documents to himself and in private discussions scornfully declared that only thing that was left for Zhou Enlai to do was to read the prepared documents to the Koreans.

7. The appropriation of someone else's materials. Zhou Enlai noted that Gao Gang was generally unconscientious, and handled work dishonestly and the documents he submitted to the CC. As a rule, Gao Gang spoke in the Politburo and other conferences from previously prepared talking points and then boasted how seriously he studies economic questions. However, as it turned out, Gao Gang is not even able to write anything competently and not just to draw up documents. All the documents, all the points of his speeches were prepared for him by others. As a rule, he did not even give guidelines for drawing up documents and points. Worse, he did not even study these documents and at times he read his speeches, written by others, at CC meetings and passed them off as his proposals. For example, during a discussion in the CC of a trade question (after Cde. V. M. Malenkov's speech at a USSR Supreme Soviet meeting) Chen Boda noted that this issue had been studied quite carefully in the Ministry of Trade. Having heard of this, Gao Gang pounced on the points prepared in the Ministry of Trade by an ordinary official named Liu Minfu, who had already issued these points in the Ministry of Trade and passed them off as his own and submitted them to the CC as his own proposals. In principle, the points were drawn up well and correctly but they had the failing that they did not completely reckon with the specific situation in China. Having familiarized himself with the points submitted by Gao Gang, Mao Zedong suggested distributing them to every organization as reference material. In the Ministry of Trade, having received these materials back, they decided that they had been approved by the CC and began to structure all their practical work based on them. However there was one point in them which Liu Minfu had mechanically transferred from a Soviet document, an intensified expansion of commodity circulation. When, in accordance with this point, the Ministry of Trade threw an enormous amount of goods on the market they didn't find buyers.  At the Finance and Economics Conference in July 1953 it was recognized that a clear mistake had been made in this question. As the author, Liu Minfu admitted his fault self-critically and wrote about this to the CC and passed the letter to Gao Gang. Gao Gang hid this letter from the CC. They have just now discovered it.

8. Damage to the cause of Soviet-Chinese relations caused by Gao Gang. Being in the Northeast Gao Gang often met with Kovalev and portrayed much to him in a false light. In turn, Kovalev obviously turned out to be a bad influence Gao Gang.

On return to the USSR Kovalev write a long letter to Stalin in which he described all the senior comrades negatively, even Mao Zedong (but with the exception of Gao Gang). Stalin sent this letter to Mao Zedong and noted in a conversation that Kovalev is apparently corrupting Gao Gang.

Now it is completely evident that the incorrect conclusions and descriptions contained in Kovalev's letter were made by Gao Gang. For instance, it was stated in the letter that Liu Shaoqi is supposedly pursuing an incorrect policy with regard to the national bourgeoisie, but Gao Gang [is pursuing] a correct one, that Liu Shaoqi supposedly hates Gao Gang, etc.

Gao Gang now admits himself, although not completely, that he talked with Kovalev about these questions.

Kovalev's letter contained a statement that a number of senior officials from the CCP CC are supposedly pro-American and anti-Soviet - Peng Zhen, Li Fuchun, Li Lisan, Bo Yibo, etc.

Gao Gang now admits that he expressed negative opinions about these comrades to Kovalev, especially with regard to Peng Zhen and Lin Feng.

Zhou Enlai stressed that other incorrect information is contained in Kovalev's letter but what has been cited is enough to be convinced of the harm that Gao Gang did to the cause of Soviet-Chinese relations.

Zhou Enlai then said that Gao Gang irresponsibly and without the permission of HQ also talked about intra-Party matters with some other Soviet comrades who happened to meet with him when he was in the Northeast. For example, he talked about Party matters with one Soviet Air Force captain. Liu [Ya-lou], Commanding General of the Chinese Air Force, was a witness to this conversation.

Having visited the USSR in 1949 Gao Gang started to boast of this and stress this everywhere. He declared that Stalin had a warm regard for him and was deprecatory of Liu Shaoqi. After a second trip to the USSR Gao Gang began to spread false rumors that Stalin had supposedly declared to him that Mao Zedong was in favor of helping Korea but there are few who support him about this in the CCP CC. Gao Gang also stated that in a conversation with him Stalin supposedly said that Zhou Enlai behaves passively, that Stalin allegedly expressed wonder about Zhou Enlai going on vacation at a time when talks about an armistice in Korea were to begin (this is 1951). In reality, Stalin did not say this to Gao Gang according to Shi Zhe, who was the interpreter in Stalin's conversation with Gao Gang.

9. Gao Gang's desire to seize power. Zhou Enlai said that in the spring of 1953 when the question of the advisability of creating a Council of Ministers in the PRC was being studied in the CC Mao Zedong declared that he not have any objection at all to the creation of such a body but he did not want the post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers to be entrusted to him (Mao Zedong). Taking advantage of this, Gao Gang proposed Lin Biao for this post. In reality Gao Gang was thinking of occupying this post himself. His calculation was this: Lin Biao was seriously ill and consequently was not in a position to occupy the post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers. In discussions with comrades Gao Gang tried to sidetrack the candidacy of Zhou Enlai on the grounds that Zhou Enlai was not worthy to occupy this post by virtue of a number of mistakes which he had made in the past. In a conversation with one senior comrade Gao Gang falsely stated that Mao Zedong had reportedly suggested that he (Gao Gang) take the post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Gao Gang counted on this comrade and others, having found out about the "plans" of Mao Zedong, to support and advance Gao Gang's candidacy without fail.

Having mentioned that Gao Gang objected to the creation of the post of Deputy Chairman or General Secretary in the Party since he was afraid that Liu Shaoqi would be elected to this post, Zhou Enlai said that in a conversation with Chen Yun Gao Gang declared that he would not object to Chen Yun taking this post, but on condition that in turn Chen Yun would support Gao Gang's candidacy to the post of Chairman of the Council of Ministers.

In order to sidetrack the candidacy of Liu Shaoqi to the new post in the Party Gao Gang also resorted to the following. He charged one comrade with going to Hanzhou where Lin Biao was being treated, and telling him that he would object to the candidacy of Liu Shaoqi. Gao Gang knew that Mao Zedong would soon come to Hanzhou on vacation and counted on Lin Biao opposing the candidacy of Liu Shaoqi when meeting with Mao Zedong. However, the comrade whom Gao Gang wanted to send to Hanzhou refused such an assignment.

10. Gao Gang's general corruption. Zhou Enlai said that, as has now been established, during his time in Mukden Gao Gang lived with 14 women. It is possible that there were more. During the year that he was in Peking Gao Gang has managed to engage in intimate relations with six women. Among these women are two who have brothers in Taiwan. At the present time the public security organs are engaging in additional investigation of this question. Zhou Enlai said that it is also necessary to do more study of some aspects of Gao Gang's biography that are still unclear. For example, according to statements of several comrades, in the past Gao Gang was arrested by organs of the old police.

Summing up, Zhou Enlai stressed that Gao Gang turned out to be seriously infected with careerism and bourgeois individualism and performed [his] work guided only by considerations of personal gain. Gao Gang had no patience at all with criticism addressed at him. He had a high opinion of himself when he had success at work but during difficult times he vacillated, his spirits fell, and he engaged in whining. During difficult periods for him he repeatedly declared that he would either go and become a monk or return to the countryside as an ordinary peasant. Characteristics of a low-class [deklassirovannyy] element show through in the conduct of Gao Gang. The reeducation of Gao Gang [will be] a very difficult and lengthy business.

Zhou Enlai said that the following could be expected from Gao Gang at the present time: he might try to flee, but this is difficult to do; he might continue to take revenge on other comrades by slandering them; or he might again try to commit suicide. The CC is taking these possibilities into account and has therefore taken precautionary measures.

Touching on the question of Rao Shushi, Zhou Enlai said that the document about his case is still being prepared. Zhou Enlai promised to send this document to us to pass to the CPSU CC.

The essence of the Rao Shushi case, Zhou Enlai noted, is the same as Gao Gang's: careerism, bourgeois individualism, etc. The methods of factional activity of Rao Shushi matched Gao Gang's methods. Unlike Gao Gang Rao Shushi just acted more surreptitiously, carefully, and cleverly, and also on a less broad scale.

Zhou Enlai tentatively listed the following from the specific instances of the activity of Rao Shushi:

1. The struggle against Chen Yi. In 1942 when Liu Shaoqi left the location of the New 4th Army for Yan'an he charged Rao Shushi with performing the responsibilities of Secretary of the CC Bureau and political commissar of the New 4th Army. This army was in difficult circumstances in the rear of the Japanese and needed maximum cohesion in its ranks. Without taking this into consideration Rao Shushi began an unprincipled struggle against Chen Yi and finally got Chen Yi recalled from the New 4th Army. At the 7th Party Congress Rao Shushi, without speaking personally against Chen Yi, incited others to do this. Later Rao Shushi tried in every way to damage and discredit Chen Yi before the CCP CC.

2. In 1952 during the campaign against the so-called "three and five" abuses Rao Shushi was assigned to conduct this campaign in Shanghai. Being afraid of responsibility, Rao Shushi avoided active participation in the campaign under the pretext of eye disease. When he was permitted to come to Peking for treatment he became seriously alarmed since he had decided that doubts had surfaced about him in the CC. However he came to Mao Zedong's at night directly from the hospital in order to clear up the question which was alarming him. Simulating a psychological breakdown, he began to prove to Mao Zedong that he had always and is vigorously fighting enemies, that he was devoted to Mao Zedong, etc. During a three-hour conversation several times Rao Shushi tried carefully to find out whether the CC had any doubts about his work and conduct. Rao Shushi only became calm when he received a favorable reply. Rao Shushi later suddenly started to think that he could have exposed himself by his escapade and therefore began to again simulate a psychological breakdown. After "recovery" he began to tell many people that he was in a state of psychological breakdown while he was in conversation with Mao Zedong.

3. Zhou Enlai then said that Rao Shushi finally exposed himself during the Financial and Economic Conference and the meeting in the CC on organizational questions when he began to speak more openly together with Gao Gang. He decided that Gao Gang was on the rise and would replace Liu Shaoqi.

Now Rao Shushi, also like Gao Gang, is trying to be clever and to maneuver, ascribes his words and statements to other comrades, slanders them and admits his own mistakes only when he ends up in a hopeless situation.

Zhou Enlai said that also like Gao Gang there is one unclear point in Rao Shushi's biography which needs to be clarified. When the Kuomintang made an attack on the New 4th Army Rao Shushi was taken prisoner by a detachment of landowners' militia, but somehow managed to obtain [his] freedom, went to Shanghai, and then returned to the New 4th Army.  

In the words of Rao Shushi himself, he obtained [his] freedom as a result of offering a bribe.

Zhou Enlai reported that Gao Gang and Rao Shushi will not remain in their previous posts but the question has not yet come up about expelling them from the Party.

Zhou Enlai said that the activity of such people as Gao Gang and Rao Shushi became possible as a result of certain feelings of self-satisfaction,  contentment, and complacency having appeared in the CCP CC. The case of Beria, said Zhou Enlai, forced the Chinese comrades to increase vigilance and helped expose Gao Gang and Rao Shushi. The exposure of these people was a great success for the CCP CC.

At the end of the conversation Liu Shaoqi asked that this information be conveyed to the CPSU CC.

He also said that it would be desirable for me to familiarize the senior advisers among our civilian and military specialists with the cases of Gao Gang and Rao Shushi in general terms.

V. V. VAS'KOV, counselor of the USSR Embassy in the PRC, and Shi Zhe were present at the conversation.

USSR AMBASSADOR TO THE PRC

/signature/ (P. YUDIN)

[Distribution,

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Drafted by Vas'kov

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