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Digital Archive International History Declassified

October 21, 1970


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    A report on China’s foreign policy shift, especially towards the US and USSR.
    "Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Information about Some New Aspects of Tactical Modification of the Foreign Policy of the PR China' ," October 21, 1970, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, PA AA, C 509/75. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.
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Embassy of the GDR in the PR China

Beijing, 21 October 1970

Information about some

New Aspects of Tactical Modification of the Foreign Policy of the PR China

1. Recently, especially since May of this year, there have been a couple of indications towards a further tactical modification of Chinese foreign policy. For the assessment of the current policy of the Chinese leadership, especially towards the Soviet Union, in our opinion the following facts are of interest:

- Mao’s declaration of 20 May 1970 contains neither direct nor indirect anti-Soviet attacks. It’s incorporated slogan “Peoples of the World: Unite, defeat the U.S. Aggressors, and all their lackeys!” became a main motto in Chinese propaganda abroad. The slogan “Down with U.S. Imperialism, down with Soviet Revisionism!” has been removed. At the board across from the Soviet Embassy an anti-Soviet slogan has been replaced by the above mentioned text.

- The Communique of the 2nd Plenary of the CCP[1] (23 August to 6 September 1970) explicitly reaffirmed the Mao Declaration from the 20th of May and called it a great agenda for anti-imperialist struggle, which our people are conducting together with the revolutionary peoples of the world. The foreign policy line of the IX Party Congress was, in contrast, not explicitly mentioned. The “struggle against modern revisionism with Soviet revisionism as its center” was basically portrayed as an issue for the Workers Party of Albania and the other “truly Marxist—Leninist parties and organizations”.

- For the first time in many years, the Chinese press published verbatim a message of  greeting by the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries at the occasion of the [21st] Anniversary of the PR China [on 1 October 1970]. (We could observe that those congratulatory telegrams, especially the Soviet one, were read by the population with great interest).

- In a joint editorial by the three newspapers to the 21st Anniversary of the PRC, as well as in the speeches by Lin Biao and Zhou Enlai, there were no direct as well as less indirect anti-Soviet attacks. The latter consisted of statements like about the need for struggle against “revisionism”, and the about the so-called collaboration between U.S. imperialism and “social-imperialism”. The main focus of publications and the manifestation on the 1st of October were problems of domestic and economic development of the PR China (see assessment by our Embassy VD Po-124/70). Thus the new peak in anti-Sovietism expected by the Soviet cds did not materialize.

- The Soviet Ambassador, V. S. [Vasily Sergeyevich] Tolstikov[2], got accredited at the earliest possible opportunity, this is already three days after his arrival; in general this was seen as a demonstrative act by the Chinese side. In the subsequent conversation, Dong Biwu[3] emphasized the need to gradually normalize relations between China and the Soviet Union despite existing differences in opinions. Regarding the border issue, he referred to Mao Zedong’s remark directed on the 1st of May this year to Comrade Gankowski: one has to change the Soviet-Chinese border into a border of peace and security and has to resolve disputes by peaceful means. Dong did not categorically reject the question about a resumption of party-to-party relations, but he replied this is a topic for the distant future. Currently the issue of normalizing state-to-state relations is on the agenda.

- During the trade talks with the Soviet Union in Beijing on the 13th of October, the Chinese side increased its initially proposed overall trade volume from 140 million Rubles to 175 millions Rubles.

- PRC Deputy Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua[4] told at the end of September the Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister [András] Gyenes, who was on a visit to Beijing, that the root for contradictions between China and the Soviet Union is the approach towards the question of material interests. He asked Gyenes to tell Comrade Ilychev, the head of the Soviet negotiating delegation at the border negotiations, that China will never start a war because of border issues.

- At the banquet for the occasion of the 21st Anniversary of the PR China, Zhou Enlai demonstratively talked to Comrade Ilychev, the head of the Soviet negotiating delegation at the Chinese-Soviet border negotiations. In essence, he repeated Mao’s statement from 1 May 1970 by saying he [Zhou Enlai] wishes that the border negotiations may lead to a situation of peace and good neighborly cooperation.

- At a cocktail for the occasion of the Hungarian Army Day on 29 September 1970, the Deputy Head of the Department for International Relations of the Defense Ministry in the PR China, Xu Kaiyin, said to the Hungarian Ambassador, he [Xu] being a Marxist cannot imagine how two socialist countries could solve border issues with armed violence.

- The treatment of Soviet diplomats in Beijing is correct again. If they request a talk in the Foreign Ministry, they are usually received by the desired partner at the requested time. One trip each to Tianjin and to the Ming Tombs was approved.

- On 13 October 1970, the Beijing “Renmin Ribao” published a commentary piece on the so-called new proposals by [U.S. President Richard] Nixon on Indochina from the 7th of October this year. In contrast to previous publications, this article does neither contain open nor hidden attacks against the Soviet Union. Instead it addresses a couple of statements [by Nixon], which are in part identical with opinions of the Soviet press on the same issue (see “Pravda” from 11th and 16th of October).

- Recently a brochure with statements and conversations of Mao Zedong to support the struggle against U.S. imperialism was published by the Publication House for Foreign Literature. This brochure also contains the “Conversation to support the Panamanian people in their just patriotic struggle against U.S. Imperialism” from 12 January 1964. Among else it is saying: “The aggression and war policy of U.S. imperialism is also seriously threatening the Soviet Union, China and the other socialist states. Furthermore, U.S. Imperialism is conducting towards the socialist countries with full force a policy of ‘peaceful evolution’ with the intention to restore capitalism there and to facilitate the dissolution of the socialist camp … The peoples of the socialist camp should unite, the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America should unite … they have to establish the broadest possible united front in order to fight the aggression and war policy of U.S. Imperialism and to defend world peace.” Also, the declaration published in the same brochure “to support the Dominican people” from 12 May 1965 contains the slogan: “Peoples of the socialist camp, unite!” Although those statements mentioned had been published already five or six years ago, in our opinion it appears to be remarkable that they are re-published just now at the present moment (however not in Chinese language).

In this context it must also be noted that domestically the anti-Soviet campaign is continuing unabatedly. Recently there have been the following examples:

- With Shanghai Publishing House an edited volume came out containing, in addition to articles against U.S. imperialism, also anti-Soviet pieces from “Renmin Ribao” from 1969.

- In August 1970 an illustrated volume came out in Shanghai in form of a comics magazine. Its title was “Praise for the Heroes from ‘Zhenbao Dao (Damansky) [Island]’”, and it featured from beginning to end sickest anti-Soviet slander. Another magazine with “eyewitness reports” of the “Heroic Deeds on Zhenbao Dao” was also published in Shanghai (1st edition in May 1970, 2nd edition in July 1970) under the title “The Honor of the Fatherland must not be Insulted”.

- For the occasion of the 21st Anniversary of the PRC the bookstores sold posters with anti-Soviet Mao quotes.

- For quite some time, “art stores” are selling sculptures with the name “Anti-Revisionist Fighter in Red Square” [in Moscow].   

Those facts allow for the conclusion that the new Chinese leadership is eager to bolster all steps towards normalization of state-to-state relations with the Soviet Union with ideological domestic moves. Apparently this is an attempt to keep the population in the dark about the actual state of relations and create the impression that nothing has changed from the course of the IX Party Congress [April 1969] in order not to allow for ideological “confusion”. It is no coincidence that radio stations do not report such news like the arrival of the new Soviet head of [border] negotiations, Comrade Ilychev, or of the new ambassador and its accreditation.

Further factors signifying the current activation and tactical modification of Chinese foreign policy are:

- Normalization of state-to-state relations with other socialist countries (sending of ambassadors to Budapest, Warsaw, Berlin, Belgrade)

- Improvement of relations with France and emphasis of the existence of similar positions on various issues of international policy (e.g. Indochina problem)

- Increased emphasis of the willingness to establish relations with states of different social systems on the basis of the five principles of peaceful coexistence; and in this context the establishment of diplomatic relations with Canada (see “Renmin Ribao” of 15 October 1970)

- High delegation traffic in recent months. In addition to high-ranking delegations from Albania, Romania, the DPRK and the DRV, several representative delegations from Afro-Asiatic states were visiting the PR China (from Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, the People’s Republic of Congo, South Yemen, and Pakistan). Almost all of them signed agreements over extensive Chinese economic aid.

- The Chinese leadership is acting tactically more adept in the Middle East. Besides its declared opposition to a peaceful resolution of the Middle East conflict, the [PRC] is however avoiding any kind of attacks against Arab states advocating a peaceful solution to the conflict (for instanced the UAR[5] and Sudan). (Despite of the fact that Sudan belongs to those Arab countries, which are close aligned with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, and that Sudan is fully supportive of the UAR initiative towards a peaceful solution of problems in the Middle East, the PR China is granting this state an economic credit in the amount of about 1.5 million Pound Sterling).

- There are indications that under certain circumstances the Chinese leadership might be willing to also normalize relations with India again. On the 1st of May Mao was sending greetings to [Prime Minister] Indira Gandhi through the Indian Ambassador. In stark contrast to previous practice, the Chinese side did not officially mention the Kashmir issue during a visit by a Pakistani military delegation in September. Pakistani events were censored in the same vein and publications were abridged. Furthermore, it became known from Cairo that the Ambassadors of the PRC and India had talked on 11 October 1970. According to AFP[6], this was the continuation of consultations about options of normalization of relations between both states. Those consultations were said to have begun in July this year already. Also with regard to relations with Burma, it is said there exists a desire for normalization. As it had become known just recently, Burma has already nominated the former Colonel U Thein Maung as Ambassador to the PR China.

- An explicitly positive attitude of the PR China towards the conference of non-aligned states in Lusaka, in stark contrast to previous such conferences in Belgrade and Cairo.

- De facto support of the 8-Point-Proposal by the RSV[7] delegation at the Paris peace negotiations from 17 September 1070 through a respective article in “Renmin Ribao”.

2. There is a conclusion from all the above mentioned activities, statements and reactions of the Maoist leadership, especially in the context of foreign relations of the PR China, but also with regard to international conflict spots (Indochina, Middle East): There have been progressing conceptual and practical modifications of the PRC’s foreign policy tactics. Those tactical modifications affect the entire system of PRC foreign policy: they are mostly directed towards PRC relations with the Soviet Union and in a differentiated fashion with other socialist states, towards China’s position vis-a-vis the United States, towards a number of Afro-Asiatic national states, some capitalist states (Canada, France) as well as towards the United Nations. The objective of this modified tactical approach, as far as state-to-state relations with above mentioned countries are concerned, consists of the following: creating more favorable conditions to implement the essentially unchanged great-power-chauvinist, nationalist and anti-Soviet goals of the current leadership of the PR China. Apparently the latter is currently aiming at exploiting, respectively abusing, the conflict situations resulting from the global confrontation of systems and the subsequently developing international constellations of forces - in order to realize the strategically devised [Chinese] great power policy.

In this context, there exist the general opinion within the diplomatic corps that tough debates must have occurred within the Chinese leadership regarding those basic questions, namely the relation between strategy and tactics, the tactical approach towards the Soviet Union and the United States, as well as the temporary re-emergence of the principles of peaceful coexistence as the so-called general line of PRC foreign policy. The following indications are noted in this regard: the in part contradictory positioning by the Chinese side in its negotiations with the Soviet Union in recent weeks (opinion of the Soviet Embassy); the different nuancing of the principles of peaceful coexistence in important statements and speeches (Mao Statement from 20 May 1970, 2nd [CCP] Plenum, National Holiday, communique about the establishment of diplomatic relations with Canada et cetera); and finally also the looming personnel changes in the Maoist top leadership (Chen Boda, demonstrative elevation of Lin Biao, et cetera).

In its core, above mentioned tactical modifications in PRC foreign policy are addressing substantial questions of Chinese-Soviet relations, because the Soviet Union is, and strategically remains, the main object of attack for the Mao Group; since the Soviet Union is politically, economically, and militarily the strongest power within the socialist world system. Based on this, one has to assess also the recent activities and attitudes on display from the Chinese side towards the Soviet Union. Since the publication of the Mao Statement from 20 May 1970, there is the noteworthy tendency of the Chinese leadership having shifted the main focus of its primarily propagandistic attacks towards the United States, and at the same time having verbally reduced its external anti-Sovietism (see also our assessment of the communique of the 2nd Plenum, VD Pe-116/70;  while initially the Soviet Union had still been accused of striking “political deals” with the United States among else in the Middle East, and with West Germany in the context of the Soviet -West German Treaty [of August 1970], such slanders are currently omitted also in the Chinese press). Simultaneously, the Chinese did respond positively to Soviet steps toward normalization of mutual relations (accreditation of the Soviet Ambassador). Especially in their propaganda abroad, the Chinese massively highlighted the need for the struggle by all progressive forces against U.S. imperialism.

In conclusion, and in concordance with the Soviet comrades (Soviet Embassy), we can assess that the Mao leadership has further modified its foreign policy tactics insofar that U.S. imperialism has currently in fact been made the main object for attacks; and this stands in contrast to the tactical line of the “IX Party Congress”, which had been characterized by militant anti-Sovietism both in domestic and foreign direction. However, this tactical modification does not apply to the domestically oriented political-ideological education of the population, also because of the extremely massive orientation towards war preparations. In our opinion, the political background behind all this is the Mao Leadership’s perceived need to politically-ideologically cover above-mentioned new aspects of tactical approaches towards the Soviet Union and some other socialist countries through unchanged harsh anti-Soviet propaganda for a domestic audience. Apparently they want to prevent this way that illusions and wrong interpretations will take hold, especially among criticized cadres and intellectuals as well as within the population, with regard to the general position of the PRC towards the Soviet Union.

Among else, the following reasons might be relevant for these new elements in the PRC’s tactical approach towards the Soviet Union and the United States:

- The Mao Leadership did not succeed in achieving decisive results regarding the implementation of its strategic objective to push back the international political, economic, and military influence of the Soviet Union with the support of the tactical course of “offensive anti-Sovietism” outlined by the “IX Party Congress”. This is on display most obviously pertaining to the examples of the DRV and the DPRK. Though the PRC has achieved a relatively far-reaching normalization, respectively development, of relations at various levels [with those two states], it was not able to achieve a weakening of Soviet positions in favor of Chinese influence.

- With the border provocations against the Soviet Union, the PR China, in pursuing its objective to be recognized as the third autonomous great power, completed its already ongoing ideological and economic separation from the USSR and the socialist world system also at the political level. This way the Mao Group has created essential conditions to develop, respectively normalize in differentiated ways, its relations with the imperialist countries, the nation states, but also especially with the socialist states on this new basis.

- Apparently the Mao Leadership was forced to realize that the United States, after the withdrawal of its fleet from the Taiwan Strait and the resumption of the Warsaw ambassadorial talks, was not willing to go for any further specific compromises with the PR China. In addition, from the American side Cambodia was dragged into the policy of aggressions in Indochina (something the Chinese leadership apparently had not expected). Also, Japan was appointed as a “protective power” for Taiwan and South Korea, without the Americans being interested in any previous coordination with the PR China about those mutual regions of interest. Since the beginning of the great-power chauvinist, anti-Soviet foreign policy, the contradictions between the PR China and the United States had been only latently in effect, but now they had to break out again more openly. Furthermore, it has to be considered that within the framework of its imperialist global strategy the United States is proceeding more aggressively resp. more pronounced with regard to important focal points of the global confrontation of systems (Indochina, Middle East, West Berlin, Cuba). With the help of its tactics of “Vietnamization”, the United States succeeded to achieve relative stability of the situation in Indochina for its own benefit and to launch a negotiation offensive from the position of military strength. Obviously this development had to come in conflict with Chinese interests in this region, which the PR China considers an important sphere of influence.              

In this context it must also be noted that, with the signing of the so-called American-Japanese security treaty, fears about a future Japanese expansionism are gaining ground within the Chinese leadership (see here also the reasons behind the normalization and deepening of relations between the PRC and the DPRK over the course of the previous year).

- The Mao Leadership undertook efforts to build for itself a leading role towards Afro-Asiatic nation states, respectively to develop and deepen bilateral relations with some socialist countries (DRV, DPRK, Romania, Yugoslavia) in the interest of expanding its radius of action for the great-power chauvinist, anti-Soviet foreign policy. This turned out as being incompatible with the line of the openly militant anti-Soviet course, as outlined at the “IX Party Congress.”

- One can observe a domestic political and economic stabilization of the Mao Group’s power positions (see assessment of the communique from the 2nd [CCP] Plenum). This opened up opportunities for the leadership for a progressive modification of its tactical approach towards the outside world, especially vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and other socialist states.

In conclusion, it can be assessed that the Mao Group will want to continue for now with  its floated tactical approach in its foreign policy - in order to create more favorable conditions to achieve its great-power chauvinist, nationalist, and anti-Soviet objectives. As a result, one can expect further steps, differentiated in their approach, in direction of normalization of relations with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Apparently the Chinese leadership is currently, among else, also interested in exploiting for leverage with the U.S. the contentious elements in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union and the insufficient willingness to compromise on the side of the USA vis-a-vis the PRC: here the Chinese side is hinting at the Nixon Administration that a certain reduction in tensions in the PRC-U.S. relationship is certainly possible. Furthermore, as an additional result the PRC is forced, respectively is considering it as opportune, to adopt in parallel similar positions like the Soviet Union with regard to international conflicts in particular in the Asian region (see Chinese statement concerning Nixon’s recent proposal pertaining to Indochina).

With the goal of expanding its foreign policy maneuvering room, the PRC will further continue in its activities towards developing and deepening its relations with several Afro-Asiatic nation states. In this context one cannot exclude a certain normalization of relations with India and Burma. The establishment of diplomatic relations with Canada and Italy has significantly improved the international position of the PR China with regard to the Taiwan question. This should have positive effects on the establishment of contacts with additional capitalist states, and it will improve the perspective for the restoration of the legal rights of the PRC within the United Nations.

The recent tactical modifications in PRC foreign policy, especially vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, do however under no circumstances exclude new, open, and directly orchestrated anti-Soviet attacks by the Mao Group, since the current PRC leadership will not give up its great-power chauvinist, nationalist, and anti-Soviet policy. For that reason, it [Chinese leadership] will also resort in certain situations - at the least by following its interest to underline the ideological and political delimitation from the Soviet Union and the socialist world system - again and again to more or less strong and direct anti-Soviet activities and provocations.

Summing it up, it can be said that the more flexible foreign policy approach by the Mao Group, as well as the growing participation of the PRC in international affairs, will increase the dangerousness of the great-power policies of the current leadership. At the same time, however, this will also result for the Soviet Union and the fraternally allied socialist states in new opportunities to influence the policy of the PR China.  

Signed [Bernd Kaufmann]

Dr. Kaufmann

2nd Secretary

Signed [Heribert Kunz]


3rd Secretary


1x Comrade [Foreign] Minister [Oskar] Fischer

1x Central Committee, [Department of] International Relations

1x [GDR] Foreign Ministry, Far East Department (2x)

1x [GDR] Foreign Ministry, Central Information Service

1x Embassy [Beijing]

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China

[1] Chinese Communist Party.

[2] 1917-2003. 1970 to 1979 Ambassador of the Soviet Union to the PRC.

[3] 1876-1975. 2nd Vice Chairman of the PRC.

[4] 1913-1983.

[5] United Arab Republic = Egypt.

[6]  Agence France Press.

[7] Republic of South Vietnam.