News / Asia

Q&A with Austin Jersild: The Sino-Soviet Relationship

FILE - President Mao Tse-tung, right,  of the Communist Chinese republic and Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin, left, of the Soviet Union chat together in Moscow, Nov. 4, 1957.
FILE - President Mao Tse-tung, right, of the Communist Chinese republic and Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin, left, of the Soviet Union chat together in Moscow, Nov. 4, 1957.
The 1950 Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance marked the beginning of a tense period between the former Soviet Union and China, contrary to the name of the treaty. As Moscow sought to build a strong communist ally in the Soviet Bloc’s Cold War struggle against the United States, Russian Imperialism rose to become a wedge that would alienate China, frustrate Bloc member nations and eventually collapse the Soviet Union. Austin Jersild, associate professor of history at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, delves into this fascinating aspect of relations in his new book, The Sino-Soviet Alliance. He tells Daybreak Asia host Jim Stevenson how recently opened Russian and Chinese archives are revealing intricate details of mutual frustrations seen in a wide variety of source material.
 

STEVENSON: The archives must provide some amazing insights for researchers and scholars, having the availability to a lot of these archives now, and gaining a picture of these relationships that we didn’t have before.
 
JERSILD: I just love that part of my work. Archival research is very fun, it’s very interesting. It is hard work and sometimes it is very slow and you kind of wonder about the nature of the progress that you are making. There are new opportunities here, new sources.
 
STEVENSON: At the risk of oversimplifying, it would seem the Soviets had wanted to at least make China somewhat in their own image. But did they underestimate the Chinese?
 
JERSILD: There was an ongoing problem there that was evident in some of the terms that eventually the other Bloc parties and the Chinese in particular used to describe the Soviets. They talked about great power, chauvinism or even kind of traditional Russian chauvinistic attitudes that were evident among the advisors themselves who maybe looked at China in a kind of condescending way as a traditional sort of Eastern and backward land, and that they were trying to enlighten and kind of culturally improve. All of this was very insulting to the Chinese and they began to talk about these things openly. They began to communicate with the other Bloc parties about these things.
 
STEVENSON: I wonder if that had an impact on some of the other members of the Soviet Bloc and eventually help to hasten the fall of the Soviet Union.
 
JERSILD: I think that is definitely part of the long term picture. In the short term, the East and central European parties were not going to side with the Chinese. There was nothing there for them especially in the vision of The Great Leap Forward as it is unfolding from 1958 to 1960 and a huge famine in China in 1961. But yes, in the longer term, globally, this is huge. The Sino-Soviet split is one of the biggest if not the biggest event in the history of socialism, of the history of the Cold War.
 
STEVENSON: How would you categorize the state of Sino-Russian relations at this point, is it a matter of what the Russians can learn from the Chinese now?
 
JERSILD: That is an interesting transformation. A common slogan in the 1950s was the importance of learning from the Soviet Union. It was a ubiquitous Chinese slogan. That is absurd now. We can’t imagine a public campaign of that sort today. What can the Russians learn from the Chinese? That is an interesting question. They can learn a lot obviously, like we all can. But the problem I think from the Russian perspective is that there still remains a kind of disbelief that an Eastern society, part of Asia, could be so much more productive and better than them. That history, I think, is difficult for Russia to overcome when now, as you say, the relationship has been reversed. If anything, there is more from Russia to learn from China than there is for China to learn from Russia.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid