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

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More