but exporting revolution?
The revolutionary internationalist orientation that defined Chinese foreign policy during the 1960s occurred against the background of the struggle against modern revisionism within the international communist movement. The polemics assisted many revolutionaries in breaking away from the old, reformist politics that had long dominated communist parties in many countries. Revolutionaries built new anti-revisionist Marxist-Leninist and Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organizations and parties. A great many activists and organisations uncritically adopted the positions of the Communist Party of China led by Mao, looking towards Beijing as much as previous communists had looked to the Soviet Union for inspiration and guidance. The importance of Maoist China offering a genuine alternative to USSR communism, providing intellectual and practical support to rebels and revolutionaries throughout the world, had a receptive audience of foreign friends of China. There is deservedly a whole library of writing and discussion on China’s foreign policies, this post focuses narrowly on one idea that was once levelled against the People’s Republic under Mao Zedong.
China was a model in the struggle for national liberation. Chinese leaders expressed the belief that China’s experience was directly applicable to the circumstances in many other countries. As the self-styled leader of newly independent and developing nations, termed the Third World, China supported many struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America. These struggles were seen as part of a global movement in which “the countryside” (i.e., the peripheral states of the Global south) would rise against and conquer “the cities” (the countries of the developed and industrialized Second and First Worlds). The similarities with the CCP’s own struggles during the Yan’an era were obvious.
What developed was the theoretical understanding that the experience in China had a universalist and historic ramifications for the communist project. Samir Amin succinctly highlights the importance of Mao’s analysis contained in his On New Democracy report:
“This thesis held that for the majority of the peoples of the planet the long road to socialism could only be opened by a “national, popular, democratic, anti-feudal and anti-imperialist revolution, run by communists.” The underlying message was that other socialist advances were not on the agenda elsewhere, that is, in the imperialist centres. Such revolutions could not possibly take shape until after the peoples of the peripheries had inflicted substantial damage on imperialism.”[i]
Militancy and support for worldwide revolution peaked during the Cultural Revolution, when China’s outlook on liberation struggles seemed to take its cue from Lin Biao’s famous 1965 presentation “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” This speech predicted that the underdeveloped countries of the world would surround and overpower the industrial nations and create a new communist world order. While Lin’s statement focused exclusively on the U.S. as the target of revolutionary struggle, to the exclusion of the other Western imperialist powers, and downplayed the possibilities for revolutionary struggle in the imperialist countries, it had a powerful revolutionary thrust.
Ironically what is well documented is U.S. efforts to destabilize and eventually utilizing the CIA in place of the Pentagon, and creating instability and chaos to topple governments that defied Washington. Fermenting counter-revolution and armed intervention has been an open element in US foreign policy. While China supplied revolutionary groups with rhetorical and, in some cases, material support, the ideological crusade that came from China stressed the importance of revolutionaries in each country working to their own conditions. Given China’s own level of development, support for the friendly nations and political/revolutionary parties in Asia, Africa and Latin America, was demonstrated, symbolically in its publishing programme and, in various posters.[ii] Less public material aid was supplied but seldom advertised.
The culture and politics of Maoist China permeated global radicalism in the sixties often that impact through enthusiasm for Maoism driven by what non-Chinese understood the revolutionary line of Chairman Mao to be. Whilst militant diplomacy[iii] would expressed full sympathy and support for the heroic struggle, thanks for profound friendship and that the just struggles of the peoples of various countries in the world support each other, the expectations, and advice, was that:
“It is imperative to adhere to the policy of self-reliance, rely on the strength of the masses in one’s own country, and prepare to carry on the fight independently even when all material aid from the outside is cut off. If one does not operate by one’s own efforts, does not independently ponder and solve the problems of the revolution in one’s own country…but leans on foreign aid—even though this be aid from socialist countries which persist in revolution—no victory can be won, or be consolidated if it is won.”[iv]
From the Chinese side there was no attempt to instigate a political culture of uncritically accepting the authority of the Communist Party of China or form a Comintern that would try to marshal parties around the world into line. The relationship with the CPC illustrates that, regardless of what pro-China communists might desire, the Communist Party of China did not seek to reproduce the ‘Socialist camp’ as it had existed with an unquestioned “leading” party. Instead an anti-revisionist trend arose from the Sixties that were not consolidated on an organisational basis. There was no “Beijing centre” to rebuild and lead component sections of a “Maoist International”. China’s communist party rejected the patriarchal party model of the Comintern and had no intention of mirco-managing a Maoist tendency or elevation peoples’ war as a criteria of acceptance. At one point in the late Sixties (as discussed below), Indian supporters influenced by Lin Biao, sought to promote Mao and China’s path as their own. This was swiftly criticised by the CPC. The liberation of a nation from imperialism, and of an oppressed people from its ruling class, could be the work only of the oppressed people themselves. From its own experience the Chinese Communist Party has learnt the importance of self-reliance.
With the dissolution of the Comintern during World War Two, Mao argued that it was “not necessary, at the present time, to have an international leading centre”, indeed, it was impractical as the internal situation are more complex and change more speedily and Mao argued, correct leadership must therefore stem from a most careful study of these circumstances.
Comrade Mao Tse-tung further pointed out: ‘Revolutionary movements can be neither exported nor imported. Although there has been help from the Communist International, the creation and development of the Chinese Communist Party were a result of the fact that there is a conscious working class in China itself. The Chinese working class had itself created its own party.[v]
In its practice and pronouncements, the Communist Party of China offered no encouragement to the resurrection of a Comintern like structure to its foreign supporters. There had been a mushrooming of parties with several organisations vying for political dominance within each country. There were exceptions with sole recognition given to parties such as the Communist Party of Australia (ML) led by Ted Hill and the Wilcock-led Communist Party of New Zealand established early fraternal relations with the Chinese Party, as did those parties engaged in armed insurrection in the Maoist stronghold of South East Asia (Philippines, Malaya, Thailand and Burma).
Elsewhere, Italy provides a typical European example whereby the Chinese-recognised Communist Party of Italy (Marxist-Leninist) -PCI (ML) – having at least seven rival ML groups and factions claiming a Maoist allegiance throughout the early seventies. In Germany, students “went about forming any number of brand new Marxist-Leninist parties-a new party in every city, it sometimes seemed. That became a big tendency in West Germany, bigger than in France and the other countries of the West.”[vi] By early seventies the number of ML groups numbered some 152 alone for Germany [vii]
Selecting one organisation amidst that fragmentation would have been very difficult. When Mao died in 1976 over a hundred Maoist organisations telegrammed their sorrow at the lost of the Great Helmsman. Understandably, there was the general expression for Marxist-Leninists to ‘unite’, from the CPC.
China’s relations with ideologically sympathetic organisations were to be characterised by self-reliance and an equality of status between organizations: not the relationship of a patriarchal father party and son party and the corollary of non-interference in party relationships A well-publicised exception was Chinese relations with the Japanese communist parties. There was a breakdown in relations initiated by Mao Zedong in 1966 and subsequent CPC efforts to splinter the Japanese party by encouraging pro-Chinese Japanese communists.[viii]
China’s ideological allies, lacking the multi-lateral structures that would co-ordinate political line, could not comprise an organised international bloc; bilateral relationships were more suited to the argument for equality and non-interference in other parties’ affairs. Commenting on CPC-Comintern relations, in a 1960 speech, Zhou Enlai, said the Comintern failed in its general calls with the realities of different countries and it gave specific instructions to individual Parties instead of providing them with guidance in principles, thus interfering in their internal affairs and hindering them from acting independently and bringing their own initiative and creativity into play.[ix]
In the Seventies CPC had retained relations with parties that did not fully agree with its analysis. Thus while the AKP (ML) shared the CPC’s concerns about Soviet intentions it sharply differed with the Chinese admiration of European Unity, publically criticising the Chinese ambassador in 1972 for his favourable remarks regarding European co-operation and were prominent in the ‘No Campaign’ in the referendum against Norway becoming part of the European Community.[x]
Chou En-Lai’s comments to a 1970 Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) delegation were that the Communist Party of China was not leading struggles outside of China and that regardless of his international prestige as a revolutionary, Chairman Mao led no other party other than the Chinese Party.[xi] In the published notes[xii] of discussions with Chou Enlai and Indian revolutionary, Soren Bose, the point was repeatedly and emphatically made by the Premier,
“The revolution of each country has its own characteristic. Therefore, I tell you, Comrade Bose, that a fraternal party is after all a fraternal party. This is not the same party; because in each country, it has different historical background, environment, and different historical development so to win revolution in that particular country, we must integrate Marxism-Leninism with the concrete condition of that country, and on that basis formulate a correct Marxist-Leninist line.
Comrade Chou reinforced this basic line throughout his encounters with foreign Marxist-Leninists, “By seeking truth from facts, we mean, the Indian revolution should rely upon the Indian Leftist comrades through their revolution to work out their own correct political line and also through their revolutionary practice, train and steel their own leadership and in this regard no other party can do instead of them.”
In reply to Soren Bose comment that “In the present International Communist Movement, Chairman Mao has his authority.” Chou En-lai argued, “To respect the – great Marxist-Leninist leader of the world is one thing and to take him as the leader of another party is quite another.”
“After Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, in the present day, Chairman Mao has persisted in truth of Marxism-Leninism and persisted in the principle to the highest degree and persisted in fighting against imperialism, revisionism, and world reaction and in big country like China, consisting of 1/4 of total population of the world, pursued the revolution of the proletariat This has made world people happy and also look forward to China”. He added,” if we copy many of the instructions made by Chairman Mao to the Chinese party and to the Chinese revolution, transplant all this to the Indian revolution that will not be correct. As comrades-in-arm and students of Chairman Mao …. it is not possible for us to offer you any information which is better than what you decide. So this is unnecessary and also impossible.
Indian Maoists was seen as drawing on an extrapolation of the Chinese experience expressed in Long Live the Victory of People’s War published in 1965[xiii] and mechanically applying “China’s Road” in India. The slogan that “China’s Chairman is Our Chairman”, for Indian Maoists, both opposed Indian chauvinism and signalled agreement with Chinese views on ‘modern revisionism’. However, in rejecting the significant of patriotism and nationalism, it ignored important elements inherent in the Chinese revolutionary experience.
…. Therefore, we ask the CPI (M·L) to consider. If you say CPC is a party of leadership and Chairman Mao leader of your party this is not proper. To be frank, this is not in correspondence with Mao’s thought and this is what Chairman Mao has constantly opposed. In 1957, at Moscow conference held by fraternal parties, Chairman Mao said that we opposed the patriarchal party. So saying, this not only referred to Khrushchev but also to Stalin. In his life time Stalin, in some of his information given by him to Chinese revolution, was wrong. Of course, Stalin was a great international communist and his merit outnumbered his demerits. On the question of opposing patriarchal parties some of fraternal parties agree with us, but some disagree. But those persons like Khrushchev disagreed. Nowadays the Soviet revisionist renegade clique still uses this tactics to direct those parties under the dictatorship. But their baton is less and less effective now.
In view of the historical lessons in the present struggle against modern revisionism, it is duty of our party and your party as well as other fraternal parties fighting against modern revisionism to exchange information and help each other. But if we want to set up with reluctance an international organization, there will be mistakes. Now the situation is quite different from those during the days of the October Revolution. Now the situation has become more and more complicated…. the world is so vast that it is not possible for a party to know the conditions in different countries. And each party has its own historical conditions. Each country’s revolution is in different stages and also it is different in nature. It is only possible for the revolutionary party of a certain country to integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete condition of that country..
Chairman Mao said, when – the leftist parties come to contact with us, we should receive them and exchange views with them But it is improper for some party to try to set up an international organization and treat our party as a party of leadership just as some parties did to the CPSU. This is not proper. There are so many historical lessons in this field. By doing so, we cannot help the fraternal parties their ability of being independent and having initiative in their hand. On the contrary, to rely upon the opinions of a big party is very dangerous and it is bound for us to commit mistakes. It is so dangerous that when we do not know the conditions well, but we try to give opinions to direct certain parties. Therefore, our fraternal parties should keep in touch with each other on an equal footing and all the fraternal parties should have independence and initiative in deciding things; and this is question on which the success and failure of the revolution depend
….Now the world is divided into different nations and different countries. Though the pro-nationalism is the common thing for all of our parties but in making revolution, we should start from the specific conditions of our own country. So, in making revolution we must take into full account our national characteristic. If we regard the leader who is directing the revolution in another country as our own leader, this is not good because this will hurt the national feelings of that country and the working class of that certain country does not think it welt. So, we say, this is not proper in the fields of theory as well as practice.
Mao’s own attitude was evident in comments written on a memorandum submitted by the Liaison Office of the Party Centre, in December 1970:
Concerning certain foreigners, one should not seek their recognition of Chinese thinking. One should only expect their recognition of the contribution of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the practice of their own national revolution. This is a fundamental principle. I have said this many times before. As for their thinking, if in addition to Marxism-Leninism, there is some unhealthy ideology, they have to sort it out themselves. We should not consider this as a serious problem and talk with our foreign comrades about it.[xiv]
However, Marxism-Leninism knows no national boundaries and is the property of the people of the world. Thus China actively, especially through the foreign language printing program, promoted the study of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought throughout the world. Utilising radio broadcast, media and individual relations with foreign friends, they did advocate that , in the title of an editorial later published as a pamphlet, Mao Tsetung Thought was described as the “COMPASS FOR THE VICTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY PEOPLE OF ALL COUNTRIES[xv] However the core message remained unchanged, as explained in Rennin Ribao editorial, September 18, 1968: “The Japanese revolution will undoubtedly be victorious, provided the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism is really integrated with the concrete practice of the Japanese revolution.” This was said to be of extremely important and far-reaching significance not only for the revolutionary cause of the Japanese people – you can substitute any people here – because it was also for the revolutionary cause of the people of all other countries.
It was not a new proposition having been a basic position: Integration of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the revolution in the various countries is the most fundamental guarantee for the peoples to triumph in their revolutionary cause worked out by the working class and its conscious elements in each country. In Mao’s time, China reached out to the world beyond conventional diplomatic channels with officially micromanaged foreign visitors and their choreographed visit to a model commune, school, farmer or temple designed to create a favourable impression and create a public opinion that strove to spread Chinese cultural and political influence. Likewise a network of foreign-language broadcast and print media such as Peking Radio and periodicals including Peking Review and China Reconstructs, were part of an ‘external propaganda’ machinery that saw engagement with Maoist political theory and practice outside China.[xvi] The boxes of Red Books that brought socialism and Mao Zedong Thought to revolutionaries and anti-imperialists in dozens of countries; how the Cultural Revolution, the unprecedented political movement that Mao led to keep China on the socialist road, promoted support for world revolution:
Grasping Marxism-Leninism and integrating it closely with the concrete practice of the revolution in their own lands, the oppressed nations and the oppressed peoples will be able to win emancipation through their own struggle.’ i.e. don’t expect the Peoples Liberation Army to do the job. If revolutionaries throughout the world do the hard work like their Chinese comrades did, one could, in the rhetoric of the day, be “confident that so long as the people of all countries integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the revolution in their own lands, struggle heroically, defy difficulties and advance wave upon wave, their revolution will undoubtedly be victorious. Chairman Mao’s wise statement will certainly be transformed into glorious reality”
The Chinese Party conceive of relations as operating on three distinct levels; state to state; people to people; and party to party. Since the Communist Party is the leading centre in the Chinese state, a ruling political party, the distinction that the establishment of diplomatic and trade relations with a particular government in no way signifies China’s support or endorsement for that country’s social system or governmental leaders proved a bit difficult to untangle from criticism of foreign policy actions.
In a 1946 statement about the international situation, Mao indicated that in the aftermath of World War 2, the Soviet Union might make various agreements and compromises with the imperialist countries.
Such compromise does not require the people in the countries of the capitalist world to follow suit and make compromises at home. The people in those countries will continue to wage different struggles in accordance with their different conditions.[xvii]
During the Polemic the Chinese position remain constant that
“It is necessary for the socialist countries to engage in Negotiations of one kind or another with the imperialist countries. It is possible to reach certain agreements through negotiations by Relying on the correct policies of the socialist countries. But necessary compromises between the socialist countries and the Imperialist countries’ do not require the oppressed peoples and nations to follow suit and comprise with imperialism and its lackeys. No one should ever demand in the name of peaceful coexistence that the oppressed peoples and nations should give up their revolutionary struggles. ” [xviii]
US Marxist, Clark Kissinger discussed the issue of the “contradiction” between normal state relations and support for revolutionary movements He would no longer agree with the sentiments, expressed in 1976, that “”Situations change, new tactics are called forth, but the basis of China’s role in world events – proletarian internationalism – remains fixed like the North Star.”[xix]
Organizations abroad which the Chinese Communist Party accepts as fraternal parties, were revolutionary in theory and, in many instances, revolutionary in their immediate practice. Without exception they openly declare their ultimate aim to be the overthrow of the established ruling class in the various nations with whom China had, or sought to have, state to state relations. Some were engaged in armed struggle, as in Thailand or the Philippines. An interesting and sole example was Poland, where China had normal state relations with the Polish government but party relations with the underground Polish Communist Party – Komunistyczna Partia Polski founded 1965 – not the governing, Polish United Workers’ Party (PUWP) regarded as revisionist
‘no saviours from on high deliver’
Visits to China, as a guest of the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China, were for the purpose of political discussions and exchange. Any briefings were explanation of policy not instructions. As Canadian communist Jack Scott, observed,
“When representatives of these fraternal parties visit China, they do so for the purpose of conducting political discussions on problems of mutual concern. They are invariably the guests of the Party’s International Liaison Department and seldom, if ever, experience any contact with state officials or representatives of the friendship association. While I cannot vouch for how others respond to the situation, personal experience leads me to believe that the Chinese make every effort to maintain a basis of full equality throughout all discussions, however numerically insignificant the visiting delegation may be, and are quick to respond to any suggestions for improvement.”[xx]
Australian communist leader, Ted Hill recalled,
The Chinese Communists in all my discussions have always developed this universal truth of each Party and people solving their own problems. They steadfastly refused to give advice on internal problems of struggle, for example, in Australia. And I am certain this is correct. Some may expect and hope as we did of the Soviet Union, that someone, in this case, the Chinese Party will come along and solve all your problems. It won’t happen. And the attempt once pursued, but never by the Chinese Party, resulted in very great harm[xxi].
And there were different levels of support given to organisations. Along with other parties in South East Asia, there was substantial, direct financing of the Communist Party of Malaya from 1961-1989 that included exiled headquarter and clandestine radio broadcasting facilities. The clandestine radio station cease operations from China by 1981. By then Chinese foreign policy priorities had altered: Deng, when visiting Kuala Lumpar in November 1978 had said that China regarded her relationship with the Communist Party of Malaya “as a fact of history – something that should be left behind”[xxii]
With regard to Western Europe, there is, as with earlier press speculation, no documentary evidence of direct financial and material as were given to other Maoists from the Third World. [xxiii]Financial support for European parties may have taken on a separate commercial character with bulk annual subscriptions to periodicals – often a useful, not significant, injection of funds. Separate from the political organizational relations, but politically useful would have been commercially favoured trading arrangements to supply material and books from Foreign Language Press to disseminate Marxist writings, party pronouncements and favourable publications. Chinese interest in the European Marxist-Leninists saw support for them manifest itself in a number of standard approaches. Political recognition took the form of quoting exchanges of greetings (sent to the CPC) and organization views by the official Chinese Xinhua news agency and in the political weekly (then Peking) ‘Beijing Review’ from pro-China groups.
There were occasional discreet “embassy” contacts for discussions that had the character of information exchange. A subsidized visit to Beijing for Party discussions, with the financial costs borne by the host, of visiting fraternal party delegations, was a sign of some regard, but no CPC Congress invitation. In contrast, the Albanian Party Congress always featured foreign guests that allowed for bi-lateral contacts and discussions.
In July 1967, at the height of the Cultural Revolution, some remarks by Mao on China’s role in the world were pasted on the walls of Beijing streets in the form of big character posters. They were disseminated around the country as pamphlets and handbills two months later. In “China Must Become the Arsenal of the World Revolution,” Mao stated:
“A lot of places are anti-China at the moment, which makes it look as though we are isolated. In fact, they are anti-China because they are afraid of the influence of China, of the thought of Mao Tse-tung, and of the great Cultural Revolution. They oppose China to keep the people in their own countries down and to divert popular dissatisfaction with their rule. This opposition to China is jointly planned by U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism. This shows not that we are isolated, but that our influence throughout the world has greatly increased. The more they oppose China, the more they spur on popular revolution; the people of these countries realize that the Chinese road is the road to liberation. China should not only be the political center of the world revolution. It must also become the military and technical center of the world revolution”[xxiv]
The words attributed to Mao were an exception to the standard emphasis in policy announcements that stressed, even at the zenith of the Cultural Revolution, less rhetorical references to “exporting revolution” and more oratory about the need for revolutionaries to take the responsibility for the necessary struggle in each nation. The CPC repeatedly stated the equality of all parties and rejected the idea that one national party can be the “centre” of the international working class movement.
The notion that ‘revolution could not be exported’ did not preclude support for fellow revolutionaries throughout the world. Behind the rhetoric there was material support with training visits by would be Third world revolutionaries and those engaged in national liberation struggles[xxv] Although Chen Ping remarks that the Chinese comrades sought to avoid involvement in “internal party affairs” and that even though to varying degrees reliant on Chinese largess “fraternal parties had the freedom to work independently of Peking’s directions…”[xxvi]
In the 1970s China’s military assistance to the peoples of Indochina was well known. Not as public was the military aid and training given to others: In 1971, a leading Chinese party member told a delegation of members of the Revolutionary Union from the U.S.: “We give all military aid free, and we only give it to people resisting aggression and fighting imperialism. If they are resisting aggression and fighting imperialism, why charge them? If they are not resisting aggression and fighting imperialism, why give it to them?”
China sent military aid to the peoples of Angola and Mozambique in their struggle against the Portuguese, to the Palestinians in their struggle, and many others. During the 1960s, the Chinese gave substantial support to liberation movements in the Middle East. Beginning in 1965, China provided light arms, mortars, explosives and medical supplies to the PLO, which was operating out of bases in Jordan and Lebanon. Contingents of PLO youth travelled to China for military training. Large quantities of Chinese weapons flowed into Lebanon’s “Fatah land” during the 1970s, and leaders of the PLO and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) visited China.
During this period the Chinese also supplied military aid to the People’s Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Arabian Gulf (PFLOAG) in the Dhofar province of Oman, and to Marxist-Leninist forces in southern Yemen. In North Africa, the Chinese gave military and economic assistance to the Eritrean liberation forces and to Algerian anti-imperialist forces before and after victory over French colonialism.[xxvii]
The CPC supported the Malaysian revolutionaries with weapons, training and, important propaganda facilities, particularly the Voice of the Malaysian People radio station, which broadcasts from southern China.
Communist Party of the Philippines members visited and received training in China, and in 1971, the Chinese provided 1,400M-14 rifles and 8,000 rounds of ammunition in a ship sent from the Philippines by the CPP-led New People’s Army. [xxviii]
In Africa, China gave military aid and training to revolutionary movements throughout the continent. In camps in Tanzania and Algeria, the Chinese armed and trained guerillas from FRELIMO in Mozambique, the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau, ZANU in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania and the ANC in South Africa.
In 1963, the Chinese sent military supplies from Tanzania and Congo-Brazzaville to guerillas in the eastern Congo led by a former education minister in Lumumba’s cabinet. Also, in a secret military camp in Ghana, Chinese military instructors trained cadre for revolutionary movements in French neo-colonies such as Dahomey (Benin), Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Mali.[xxix]
An essential part of Chinese military aid was political training of the officers and soldiers of the revolutionary armed forces. Chinese instructors stressed that outside military aid, while important, was secondary, and that self-reliant revolutionary struggle was of primary importance.
The Peruvian communist leader, ‘Chairman Gonzalo’, (party name of Abimael Guzmán) recalled receiving political and military training, on strategy and tactics, ambushes and demolition in China in the Sixties: “They were masterful lessons given by proven and highly competent revolutionaries, great teachers. Among them I can remember the teacher who taught us about open and secret work, a man who had devoted his whole life to the Party, and only to the Party, over the course of many years–a living example and an extraordinary teacher. …. For me it is an unforgettable example and experience, an important lesson, and a big step in my development–to have been trained in the highest school of Marxism the world has ever seen.” [xxx]
Consideration was given to what constituted a genuine anti-Liberation struggle – one led by a member of the feudal monarchy (e.g. Prince Sihanouk)- and whether a particular movement represents a struggle against external colonialism or aggression, or whether it is a strictly internal matter of a given country can only be resolved by the people of that country themselves. Where a national liberation movement, was led by a single, popularly supported organization or front, China established formal diplomatic relations with it (examples: the NLF of southern Vietnam, the PLO). Otherwise where several organisations are engaged in a particular struggle, China’s policy was to give assistance to all and to urge the unity of all against the common enemy (as in Angola, for example).
Under Mao, China sought to develop a worldwide united struggle against imperialism, colonialism, and superpower hegemony. This means that China was constantly seeking to unite all who can be united against the main enemy, and judges specific events in the light of the overall world situation. While there were more than diplomatic niceties in China’s criticism to the raising in India of the slogan “China’s Chairman is our Chairman, China’s Path is Our Path”, raised in the context of the Naxalite insurrection, the diplomatic imperatives for China to disassociate itself was evident: the 1962 border war between India and China was still fresh in political memory and the impression that the CPI (ML) was fighting for China, and not the liberation of the Indian masses, was to be avoided.
1970s – Changing priorities
From the 1960s to the 1980s, China made several foreign policy adjustments, and the core motive of all these was national security. “The question was to decide from which direction the main threat to China was coming” [xxxi] observed Li Fenglin, a veteran Chinese diplomat of 40 years who served in the Chinese Embassy of Russia and East European countries, as well as in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The fundamental basis of Chinese foreign policy became the view that the Soviet Union now represents the main danger of war in the contempoarary period, it came to be expressed in what was (post-Mao codified in) the “Three Worlds theory”. This analysis, i.e., China’s assessment of Soviet degeneration into an imperialist power, contain the key to understanding China’s foreign policy.[xxxii] The effect on party-to-party relations was devasting for the international communist movement.
A process begun under Mao, whereby the relationship established by the CPC between parties began to change – formerly Party to party relations are founded on a philosophical concept quite different from those which determine the relations with all other groups. Where contacts in most areas are based upon a wide area of mutual advantage, and a shared desire for friendship and understanding, party to party relations were of a different nature, based on political and social outlooks held in common between political parties with common objectives, i.e., the abolition of capitalist social relations and the building of a socialist society. The definition of what constituted a fraternal party began to change as increasingly party to party relations were established with what were considered revisionists parties in the pursuit of the foreign policy goals of the Chinese state. (Here the identification of the party with the fate of the nation highlights the unresolved complexities of the different roles and responsibilities in building a socialist state. The attempt to separate deteriorating party relations from the affairs of state had failed miserably throughout the polemical exchanges in the early 1960s).
If China was said to have “friends all over the world”, the nature of those ‘friends’ were changing throughout the 1970s .A textual analysis undertaken by O’Leary suggests a downgrading of the Marxist-Leninist parties within the capitalist countries by the Chinese. A comparison of the reports given in 1969 (by Lin Biao) and (by Zhou Enlai) at 1973 Congress reflects the change:
Lin talked of uniting ‘to fight together with them’, in their capacity as ‘advanced elements of the proletariat’ while Chou merely sought unity with them in the context of carrying on ‘the struggle against modern revisionism’.[xxxiii]
China’s foreign policy saw the Chinese government seemingly supporting the government side in struggles in Ceylon, Bangladesh and Sudan. It appears that most of the leadership agreed on the emphasis and direction of policy. Defence minister Lin Biao may have been an exception. There were covert contact between the US and China with the first talks held in 1969. US secretary of state Henry Kissinger visited China in 1971, preparing the ground for Nixon’s visit the following year. This was the beginning of U.S.-China-Soviet triangular diplomacy whereby the common concerns over the Soviet threat saw each side aspired to utilize the other to balance that threat.
After 1973, there were parades of statesmen were honoured in Beijing for their contributions to the struggle against Soviet hegemony. Visits by fraternal organisations were easily out-numbered by the visits of bourgeois political personalities [the disgraced Richard Nixon and former Prime Minister Edward Heath to name but two] who were given greater official prominence in China’s media.
In the Middle East, China’s prior support for revolutionary movements was curtailed. Chinese aid to revolutionary forces in the Gulf States ended with diplomatic ties with Oman. Another sign of this reversal of Chinese foreign policy was a speech by Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua in 1975 in which he said that China was reconciled to the existence of Israel as a “fait accompli.” In 1975, the Chinese government were largely perceived as supporting the U.S. and South African-backed UNITA in the Angolan civil war—in the name of defeating the Soviet Union’s attempts to gain a strategic foothold in Africa through its support for the MPLA.
Within a few years of Mao’s death in September 1976, the anti-revisionist trend had fragmented along discernible ideological lines partly as a result of a concerted intervention by the PLA designed to bring organisations into its exclusive political orbit. [See Albania builds an international] and those politically opposed to the direction in post-Mao China. The changes in the foreign policy priorities of the Chinese state did have an effect on the nascent Maoist movement.
The developments in Chinese foreign policy in the mid-1970s were a direct outgrowth of the Three Worlds Theory. Albanian criticism of the direction of China’s foreign policy engender a break in their party and state relations. [xxxiv]
This threw many Maoist parties and organizations around the world, who rely on Peking Review for finding its compass on international events, into a tailspin, from which most never recovered.[xxxv] China’s attitude towards the international movement was clarified in the aftermath of the Albanian intervention. The CCP had began to mend fences with alleged independent minded revisionists such as the visit by the PCE led Santiago Carrillo as early as 1971. The re-establishment of relations between the CPC and the ‘Eurocommunist’ parties increasingly raised concerns on the demarcation with modern revisionism that had been drawn in the sixties. This fundamentally question the purpose of the new Marxist-Leninist parties. It was not until after Mao’s death that an article in Renmin Ribao [People’s Daily April 2 1980] repudiated the ‘Nine Commentaries’ which had defined CPC ideological differences with the CPSU in 1963-64.
Retaining the form of its previous position, the CPC gutted its ideological judgments in the restoration of formal party-to-party relations after a lapse of nearly two decades that saw rapprochement on the basis of the acceptance of differences and of agreement that every party should “formulate its policies independently and develop relations with other parties on the basis of equality”. The ideological sting was taken out of these relationships as a wave of normalisation followed the visit to Beijing in April 1980 of General Secretary Enrico Berlinguer. The concept of modern revisionism was quietly buried under the rubric of acceptance of unspecified differences on some questions. A succession of revisionist parties sent delegations to China: the leaders of the Spanish CP (November 1980), the “interior” Greek CP (December 1980), the Communist Party of the Netherlands’ (June 1982) and the French CP (October 1982), the Swedish VKP, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Belgian CP were feted and fed like the anti-revisionists before them.
So the 1980s began with fundamental questions for those who adhered to Three Worlds Theory and those whose allegiance remained with the CPC led by initially by Hua Guofeng and eventual dominated by Deng Xiaoping. Although most of the Maoist forces had not arisen out of the anti-revisionist Polemic of the PLA and CPC against the CPSU, the argumentation and line of the Polemic that went public in 1960 was regarded as their theoretical foundations. The majority of the new Marxist-Leninist organizations in Europe had arisen out of the radicalized student movement and counter culture of the late Sixties but regarded them as part of their ideological legacy. Despite the reputation for genuflecting at whatever decisions and changes occur in what was regarded as the leading socialist countries (as part of the internationalist duty to support existing socialism and revolution), the Maoist Left was not as servile as occasionally portrayed. The movement had been partly inspired by the Cultural Revolution in China, and when the legacy of that experience was being questioned in China what was the consequences for the international movement that grew out of that experience now repudiated by the Chinese communists and regarded by them as a discredited period?
POSTSCRIPT: How times have changed.
Pictured are Chinese troops on patrol in Juba, the capital of South Sudan in August 2016. Yet in numerous statements official Chinese policy has been, since 1954, that China has practices a foreign policy of non-interventionism, in accordance with its “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; mutual non-aggression; non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and, peaceful coexistence.
Twenty-First century China now has selective foreign intervention: set aside its presence through aid contributions in the form of infrastructure construction and joint economic enterprise, there is the construction of the first overseas Chinese military base on a 90-acre plot in Djibouti.
As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council China’s human peacekeeping contributions have roughly quadrupled in size since 2004:
Accounting for over 10 per cent of the entire budget, China is now the second-largest provider of financial contributions to UN peacekeeping operations.
China’s human peacekeeping contributions to 2,567 personnel, more than all four other permanent Security Council members put together. The Chinese state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation is the largest oil investor in war-torn South Sudan, where the majority of its peacekeepers are stationed.
In April 2006, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news briefing in Beijing that China did not provide help to Nepal’s Maoists, who take their inspiration from late Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong. “They call themselves Maoists, but they have nothing to do with any organization or person domestically in China”.
When asked by an Indian journalist whether or not China would support Indian Maoist rebels in their struggle against the Indian government the Deputy Director of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, Ai Ping said that the Chinese government “does not engage with illegitimate or extreme political parties“.[xxxvi]
[i] Amin (2016) Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism. Monthly Review Press p74. In the same vein stimulating treatment came be found in Biel, R. (2015) Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement. Kersplebedeb Publishing and J. Moufawad-Paul (2016) Continuity and Rupture; Philosophy in the Maoist Terrain Zero Books.
[iii] An extensive source of pamphlets, speeches, government statements and press articles which relate to foreign affairs: The Maoist Era in China — Relations with Foreign Countries. http://bannedthought.net/China/MaoEra/Foreign-General/index.htm
[v] Gelder, Stuart (1946) The Chinese Communists. London: Victor Gollancz p170
[vii] Engel, Stefan (2002) “I Have Been Fighting All My Life” Speech at the MLPD Rally at the 10th Anniversary of the Death of Willi Dickhut May 9th, 2002. Wuppertal http://www.mlpd.de/wd/redemage.htm
[viii] See: Berton, Peter (2004) “The Chinese and Japanese communist parties: three decades of discord and reconciliation, 1966-1998” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 37 (2004) 361-372
[x] The Chinese Communists must have valued their relationship with the AKP (ML) as a charge against the imprisoned Gang of Four, that they “slandered support for European unity as trying by hook or by crook to get into Europe and have good terms with European bourgeoisie”. How Our Party Smashed the Gang of Four (1978). Presentation by Comrade Chu to visiting delegation from the RCLB. Typescript notes. Personal Archive.
[xi] Experiences of Chinese Revolution: Some Unpublished Notes
Asia News & Information Service. Montreal: 1980
[xii] Frontier, November 4th 1972
[xiii] Lin Biao (1965) Long Live the Victory of People’s War! In Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of Victory in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japan. Peking: Foreign Languages Press
[xiv] Barnouin, Barbara (1998) & Yu Changgen. Chinese Foreign Policy during the Cultural Revolution. London: Kegan Paul International pp150-151
[xv] Foreign Language Press (Peking) 1968
[xvi] Alexander Cook ed., Mao’s Little Red Book: A Global History (Cambridge, 2014) provides an illuminating selection of national case-studies describing the international reception of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung a thematic selection from Mao’s speeches and writings.
[xix] C. Kissinger, China’s Foreign Policy – an outline. China Books & Periodicals 1976
[xx] Jack Scott, Discussion with Chinese Comrades (Notes on Chinese Foreign Policy. Red Star Collective: October 1977. The discussions on which this report is based were held in April/May 1976
[xxi] Hill, E.F. (1977) Class Struggle Within the Communist Parties, defeat of the Gang of Four Great Victory for World Proletariat. Australia: A Communist (Marxist-Leninist) Publication p43
[xxii] Chen Ping, My Side of History Singapore: Media Masters p436
[xxiii] There were unsubstantiated claims that the Dutch Secret Service run MLPN received financial support from China. http://www2.rnw.nl/rnw/en/features/dutchhorizons/weeklyfeature/041020dh
[xxiv] Jean Daubier, A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1971, p. 313. Daubier writes that the posters he saw suggested that Mao was addressing a foreign delegation when he made these remarks.
[xxv] Explored in various studies e.g. Van Ness, Peter (1970) Revolution and Chinese Foreign Policy: Peking’s support for wars of National Liberation. Berkerley: University of California Press, and Hutchinson, Alan (1975) China’s African Revolution. London: Hutchinson).
[xxvi] Chen Ping 2003 p:471 . Statements contradicted by Deng Xiaoping personal insistence that the clandestine radio station cease operations from China by 1981 (Chen Ping 2003:458). By then Chinese foreign policy priorities had altered: Deng, when visiting Kuala Lumpar in November 1978 had said that China regarded her relationship with the Communist Party of Malaya “as a fact of history – something that should be left behind” (Chen Ping2003: 483)
[xxvii] Lillian Harris, “The PRC and the Arab Middle East,” in China and Israel, 1948-1998, ed. Goldstein,1999. China and Israel finally established official diplomatic relations in 1992.
[xxviii] Noted in Chinese Foreign Policy during the Maoist Era and its Lessons for Today by the MLM Revolutionary Study Group in the U.S. (January 2007)
[xxix] See: lan Hutchinson, China’s African Revolution, 1975
[xxxi] Xiaoyuan Liu (2004) & Vojtech Mastny (eds).
China and Eastern Europe, 1960s-1980s Proceedings of the International Symposium: Reviewing the History of Chinese-East European Relations from the 1960s to the 1980s. Beijing, 24-26 March 2004. Zurcher Beitrage zur Sicherheitspolitik und Konfliktforschung Nr.72 p 32
[xxxii] The Anglo-Chinese Education Institute (1979) China’s World View (Modern China Series No. 10). This volume explores the foreign policy prior to, and after the death of Mao, and focuses especially on the “Three Worlds Theory”.
[xxxiii] Brugger, Bill (1978) China: the impact of the Cultural Revolution. London, Croom Helm p241
[xxxiv] Greg O’Leary, “Chinese Foreign Policy under Attack: Has China Abandoned Revolution?” The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 1 (Jan., 1979), pp. 49-67
Theory and Practice of the Revolution Zëri i Popullit; July 7, 1977
“Chairman Mao’s Theory of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds is a Major Contribution to Marxism-Leninism,” People’s Daily, November 1, 1977.
Enver Hoxha, Imperialism and the Revolution (1978)
[xxxv] See: U.S. Marxist-Leninists Take Sides: the “Theory of Three Worlds” https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-5/index.htm#3worlds
1983 poster : Oppose hegemonism, uphold world peace – maintain a foreign policy of independence and own initative.