Record of the Conversation of Comrade Stalin with Zhou Enlai 20 August 1952

Subsequent to the publication of the transcripts of the two discussions between I.V. Stalin and Mao Zedong, which were held in the Soviet capital on December 1949 and January 1950, we continue the documentation of the relations between the Soviet Union and People’s China in the Stalin period by publishing the first of the three conversations held between I.V. Stalin and Zhou Enlai in Moscow in August-September 1952. They indicate the political, economic and military relations between the two states. These documentary materials are an essential basis for re-evaluating the relations between the two countries in the Stalin era free from the polemical literature which clouded Soviet-Chinese associations in the 1960s and 1970s.

Vijay Singh.

Top secret, copy No____


I present your conversation with Zhou Enlai of 20 August 1952 in this record.

(Signature of A. Vyshinsky)
“5” September 1952

N9 VK-19



From the Soviet side – Comrades Molotov, Vyshinsky, Fedorenko.
From the Chinese side – Comrades Chen Yun, Li Fuchun, Zhang Ven-tyan, Su Yu.

Translated by: Comrades Fedorenko and Shi Zhe.

Zhou Enlai conveys the greetings to Comrade Stalin from Mao Zedong and is interested in the health of Comrade Stalin.

Stalin thanks Zhou Enlai and asks about the health of Mao Zedong.

Zhou Enlai informs that for the last two years Mao Zedong has had good health. He speaks about the great interest towards the forthcoming XIXth Congress of the VKP (b) in China.

Stalin notes that the Congress has not been summoned for a long time, that in 1939 there were 1,500,000 party members and now there are around 6,000,000 in spite of the fact that we restrain the inflow of members to the Party, the Party still grows.

He asks how the trip was.

Zhou Enlai thanks for the attention and replies that the trip was quite favourable and during the trip the delegation enjoyed all the amenities. On behalf of Mao Zedong he sends gratitude to Comrade Stalin, the Central Committee and the Soviet Government for their immense help both in developing the people’s economy of China and in the struggle against enemies.

Stalin. There is no need thanking. It is our duty. Would the Chinese Comrades not help us if we were in the same position?

Zhou Enlai confirms that this is true, adding that though assistance should be provided, but of course gratitude should be expressed.

Stalin. We also must be thankful to the Chinese people that they are waging a just struggle. A huge support from the side of China is also in rubber supplies. So, we will have to thank China as well.

Zhou Enlai says that unfortunately the assistance of China to the Soviet Union is insufficient.

Stalin. You have come to power too late. You have been late by thirty years.

Zhou Enlai asks for permission to speak about the aims of the coming of the Chinese delegation. He reminds him about the telegram from Mao Zedong in which the wishes of the Chinese government are stated. He points out three groups of problems. The first problem – is the situation in Korea. The second – concerns the internal situation of the PRC for the last three years and the Five Year Plan of economic development. He underlines that the written report has been under preparation. The Chinese delegation would like to come to this question after the report will have been submitted. The third – concerns the extension of the Agreement on Port Arthur.

Stalin notes that the initiative on the extension of the time of the joint use of the naval base of Port Arthur must come from the Chinese side. We are guests there and guests do not put such questions.

Zhou Enlai agrees with Comrade Stalin and suggests that they should exchange notes. The Chinese government will address the Soviet government with the appropriate request. The next question is about railway construction from Ulan-Bator to the Mongolian-Chinese border.

Stalin asks if China is interested in this railway.

Zhou Enlai notes that the railway to Xinjiang would be of more importance. But it is a very complicated and hard construction. The Chinese government first is going to build the railway to Mongolia with the exit to the Soviet Union. On Chinese territory the road length is about 350 km. The road is expected to be completed by June 1955, this railway meets the Chinese interest as it opens the direct railway link with the Soviet Union, it will facilitate the acquisition of Soviet industrial equipment by China, as well as export of Chinese goods to the Soviet Union.

Stalin notes that in terms of the long run the Xinjiang direction is very important and we could help China build this railway. However, it is really a long-term business, so if the Chinese Comrades are interested in the construction of the railway via Mongolia, we are eager to support this construction on Mongolian territory from our side. It will be quicker. But we think that Xinjiang direction cannot be given up, as it is a very important route passing through the oil-bearing regions. Oil must be on the territory of China. It is scarce in Mongolia.

Zhou Enlai remarks that there is a lot of iron ore and there will be a centre of iron and steel industry in the Pinditsyuan region. Presently the design of the construction of Xinjiang railway is being worked out. During the First Five-Year Plan the railway from Lanzhou to Hami will be built. During the Second Five-Year Plan a railway from Hami to the border of the USSR will be built.

Stalin approves it and re-emphasises the importance of the Xinjiang road for the prospect of oil production.

Zhou Enlai, confirms that oil is everywhere on this track. He goes to an agreement on Hevea.

Stalin points out that the issue in principle has already been solved.

Zhou Enlai confirms this and goes on to the question of the Five-Year Plan of the economic development of the PRC. He says that an appropriate written report has been under preparation, so when the report is ready he would like to visit Comrade Stalin and personally give explanations on the report.

Stalin agrees with this.

Zhou Enlai asks for help in conducting geological prospecting works.

Stalin promises help.

Zhou Enlai goes to the question of the designs of the construction of various industrial enterprises in China. He says this regarding constructing 151 enterprises. He points out that China needs support in equipment from the Soviet Union. He asks him to consider the application of the PRC and to say to what extent the Soviet Union is able to provide this assistance and to set the dates and also to send the Soviet specialists to China. He stresses that the Soviet experts working in China have done a great job and provide great assistance to China, especially in training workers and specialists.

Stalin. This is most important. In this case China will stand firmly on its feet, if they had their own trained personnel.

Zhou Enlai informed that they wanted to get more than 800 specialists from the Soviet Union.

Stalin says that this application will be considered and that we will try to give as many as we can.

Zhou Enlai asks for help with the technical documentation (drawings, etc.).

Stalin said that of course, it was impossible to do without this.

Zhou Enlai asks if it is possible also in future for them to expect students to be trained in the Soviet Union and to send trainees to Soviet enterprises.

Stalin gives his consent.

Zhou Enlai touches on the issue of the Five-Year Plan of defence. He reports that he was preparing the materials for this and was going to submit a written report. He expresses at the same time his wish to obtain military equipment.

Stalin asks if Zhou Enlai means delivery of finished weapons or equipment for military factories.

Zhou Enlai says that presently they are talking about the delivery of finished weapons. Noting that an agreement about 60 divisions has already been concluded, he would also like to discuss the issue of naval supplies. He asks what assistance could be obtained for airplanes.

Stalin asks if the Chinese government considers building aviation plants.

Zhou Enlai says this task is very difficult to fulfil during the First Five-Year Plan, in particular, regarding jet planes. He notes that they are planning the development of such construction in not less than 5 years, and motor construction – in 3 years.

Stalin points out the example of Czechoslovakia and Poland where they started with assembly plants. He says that the Soviet Union can send motors and other spare parts of aircraft to China and China can organise the assembling of these airplanes. Personnel are trained in this way. Assembly plants can be converted into aircraft building plants. We have passed through the same way. The Chinese comrades are advised to choose this way. First you have to build a plant or two to assemble engines. We will send out the motors and other parts for the aircraft, which can be assembled in China. Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary act like this. It is necessary to organise this kind of work. Having organised assembly plants, it will be possible to construct factories to build planes in 3 years. This is the easiest and right path.

Zhou Enlai says that they have started to understand this and they organise repair and assembly plants. He adds that if Comrade Stalin finds it necessary to speed up the case, then they will take all necessary measures in this respect.

Stalin asks if any divisions were formed due to the weapons that the Soviet Union had sent to China for 60 divisions.

Zhou Enlai explains that out of ten divisions for which they had got the weapons three were given to the Koreans and seven are intended for the Chinese units in Korea

Stalin asks if it is correct to understand that all the weapons will go to the Korean front?

Zhou Enlai confirms that this is correct if the warfare is going to continue. He informs that the Chinese government has set three divisions of sixty to send to the Koreans, and forty two divisions are being prepared for Korea       

Stalin asks if the Chinese got accustomed to the new weapons.

Zhou Enlai confirms that they gradually master these new weapons, they are trained for three-four months.

Stalin. In such cases we act in a way that people could get well acquainted with the armaments and organisation of divisions. It takes time, about six months. Without it you can lose weapons. In addition, during this time we check how all the appliances work, and only then send these units to the front. Of course you can perform this training in the rear, close to the front, like in Korea, for example, half of the divisions receiving new weapons should be left in China.

Zhou Enlai remarks that sending divisions to Korea is caused by losses that require replenishment.

Stalin underlines that it is necessary to give the trained divisions to Korea then it will be stronger.

Zhou Enlai states a question about artillery assistance.

Stalin asks if they can produce the shells in China.

Zhou Enlai answers that they have started doing that.

Stalin notes that the most difficult thing is to carry ammunition, that to carry artillery is easier.

Zhou Enlai repeats his request on artillery assistance. He underlines that to one Chinese shell they get nine American shells in response.

Stalin. That is bad. He adds that if the Americans shoot nine shells, the Chinese are expected to shoot 20. We have strangled the Germans by shells. We had one gun at a distance of 2 metres [sic], and the Germans had one gun at a distance of one kilometre. Artillery is an important thing. The Chinese government should launch the production of shells. We will help to build such plants.

Zhou Enlai points out that they reorganise the existing plants and design new plants.

Stalin. It is important. The main thing here is machine tools.

Zhou Enlai points out that they have the machine tools, but they are old.

Stalin says that they need the machine tools for the 122 mm shells, for the three-inch and anti-aircraft guns. We can help in this case. He adds that large plants are not needed to be built. We are building shells at different factories: one makes the pitchers (cases), while others make the charges. It is difficult to manufacture everything in one factory.

Zhou Enlai. Regarding the aviation industry, he said that the Chinese government will act according to the advice of the Soviet government and will take all measures to accelerate the development of this industry.

Stalin underlines the importance of organising assembly plants in the first place.

Zhou Enlai says that the Chinese government is planning to build tank-building factories: one – for light tanks producing one thousand tanks a year, and the other – for medium tanks, with a construction programme of 4-5 years.

Stalin in this case advises also to start with the assembly plants pointing out that during the war we turned car-plants into tank-plants. He says that the Chinese had better have one or two car assembly plants.

Zhou Enlai says that they are planning to build a plant in Changchun producing 20,000 cars a year and they are putting in order one assembly plant of 3,000 cars a year. He asks for help in the design of another plant.

Stalin underlines that the personnel must be trained at the assembly and repair plants. The Chinese comrades must take care about training.

Zhou Enlai agrees fully with this remark and informs that the Chinese government is solving this problem. They have repair plants and they work on the problem of building the assembly plants; next year these plants start working.

Stalin is interested if there are schools of factory training in China. He adds that the Soviet Union has such schools at each plant.

Zhou Enlai admits that this is one of the weaknesses. They take steps to improve the situation. They have special training courses at plants. They attract students, they take party members.

Stalin points out that there is a special ministry in the Soviet Union, the Ministry of Labour Reserves. There are vocational schools. It would be good to have something like that in China. In these schools we train about one million young workers each year.

Zhou Enlai asks what kind of institutions for the training of middle- level managers exist in the Soviet Union.

Stalin explains that there are specialised technical colleges.

Zhou Enlai says that he would like to discuss the question on radar.

Stalin promises assistance in this case. Radio and radar are very important branches.

Zhou Enlai says that they meant to build assembly plants in this speciality.

Stalin underlines that in future they have to build the plants producing radar equipment.

Zhou Enlai says that they are incapable of producing radar equipment presently.

Stalin promises assistance.

Zhou Enlai again turns to the problem of specialists. He said that the Chinese government is not only aiming to ask for assistance in specialists but also considers organising training of their own specialists.

Stalin approves of it, pointing out that other countries: India, Burma, Indochina will seek specialists from the Chinese government. Adding that it would be more appropriate for the Chinese government to send engineers and technicians to the plants in the USSR, where they will finally get good training.

Zhou Enlai raises the question of covering the difference between the supplies of goods from the Soviet Union to China and from China to the Soviet Union. He says that the Chinese government wants to apply for a new loan. At the same time, Zhou Enlai says that it is certainly a burden for the Soviet Union.

Stalin pointed out that it was due to the fact that we had come to power earlier, we were lucky. If the Chinese comrades came to power earlier, we would have to ask them to cover this kind of difference.

Zhou Enlai remarks to this that Moscow is the centre inspiring all the people for liberation struggle. He further outlines the situation in Korea. He points out that prior to May 1951 warfare in Korea was not positional, but it was manoeuvrable. Since May 1951 the front was determined, and the war became of a positional character. Forces of the parties are approximately equal. The enemy cannot conduct offensive operations. A certain balance can be observed. But we also do not develop large offensive operations. If the enemy has strengthened its position on a depth of 15-20 km, so we have created the fortified lane and continue to expand the underground work. The enemy cannot disrupt our fortified positions. The front line is about 200 km and is strengthened on the whole, so are strengthened the left and right flanks as well. Mao Zedong put forward three questions. First – if we can throw back the enemy. We have seen that we can. The second question – whether we can hold on to our positions. This year has shown that we can hold and take over these positions. The third question – whether we can conduct offensive operations, attack the enemy. Earlier we thought that we can hardly conduct offensive operations for more than seven days. Now we have been strengthened enough to lead operations longer and to withstand bombing, we have firmly dug into the ground.

Stalin asks if they can develop offensive operations.

<> Zhou Enlai explained that to capture separate posts they can develop such operations, but it is difficult for them to start a general offensive. After the war became a positional one, the American commanders try to delay the negotiations and do not want to sign a truce.

Stalin says that, apparently, the Americans want to keep more Chinese prisoners of war. This explains the fact that they refuse to return prisoners of war. It is possible that they sent them to Chiang Kai-shek.

Zhou Enlai confirmed that Chiang has his agents among the prisoners of war.

Stalin points out that the Americans want to solve the issue of prisoners of war at its sole discretion, violating all international laws. Under international law, all parties involved must return all prisoners of war except those convicted of crimes. How does Mao Zedong think on the question of prisoners of war: to give up or to stand on your own?

Zhou Enlai briefly reports on the differences in this matter with the Korean comrades. The Americans agreed to return 83 thousand prisoners of war and the Koreans were willing to agree to this. But they failed to realise that the Americans were playing a tricky game because of the 83,000 people only 6,400 people are Chinese, the rest are the Koreans. In fact, the Americans had to return another 13,600 Chinese volunteers, and the Americans do not want to do it and, at the same time, are ready to return 76,000 Koreans. This is clear evidence that they are leading a provocative game, trying to drive a wedge between the Chinese and Koreans.

Stalin asks, How many Korean prisoners of war are there?

Zhou Enlai answers, that there are 96,600 people. He emphasises that the number of the Korean and Chinese prisoners of war due to be returned is crucial. He reports that the Chinese government firmly stands for the return of 116,000 prisoners of war, including 20,000 Chinese. But if the United States agreed to return somewhat less, it is possible not to object to the fact so that talks would continue about the rest of the prisoners of war.

Stalin admits that it is a right stand.

Zhou Enlai informs that Mao Zedong, analysing the current situation in this question, believes that it is necessary to stand firm on the return of all prisoners of war. The Koreans think that the continuation of the war is unprofitable because the daily loss is greater than the number of prisoners, the return of which is at issue. But the end of the war is unprofitable to the U.S. Mao Zedong considers that the continuation of the war is beneficial to China, as it prevents the U.S. from making preparations for a new world war.

Stalin. Mao Zedong is right. This war spoils the American blood. The North Koreans lost nothing except the victims that they had suffered in the war. The Americans understand that this war is not profitable to them and they will have to finish it, especially after it becomes clear that our troops remain in China. You need to be endured, patient. Of course, it is necessary to understand the Koreans – they have a lot of victims. But they need to be explained that it is a big deal. You need to have patience, need more self-possession. The Korean War showed the weakness of the Americans. The troops from 24 countries cannot long support the war in Korea, as they have not achieved their goals, and cannot expect to succeed in this business. The Koreans need help and support. He asks what the Korean situation with bread is. He says that the Soviet Union can still help them.

Zhou Enlai says that the Koreans have difficulties in this regard. The Chinese government knows that the Soviet Union has helped the Koreans. He says that they have also helped the Koreans and told Kim Il Sung that they would give both – food and clothes, and all the Koreans ask for, but cannot supply weapons to them.

Stalin says that we can give more weapons for Korea. We will not spare anything for Korea.

Zhou Enlai says again that it is impossible to make concessions in the negotiations with the U.S.

Stalin remarks that if the Americans lose a little, we can agree, bearing in mind that the unresolved issues of the negotiations will continue.

Zhou Enlai agrees, adding that if the Americans do not want peace, then we must be prepared to continue the war at least another year.

Stalin confirms that it is correct.

Zhou Enlai emphasises the correct remarks of Comrade Stalin that war spoils the blood of the Americans and the U.S. is not ready for a world war. He added that performing the vanguard role in this war China contributes to the fact that the time of the war is moving away, if we can halt the advance of the Americans in Korea for 15-20 years. Then the U.S. will never start a third world war.

Stalin says that it is correct, but with one reservation: the Americans are not capable in general to carry on a great war, especially after the Korean War. Their whole force is in the raids, in the atomic bomb, England will not fight for America, America cannot beat little Korea. You need to be firm in relations with the Americans. The Chinese comrades need to know that if America does not lose the war, they will fail to get Taiwan. The Americans are merchants. Every American soldier is a speculator, is engaged in purchase and sale. The Germans conquered France in twenty days. The U.S. cannot cope with little Korea for two years. Are they a power? Comrade Stalin says jokingly that the main armament of the Americans is stockings, cigarettes and other goods for sale. They want to conquer the world and cannot cope with little Korea. No, the Americans do not know how to fight. Especially after the Korean War they lost the ability to conduct large war. They hope for a nuclear bomb, air raids. But they will not help win the war. Infantry is needed, but they have weak and few infantry. They fight against little Korea, and people in the U.S. are weeping already. What will happen if they start a great warfare? Then, perhaps, all will weep.

Zhou Enlai informs that if the Americans make any concessions, though not large, it is necessary to go for them. If the Americans do not accept the return of all prisoners of war and offer any less, it is better to agree with this proposal bearing in mind that the issue of the remaining prisoners of war may be authorised in mediation of a neutral country, such as India, or to transfer that part of the prisoners of war to the territory of such a country up to the final solution of the issue.

Stalin asks how many American prisoners of war China has.

Zhou Enlai explains that the general number of the prisoners of war kept by the North Koreans and the Chinese is about 12,000 people and 7,400 of them are the Southern Koreans.

Stalin does not exclude such a solution, as proposed by Zhou Enlai. From his side he believes that it was possible to state to the Americans that if they keep a certain percentage of the Korean and Chinese prisoners of war, then the North Koreans and the Chinese will hold the same percentage of the South Korean and American prisoners of war until the final resolution on the exchange of prisoners of war. Pressure on the Americans should be exerted and this should be published in the press. If the Americans abandon it, you should claim that they probably want to send the Chinese to Chiang Kai-shek. If these suggestions fail, it would be possible to resort to mediation. The main thing is to offer a cease fire.

Zhou Enlai claims that, indeed, the truce is therefore cease fire. He outlines three positions in the matter of exchange of prisoners. First – to declare from the very beginning the detention of the same percent of the South Korean and American prisoners of war, which corresponds to the percentage of detention of the North Koreans and the Chinese, and to stop here. Second – to choose mediation through a neutral country. Third – to sign a cease-fire agreement and to select the issue of prisoners of war and continue to discuss this issue further. Zhou Enlai then returned to the issue of military aid and outlined the request of the Korean comrades to give them 10 anti-aircraft artillery regiments. We told the Koreans that we do not have such an opportunity and that we would talk to the Soviet government about it.

Stalin. Kim Il Sung asked us for five regiments. We promised them to him and we will give them. Might China give five regiments?

Zhou Enlai repeats that they have no such possibility, and that it is new for them.

Stalin believes that the issue should be checked with Kim Il Sung.

At the request of Zhou Enlai to give 10 regiments, regardless of those previously promised, Stalin replies that it should be considered.

Zhou Enlai sends a request from the Korean comrades for advice if it is time to start bombing South Korea. They are not sure that it is correct.

Stalin explains that aviation is the state industry and the Chinese volunteers should not use the state aircraft.

Zhou informs that the Korean comrades ask whether they should start a new offensive, and that the Chinese government has responded that they could not conduct a strategic offensive.

Stalin pointed that while negotiating the truce any strategic or tactical offensive should not be carried on. No offensive should be carried on.

Zhou Enlai asks, referring to the request of Mao Zedong, if Kim Il Sung and Peng Dehuai should be invited to Moscow.

Stalin. I would be happy to talk to them, but they are far away. In addition, it is uncomfortable for us to invite them. If they put this question, we would be happy to receive them.

Zhou Enlai said that Peng Dehuai would love to come, but how Kim Il Sung could treat it, he does not know. Maybe, we should talk to them about it.

Stalin agreed to this.

Zhou Enlai again says that the Chinese government considers it appropriate to continue the negotiations in Panmunjom. But China is also prepared to the fact that the war could go on for another 2-3 years. He again requests about aviation, artillery and shells assistance, as China cannot cope with these tasks itself.

Stalin declares that we will give everything we can.

He asks about the mood among the Koreans. Is there any confusion?

Zhou Enlai explains that, indeed, the Koreans suffer great damage, especially after the bombing of power plants on the Yalu River. It affects the mood of the Korean comrades and causes the desire to achieve peace as soon as possible.

Stalin says about the American tactics – to create a scare. But the Chinese are not scared. Can we say that they also failed to scare the Koreans?

Zhou Enlai confirms that basically it is possible to say this.

Stalin. If it is true, it is not bad.

Zhou Enlai adds that some Koreans hesitate. Their mood is not quite balanced. Even panic can be observed among some of the Korean leading workers.

Stalin mentions that he knows about such mood from the telegram, which Kim Il Sung sent to Mao Zedong.

Zhou Enlai confirms this fact. He asks how the Chinese delegation has to act further.

Stalin suggests that they should start working right away. He reports that the Soviet side has appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Comrade Molotov including Comrades Bulganin, Mikoyan, Vyshinsky and Kumykin, and that the Chinese delegation can reach an agreement with Molotov when you start work.

Zhou Enlai thanks for the information and asks Comrade Stalin to set a time when Zhou Enlai will be able to tell Comrade Stalin about the internal situation in China.

Stalin agrees to receive Zhou Enlai as soon as his written report is ready. <>

Recorded: A. Vyshinsky (Signed)
N. Fedorenko (Signed)

RGASPI. F. 558, Op.11, D. 329, LL. 53-72.

Translated from the Russian by Dr. Elena Lavrina.

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