The Secret Mission of A.I. Mikoyan to China

(January-February 1949)

A. Ledovsky


At the core of this article is the publication of the note by Mikoyan on his mission to China in the early part of 1949. It was written in 1960 at a time when fissures had appeared between the CPSU and the CPC on a wide range of questions. The Mikoyan note reveals some of the differences of views between the two parties during the time of their co-ordination on the brink of the establishment of the Chinese government.

It is valuable to examine these divergences.

First, we may note that the CPSU (b) and Stalin did not accept the proposal of the CPC and Mao that while establishing the Chinese state that the dictatorship of the proletariat should be incepted on the lines of the Soviet Union and the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia which had been formed in 1946. It was the understanding of the Soviet leadership that the government coalition should include those oppositional forces representing the middle classes which were opposed to the Kuomintang. The CPC eventually came to agree with the Soviet view. This later became a marker of the Chinese revolution but Stalin and the CPSU (b) could not have anticipated that a situation would arise in the post-Stalin period that People’s China would declare itself a dictatorship of the proletariat whilst preserving more or less indefinitely the representatives of the middle bourgeoisie in state power.

The CPSU (b) gave its opinion at the point of victory of the Chinese revolution when the Kuomintang proposed in early 1949 to cease the war and agree to a peace settlement. The CPSU (b) suggested that the CPC should support a peace settlement but not agree to international participation in negotiations for this. In this manner the CPC would be seen as a supporter ofpeace whilst preventing the intervention of the US in the matter. In later years the CPC and Mao were to claim that the Soviet Union and Stalin were not in favour of the victory of the Chinese revolution. The correspondence exchanged between Stalin and Mao on this question which has already been published in this journal show that the later claims of Mao were the opposite of the actual situation.1

Third, Mikoyan on behalf of the CPSU (b) leadership, suggested that the CPC take over the main centres such as Shanghai and Nanjing as this would weaken the position of Chiang Kai-shek and help create a proletarian cadre through struggles. Mao differed from this view saying the CPC was basically a peasant party which would not be able to run these centres. It was held in the CPC leadership in this period, that while the party considered itself, as Marx had thought, the advanced group of the proletariat, it also represented the peasants, the petty bourgeois, and the middle class of the towns. In her discussion with Liu Shao-chi in 1947, Anna Louise Strong noted that the Chinese leader referred to the position of Karl Marx that the industrial workers were the only class which accepted communism and could bring it to fruition. This was the position in the western world but in China he argued there were only two or three million of such industrial workers. Alongside these sections Mao was training two-three million from other sections which were in fact perhaps more disciplined and devoted than the industrial workers.2 It is in this context that we may see the statement of Mao to Mikoyan when he averred that the political consciousness of the Chinese peasantry was more advanced than that of the American workers and many of the British workers.

According to the account of Mikoyan the CPSU (b) in these exchanges took internationalist stands on the questions of Port Arthur and Sinkiang saying that these were considered to be areas which belonged to China. The note of Mikoyan on the Mongolian question is of special interest. Prior to the Chinese revolution the CPC accepted the right of nations to self-determination and sought to establish a free federation of nationalities. In his discussion with Edgar Snow of 23rd July 1936, Mao expressed the view that the relationship of the Soviet Union and the Mongolian People’s Republic throughout had been one based on complete equality. Once the people’s revolution would be successful in China the ‘Outer Mongolian republic will automatically become a part of the Chinese federation, at its own will’.3 In the discussion with Mao, Mikoyan, Stalin (through his intervention through telegrams) and the CPSU (b) reconciled the views of the Mongolian People’s Republic and the CPC. Stalin considered that it was not advisable for the Mongolian People’s Republic to unite with Inner Mongolia to establish a united Mongolia as this would limit a range of territory from China. Nor did he consider that after its long history of independence the Mongolian People’s Republic would agree to be incorporated into the new Chinese state as an autonomous unit. It was for the state of Outer Mongolia to take its position on this question. Matters did not conclude there as is clear from the famous discussion of Mao and the delegation of Japanese Socialists which took place in July, 1964. Mao reversed his positions of 1936 and 1949 and now argued that under the Yalta agreement the Soviet Union ‘under the pretext of guaranteeing the independence of Mongolia, had actually placed that country under its domination’.4 The plebiscite in the Mongolian People’s Republic of 1945 which favoured independence was not a factor of concern for the Chinese leader. Mao revealed that in 1954 when Khrushchev and Bulganin visited China the Chinese leadership had raised the Mongolian question ‘but they refused to talk with us’.5 The varying stands of Mao between 1936 and 1964 on the Mongolian question suggest that he fluctuated considerably on the questions of proletarian internationalism.

The talk of the Japanese Socialists and Mao Zedong had its repercussions in the relations of the CPC and the Party of Labour of Albania. Enver Hoxha noted in his political diary on August 22nd 1964 that the raising of territorial claims on the Soviet Union and the people’s democracies was not regarded as a tactic by the CPC but as a matter of principle. He considered that the ‘claims of the Chinese have been built on a dangerous platform, to the point that they themselves have pretentions to Outer Mongolia’. Enver Hoxha considered that by raising the territorial questions the struggle against Khrushchevism was being diverted towards nationalist ends.6 The Chinese were inciting nationalist passions in Japan, Rumania, Poland, Finland, China and the Soviet Union rather than confronting revisionism.

Quite extraordinary, finally, was the position of the CPC and Mao himself in the talks of January-February 1949 that they wished to receive directions and orders from the CPSU (b). Mikoyan rejected this demand and said that it was not possible for the Soviet party to rule over the Chinese party. The CPC was an independent party and the CPSU (b) could only restrict itself to rendering advice to the Chinese. Even though the views of Mao were shunned by Mikoyan they were repeated to Stalin by the Chinese delegation which visited the Soviet Union a few months later in June 1949. Stalin and the CPSU (b) leadership again rejected the views of Mao and the CPC that the Soviet party should give orders to the Chinese party saying that it was not permissible for the communist party of one state to submit to another although the parties did consult each other on issues and mutually help each other.7

Vijay Singh


1. ‘Continue Your Glorious War of Liberation’. The Correspondence of J.V Stalin and Mao Zedong, January 1949 in Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. III, No. 2, September 1997.

2. Anna Louise Strong, ‘The Thought of Mao Tse-tung’, Amerasia, New York, Vol. IX, No. 6, June 1947, pp. 162.

3. Edgar Snow, Red Star over China, Harmondsworth, 1973, p. 505.

4. Mao Tse-tung’s ‘Talk with Japanese Socialists’ in the booklet In Connection with Mao Tse-tung’s Talk with a Group of Japanese Socialists, Novosti Press Agency Publishing House, Moscow, 1964, pp 17-20. This is also available in a different translation in Franz Schurmann and Orville Schell, Ed., China Readings 3 – Communist China Harmondsworth, 1968, pp. 368-370.

5. Ibid. p. 20.

6. Enver Hoxha, Reflections on China, Vol. I, Tirana, 1979, p. 75.

7. From the Speech at the Reception for the Chinese Delegation (27th June 1949). J.V Stalin in Revolutionary Democracy, Vol. XX, No. 2, September, 2014.

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