The Secret Mission of A.I. Mikoyan to China – II

(January-February 1949)

A. Ledovsky

(Continued from Revolutionary Democracy Vol. XXII, No. 2, April, 2017)


This is the second part of the article by Ledovsky on the secret visit of Mikoyan to China in the beginning of 1949 which details the exchanges between the CPSU (b) and the CPC on the questions relating to the coming assumption of power of the Chinese revolutionaries. The military assistance of the Soviets to the Chinese becomes apparent. Mao indicated that a quarter of all Soviet military assistance to the Chinese was allocated to Manchuria. Aside from the Japanese arms which were given to the Chinese they received Soviet and Czechoslovak ones. Later as the PLA entered Beijing they brought with them US weaponry to give the impression that they were accumulating arms from the forces of Chiang Kai-shek. We find information also of the financial assistance requested by Mao from the Soviet leadership.

Perhaps the important information which can be gained from this account are the exchanges between Stalin and Mao on the character of the new Chinese state. China would not, Stalin advised, be a dictatorship of the proletariat but a national revolutionary government. As a result there would be no land nationalisation or confiscation of the property of the commercial and industrial bourgeoisie: all this would take place at a later stage. Stalin noted that even in Yugoslavia apart from the communist party other parties existed in the People’s Front. He suggested that in People’s China that the capital of the Japanese, the French and the British should be nationalised. It would be better to leave alone US capital so that they, the US, would think that its interests were being taken into account. The comments of Liu Shao-chi on the national bourgeoisie are also of interest. He argued that the capital of the comprador bourgeoisie should be confiscated but that of the national bourgeoisie should be nationalised after some time. Mikoyan also advised caution on this question. In the event Mao in his seminal work ‘People’s Democratic Dictatorship,’ which was released shortly after these discussions in June 30th 1949, declared that the capital of the national bourgeoisie would later be nationalised. However, as Bhupen Palit was to point out, this portion of this work was to be deleted in the editions published after the 20th Congress of the CPSU. Eventually, of course, the capital of the national bourgeoisie in China was not to be confiscated till date. The location, translation and publication of the documents of Stalin and Mao which are relied upon by Ledovsky will clarify matters further.

Vijay Singh.

As we already noted in the first part of our publication, A.I. Mikoyan’s Note about his trip to China reflected just a part of the information contained in the telegraphic correspondence with Moscow about Mikoyan’s discussions with the leaders of the CPC about a broad range of issues of both internal and international policy, about Soviet-Chinese relations. Some of the issues discussed are outlined in the Note in a condensed form or incompletely, and some are not mentioned at all. Here are published, in excerpts or in full, the material of the telegraphic correspondence between A.I. Mikoyan and the leadership of CPSU(b), grouped around the main issues he discussed with the leadership of the CPC.

As we can see from these materials, a large part of these discussions in A.I. Mikoyan’s talks in Xibaipo and in his correspondence with Moscow concerned first and foremost the questions of the current policy of the CPC.

In the Note by A.I. Mikoyan and the recent publication of Academician S.L. Tikhvinsky, the contents of the correspondence between I. Stalin and Mao Zedong in the beginning of January 1949 on the question of positions of the USSR and the CPC are described in great detail, in connection with the appeal of the Nanjing government of 8-9 January 1949 to the leaders of the great states for help in arranging negotiations with the CPC about ending the war. The materials of A.I. Mikoyan’s correspondence give us the opportunity to discuss a number of interesting points on this issue.

Immediately after receiving the appeal from the Nanjing government, the governments and diplomatic representatives of the USA, Britain and France were very interested in ending the war in order to prevent the collapse of the Kuomintang regime. That would mean, among other things, the sharp rise of Soviet influence in China, and they immediately began to actively investigate the positions of the USSR. Their position was that this action could only be successful if all four great states would act from a common position on this issue. At that time, I was working as the First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Nanjing and I know well that our Ambassador N.V. Roshchin did not have any instructions from Moscow on this question until the second half of January. Now it is clear that this delay was caused by the coordination of positions through correspondence between I.V. Stalin and Mao Zedong. In this situation, N.V. Roshchin, citing illness, declined to participate in a meeting with the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs on January 8. At this meeting the Nanjing government aimed to deliver its appeal to him and the ambassadors of the three other great states, and – using the same pretext – he avoided discussing this issue at a meeting with the other ambassadors, initiated by the US Ambassador John Leighton Stuart.

As we can see from the correspondence between Moscow and Xibaipo, the final exchange of telegrams about the coordination of the positions of the USSR and the CPC on the question of the Appeal of the Nanjing government took place on January 14, 1949. The Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs issued the response of the Soviet side to the Chinese Ambassador in the spirit of this agreement on January 17, 1949.1

But the Western powers replied to the Nanjing regime ahead of Moscow. Following the instructions of the State Department, on 13 January 1949 J.L. Stuart conveyed to the Nanjing government the official reply of the US government, which stated that “under current circumstances, attempts to play the part of intermediary will not bring the desired results”.2 The diplomatic correspondence published later, in particular Stuart’s telegram from China to the State Department, shows that he was convinced that the Soviet Union would not agree to take part in this mediation campaign.3

Both Moscow and our embassy in Nanjing were quite surprised by such a quick and negative reaction of the US, because there was good reason to believe that this Appeal of the Nanjing government for mediation had been agreed to in advance with the representatives of the US government. Because of this, a suspicion arose in Moscow that this was the result of a leak in information about the correspondence between Stalin and Mao Zedong. A.I. Mikoyan spoke to Mao Zedong about this in a conversation on 3 February attended by Zhou Enlai, Liu Shao-chi, Zhu De and Zhang Bishi. He recalled that in his telegram dated 10 January about the Appeal of the Nanjing government, Stalin warned of the necessity to keep the exchange of views between Moscow and the CC of the CPC on this issue in strictest secrecy. Mikoyan told Mao Zedong and his colleagues: “We know that England, America and France stood for taking upon themselves the function of intermediaries between the Kuomintang and the CPC. Later, having somehow found out that the USSR and CPC are against foreign mediation, these powers, unwilling to lose face, changed their positions and refused to act as intermediaries. In connection with this we should take the issue of secrecy seriously and to find out whether there are any talkative people among CPC, through whom this information could have reached the Americans.”4 In his telegram to Moscow about this talk A.I. Mikoyan wrote: “Mao Zedong completely excluded such a possibility, because, as he noted, such serious issues and correspondence with Moscow in particular, were known only to the present members of the CC, to one interpreter, Shi Zhe, and to comrade Terebin. All these people are completely trustworthy and he has no doubts about them. As for this case, he stated that, before our position became known, the Anglo-Americans wrote openly that the USSR and CPC would be against the mediation. I replied – stressed Mikoyan – that this could have only been their assumption, but the Western powers hastened to abandon their mediation as soon as they received reliable information about our position. Mao Zedong repeated that possibility was not excluded [This is what is in the text. However, logically, it should be: “was excluded”.] of a leak of information from the CPC side.5

The question of the attitude of the Soviet government to the government of Chiang Kai-shek was discussed during the meeting of A.I. Mikoyan with Zhou Enlai and Zhu De. On 1 February in connection with moving of the Soviet Ambassador to Guanjou (Canton) Zhou Enlai asked to explain the motives of this action. Let me remind you that on 18 January 1949 China’s MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] informed all embassies and foreign missions that on 21 January the Chinese government moved from Nanjing to Canton and suggested that they follow it. Of all heads of the diplomatic missions, only the Soviet ambassador followed this suggestion. Most of the Soviet diplomatic workers moved to Canton together with the Ambassador. Only a small group of employees of the MFA and a few other Soviet departments were left in Nanjing and remained there until the formation of the PRC [People’s Republic of China]. The author of this publication also remained among this group of workers of the MFA. The diplomatic representatives of other states, their ambassadors received instructions from their governments to remain in Nanjing and to continue their work there as usual. The most numerous in terms of the staff were from the US Embassy headed by Ambassador J.L. Stuart, who remained in Nanjing until August 1949. In the light of the activities in Nanjing of the diplomatic staff, especially of the representatives of the US, which was the main ally of the Kuomintang regime, the departure of most of the Soviet Embassy, including the Ambassador, to Canton, looked like some sort of demonstration by Moscow that it was more interested in the government of Chiang Kai-shek, even though it was long evident to everyone that Moscow’s sympathies were on the side of the Chinese communists. The foreign diplomats and local Chinese authorities tried to find out what this meant. They made all sorts of assumptions and conjectures. We, the Soviet diplomats, in answering those questions, referred to the generally accepted international practice that the embassy of a foreign country should be located where the government of the host country is located. We knew that our answers did not sound really convincing, but we had to follow the instructions from Moscow, A.I. Mikoyan gave a similar answer to Zhou Enlai. In his telegram to Stalin about his conversation with Zhou Enlai on this subject, he wrote: “I explained that it was natural, because so far there is only one government in China to which our Ambassador is accredited, so it was only logical that he moved together with the Chinese government to Canton, while leaving part of the consulate in Nanjing. In reality, this will not harm our mutual cause, but on the contrary it will help it.”6

An important place in those talks was taken up by the question of the immediate plans for the military and military-political activity of the CPC and the PLA, about the means and sources of material and technical support.

In his very first talk with A.I. Mikoyan, on January the 30th, Mao Zedong declared: “In order to definitely win in the Nanjing and Shanghai region, we will need to send Lin Biao’s best troops from the Beiping [former name for Beijing] region to the South and the West to deprive the Kuomintang of the opportunity to send reinforcements to the Nanjing and Shanghai region. The situation in the Beiping region is difficult and it would take some time to gain a foothold here.”7

In the same conversation, Mao Zedong stressed: “The communists are building their plans counting on the worst. After a certain respite they are preparing to take these cities by force (Nanjing and Shanghai – A.L.). A peaceful outcome of the events in Beiping8 shortened the time for rest and the preparation of these troops for an offensive. Time is needed not only for rest, but also:

  1.  for “digesting” and educating those hundreds of thousands of Kuomintang prisoners, who recently joined the PLA;
  2.  for pulling up the rear and restoring the railways supplying the front;
  3.  for the accumulation of cartridges and shells from current production, because there are not enough stock. This becomes complicated because ammunition is needed for US, Japanese, Czechoslovak and Soviet weapons;
  4.  We also need time to train cadres for management of the Nanjing and Shanghai regions, because we cannot fully rely on the local cadres^.
  5.  We also need time for the training of economic cadres for management of the Nanjing-Shanghai regions. There is so little food there; we must stock up on supplies. We do not have time to print money for these regions.9

According to what has been said, Lin Biao’s troops in Manchuria received from the Soviet command not just captured Japanese weapons, but also weapons produced in the USSR and Czechoslovakia. It is understandable that the leadership of the CPC tried not to make this public. Mao Zedong, in his talk with A.I. Mikoyan on 5 February 1949, said that when, after the surrender of the Kuomintang troops of General Fu Tzon, Lin Biao’s troops entered Beiping, they confiscated all “their Soviet weapons and replaced them with US weapons”. Mao Zedong said that by doing so the CPC wanted to show “how Chiang Kai-shek is supplying the PLA troops with American weapons.”10

In those talks, the question of the role and forms of assistance of the USSR to the CPC in previous years and during the PLA’s preparation for new military action was often raised. In a general way this issue was discussed in the talks between A.I. Mikoyan and Mao Zedong on 4 February. During the talks Zhou Enlai, Liu Shao-chi and Zhu De were present. A.I. Mikoyan wrote in a telegram to Moscow about the contents of these talks: “Further Mao Zedong stressed that the USSR has provided great help to the CPC and that for this the latter is very grateful to the CPSU(b). The Chinese revolution, continued Mao Zedong, is part of the world revolution. In this regard, private interests should conform to general ones. We always take this into account when we ask the USSR for help. And if the USSR, for example, would not give us something this would not offend us at all. When, before his departure to Moscow Lo Yunghuan11 asked me how to raise the issue of help for us from the USSR, I said to him that he should not portray the situation as if we were dying and as if we do not have our own capabilities, but stressed that we wished to receive from you substantial assistance in Manchuria. Since 1947 Lin Biao often asked Moscow for on one or another issue. I, said Mao Zedong, instructed Gao Gan to pay for all the assistance we receive from the USSR, and besides, to resolve the shortage of these materials at the expense of the Kuomintang regions. The Chinese comrades should rationally use the help from the USSR. If there were no help from the USSR, stressed Mao, it would be unlikely that we could have achieved our present victories. However, that does not mean that we should not rely on our own forcers. But at the same time we cannot ignore the fact that your military help in Manchuria consists of all Soviet military help, and this is very important for us, said Mao Zedong.12

In the talks of 4 February the questions of the forms of relations between the CPC and the CPSU(b) in future years as well as the candidate of the PRC ambassador to the USSR were also discussed. Mao Zedong stressed that “the CPC needs all-round assistance from the CPSU(b). We need two advisers: one for economic and another for financial issues”.13 Zhou Enlai, speaking of the party adviser, said that “on the main issues the CPC would like direct contact with the CC of the CPSU(b)” and stressed that “the main issues will be decided in Moscow.”14

Mao Zedong proposed to send Wan Tzasian15 as ambassador to Moscow. Describing him, Mao said that “in the past he made mistakes together with the Wang Ming group”. He stated that in 1937 Wang was in Moscow, Mao remarked that “in June 1937 he returned to us with instructions from the Comintern which corresponded to our political line. These instructions helped us to overcome our errors”.16 Mikoyan replied that “we have no objections about the candidate of the future Ambassador to Moscow.17

After the end of military actions in Manchuria, it began to serve as the main rear base for supplies for the military operations of the PLA in order to take over Northern China and other regions of China. It was necessary to organize movement from Manchuria and through Manchuria of weapons, ammunition, food supplies and many other things from the USSR. The most important role in this was played by the restoration of the railway lines leading to Northern China and further, towards the Yangtze River. In this work many Soviet engineering technical workers took part – employees of the CCR [China Changchun Railway]. Soviet railway workers, highly qualified specialists with broad knowledge, were providing assistance to the communist authorities in Manchuria, not just in restoring the railways, but also in many other branches of the national economy.

To coordinate the Soviet assistance, at the request from the head of the Northeast Bureau of the CC of the CPC Gao Gan, supported by Mao Zedong, the Soviet leadership sent a group of adviser-specialists to China at the end of 1948. The leader of this group was General I.V. Kovalev, who was the minister of railways during the Great Patriotic War.18

In discussions, the leadership of the CPC highly valued the work of this group of specialists under the leadership of General I.V. Kovalev. Even before the arrival of A.I. Mikoyan, Mao Zedong sent this telegram to I.V. Stalin:

“Greetings, Comrade Stalin!

“We are very grateful to you for sending us Comrade Kovalev, to help us restoring our railways and economic works!

“With the help of comrade Kovalev and other Soviet comrades most of the railways in Manchuria are now basically restored. Now Comrade Kovalev together with our Chinese comrades developed a plan to restore all the railways in Northern China, that is, in the region north of the Yangtze River, with a total length of more than 3,000 km, in 1949. If this plan is fulfilled by the winter of this year, we will have 18,000 km of railways (including those in Manchuria) that can be put into operation. In order to implement this plan we will require some absolutely necessary materials, such as locomotives, cars, tools, oil and other materials in order to restore the railroad tracks in Northern China. But besides what we can provide for ourselves, we need some urgent help from you, that is, to receive most of these materials from you, and only then will we be able to start work on restoring the railroads.

“In enclosing these two lists of materials for which we need your help, as mentioned above, I am asking you to review these lists, and if we can get approval from your side, and also if you can issue us an order of credit as soon as possible, with loading and shipment as soon as possible, then we would be very grateful to you.

‘With Bolshevik greetings and best wishes for your health.’

Mao Zedong

“8 January 1949”19

In his talks in Xibaipo, A.I. Mikoyan informed the leadership of the CPC about the measures taken by the Soviet leadership to fulfil this and other requests. The leaders of CPC outlined to him some other problems that they were unable to resolve without the help of the Soviet Union. A.I. Mikoyan discussed the questions of the most urgent needs of the CPC and the PLA with Zhou Enlai and Zhu De in their conversation on 1 February. In his telegram about those talks A.I. Mikoyan wrote: “We, said Zhou Enlai, have a great lack of anti-tank guns, of which we have only 150 pieces. So we would like to request the Soviet Union to send us some anti-tank guns.

We also have some issues with tanks. The tanks that we have are too light; the heaviest is just 15 ton. At Xuzhou we captured 70 tanks, but most of them were completely battered. We do not have enough materials and we would like to request Soviet Union to send us some TNT for producing ammunition. We would also request the Soviet Union to send us some specialists and equipment for production of weapon, as well as some advisers to help organize the army, to establish military education institutions and to organize our rear, including the arms industry.”

“I answered that in principle we agreed to help with organizing the production of weapon and to send advisers, but I cannot say anything about the anti-aircraft and anti-tank weaponry and will inform Moscow about this for their decision. Further, Zhou Enlai said that they would like to receive from us steel rails, gasoline, about 5,000 cars, and some other cars and materials, to which I answered that all these requests should be addressed to our government.”20

The discussion of these issues continued during the following meetings. For example, during the talk with A.I. Mikoyan on 2 February Zhu De and Zhang Bishi “paid special attention to the issues of China’s industrial development and the co-operation in this task between China and the USSR. A special role in such co-operation was given to Manchuria. In his telegram about this meeting A.I. Mikoyan wrote, in particular, the following;

“Zhang Bishi stressed that in their economic plans they place special emphasis on Manchuria, in order to turn it into the forge of the country’s defence industry. It should be able to produce motor vehicles, planes, tanks and other weapons. He immediately said that they hope for help from the Soviet Union in the industrial development of Manchuria. He named the following forms of such help:

  1.  “Joint Soviet-Chinese economic associations.
  2.  “Loans from the USSR
  3.  “Concessions provided by the USSR

“Zhang Bishi said that Soviet help is needed in the exploitation of such rare minerals as uranium, magnesium, molybdenum and aluminium, which are situated near Mukden, Jinzhou and in Jehol province. In the past the Japanese exported one ton of uranium. If these natural resources were of interest to the Soviet Union, we could raise the issue of their exploitation on a joint basis, or grant a special concession to the Soviet Union.

“Zhang Bishi stressed that the industrial development of Manchuria requires highly qualified specialists. At the Anshan Metallurgical Combine they are forced to use the services of Japanese specialists. In this regard, said Zhang Bishi, we are requesting you to send us at least 500 Soviet specialists on various fields of economy”.21

In his talks with A.I. Mikoyan on 3 February, Liu Shao-chi, referring to the issue of China’s industrial development, said the following;

“The creation of an industrial base in liberated China is impossible without help of the USSR and countries of people’s democracies. This help would play the decisive role for us. We imagine that this help can take such forms as:

  1.  “Passing on the experience of socialist reorganization of the economy.
  2.  “Supplying us with the necessary literature and sending us various advisers and technicians in various branches of the economy.
  3.  “Providing us with capital.

"We believe that the Soviet Union, the countries of people’s democracy and China should provide mutual economic help to each other. With the help of the Soviet Union we will achieve socialism faster, unless, of course, we make mistakes. It is clear to us that without the help of the Soviet Union we will not be able to restore the Anshan combine in Manchuria. In this regard, we would like to know in advance the possible amount of help to us from the Soviet Union, so that we can include it in our national economic plans.”22

Mao Zedong raised the issue of Soviet economic help again in his final talks with A.I. Mikoyan on 6 and 7 of February. Mao Zedong appealed to the Soviet leadership for a loan of $300 million for the CPC, and as part of this loan to provide some necessary machinery, materials etc. He mentioned, in particular, the supply of silver to produce Chinese hard currency, petroleum products and 3,000 cars. The telegrams about these talks stated: “Mao Zedong said that we need 300 million; we don’t know if you can provide us with such a sum, less or more than that, but even if you do not give it to us we will not be offended”.23 He expressed his wish to receive the said amount within three years, beginning in 1949, in equal parts, and said that in the future this loan will be repaid by China, along with the appropriate interest.”24

“Until now,” said Mao Zedong, “we have been receiving weapons for free. But we know that the labour of Soviet workers is included in the production of Soviet weapons, which should be paid.”25 According to Mao Zedong, the CC of the CPC had already prepared a list of the necessary machines and materials, but their total value is unknown and it is not clear if it will be included in that loan. It is unclear how this loan should be repaid. Mao Zedong said that if the issue of loan is resolved satisfactorily, then CC the CPC will send a delegation to Moscow in order to sign an agreement about this. He also expressed a wish to send a group of Chinese workers to the Soviet Union in order to familiarize them with the way of working of the Soviet banks.”26

During the meetings in Xibaipo a range of questions of the foreign policy of the CPC during the final stages of the civil war and after it was also discussed. On the issues of foreign policy the leaders of the CPC gave central attention to the relations with the USSR and the countries of Eastern Europe.

The issue of the Soviet Chinese Treaty and Agreement of 1945 was particularly discussed. The content of the exchange of views on this issue were partially outlined in A.I. Mikoyan’s Note. It seems important to provide here in full the contents of the talks of A.I. Mikoyan with Mao Zedong on this issue, as contained in his telegram to Moscow at that time.

The telegram reads:

About the Soviet-Chinese Agreement

“On the issue of the Soviet-Chinese agreement I said that we consider the Soviet-Chinese agreement about the Port-Arthur region an unequal one, concluded only in order to prevent the Kuomintang from co-operating with Japan and the US against the USSR and the liberation movement in China. This agreement, I said, brought certain benefits to the liberation movement in China, but now when the Chinese communists are coming to power, the situation in the country is changing drastically. In connection with this, I said, the Soviet leadership has made the decision to annul this unequal agreement and withdraw its troops from Port Arthur as soon as a peace agreement with Japan is concluded. But if the Chinese Communist Party considers expedient the immediate withdrawal of our troops, I said, the USSR is prepared to do that. As for the agreement [As stated in the text. Better: contract] about the China-Chanchun railroad, we do not consider it as unequal agreement, because this road was built mainly with Russian money. Perhaps, I said, the principle of equality was not fully implemented in this agreement, but we are prepared to discuss this question with our Chinese comrades and resolve it in a fraternal manner.

“The evaluation of the agreement as an unequal one was so unexpected for Mao Zedong and the Politburo members that it caused them genuine surprise. After that Mao Zedong and the other Politburo members began almost immediately to say that now it is not necessary to withdraw the Soviet troops from Liaodong and liquidate the base in Port Arthur, because by doing so we would only help the US. Mao Zedong declared that we will keep secret the issue of pulling out the troops and that the agreement can only be reviewed when political reaction is defeated in China, the people are mobilized to confiscate foreign capital and when with the help of the Soviet Union “we put ourselves in order”. The Chinese people, said Mao, are grateful to the Soviet Union for this agreement. When we become stronger, then “you can leave China”, and then we can sign a Soviet- Chinese mutual assistance agreement similar to the one the USSR has with Poland.

“Further, Mao Zedong said that in determining the property of the CCR, there are some minor problems, which can be resolved on the spot. For example, Kuomintang troops expropriated part of the property of the CCR, but when the PLA arrived, they were given back to the CCR. People say that the Kuomintang took this property in accordance with the Soviet- Chinese Agreement, but the PLA is giving it back to the CCR in violation of this agreement. Mao Zedong suggested that Gao Gan and I. Kovalev should sort out this issue and report to the CPC and the CPSU(b).27

An important place in the talks was provided by discussions on the further perspectives of development of the political and economic situation in China, on issues of the CPC’s policy in the cities and in the countryside, attitudes towards various social groups and parties, and to foreign capital.

In A.I. Mikoyan’s Note it mentioned that already in 1947 and 1948 it became clear that there were some differences in the approach of Moscow and of the CC of the CPC towards the role of various Chinese political parties (except the CPC) in the political life on the country at the end of the civil war and after its conclusion. Let us remember that Mikoyan’s Note contained a quote from Stalin’s telegram dated 20 April 1948 to the CC of the CPC on this issue. It seems very important to quote here that part of Stalin’s telegram that was mentioned in Mikoyan’s Note. It said: “It must be borne in mind that the Chinese government, after the victory of the People’s Liberation Army of China, will be in it politics, at least in the period after the victory, the duration of which it is difficult to determine now, a national revolutionary democratic government, but not a communist one.

“That means that for the time being there will not yet be total nationalisation of the land, or abolition of private ownership of land, or confiscation of the property of the whole commercial and industrial bourgeoisie from small to large, or confiscation of the property not only of the big landowners, but also of the medium and small ones who use other people’s labour. These reforms will have to wait for a certain period of time.

For your information, – wrote Stalin further on – in Yugoslavia apart from the communist party there are also other parties that are part of the People’s Front.”28

The issue of the content and prospects of the CPC’s policies was repeatedly touched upon during the talks in Xibaipo. Mikoyan’s Note mentions that he brought the attention of the Chinese leadership to the weakness of the position of the CPC in the cities, and that he conveyed the views of the CPSU(b) leadership that a quick takeover of the cities would allow the CPC to find its “proletarian base”. In his telegrams to Moscow Mikoyan mentioned that the leadership of the CPC recognized the lack of experience of the work of the party cadres in the cities. In one of the discussions Mao Zedong said that during the last 20 years the CPC did not have in its hands any big cities and that only the help of the Soviet Army allowed them to take over big centres such as Harbin.29 The other leaders of the CPC, speaking of the lack of experience or clear policy in the cities, told A.I. Mikoyan that in the beginning the new authorities in the cities “gave the workers the confiscated commercial enterprises, after which the workers divided the goods among themselves, sold them and dismantled the premises”.30 As a response to this information and the requests of A.I. Mikoyan, some telegrams came from Moscow on the issues of the policy in the cities. In these telegrams I.V. Stalin made a number of recommendations and drew the attention of the CPC leadership to the necessity of strengthening work among workers, and also among the youth and women, and stressed the need for speedy training of the necessary cadres. In one of Moscow’s telegrams on the issue of policy towards workers it was recommended “not to forbid strikes, otherwise the CPC will lose the workers’ trust”. In his telegram to Moscow dated 5 February A.I. Mikoyan mentioned that this advice from Moscow “caused considerable bewilderment on the part of Mao Zedong and the members of the Politburo present.” In general though, A.I. Mikoyan mentioned, the telegrams from Moscow with advice on the issues mentioned (about workers, youth, etc.) “made a good impression. During reading of these telegrams Mao Zedong and the Politburo members agreed in unison and Mao Zedong said that the advice would be implemented”.31

The issues of the attitude towards foreign capital and the national bourgeoisie were particularly discussed. On Stalin’s instructions, Mikoyan declared to the leaders of the CPC: “On the issue of foreign property we are of opinion that Japanese, French, and, if possible, English property should be nationalized. As far as American property is concerned, we have to implement a cautious policy, in order to create opinion among Americans that their interests will be taken into account by the new (communist) authorities.”32

The issue of attitude towards the national bourgeoisie was discussed in detail in a talk with Liu Shao-chi on 3 February 1949. “Liu Shao-chi declared,” said Mikoyan in his telegram about this talk, “that they will confiscate the property of the comprador bourgeoisie, under the guise of the confiscation of bureaucratic capital. As far as the property of the national bourgeoisie is concerned, then within one or two years we can raise the question of their fate in terms of nationalisation.”33 To this Mikoyan answered: “A cautious policy towards the national bourgeoisie is correct. You should not mention the nationalisation of their property. It is better to observe it carefully and when the authorities become stronger, to raise the issue about it^” Liu Shao-chi was in complete agreement.34

In the same talk, Liu said: “The main issue of our policy is the question of where China is going. The most difficult question for China is the question of small commodity producers: will they follow the co-operative path, that is, towards socialism, or towards capitalism; We always remember the words of Lenin, stressed Liu Shao-chi, “that the petty-bourgeois economy is the source that constantly gives birth to capitalism^

“Our goal is the gradual movement towards socialism by strengthening of the beginning of the planned economy. The transition towards socialism will be long-term in nature and fierce in struggle. We also have the same issue: who will overcome whom, as Lenin once raised it.

“By our calculations, for a full offensive against the capitalist elements in our economy we will have to wait 10-15 years, after which we will begin to transfer the commercial and industrial enterprises to the hands of the state, and by doing so we will speed up China’s movement towards socialism.

“The transfer of agriculture onto socialist rails,” – said Liu Shao-chi, – “we can only picture if we subordinate the industrial base to agriculture”.35

Characterizing the various tendencies within the party in relation to the general perspectives of the CPC’s policy, Liu Shao-chi said; “First of all, in our party we have people who are of opinion that we should wholeheartedly develop capitalism and draw upon it. In reality, that means concession to the capitalist elements, capitulation to capitalism. These people want to create an ordinary capitalist state in China, that is, to restore the semi- feudal and bourgeois order. Secondly, there are people in the party who tend to be far-left, in an adventurist way hastening to build socialism. This tendency expresses itself in the fact that some people make up unrealistic plans, without taking into consideration our capabilities. As a result these tendencies damage the alliance of the working class with the peasantry. We must, – said Liu Shao-chi – resolutely combat these tendencies and in relation to this we need advice from the USSR”.36

It is also important to mention of I.V. Stalin’s suggestions in regard to the nationalities’ policy of the CPC. Mikoyan’s Note already mentioned discussions in Xibaipo on the question of Mongolia and Xinjiang. At the same time it omits reference to Moscow advice on the general principles of the future policy of the PRC towards various nationalities. In his telegram to Moscow about his talk with Mao Zedong on 4 February 1949 Mikoyan wrote: “I conveyed to Mao Zedong that our CC does not advise the CPC to swing too much on the national question, by granting independence to national minorities, and thereby diminishing the territory of the Chinese state after the coming of the Chinese communists to power. . National minorities should get autonomy, not independence.

“Mao Zedong was glad to hear that advice, but from his face I could see that he had no intention to give independence to anyone.”37

In his final talk with A.I. Mikoyan on 7 February Mao Zedong explained his general attitude towards the economic policy of the CPC after its coming to power. In particular, he said: “In China, there are 90 million peasant households, uniting 360 million people, including 10% of poor peasants, who are allies of the working class. The leadership belongs to the proletariat. We have given land to the peasants, but we did not give them the goods that they need and that we do not have. If we do not develop our industry, we will not be able to provide goods to the peasants and therefore we will lose our leadership over them.

“We are glad that the USSR is giving us warm support and help, but one cannot win, leaning only on outside support. That is why, protecting the interests of the workers through the trade unions, through state intervention in trade with the goal of lowering prices, by selling grain, fuel and goods for the workers and the urban population, by protecting of the poor peasants in the villages, through involving them in production and trade co-operation, we also have to give the opportunity to develop and private enterprises. We need to use two slogans of Sun Yatsen:

  1.  Restriction of capital through control
  2.  Repression of usurious capital, which is causing damage to the people.

We consider it possible and necessary to allow free competition in the domestic Chinese market. We have to, because we are still weak and backward in economic sense, use private capital, but without allowing here some haste.”38 Further Mao Zedong said that because of a higher level of industrial and general economic development of pre-revolutionary Russia, the Soviet Union needed just 12 years of transition towards the socialist reorganisation of the agriculture. In China, according to Mao Zedong, because of its economic backwardness, the transition period will also be protracted. “To shorten the transition period,” – said Mao, – “we will need economic help. We see it as possible to receive such help only from the USSR and the countries of the new democracies. We need a loan for three years (1949-1951) in the amount of 300 million US dollars, 100 million dollars per year with interest payments. We would like to receive this loan in part with machinery, fuel, petroleum and other goods and also with silver, for the strengthening of the Yuan.”39

At the request of Mao Zedong, Mikoyan spent several hours talking to members of the Politburo of the CC of the CPC on the economic situation in China and the economic policy of the CPC. After that, many problems were discussed with the participation of Mao Zedong. As a result of these talks, A.I. Mikoyan sent a telegram to Moscow where he wrote: “It is necessary to mention that the members of Politburo with whom I had talks are quite competent and hold themselves confident on the general political, party, peasant and general economic questions. But they are quite weak in practical economic questions. They have very little knowledge of industry, transport, banks. For example, they have no data on the Japanese property confiscated after the fight with the Kuomintang. They do not know which are the most important foreign enterprises that exist in China and to which states they belong. They also have no knowledge of the activities of the foreign banks in China^ They also do not know which enterprises belong to bureaucratic capital that they are planning to confiscate, how many of them are situated in the liberated territory and in what condition they are^ All their economic plans are very general without attempting to make them detailed and concrete, even in regard to those things that are under their authority in the liberated regions. They are sitting in a remote village and are divorced from reality^ During our talks it became clear that they have no concrete plans as to what they are going to take into their own hands as the economic base of the state (big banks, big industry and so on)”.40

A.I. Mikoyan suggested to the leaders of the CPC to send to Moscow their concrete, detailed requests in order to receive the needed help from the USSR. Mao Zedong asked to speed up the supplies in accordance with the previous requests of the CPC, linked with the solution of the most practical and urgent needs, Mao Zedong said that in order to conclude a loan agreement and to discuss other issues in the course of rapidly developing events, the CPC leadership would like to send a special delegation to Moscow.

As mentioned in the above telegram of Mao Zedong to I.V. Stalin dated 8 January 1949, the Chinese leadership requested consideration be given to expedite the delivery of supplies in previous requests of the CPC. In order to discuss the issues of further military and economic help and also the issue of a loan, as was mentioned in several talks and, accordingly, in the telegrams of A.I. Mikoyan to Moscow, the CPC leadership was planning to send a special delegation to the USSR.

This delegation, headed by the Secretary of the CC of CPC Liu Shao- chi, visited Moscow secretly in June-July 1949 and held negotiations withI.V. Stalin and other Soviet leaders. But this is the subject for a separate publication.


  1.  Pravda, 18 January, 1949.
  2.  FRUS [Foreign Relations of the United States] 1949, China. Vol. VIII, p. 47.
  3.  Ibid, p. 25
  4.  APRF [Archive of the President, Russian Federation], F. 39, Op. 1, case 39, p. 47.
  5.  Ibid.
  6.  Ibid, p. 20.
  7.  Ibid. p. 2.
  8.  On 21 January 1949 Fu Tzu signed an agreement with the representatives of the CPC about peaceful outcome in Beiping (Peking). On 31 January the PLA entered Beiping peacefully.
  9.  APRF, F. 39, Op. 1, case 39, p. 2.
  10.  Ibid, p. 37.
  11.  This is how it is stated in the text. It seems that he meant Lo Zhunhuan (1902-1963), at that time political commissar of the PLA in Dunbze, first political commissar of the 4th field army of the PLA.
  12.  APRF, F. 30, Op. 1, case 9, p. 58.
  13.  Ibid, p. 57.
  14.  Ibid.
  15.  Wan Tzasian (1906-1974), at that time member of the Bureau of CC of the CPC in Dunbei, since March 1949 member of the CC of the CPC.
  16. APRF, F. 39, Op. 1, D. 37, pp. 57-58.
  17.  Ibid., p. 58.
  18.  After the formation of the PRC, [General] I.V. Kovalev continued to lead the group of Soviet specialists for some time. But, having a direct line with Moscow, he continued to see himself as the personal representative of I.V. Stalin, and did not discuss his actions with the Soviet Ambassador N.V Roshchin. That prompted Roshchin to report to Moscow about this. Stalin sent a Commission to China to check up on the actions of I.V. Kovalev and the Soviet specialists under his control. As a result of the Report of this Commission Kovalev was recalled from China.
  19.  APRF, F. 39, Op. 1, D. 37, p. 1.
  20.  APRF, f. 39, Op. 1, D. 39, p. 29.
  21.  Ibid., p. 37.
  22.  Ibid., p. 44.
  23.  Ibid., pp. 85-86.
  24.  Ibid.
  25.  Ibid.
  26.  Ibid., p. 86.
  27.  Ibid., p. 78-79.
  28.  APRF, F. 39, Op. 1, D. 31, pp. 28-29.
  29. APRF, F. 39, Op. 1, D. 39, p. 69.
  30. Ibid., p. 92.
  31. Ibid., p. 74.
  32. Ibid., p. 69.
  33. Ibid., p. 41.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Ibid., pp. 42-43.
  36. Ibid., p. 46.
  37. Ibid., p. 54.
  38. Ibid., p. 94.
  39. Ibid., p. 95.
  40. Ibid., pp. 89-90.
Translated from the Russian by Irina Malenko

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