Mao’s Moscow Visit, December 1949-February 1950

From CNN Cold War

In October 1949, Communists led by Mao Tse-tung formed the People’s Republic of China. In December, Mao embarked on a two-month visit to the Soviet Union to establish a diplomatic alliance with Stalin.

Tensions were high. The Soviet Union previously had signed a treaty with the regime of Chiang Kai-shek, and Stalin felt Mao could threaten his domination of worldwide communism. Nevertheless, the two countries signed a formal alliance on February 14, 1950.

Mao sent the following telegrams to officials in China describing the negotiations.

Telegram from Mao Tse-tung to Liu Shaoqi

December 18, 1949

(1) [I] arrived in Moscow on the 16th and met with Stalin for two hours at 10 p.m. (Beijing time). His attitude was really sincere. The questions involved included the possibility of peace, the treaty, loan, Taiwan, and the publication of my selected works.

(2) Stalin said that the Americans are afraid of war. The Americans ask other countries to fight the war [for them], but other countries are also afraid to fight a war. According to him, it is unlikely that a war will break out, and we agree with his opinions.

(3) With regard to the question of the treaty, Stalin said that because of the Yalta agreement, it is improper for us to overturn the legitimacy of the old Sino-Soviet treaty. If we abolish the old treaty and sign a new one, the status of the Kurile Islands will be changed and the United States will have an excuse to take them away. Therefore, on the question of the Soviet Union’s thirty-year lease of Lushun [Port Arthur], we should not change it in format; however, in reality, the Soviet Union will withdraw its troops from Lushun and will let Chinese troops occupy it. I expressed that too early a withdrawal [of the Soviet troops from Lushun] will create unfavorable conditions for us. He replied that the Soviet withdrawal of troops [from Lushun] does not mean that the Soviet Union will stand by with folded arms [in a crisis]; rather, it is possible to find ways through which China will not become the first to bear the brunt. His opinion is that we may sign a statement, which will solve the Lushun problem in accordance with the above-mentioned ideas, and that by doing so, China will also gain political capital. I said that it is necessary for us to maintain the legitimacy of the Yalta agreement. However, public opinion in China believes that since the old treaty was signed by the GMD [Guomindang; Kuomintang, KMT], it has lost its ground with the GMD’s downfall. He replied that the old treaty needs to be revised and that the revision is necessarily substantial, but it will not come until two years from now.

(4) Stalin said that it is unnecessary for the Foreign Minister [Chou En-Lai] to fly here just for signing a statement. I told him that I will consider it. I hope that the commercial, loan, and aviation agreements will be signed at the same time, and the Premier [Chou En-lai] should come. It is hoped that the Politburo will discuss how to solve the treaty problem and offer its opinions.

Telegram from Mao to Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee

January 2, 1950

Central Committee:

(1) Our work here has achieved an important breakthrough in the past two days. Comrade Stalin has finally agreed to invite Comrade Chou En-lai to Moscow and sign a new Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance and other agreements on credit, trade, and civil aviation. Yesterday, on 1 January, a decision was made to publish my interview with the Tass correspondent, and it is in the newspapers today (2 January), which you might have already received. At 8:00 p.m. today, Comrade Molotov and Comrade Mikoyan came to my quarters to have a talk, asking about my opinions on the Sino-Soviet treaty and other matters. I immediately gave them a detailed description of three options:

(a) To sign a new Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance. By taking this action, we will gain enormous advantages. Sino-Soviet relations will be solidified on the basis of the new treaty; in China, workers, peasants, intellectuals, and the left wing of the national bourgeoisie will be greatly inspired, while the right wing of the national bourgeoisie will be isolated; and internationally, we may acquire more political capital to deal with the imperialist countries and to examine all the treaties signed between China and each of the imperialist countries in the past.

(b) To publish through the news agencies of the two countries a brief communique stating that the authorities of the two countries have exchanged opinions on the old Sino-Soviet treaty and other issues, and have achieved a consensus, without mentioning any of the details. In fact, by doing so we mean to put off the solution of the problem to the future, until a few years later. Accordingly, China’s foreign minister Chou En-lai does not need to come here.

(c) To sign a statement, not a treaty, that will summarize the key points in the two countries’ relations. If this is the option, Chou En-lai will not have to come either. After I have analyzed in detail the advantages and disadvantages of these three options, Comrade Molotov said promptly that option (a) was good and that Chou should come. I then asked: “Do you mean that the old treaty will be replaced by a new one?” Comrade Molotov replied: “Yes.” After that we calculated how long it would take for Chou to come here and to sign the treaty. I said that my telegram would reach Beijing on 3 January, and that [Chou] En-lai would need five days for preparations and could depart from Beijing on 9 January. It would take him eleven days by train [to travel to Moscow], so he could arrive in Moscow on 19 January. The negotiation and the signing of the treaty would need about ten days, from 20 January to the end of the month. Chou and I would return home in early February. Meanwhile we also discussed the plans for my sightseeing outside [my quarters and Moscow], and we decided that I would visit Lenin’s tomb, travel to Leningrad, Gorky, and other places, and make tours of such places as an ordnance factory, the subway (Molotov and Mikoyan recommended these two items) and a collective farm. We also discussed the problem of my meeting with various Soviet leaders (so far I have not left my quarters to pay an individual visit to any of them).

(2) Please finish all the preparations [for Chou’s departure] in five days after you receive this telegram. I hope that [Chou] En-lai, together with the minister of trade and other necessary aides, and with the necessary documents and materials, will depart from Beijing for Moscow by train (not by air) on 9 January. Comrade Dong Biwu will assume the post of acting premier of the Government Administration Council. The news should not be publicized until Chou has arrived in Moscow.

(3) Are the above-stated arrangements feasible? Will five days be enough for you to finish the preparations? Does [Chou] need one or two more days for preparation? Is it necessary for Comrade Li Fuchun or other comrades to come to offer assistance? Please consider them and report to me in a return telegram.