China and Russia

Peking and Moscow

by Klaus Mehnert
Putnam, 522 pp., $6.95

Escape from Red China

by Robert Loh, as told to Humphrey Evans
Coward-McCann, 384 pp., $5.75

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union…cannot share the views of the Chinese leadership about the creation ‘of a thousand times higher civilization’ on the corpses of hundreds of millions of people.”

Communist Party of the Soviet Union, July 14, 1963

The leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union has allied itself with United States Imperialism, the Indian reactionaries and the renegade Tito clique against socialist China and against all Marxist-Leninist parties, in open betrayal of Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism…”

Communist Party of China, September 6, 1963


The partnership of Peking and Moscow has failed, I believe, for two major reasons. First, China desperately needs great capital assistance for economic development. This assistance Russia has consistently refused to supply. Second, China has wished to make militant opposition to “United States imperialism” the keystone of the world strategy of the partnership. Russia has temporized, wavered and eventually rejected this Grand Design.

The Khrushchev leadership in the USSR may believe that much of the world can be won for “the socialist camp,” in the long run, by the attractions of future Soviet economic achievements. Even if it believes nothing of the kind, this Russian leadership is disposed to concentrate, for the present, on becoming rich in goods, while engaging some stakes, involving limited risks, in the competitions of world politics. The Maoist leadership, on the other hand, has demonstrated outstanding capacity in training infantry but not in producing rice. Its potential of capital accumulation is too meager to make a long rivalry in world economic competition at all attractive. This leadership strains for a Great Leap Forward and dreams that, if such a Great Leap might only once succeed, China would pass out of constriction into freedom.

The partnership founders on inequality and the absence of community. China wants much from Russia. But the Russians would be content if the Chinese would quietly lie down and die.


On October 1, 1949, when the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed, the population of mainland China was perhaps 535 million. Now it is probably in the general area of 730 million. The fourteen-year increase is about equal to the total population of the United States. And the overwhelming majority of these 730 million live, still today, in the borderland where hunger fronts on starvation. Fragmentary information suggests some improvements in food supplies since the worst days of 1960-61. It is less well known that China is now straining her pitiful foreign exchange resources to purchase more grain abroad in 1963 than ever before. Such grain purchases—all from non-Communist countries—totalled 5,715,000 metric tons in 1961 and 4,750,000 in 1962; commitments for 1963 shipment now exceed 6,100,000 metric tons.

Mao was acutely aware of China’s need for foreign aid even before he took power in Peking. He then conducted a polemic against the comrades who said China could go it alone. In April 1949 he warned them that the speed of China’s economic construction…

This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!

View Offer

Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.

If you are already a subscriber, please be sure you are logged in to your account.