Sino - Soviet Split

The Sino- Soviet split began in the late 1950's and became a major diplomatic conflict between the People's Republic of China (PRC) whose leader was Mao Zedong and the USSR whose leader at that time was Joseph Stalin.
During the 1950's China worked with a large number of Soviet advisers who encouraged the Chinese leaders to follow the Russian model of development with an emphasis on heavy industry funded by taxes and levies from the peasantry whilst making consumer goods a low priority.

When Stalin died in 1953, Mao felt he was now the senior leader and was resentful when the new Soviet leaders Malenkov and Khrushchev did not recognise this. Mao had ignored many of Stalin's requests but he had respected him as a world leader. In 1956 Khrushchev denounced Stalin during his Secret Speech and although Mao didn't react publicly he was infuriated.

In 1959, Khrushchev held a summit meeting with US President Dwight Eisenhower. The Soviets were alarmed by developments within China and sought to appease the West. They also refused to honour their earlier commitment to help China develop nuclear weapons and support Mao in his border dispute with India. Mao was offended by these actions he felt Khrushchev was being to accommodating to Western demands. However, the Soviet leadership were well aware that the Americans could match their nuclear power and so sought to engage them in dialogue and negotiations that would avoid the outbreak of war and were determined not to give Mao nuclear weapons. By June 1960 the spilt between Russia and China became public when Khrushchev and Peng Zhen (China) openly clashed.

During 1962, international events caused the final split between the Soviet Union and China. Mao criticised Khrushchev for backing down in the Cuban Missile Crisis and Khrushchev responded by declaring that Mao's policies would lead to nuclear war.

By 1965, the Sino-Soviet split was an established fact, and the onset of Mao's Cultural Revolution severed all contact between not only the two countries but between China and most of the rest of the world.
By 1970, Mao realised that he could not simultaneously confront the Soviet Union, United States and suppress internal disorder. Mao decided that because of their geographical proximity the Soviets were a greater threat and so he decide to open a dialogue with America and so confront the USSR.

In July 1971 Henry Kissinger (Security adviser to Richard Nixon) made a secret visit to Beijing to make the arrangements for a visit by President Nixon in the following year. The Soviets retaliated by organising their own summit with Nixon. This paved the way to creating a triangular relationship between Washington, Beijing and Moscow and so ended the worst period of confrontation between the USSR and China.