U. S. Imperialism Get Out of Asia, Africa and Latin America!”

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Chinese Foreign Policy during
the Maoist Era and its Lessons for Today

by the MLM Revolutionary Study Group in the U.S. (January 2007)

U.S. Imperialism Get Out of

Asia, Africa and Latin America!”



p. 3


The Chinese Revolution and its Internationalist Practice—

Korea and Vietnam

p. 5


The Development of Neocolonialism and the Bandung Period

p. 7


Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party Launch the

Struggle against Soviet Revisionism

p. 11


Maoist Revolutionaries Break with Soviet Revisionism--

India, the Philippines, Turkey, Nepal, Latin America and the U.S.

p. 15


Support for National Liberation Movements in Asia, Africa

and the Middle East in the 1960s

p. 21


Chinese Foreign Policy in the 1970s

p. 27


The Response of the New Communist Movement in the U.S.

p. 35


Some Lessons for Today

p. 37

Our starting point is that the struggle for socialism and communism are part of a

worldwide revolutionary process that develops in an uneven manner. Revolutions are fought and new socialist states are established country by country. These states must defend themselves; socialist countries have had to devote significant resources to defending themselves from political isolation, economic strangulation and military attack. And they must stay on the socialist road by reinvigorating the revolutionary process and unleashing the political initiative of the masses of working people in all areas of society.1

However, socialist countries cannot be seen as ends in and of themselves. They are not secure as long as imperialism and capitalism exist anywhere in the world. Moreover, the transition to communism can only occur with the victory of socialist revolutions worldwide, and when the social, economic and cultural inequalities that exist in socialist society have been eliminated and the socialist states of all nations begin to wither away. Thus, socialist countries must both await and hasten the establishment of socialist states elsewhere in the world. From this vantage point, it is a strategic necessity for a socialist state to exert every effort – politically, morally and where possible militarily-- to support and accelerate the struggle for revolution and socialism worldwide.

This situation creates a continuing, and at times acute, contradiction between the necessity of defending socialist countries--including through state-to-state diplomacy with imperialist and reactionary states--and the goal of promoting and supporting the world revolution.

The foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China during the Maoist era attempted to pursue both goals by building a broad united front of all forces that could be directed against the principal enemy or enemies of the people of the world.2 The basic component of this united front (outside the socialist countries themselves) was the struggle of the working class and oppressed peoples of all countries. At various times the united front also included some of the imperialist powers, as well as bourgeois nationalist and reactionary governments in the “third world” that had conflicts to varying degrees with one or another of the imperialist powers. Thus, there were sharp class contradictions built into such a broad united front.

In this paper, we will examine how these contradictions were handled in the formulation and conduct of China’s foreign policy during the Maoist era, and we will attempt to draw lessons that can be applied by revolutionaries in the 21st century.

China's foreign policy between 1949 to 1976 can be divided into four periods:
(1) From 1949-1953, the U.S. imperialists attempted to contain and even roll back the Chinese revolution, and tried to suppress the advance of revolutionary movements in Asia.

The response of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was to battle the U.S. military in Korea and support revolutionary struggles in Vietnam and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

(2) During the "Bandung Period"—1954 to the early 1960s—U.S. efforts at containing China were complemented by the aggressive replacement of the European direct colonial empires with U.S.-dominated neo-colonial states. Chinese foreign policy, reflecting the influence of Zhou Enlai, sought to set up an alliance of socialist states and formerly colonial countries under an anti-imperialist banner. In practice, this policy placed primary emphasis on supporting bourgeois nationalist regimes such as Indonesia and India, and downplayed support for revolutionary struggles.

(3) Some of the most notable features of the 1960s period were the explosive growth of national liberation movements, concentrated in Vietnam, the rebirth of revolutionary struggle in the imperialist countries, and the initiation of the Cultural Revolution, an unprecedented revolution within a socialist society. These factors strengthened the revolutionary internationalist orientation that defined Chinese foreign policy during those years. At the same time, there was sharp struggle in the CCP over foreign policy, which was closely linked to the polemics against Soviet revisionism and the struggle against Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping and other leading “capitalist roaders” in the Chinese party.

(4) From 1969 into the 1970s, socialist China was faced with new conditions. A serious military threat developed on its northern border from the Soviet Union, and Defense Minister Lin Biao defected from the revolutionary camp. These adverse developments put the brakes on the Cultural Revolution and brought back Deng Xiaoping and other high-ranking officials who had been overthrown or demoted only a few years earlier. This also led to the emergence of the Three Worlds Theory, which advocated a strategic alliance with the Western imperialists for China, and assumed a dominant position in Chinese foreign policy from 1973 to Mao’s death in 1976.

During this period, the revolutionary thrust of Mao’s and his supporters’ foreign policy was blunted by their advocacy of a “three worlds perspective” that did not keep in sharp focus the reactionary nature of the West European imperialists and the neo-colonial states dominated by imperialism. Nevertheless, Mao and his allies in the CCP fought to continue political and military support for the emerging anti-revisionist and revolutionary forces in other countries.

All in all, Mao’s revolutionary and internationalist orientation was the primary determinant of Chinese foreign policy from 1949 to 1976. However, there was a significant bourgeois nationalist opposition to this orientation within the CCP, and at times it held the upper hand. It is important to closely examine both aspects of Chinese foreign policy in order to draw lessons for the future.

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