China Goes It Alone

Brought up in India, educated at Oxford and Harvard, Mr. MacFarquhar has traveled extensively in Asia and for several years has written books and articles on China and Asian Communism. Living in London, he is editor of the CHINA QUARTERLY and a commentator for the B.B.C.

AFTER seven years of natural calamities, economic dislocation, and slow, painful recovery, China is moving again. Premier Chou En-lai has announced that a third Five-Year Plan will start in 1966. Three years late though it is, the new plan is a sign that the long period of “readjustment and consolidation” of the economy is almost over. The Chinese leaders are now ready to resume their “long march” toward a great industrial society, the equal of America and Russia.

Important deficiencies and stumbling blocks litter China’s future course. China may not, for example, be able to produce or find enough oil to lubricate its policy of self-reliance. So far, ingenuity in factory and laboratory has been of little help in solving the perennial problem of the countryside, where 8O percent of China’s 700 millions produce the country’s food and raw materials under the most primitive conditions. Even with grain imports and subsidiary foodstuffs, a generous calculation would not give the Chinese a daily average per capita consumption higher than 2000 calories — a level that is some 200 calorics lower than that of pre-war China.

But Peiping is determined to find the ways to make it on its own. The most dramatic example of this determination was the explosion of China’s first nuclear device last October 16. The nuclear program has cut several corners, and China may be only a couple of years away from its first H-bomb explosion. In spite of the Soviet refusal to help China build a bomb, China is now believed by some to be ahead of France in atomic weapons technology.

The last seven years have been a severe test of the resilience of the Communist regime and the cohesion of its leadership. The Party and governmental apparatus have all sustained shocks, but only temporarily and locally have their positions been threatened. Indeed, the major upheavals of the period, the Tibetan revolt of 1958-59 and the apparently Soviet-inspired uprising among minority races in the border province of Sinkiang in 1962, had little to do with the economic crisis. At no time was there any real question of the survival of the regime itself.

The manner in which Mao Tse-tung and his colleagues have weathered these storms is a striking proof of the continuing dynamism and revolutionary élan of this aging group of men fifteen years after seizing power. Not that their cohesion has been perfect. Defense Minister Marshal P’eng Teh-huai, commander of the Chinese People’s Volunteers during the Korean War, has been dismissed, and onetime Senior Deputy Premier Ch’en Yun, fifth in the Party hierarchy, has been demoted. Lesser men have also disappeared. Yet when one remembers the near chaos of the early months of the Great Leap, what is impressive is how well the ruling Party Politburo stuck together. China’s leaders seem to have little need to look over their shoulders at one another. In the Politburo, where they average sixty-four years of age, they are far more concerned about their successors, wondering if the next generation will have the revolutionary zeal to carry on the Maoist line at home and abroad.

During the past year or two, as economic difficulties have eased, the problem of heirs and successors seems to have become Mao’s primary concern. He had been disturbed for a long time by the fact that young people in general were without experience of the long revolutionary struggle. Unsteeled by the hardships of those days, they did not fully appreciate such benefits as the revolution had brought. But more recently, as the Sino-Soviet dispute has become acrimonious, Mao has grown alarmed that the next generation of Chinese Communist Party leaders may fall into the quagmire of “Khrushchevite revisionism.”


In analyzing Soviet society, Mao has formed a somber vision of the future of Communism, a vision that was reflected last summer in the most startling anti-Soviet polemic yet to have emerged from Peiping. Implicit in the 30,000 ideograms of denunciation of the “Soviet privileged stratum and the revisionist Khrushchev clique” was a deepseated pessimism about the future of the entire European Communist bloc. While Western analysts examine the possibility of fundamental change in the Soviet system only with the utmost caution, the Chinese came right out and said that “the first socialist country in the world, built by the great Soviet people with their blood and sweat, is now facing an unprecedented danger of capitalist restoration.” Much as some Americans talk of AfroAsian countries going Communist, Mao was saying that Russia might go capitalist.

The evidence cited by the Chinese — reports culled from the Soviet press on embezzlement, black marketeering, speculative activities by chairmen of collectives, the organization of private workshops — was hardly likely to convince an outsider that a degenerate Soviet leadership was trying to overthrow Communism. Indeed, the Soviet government has prescribed the death penalty for some “economic crimes.” Mao may genuinely believe that such crimes are the harbingers of creeping capitalism, but his deepest worries are about phenomena more widespread in Soviet society.

The Chinese have noted that Russia’s gradually rising living standards, the increasing availability of durable consumer goods and better housing, appear to be dampening revolutionary ardor. They have seen that the post-Stalin relaxation has permitted Russian intellectuals to survey the Western horizon with growing interest, though they are periodically checked by the Communist Party. Finally, they know that such developments encourage and are encouraged by the easing of tension between Moscow and Washington. They may envisage a time when the Soviet Union, more prosperous at home and more respected abroad, settles down as a satisfied member of the world community, forgetting Communism’s revolutionary aims and expanding a dialogue with the West at the expense of consolidating Communism at home.

If this is Mao’s fear, he has good cause for it. Marxists who digested one reversal of the master’s teaching when Communist revolutions occurred first in underdeveloped rather than in industrialized countries would be faced with an even greater and far more unpleasant shock if industrialization, far from strengthening the “revolutionary” proletariat, merely changed it into a satisfied bourgeoisie. For Mao, certainly, embourgeoisment would spell the doom of Communism as he understands it. But since he too is committed to industrialization, instead of examining in Marxist fashion whether a nonrevolutionary Soviet leadership is the inevitable product of the kind of economic base Russia now possesses, he has to turn Marx on his head (not the first time the master has been so treated) and argue that the leaders are shaping economic developments rather than being shaped by them. And so Mao advocates a very Chinese solution: the rearing of the right kind of leaders. In China the righteous man, the upright official, has always been considered the key to success, and in last summer’s polemic, the Chinese updated this Confucian concept. “In the final analysis the question of training successors for the revolutionary cause of the proletariat is ... a matter of life and death for our party and our country.”


The Chinese reaction to the fall of Khrushchev was consistent with Mao’s stress on the importance of leadership. While Chinese propaganda had been emphasizing Khrushchev’s personal role in masterminding the Soviet regression toward capitalism, there were no demonstrations of joy in Peiping such as one might have expected from his archenemies. Mao did not want to risk antagonizing further the new top men in the Kremlin, whom he had hitherto described as the Khrushchev clique, because now they could conceivably direct the Soviet Union back to the true revolutionary path. Instead, Peiping maintained a diplomatic silence while Premier Chou En-lai, who had led the two previous conciliation missions, hurried off to Moscow to sound out Brezhnev and Kosygin. It was only when Chou returned bearing nothing more than a possible offer of a standstill on polemics that Peiping began to rumble again, warning Moscow to expect no compromise on the crucial issues of the Sino-Soviet dispute, “imperialism” and revolution.

For five years now, Mao has been telling the Russians that the struggle between Communism and “imperialism” (that is, the West) is irreconcilable. The West will not give in without a struggle. It will fight to recover what it has lost, as at Suez. War is inevitable; not necessarily a nuclear world war, but certainly local wars and wars of national liberation, as in South Vietnam. The Communist bloc must be vigilant, uncompromising, forceful. Much of what Mao says is the common coin of classical Leninism. But a century of Chinese humiliation at the hands of the imperialists infuses his arguments with an emotional certainty which the Russians — always the colonizers, never the colonized—can understand but can never really feel.

After China’s defeat at the hands of Britain in the Opium War of 1840-42, the powers imposed on it a trade it thought it could do without, through unequal treaties which sanctioned the establishment of extraterritorial concessions on Chinese soil. China was so enfeebled that in 1895 it was defeated in war and forced to cede Formosa and other offshore islands to Japan, the small neighbor the Chinese had always regarded with some disdain. Hatred for the Japanese heightened when in 1915 the Tokyo government tried to extend its influence over China by foisting the notorious Twenty-one Demands on the weak new republican government. Four years later the decision of the Paris Peace Conference to award Germany’s former concessions in China to Japan, although China itself had been an ally, provoked spontaneous student-led riots throughout the country. This May Fourth Movement, named after the day it began, brought to a head the pent-up nationalism of a generation of Chinese. Among them was Mao Tse-tung. Mao and his present colleagues in the top Chinese leadership turned to Communism during the May Fourth Movement primarily as nationalists wanting to restore the ancient greatness of the Middle Kingdom, which had thought of itself as the center of the world. Twenty-eight years after he entered the Communist movement, Mao seized power in China. During most of the intervening years, he had been shut up in the inland provinces, fighting first the Nationalist Chinese, then the Japanese, and then the Nationalists again. He had had little time or occasion to think about foreign policy, but American aid to the Nationalists during the civil war period, however halfhearted, confirmed him in an anti-imperialist stand, which now became focused on the United States. A few months before the creation of the new People’s Republic, Mao restated his old convictions:

Imperialist aggression shattered the Chinese dream of learning from the West. They wondered why the teachers always practiced aggression against their pupils. . . . [America] wants to enslave the whole world and she aided Chiang Kai-shek with arms to slaughter several millions of Chinese. . . . To sit on the fence is impossible, a third road does not exist. We oppose the Chiang Kai-shek reactionary clique who lean to the side of imperialism; we also oppose the illusory third road. Not only in China, but also in the world, without exception, one either leans to the side of imperialism or to the side of socialism.

The international scene onto which the victorious Chinese Communists emerged fitted neatly into their mental stereotypes. The cold war was at its height; Churchill had proclaimed that an Iron Curtain divided Europe; NATO had been formed to defend the Western side of that curtain. In Asia, Stalin’s Comintern had ordered Communist revolts in Indonesia, Burma, Malaya, the Philippines. In Indochina there was a full-scale war between the French and the Communist Viet Minh. The Korean War and the interposition of the Seventh Fleet between Taiwan and the mainland decisively embittered Sino-American relations.

Mao may have modified but has never abandoned his vision of a world divided into two camps, of a fight to the death between communism and imperialism, a fight in which there can be no neutrals. But for a few years after 1955, China did adopt a different tone at odds with its previous and subsequent behavior. Stalin was dead, the Korean and Indochinese wars ended, and China perhaps wanted a breathing space to get on with its first Five-Year Plan. In April, 1955, Premier Chou made overtures to Washington resulting in the periodic Sino-American ambassadorial talks on outstanding problems, which opened in Geneva that August and continue today in Warsaw. During 1956-57, Chinese Communist leaders appealed to the Nationalist government on Taiwan to discuss “peaceful reunification with the motherland.” By the end of 1957, it must have been clear to Peiping that neither the United States nor Chiang Kaishek was going to alter its basic position. Coincidentally, the “liberal” line of the Hundred Flowers period, when Chinese intellectuals were invited to voice their criticisms of the regime, was being abandoned in favor of a tougher, more leftist line. When in October, 1957, the Soviet Union sent the first artificial satellite into space, Mao took it as a sign that the Communist bloc was now more powerful militarily than the West, that the “east wind was prevailing over the west wind”; and he called for greater militancy in the East-West struggle. Today that is still Mao’s demand.


The Russians accuse the Chinese of bellicosity, asserting that the local wars which Peiping supports could spark a nuclear war which would mean global suicide. Certainly the men in Peiping, firstgeneration leaders of a young revolution, are far more militant and more willing to risk war, if not provoke it, than the managerial bureaucrats and technocrats who are running the Soviet Union today. But Mao does not advocate false heroics in the face of stronger opponents. His guerrilla warfare maxim still applies: When the enemy advances (that is, because he is stronger), we retreat. When the Chinese Communists started their bombardment of the offshore islands in 1958, they gave every appearance of intending to invade Quemoy. But when it became clear that the United States would help the Nationalists defend the base, the Chinese preferred to lose face rather than to start something they could not finish. And it is noteworthy that while Peiping attacked Khrushchev as a capitulationist for withdrawing Soviet missiles from Cuba, it also denounced him as an adventurist for putting them there in the first place and taking up a position he was not strong enough to maintain.

There is a school of thought in the West that believes that Mao has never really appreciated the power of nuclear weapons, and that now that China is getting the bomb, the Chinese will sober up. In fact, the evidence suggests that from Hiroshima onward, the Chinese Communists have been well aware of the importance of nuclear weapons. The appropriate Maoist maxim is: Despise the enemy strategically, but respect him tactically. It is foolish not to realize that if used, enemy nuclear weapons could do you great damage; but it is defeatist to believe that even if used, nuclear weapons could decide the fate of the world revolution. It is men, not weapons, however terrible, who are the decisive factor in history. More important, Mao, thinking in terms of the Korean War, probably assumes that the United States would never use nuclear weapons unless attacked with them. So he calls the atom bomb a paper tiger because it has not forestalled “liberation struggles” in such places as South Vietnam, the Congo, or Cuba. If the Americans were to dare to start a nuclear war, only they would be wiped out, while “on the debris of a dead imperialism the victorious people would create very swiftly a civilization thousands of times higher than the capitalist system and a truly beautiful future. . . .”

Furthermore, even if Mao had personally witnessed the destructive power of the Chinese nuclear explosion in the Takla Makan desert, it would not necessarily have changed his attitude on nuclear war. There is a significant difference between China and the four other nuclear powers, in that China is underdeveloped — “poor and blank,” in Mao’s phrase — and has far less to lose in terms of accumulated industrial and social capital. Mao may well think, as is often alleged, that China with its vast population would emerge better from a nuclear holocaust than the United States or the Soviet Union. However, none of this means that Mao will or would like to precipitate a nuclear war. It does suggest why China is prepared to take greater risks than the Soviet Union in backing revolutionary movements throughout the world. This is in fact the second major issue in the dispute between Moscow and Peiping.

Here again the history of the revolution does much to explain Mao’s ideas and policies. The vicissitudes of his struggle with the “bourgeois” Chiang Kai-shek made it natural for Mao to accept the rigid Stalinist division of the world into two camps and to echo the Comintern denunciations of Nehru, U Nu of Burma, and, in those days, Sukarno of Indonesia as “running dogs of imperialism.” There was a period in the mid-fifties when this attitude was put aside, but with the increased militancy of the Chinese general line after 1957, this attitude was modified, and a number of events reconfirmed Mao in his old prejudices against “bourgeois nationalists.” China quarreled with Indonesia over its treatment of the overseas Chinese. Peiping was angered by Nehru’s granting asylum to the Dalai Lama and India’s hostile reaction to the Tibetan revolt in 1959. This deterioration of relations was undoubtedly one reason why the smoldering border dispute burst into flame later in the year for the first time.

This renewed Chinese antagonism toward the neutralist world ran up against Khrushchev’s policy of wooing the uncommitted nations by aid and diplomacy. Peiping must have resented greatly the fact that Soviet credits to such countries deprived China of possible assistance, especially since these funds would help bolster bourgeois nationalist governments and put back the day when they might be overthrown by the indigenous Communist parties. Above all, the Soviet Union’s ostentatious neutrality in the border dispute with India was regarded in Peiping as rank betrayal.

This combination of disagreements over policy toward the “imperialists” and toward the “bourgeois nationalists” in the third world of Asia, Africa, and Latin America is the bedrock of the Sino-Soviet dispute today, as it was five years ago when Peiping first brought it into the open. The Chinese motives are an inextricable mixture of Chinese national and Communist revolutionary aims. As a resurgent nationalistic state, China resents Soviet failure to support the Chinese in the Formosa Strait and on the Indian border. As a militant Communist state, it deplores Soviet willingness to relax Soviet-American tensions. If Mao were asked to specify the relative importance of nationalist and revolutionary components in Chinese foreign policy, he would probably simply say, What’s good for China is good for Communism.

At any rate, Mao is not jeopardizing the unity of the Communist movement just for points of doctrine. In their ideological barrage on Moscow, the Chinese have displayed great industry in researching into the Marxist-Leninist canon. But doctrine is a weapon for them, not an end in itself. Apart from the fact that ideology is the conventional language for Communist polemics, it happens that Mao’s views do by and large coincide with Lenin’s. And while the Russians can justifiably assert that Lenin would have despised anyone who used his analyses in a completely different world situation, there is no doubt that to be able to invoke Lenin’s name is a powerful card in the world Communist movement. And it is the movement that is one of the major battlefields of the dispute.


The Chinese Communist leaders want to win other Communist parties over to their “correct” Marxist-Leninist line. Within the Communist bloc, Peiping is already backed by Albania, North Korea, and North Vietnam, although Ho Chi Minh may have come off the fence only because of geographical necessity. Outside the bloc, China has secured the allegiance of the New Zealand, the Japanese, and the extremely large and important Indonesian Communist Party. China has also made skillful use of Rumanian nationalism and dissatisfaction with Soviet economic policies to secure its neutrality, although on foreign policy matters Bucharest is far closer to Moscow than to Peiping. Further gains within the European Communist bloc seem unlikely; however, a number of leaders like Gomulka have indicated their distaste for Moscow’s intention of holding an international Communist conference, at which China may be denounced. Should the Russians take this step, the likely Chinese course of action is clear. They will split the entire Communist movement and set up a rival Communist International with headquarters in Peiping.

The Chinese have already begun to encourage their sympathizers within hostile Communist parties to break away and form “true” Marxist-Leninist Communist parties. They have had a large degree of success, and the Western analyst Kevin Devlin has traced splinter parties in India, Ceylon, Burma, Nepal, Lebanon, Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, and every other country in Europe except Ireland. In the cases of India, Ceylon, and Peru, the Chinese factions are large enough to be a serious threat to the dominant pro-Soviet groups.


But China’s tug-of-war with the Soviet Union is not restricted to the ranks of the faithful. It encompasses the whole of that vast and amorphous area loosely known as the third world, where China also sees itself as the only true leader in the struggle against American “imperialism.” Mao pictures the world as a vast battlefield suitable for his kind of political guerrilla warfare. During the Chinese civil war, Communist troops would mobilize the peasants to gain control of the countryside and then to surround and capture the cities.

Mao equates America and its Western allies, and perhaps the Soviet Union, with the cities, and the third world with the countryside. China’s job is to mobilize this “countryside,” to aid and encourage revolution when it is on the march, to inspire and guide it where it has not yet started moving. Whereas Moscow may be prepared to work with the “bourgeois nationalist” government of a newly independent country to get its diplomatic support against America, Peiping is already interesting itself in the younger, more revolutionary leaders who may lead the second stage of the revolution — the anti-feudal, anti-bourgeois struggle which Peiping says must follow the winning of independence.

Today Mao sees Africa as the most promising area for exploitation. An estimated 2000 Chinese officials and newsmen there, backed by the incessant multilingual propaganda of Peiping Radio, strive to project an image of China as another colored ex-colony anxious to support its black brethren against the rich white man’s club of which Russia as well as the United States is a member. To some extent Peiping has reshaped its traditional two-camp theory. As Moscow has pointed out, the Chinese seem to think now in terms of a rich white camp and a poor colored camp; certainly the Chinese struggle vigorously to exclude the Soviet Union from all Afro-Asian solidarity organizations.


The anti-white, anti-imperialist theme is but one of many weapons used by the Chinese in their effort to win over Africans to their world view. Another weapon is direct diplomacy. In the winter of 1963— 64, Premier Chou made a ten-nation safari around Africa, six months before the peripatetic Khrushchev ever set foot on the continent. Chou used all his justifiably famous charm and suppleness to try to counteract the bellicose impression given by China’s failure to sign the test-ban treaty and by its border war with India.

The Chinese are unabashed at using aid and trade for political purposes despite their distrust of the same technique in the hands of the Russians. But the Chinese aid program to Africa, which totaled a modest S150 million for the 1956-63 period, has been primarily directed at countries like Ghana, Guinea, Mali, and Algeria, whose leftist domestic programs and anti-Western foreign policy postures are highly acceptable in Peiping. Yet despite protests from such countries, China is still trading with South Africa to such an extent that the South African government has thought it worthwhile to post a trade commissioner in Hong Kong.

At the start of his African tour Premier Chou asserted that “China . . . has a special destiny ... to support countries which have not yet won victory or are about to win it.” None of his hosts appeared to welcome this missionary zeal, but China was shortly to give ample proof that this was not just flamboyant oratory. Even before Chou had said farewell to the last of his hosts, Congolese rebel leader Pierre Mulele had returned to his native land with Chinese arms and ammunition after a course of military and political training in China. Mulele explained that he had gone there after failing to get support from the Russians. His highly successful operations have been based on Maoist-type organization of the youth and peasants. The major antiPortuguese rebel movements of Angola and Mozambique both now look to Peiping for support, and China has also involved itself with rebellions in Cameroun and Rwanda.

Another tactic employed by the Chinese is the sponsorship of individual militant politicians in the more stable African states. Peiping’s two most successful choices have been Oginga Odinga, the recently promoted vice president of Kenya, and Rahman Mohammed (Babu), formerly foreign minister of Zanzibar and now a minister in the Tanzania government. Mao is doubtless well aware that his lack of experience in African politics may mean he will often back the wrong horse. But Mao is like a hunter with a shotgun who aims almost blindly at a flight of birds hoping to bring down one or two even if he misses all the rest. Many African politicians may accept Chinese hospitality and funds only to abandon Peiping when it suits them. But China is in a hurry and has to take that risk.

In the opinion of the African specialist of the London Observer, Colin Legum, Peiping’s policy has had mixed success. Nevertheless, as a result of Chou’s tour and the French recognition of Peiping last year, for the first time a majority of African states are committed to recognizing Communist and not Nationalist China. Despite Taiwan’s highly successful agricultural aid program in Africa, Peiping can now hope to enjoy the support of a majority of African states in the crucial UN vote on China’s representation.


Although Mao considers Africa to be the present storm center of the “countryside,” the Chinese have not been neglecting Asia, where China’s national interests are most directly involved. Whether Mao thinks that China should regain the suzerainty over Korea, Indochina, Burma, and the other territories which, he once told Edgar Snow, had been stolen from China by the imperialists, will never be known. But he must still consider Southeast Asia, which sent tribute missions to Peiping in imperial times, as a legitimate and primary sphere of influence for China. Peiping is now infinitely more experienced in this area, and its diplomacy is correspondingly more restrained and sophisticated than in Africa. Secure in the memory of its traditional pre-eminence, China plays the role of the great power rather than the agent of revolution. While the general Maoist tactics — determined struggle against American “imperialism” and support for national liberation movements — apply here as elsewhere, the pattern of Chinese action in Asia is far more variegated, far better tailored to individual countries.

What China considers essential in Southeast Asia is the elimination of the influence of the United States. To this end Peiping encourages Ho Chi Minh in his prosecution of the guerrilla war against South Vietnam, but the American air strikes on North Vietnam present the Chinese with critical decisions. China’s response will depend on the form, extent, and effects of any future attacks. The Korean experience suggests that China would back an invasion of South Vietnam with “people’s volunteers” only if the very existence of the northern regime were threatened. But the fact of the air strikes might well indicate to the Chinese that the Americans were no longer operating under the Korean ground rules and that they might no longer stop short of bombing across the Chinese border. At this point, Soviet reactions would be crucial. In any event, Mao, as always, will move cautiously when faced with a superior foe.

Mao has found in Sukarno another willing ally in his struggle against Western influence in Asia. Peiping has heartily applauded the decision of Indonesia to quit the UN, which China has always described as a “tool of American imperialism.” When Foreign Minister Subandrio and senior Indonesian armed forces personnel visited the Chinese capital in January in search of support, Chief of Staff Senior General Lo Jui-ch’ing reassured the visitors that “should the British imperialists who are supported by the U.S. imperialists dare to launch attacks on Indonesia, the . . . Chinese people assuredly will not stand by idly with folded arms.” Premier Chou is reported to have sanctioned a $50 million credit. Today Indonesia represents precisely the kind of revolutionary country which Peiping would like to see throughout the third world — strongly anti-Western, pro-Chinese more than pro-Russian, prepared to take a more radical line than the mainstream of the Afro-Asian world does, and tolerant of a powerful Communist Party that seems ready to take over on the death of President Sukarno.

If Indonesia is the Chinese ideal for Asia, India is China’s model of everything that a country of the third world should not be — neutral but sympathetic to Western democracy and heavily dependent on American aid, pro-Russian and antiChinese, a moderating influence in the Afro-Asian world, and intolerant of the pro-Chinese faction of the Indian Communist Party, many of whose members were recently jailed. However, China’s object in invading India’s North Last Frontier Agency in the fall of 1962 was not to topple the Indian government or to gain new territory, but only to teach India a decisive lesson in the border dispute.

China’s current aim is to isolate India. It has concluded border agreements with their mutual neighbors, Burma, Nepal, and Pakistan, in an effort to show that Delhi is being unreasonable in not coming to terms. China’s relations with Pakistan, which hitherto was strongly pro-Western, are based on a mutual dislike of India and are becoming increasingly friendly. If China were able to guarantee military support in the event of an IndoPakistani clash, Pakistan might even leave SEATO. Friendship with Katmandu has been expressed through several aid projects, including a road linking Nepal and Tibet, but revelations by defectors from the Chinese road-building team about Peiping’s ultimate hopes for revolution in the Himalayan kingdom have damaged relations.

Japan, as the only industrialized state in Asia, does not properly belong in the third world and occupies a special position vis-à-vis Peiping. Attracted to China by a mixture of emotions, including war guilt, traditional respect for the elderbrother civilization, and a desire to exploit the Chinese market, the Japanese could replace the Soviet Union as China’s main supplier of capital goods. Last year, Sino-Japanese trade almost doubled, to $300 million. Peiping has made its mistakes in handling this promising but tricky relationship with a country recognizing Taiwan and loyal to America. But the discussions between Premier Sato and President Johnson in Washington in January indicated that the new Japanese government will try to strengthen its commercial links with the Chinese mainland.

While the third world will remain China’s main arena, Mao hopes to make inroads even in the heart of America’s Western alliance. He has been encouraged by President de Gaulle’s transfer of recognition from Taipei to Peiping, by his refusal to sign the test-ban treaty, and by his anti-American policies in Europe and Vietnam. Since China will increasingly need Western European capital goods as well as Japanese as it seeks to end its dependence on the Soviet Union, there are good economic reasons for exploring such possibilities.

Throughout the whole tangled skein of China’s foreign relations, there is one constant factor: hostility to the United States. Yet there are only two points at which the two countries meet — across the Formosa Strait and at the Warsaw conference table. China’s main demand of the United States is the removal of the Seventh Fleet so that the Communists can finish off the Nationalists and finally end the civil war. To the Communists the presence of the American fleet is a humiliating reminder of China’s former helplessness before the imperialist powers. Recognition, and even admission to the UN, are secondary issues. Indeed, even if Washington were to take the initiative, it is difficult to imagine that Peiping would agree to diplomatic relations with the United States prior to settlement of the Formosa issue. And China would be highly unlikely to join the UN if Nationalist China were allowed to remain on some different basis.

Today China stands virtually alone against the United States and the Soviet Union. This has made Mao more militant, not less. He seems prepared to take on both countries in the interests of China and world revolution. But to do so he wants to be able to talk to them on equal terms. This is the true significance of the explosion of China’s first nuclear device. Peiping pushed on with an immensely costly nuclear weapons program at a time when the national economy was already operating under great strain. The only safe assumption is that China will not stop until it has an armory of Hbombs and missiles which the United States and the Soviet Union will respect. However much Mao discounts the ultimate importance of nuclear weapons, he knows that without them he will always be at a disadvantage in negotiations with his major rivals.

Mao is seventy-one and cannot expect to see his revolution completed. But the second generation of Chinese leaders, even if less militant, will surely continue to press toward Mao’s goal of restoring China to its traditional position in the center of the world.