The foreign policy of the first few years of the People’s Republic developed from a complex mix of new conditions in the world after World War II:
–The development of national liberation movements in the vacuum created by the breakdown and collapse of the old European and Japanese colonial empires; in East Asia, communist-led revolutionary struggles arose in Vietnam, Korea and Indonesia.
–The new forms of imperialist domination (neo-colonialism) throughout Asia, Latin America and Asia led and created by the United States, which disguised itself in clever anti-imperialist and anti-colonial pretense and rhetoric; and
–The extension of the socialist bloc into Eastern Europe on the basis, not of revolutionary upsurge, but from the defeat of Germany by the victorious Soviet armies; the theoretical development of people’s democracies as “states of the whole people” to justify the East European countries’ entrance into the “socialist bloc”; and this bloc’s failure to keep pace with and support the rising revolutionary movements in the colonial world;
After World War 2, the Soviet Union, concentrated as it was on the tasks of post-war reconstruction and bloc integration, had actively discouraged the revolutionary movements in China, Greece, Iran, and elsewhere from seizing power, risking confrontation with U.S imperialism, and “over-extending” the reach of the socialist bloc. Mao and the CCP did not heed Stalin’s advice, and in 1949 won nationwide victory.
After establishing the People’s Republic on October 1, 1949, the Chinese party and people were confronted with the daunting task of rebuilding a country devastated by 30 years of civil war and thousands of years of feudalism. They were consolidating nationwide political power, and land reform was just getting underway. Still, they shouldered the internationalist responsibility of supporting revolutionary struggles and liberation movements beyond their borders, beginning with major sacrifices during the Korean War. In this case, there was a direct and immediate convergence between the necessity of defending China and supporting the revolutionary struggle in a neighboring country.
Support for the Korean People
In late 1950, the U.S. military drove deep into northern Korea and towards the Chinese border, committing dozens of civilian massacres and leveling entire cities. A major campaign was launched all over China to “Resist America and Aid Korea.” In the Northeast, factories drew up “anti-American aggression emulation targets,” and popularized the slogan “Our factory is our battlefield and our machines are our weapons.” In 1950, more than 30% of China’s national budget was dedicated to support the war to resist U.S. aggression in Korea.
The Chinese government insisted that their forces fighting in Korea were highly motivated volunteers in order to deflect U.S. charges of “Chinese communist aggression.” Politics was in command of military recruitment. In the course of the government’s political mobilization known as the “Volunteer Movement,” significant numbers of worker, peasant and student volunteers, infused with the same consciousness that allowed them to triumph over the Guomindang, joined the Chinese People’s Volunteers to fight in Korea.
In October and November 1950, 300,000 Chinese soldiers crossed the Yalu River. The devastating attacks of the CPV on the U.S. Army in close cooperation with the Korean liberation fighters fought U.S. imperialism to a stalemate. Only a year after the victory of the revolution, China’s willingness to go head to head with the most powerful military machine in history inspired and riveted the attention of revolutionaries and the oppressed in many countries.
Support for the Vietnamese People
Even while civil war raged in China after World War 2, the Vietminh and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) units were coordinating military operations against French colonialism in Indochina. As early as 1946, a joint Vietnamese-Chinese unit (the Doc Lap, or Independence, Regiment) was created to engage in guerilla warfare against the French in the border area. As the CCP’s forces advanced rapidly in northern China in 1948, the PLA became more active along the border with Vietnam and increasingly took part in operations with Vietminh units.
In December 1949, two months after the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China, Ho Chi Minh traveled to Beijing to meet with CCP leaders concerning questions of political and military strategy. In 1950, the PLA equipped and trained 20,000 Vietminh soldiers in China’s Yunnan province, and continued to ship weapons and munitions to the Vietminh while Chinese forces were fighting U.S. aggression in Korea. Chinese military advisers worked closely with Vietminh officers, and a campaign was launched in the Vietminh in 1950 to study the CCP’s experience in the wars against Japan and the U.S.-backed Guomindang. After the armistice in Korea was signed, the PLA sent large quantities of weapons to North Vietnam, providing important support for the Vietminh’s historic victory over the French army at Dienbienphu in 1954. The CCP also supported the efforts of communist forces in Laos, Malaya, Burma and Thailand to initiate armed struggle against reactionary governments allied with the U.S., French and British imperialists.