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Conversation between the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin and China's Mao Zedong

Conversation between Stalin and Mao, Moscow, 22 January 1950

Conversation between the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin and China's Mao Zedong

January 22, 1950

Source: Cold War International History Project (Smithsonian Institution)

Conversation between Stalin and Mao, Moscow, 22 January 1950

RECORD OF CONVERSATION BETWEEN COMRADE I.V. STALIN AND CHAIRMAN OF THE CENTRAL PEOPLE'S GOVERNMENT OF THE  PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA MAO ZEDONG on 22 January 1950

After an exchange of greetings and a short discussion of general topics, the following conversation took place.

Stalin: There are two groups of questions which must be discussed: the first group of questions concerns the existing agreements between the USSR and China; the second group of questions concerns the current events in Manchuria, Xinjiang, etc.
I think that it would be better to begin not with the current events, but rather with a discussion of the existing agreements. We believe that these agreements need to be changed, though earlier we had thought that they could be left intact. The existing agreements, including the treaty, should be changed because war against Japan figures at the very heart of the treaty. Since the war is over and Japan has been crushed, the situation has been altered, and now the treaty has become an anachronism.
I ask to hear your opinion regarding the treaty of friendship and alliance.

Mao Zedong: So far we have not worked out a concrete draft of the treaty, only a few outlines.

Stalin: We can exchange opinions, and then prepare an appropriate draft.

Mao Zedong: Judging from the current situation, we believe that we should strengthen our existing friendship using the help of treaties and agreements. This would resonate well both in China and in the international arena. Everything that guarantees the future prosperity of our countries must be stated in the treaty of alliance and friendship, including the necessity of avoiding a repetition of Japanese aggression. So long as we show interest in the prosperity of our countries, one cannot rule out the possibility that the imperialist countries will attempt to hinder us.

Stalin: True. Japan still has cadres remaining, and it will certainly lift itself up again, especially if Americans continue their current policy.

Mao Zedong: Two points that I made earlier are cardinal in changing our future treaty from the existing one. Previously, the Guomindang spoke of friendship in words only. Now the situation has changed, with all the conditions for real friendship and cooperation in place.
In addition, whereas before there was talk of cooperation in the war against Japan, now attention must turn to preventing Japanese aggression. The new treaty must include the questions of political, economic, cultural and military cooperation. Of most importance will be the question of economic cooperation.

Stalin: Is it necessary to keep the provision, stated in article 3 of the current Treaty of friendship: "...This article shall remain in force up until that time when, by request of both High Participants in the Treaty, the United Nations is given the responsibility of preventing any future aggression on the part of Japan"?

Mao Zedong: I don't believe it is necessary to keep this provision.

Stalin: We also believe that it is unnecessary. What provisions do we need to specify in the new treaty?

Mao Zedong: We believe that the new treaty should include a paragraph on consultation regarding international concerns. The addition of this paragraph would strengthen our position, since among the Chinese national bourgeoisie there are objections to the policy of rapprochement with the Soviet Union on questions of international concern.

Stalin: Good. When signing a treaty of friendship and cooperation, the inclusion of such a paragraph goes without saying.

Mao Zedong: That's right.

Stalin: To whom shall we entrust the preparation of the draft? I believe that we should entrust it to [Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei] Vyshinskii and [Chinese Foreign Minister] Zhou Enlai.

Mao Zedong: Agreed.

Stalin: Let us move over to the agreement on KChZhD. What proposals do you have on this question?

Mao Zedong: Perhaps we should accept as the guiding principle the idea of making practical changes concerning the KChZhD and the Port Arthur agreements, while legally continuing them in their present state?

Stalin: That is, you agree to declare the legal continuation of the current agreement, while, in effect, allowing appropriate changes to take place.

Mao Zedong: We must act so as to take into account the interests of both sides, China and the Soviet Union.

Stalin: True. We believe that the agreement concerning Port Arthur is not equitable.

Mao Zedong: But changing this agreement goes against the decisions of the Yalta Conference?!

Stalin: True, it does--and to hell with it! Once we have taken up the position that the treaties must be changed, we must go all the way. It is true that for us this entails certain inconveniences, and we will have to struggle against the Americans. But we are already reconciled to that.

Mao Zedong: This question worries us only because it may have undesirable consequences for the USSR.

Stalin: As you know, we made the current agreement during the war with Japan. We did not know that Jiang Jieshi would be toppled. We acted under the premise that the presence of our troops in Port Arthur would be in the interests of Soviet Union and democracy in China.

Mao Zedong: The matter is clear.

Stalin: In that case, would you deem the following scenario acceptable: declare that the agreement on Port Arthur shall remain in force until a peace treaty with Japan is signed, after which the Russian troops would be withdrawn from Port Arthur. Or perhaps one could propose another scenario: declare that the current agreement shall remain in place, while in effect withdrawing troops from Port Arthur. We will accept whichever of these scenarios is more suitable. We agree with both scenarios.

Mao Zedong: This question should be thought through. We agree with the opinion of comrade Stalin and believe that the agreement on Port Arthur must remain in force until a peace treaty is signed with Japan, after which the treaty shall become invalid and the Soviet soldiers will leave. However, we would like for Port Arthur to be a place for military collaboration, where we could train our military naval forces.

Stalin: The question of Dalny [Dairen; Dalian]. We have no intention of securing any Soviet rights in Dalny.

Mao Zedong: Will Dalny remain a free port?

Stalin: Since we are giving up our rights there, China must decide on its own the question of Dalny: will it remain a free port or not. During his time Roosevelt insisted that Dairen remain a free port.

Mao Zedong: So the preservation of the free port would be in the interests of America and Britain?

Stalin: Of course. It's a house with open gates.

Mao Zedong: We believe that Port Arthur could serve as a base for our military collaboration, while Dalny could serve as a base for Sino-Soviet economic collaboration. In Dalny there is a whole array of enterprises that we are in no position to exploit without Soviet assistance. We should develop a closer economic collaboration there.

Stalin: In other words, the agreement on Port Arthur will remain in force until a peace treaty is signed with Japan. After the signing of the peace treaty the existing agreement shall become invalid and the Russians shall withdraw their troops. Did I sum up your thoughts correctly?

Mao Zedong: Yes, basically so, and it is exactly this which we would like to set forth in the new treaty.

Stalin: Let us continue the discussion of the KChZhD question. Tell us, as an honest communist, what doubts do you have here?

Mao Zedong: The principal point is that the new treaty should note that joint exploitation and administration will continue in the future. However, in the case of administration, China should take the lead role here. Furthermore, it is necessary to examine the question of shortening the duration of the agreement and to determine the amount of investment by each side.

Molotov: The conditions governing the cooperation and joint administration of an enterprise by two interested countries usually provide for equal participation by both sides, as well as for alternation in the appointment of replacements for management positions. In the old agreement the administration of the railroad belonged to the Soviets; however, in the future we think it necessary to alternate in the creation of management functions. Let's say that such an alternation could take place every two-three years.

Zhou Enlai: Our comrades believe that the existing management of KChZhD and the office of the director ought to be abolished and a railroad administration commission be set up in their place; and that the offices of the commission chairman and of the director should be replaced by Chinese cadres. However, given comrade Molotov's proposals, this question requires more thought.

Stalin: If we are talking about joint administration, then it is important that the replacements for the managing position be alternated. That would be more logical. As for the duration of the agreement, we would not be against shortening it.

Zhou Enlai: Should we not change the ratio of capital investment by each side, by increasing the level of Chinese investment to 51%, instead of the current requirement for parity?

Molotov: This would go against the existing provision for parity.

Stalin: We do indeed have agreements with the Czechs and the Bulgarians which provide for parity and equal-footing for both sides. Since we already have joint administration, then we might as well have equal participation.

Mao Zedong: The question needs to be further examined, keeping in mind the interests of both sides.

Stalin: Let us discuss the credit agreement. We need to officially formalize that which has already been agreed to earlier. Do you have any observations to make?

Mao Zedong: Is the shipment of military arms considered a part of the monetary loan?

Stalin: This you can decide yourself: we can bill that towards the loan, or we can formalize it through trade agreements.

Mao Zedong: If the military shipments are billed towards the loan, then we will have little means left for industry. It appears that part of the military shipments will have to be billed towards the loan, while the other part will have to be paid with Chinese goods. Can't the period of delivery of industrial equipment and military arms be shortened from 5 to 3-4 years?

Stalin: We must examine our options. The matter rests in the requisition list for our industry. Nevertheless, we can move the date that the credit agreement goes into effect to 1 January 1950, since the shipments should begin just about now. If the agreement specified July 1949 as the time for the commencement of the loan, the international community would not be able to understand how an agreement could have been reached between the Soviet Union and China, which at the time did not even have its own government. It seems that you should hasten somewhat to present the requisition list for industrial equipment. It should be kept in mind that the sooner such a list is presented, the better for the matter at hand.

Mao Zedong: We believe that the conditions of the credit agreement are generally favorable to China. Under its terms we pay only one percent interest.

Stalin: Our credit agreements with people's democracies provide for two percent interest. We could, says comr. Stalin jokingly, increase this interest for you as well, if you would like. Of course, we acted under the premise that the Chinese economy was practically in ruin.
As is clear from the telegrams that we have received, the Chinese government intends to use its army in the reconstruction of its economy. That is very good. In our time we also made use of the army in our economic development and had very good results.

Mao Zedong: That's right. We are drawing on the experience of our Soviet comrades.

Stalin: You raised the question of China receiving a certain amount of grain for Xinjiang?

Mao Zedong: Wheat and textile.

Stalin: For this you need to come up with the necessary requests that include numbers.

Mao Zedong: Very well, we shall prepare these.
How shall we proceed with the trade agreement?

Stalin: What is your opinion? Up until now we have only had a trade agreement with Manchuria. We would like to know what sort of a situation we should look forward to in the future: will we be signing separate agreements with Xinjiang, Manchuria and other provinces, or a single agreement with the central government?

Mao Zedong: We would like to have a single, central agreement. But in time Xinjiang may have a separate agreement.

Stalin: Just Xinjiang; what about Manchuria?

Zhou Enlai: A separate agreement with Manchuria can be ruled out, since in the agreement with the central government China's obligations would in essence be fulfilled by shipments made from Manchuria.

Stalin: We would like the central government to sanction and take the responsibility for the agreements with Xinjiang or Manchuria.

Mao Zedong: The agreement with Xinjiang must be signed in the name of the central government.

Stalin: Right, since [a] provincial government might not take many things into account, whereas things are always clearer to the central government.
What other questions do you have?

Mao Zedong: At the present time the main question is economic cooperation - the reconstruction and development of the Manchurian economy.

Stalin: I think that we will entrust the preparation of this question to comrs. Mikoyan, Vyshinskii, Zhou Enlai, and [CCP CC member and Vice Chairman of Finance and Economics Commission] Li Fuchun.
Any other questions?

Mao Zedong: I would like to note that the air regiment that you sent to China was very helpful. They transported 10 thousand people. Let me thank you, comrade Stalin, for the help and ask you to allow it to stay a little longer, so it could help transport provisions to [CCP CC member and commander of the PLA's Second Field Army] Liu Bocheng's troops, currently preparing for an attack on Tibet.

Stalin: It's good that you are preparing to attack. The Tibetans need to be subdued. As for the air regiment, we shall talk this over with the military personnel and give you an answer.
The meeting took two hours.

Present at the meeting were comrs. Molotov, Malenkov, Mikoyan, Vyshinskii, Roshchin, Fedorenko and Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Li Fuchun, [PRC Ambassador to the USSR] Wang Jiaxiang, [CCP CC member] Chen Boda, and Shi Zhe /Karskii/.
[Source: APRF, f. 45, op. 1, d. 329, ll. 29-38; translation by Danny Rozas.]

 

Asia Institute