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Conversation between the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin and China's Mao Zedong, 1949

Conversation between Stalin and Mao, Moscow, 16 December 1949
December 16, 1949

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

December 16, 1949

Source: Cold War International History Project (Smithsonian Institution)

Conversation between Stalin and Mao, Moscow, 16 December 1949

[Classification level blacked out: "NOT SECRET" Stamped]


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

Comrade Mao Zedong: The most important question at the present time is the question of establishing peace. China needs a period of 3-5 years of peace, which would be used to bring the economy back to pre-war levels and to stabilize the country in general. Decisions on the most important questions in China hinge on the prospects for a peaceful future. With this in mind the CC CPC [Central Committee of the Communist Party of China] entrusted me to ascertain from you, comr[ade]. Stalin, in what way and for how long will international peace be preserved.

Comrade Stalin: In China a war for peace, as it were, is taking place. The question of peace greatly preoccupies the Soviet Union as well, though we have already had peace for the past four years. With regards to China, there is no immediate threat at the present time: Japan has yet to stand up on its feet and is thus not ready for war; America, though it screams war, is actually afraid of war more than anything; Europe is afraid of war; in essence, there is no one to fight with China, not unless Kim Il Sung decides to invade China?
Peace will depend on our efforts. If we continue to be friendly, peace can last not only 5-10 years, but 20-25 years and perhaps even longer.

Comrade Mao Zedong: Since Liu Shaoqi's return to China, CC CPC has been discussing the treaty of friendship, alliance and mutual assistance between China and the USSR.

Comrade Stalin: This question we can discuss and decide. We must ascertain whether to declare the continuation of the current 1945 treaty of alliance and friendship between the USSR and China, to announce impending changes in the future, or to make these changes right now.
As you know, this treaty was concluded between the USSR and China as a result of the Yalta Agreement, which provided for the main points of the treaty (the question of the Kurile Islands, South Sakhalin, Port Arthur, etc.). That is, the given treaty was concluded, so to speak, with the consent of America and England. Keeping in mind this circumstance, we, within our inner circle, have decided not to modify any of the points of this treaty for now, since a change in even one point could give America and England the legal grounds to raise questions about modifying also the treaty's provisions concerning the Kurile Islands, South Sakhalin, etc. This is why we searched to find a way to modify the current treaty in effect while formally maintaining its provisions, in this case by formally maintaining the Soviet Union's right to station its troops at Port Arthur while, at the request of the Chinese government, actually withdrawing the Soviet Armed forces currently stationed there. Such an operation could be carried out upon China's request.
One could do the same with KChZhD [Chinese Changchun Railroad, which traverses Manchuria], that is, to effectively modify the corresponding points of the agreement while formally maintaining its provisions, upon China's request.
If, on the other hand, the Chinese comrades are not satisfied with this strategy, they can present their own proposals.

Comrade Mao Zedong: The present situation with regard to KChZhD and Port Arthur corresponds well with Chinese interests, as the Chinese forces are inadequate to effectively fight against imperialist aggression. In addition, KChZhD is a training school for the preparation of Chinese cadres in railroad and industry.

Comrade Stalin: The withdrawal of troops does not mean that Soviet Union refuses to assist China, if such assistance is needed. The fact is that we, as communists, are not altogether comfortable with stationing our forces on foreign soil, especially on the soil of a friendly nation. Given this situation anyone could say that if Soviet forces can be stationed on Chinese territory, then why could not the British, for example, station their forces in Hong Kong, or the Americans in Tokyo?
We would gain much in the arena of international relations if, with mutual agreement, the Soviet forces were to be withdrawn from Port Arthur. In addition, the withdrawal of Soviet forces would provide a serious boost to Chinese communists in their relations with the national bourgeoisie. Everyone would see that the communists have managed to achieve what [Nationalist Chinese leader] Jiang Jieshi [Chiang Kai-shek] could not. The Chinese communists must take the national bourgeoisie into consideration.
The treaty ensures the USSR's right to station its troops in Port Arthur. But the USSR is not obligated to exercise this right and can withdraw its troops upon Chinese request. However, if this is unsuitable, the troops in Port Arthur can remain there for 2, 5, or 10 years, whatever suits China best. Let them not misunderstand that we want to run away from China. We can stay there for 20 years even.

Comrade Mao Zedong: In discussing the treaty in China we had not taken into account the American and English positions regarding the Yalta agreement. We must act in a way that is best for the common cause. This question merits further consideration. However, it is already becoming clear that the treaty should not be modified at the present time, nor should one rush to withdraw troops from Port Arthur.

Should not Zhou Enlai visit Moscow in order to decide the treaty question?

Comrade Stalin: No, this question you must decide for yourselves. Zhou may be needed in regard to other matters.

Comrade Mao Zedong: We would like to decide on the question of Soviet credit to China, that is to draw up a credit agreement for 300.000.000 dollars between the governments of the USSR and China.

Comrade Stalin: This can be done. If you would like to formalize this agreement now, we can.

Comrade Mao Zedong: Yes, exactly now, as this would resonate well in China. At the same time it is necessary to resolve the question of trade, especially between the USSR and Xinjiang [Sinkiang], though at present we cannot present a specific trade operations plan for this region.

Comrade Stalin: We must know right now what kind of equipment China will need, especially now, since we do not have equipment in reserve and the request for industrial goods must be submitted ahead of time.

Comrade Mao Zedong: We are having difficulties in putting together a request for equipment, as the industrial picture is as yet unclear.

Comrade Stalin: It is desirable to expedite the preparation of this request, as requests for equipment are submitted to our industry at least a year in advance.

Comrade Mao Zedong: We would very much like to receive assistance from the USSR in creating air transportation routes.

Comrade Stalin: We are ready to render such assistance. Air routes can be established over Xinjiang and the MPR [Mongolian People's Republic]. We have specialists. We will give you assistance.

Comrade Mao Zedong: We would also like to receive your assistance in creating a naval force.

Comrade Stalin: Cadres for Chinese navy could be prepared at Port Arthur. You give us people, and we will give you ships. Trained cadres of the Chinese navy could then return to China on these ships.

Comrade Mao Zedong: Guomindang [Kuomintang] supporters have built a naval and air base on the island of Formosa [Taiwan]. Our lack of naval forces and aviation makes the occupation of the island by the People's Liberation Army [PLA] more difficult. With regard to this, some of our generals have been voicing opinions that we should request assistance from the Soviet Union, which could send volunteer pilots or secret military detachments to speed up the conquest of Formosa.

Comrade Stalin: Assistance has not been ruled out, though one ought to consider the form of such assistance. What is most important here is not to give Americans a pretext to intervene. With regard to headquarters staff and instructors we can give them to you anytime. The rest we will have to think about.
Do you have any assault landing units?

Comrade Mao Zedong: We have one former Guomindang assault landing regiment unit which came over to join our side.

Comrade Stalin: One could select a company of landing forces, train them in propaganda, send them over to Formosa, and through them organize an uprising on the isle.

Comrade Mao Zedong: Our troops have approached the borders of Burma and Indo-China. As a result, the Americans and the British are alarmed, not knowing whether we will cross the border or whether our troops will halt their movement.

Comrade Stalin: One could create a rumor that you are preparing to cross the border and in this way frighten the imperialists a bit.

Comrade Mao Zedong: Several countries, especially Britain, are actively campaigning to recognize the People's Republic of China. However, we believe that we should not rush to be recognized. We must first bring about order to the country, strengthen our position, and then we can talk to foreign imperialists.

Comrade Stalin: That is a good policy. In addition, there is no need for you to create conflicts with the British and the Americans. If, for example, there will be a need to put pressure on the British, this can be done by resorting to a conflict between the Guangdong province and Hong Kong. And to resolve this conflict, Mao Zedong could come forward as the mediator. The main point is not to rush and to avoid conflicts.
Are there foreign banks operating in Shanghai?

Comrade Mao Zedong: Yes.

Comrade Stalin: And whom are they serving?

Comrade Mao Zedong: The Chinese national bourgeoisie and foreign enterprises which so far we have not touched. As for the foreigners' spheres of influence, the British predominate in investments in the economic and commercial sectors, while the Americans lead in the sector of cultural-educational organizations.

Comrade Stalin: What is the situation regarding Japanese enterprises?

Comrade Mao Zedong: They have been nationalized.

Comrade Stalin: In whose hands is the customs agency?

Comrade Mao Zedong: In the hands of the government.

Comrade Stalin: It is important to focus attention on the customs agency as it is usually a good source of government revenue.

Comrade Mao Zedong: In the military and political sectors we have already achieved complete success; as for cultural and economic sectors, we have as yet not freed ourselves from foreign influence there.

Comrade Stalin: Do you have inspectors and agents overseeing foreign enterprises, banks, etc.?

Comrade Mao Zedong: Yes, we have. We are carrying out such work in the study and oversight of foreign enterprises (the Kailan [?] mines, electric power plants and aqueducts in Shanghai, etc.).

Comrade Stalin: One should have government inspectors who must operate legally. The foreigners should also be taxed at higher levels than the Chinese.
Who owns the enterprises mining wolfram [tungsten], molybdenum, and petroleum?

Comrade Mao Zedong: The government.

Comrade Stalin: It is important to increase the mining of minerals and especially of petroleum. You could build an oil pipeline from western Lanzhou to Chengdu [?], and then transport fuel by ship.

Comrade Mao Zedong: So far we have not decided which districts of China we should strive to develop first - the coastal areas or those inland, since we were unsure of the prospects for peace.

Comrade Stalin: Petroleum, coal, and metal are always needed, regardless of whether there be war or not.

Comrade Stalin: Can rubber-bearing trees be grown in southern China?

Comrade Mao Zedong: So far it has not been possible.

Comrade Stalin: Is there a meteorological service in China?

Comrade Mao Zedong: No, it has not been established yet.

Comrade Stalin: It should be established.

Comrade Stalin: We would like to receive from you a list of your works which could be translated into Russian.

Comrade Mao Zedong: I am currently reviewing my works which were published in various local publishing houses and which contain a mass of errors and misrepresentations. I plan to complete this review by spring of 1950. However, I would like to receive help from Soviet comrades: first of all, to work on the texts with Russian translators and, secondly, to receive help in editing the Chinese original.

Comrade Stalin: This can be done. However, do you need your works edited?

Comrade Mao Zedong: Yes, and I ask you to select a comrade suitable for such a task, say, for example, someone from CC VKP/b/ [All-Union Communist Party of bolsheviks].

Comrade Stalin: It can be arranged, if indeed there is such a need.
Also present at the meeting: comrs. Molotov, Malenkov, Bulganin, Vyshinskii, [Soviet translator N.T.] Fedorenko and [Chinese translator] Shi Zhe /Karskii/.

Recorded by comr. Fedorenko.
[signature illegible 31/XII]
[Source: Archive of the President, Russian Federation (APRF), fond (f.) 45, opis (op.) 1, delo (d.) 329, listy (ll.) 9-17; translation by Danny Rozas.]


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Sixties Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che | Mao's Military Romanticism: China and the Korean War | Mao Zedong meets Richard Nixon | Foreword to the Second Edition of The Quotations of Chairman Mao | China Will Take a Giant Stride Forward | Order to the Chinese People's Volunteers | Conversation between the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin and China's Mao Zedong | The Chinese People Have Stood Up!