UNCERTAIN PARTNERS by Sergei N. Goncharov

UNCERTAIN PARTNERS

Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An informed and revelatory reappraisal of Sino-Soviet relations from the close of WW II through October 1950, when the People's Republic of China entered the Korean conflict. Drawing on hitherto untapped archives (including a collection of Mao's papers), Goncharov (a Russian academic and advisor to Boris Yeltsin), Lewis (Chinese Politics/Stanford), and Litai (a researcher at Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control) shed much fresh light on an alliance that was appreciably more complex than previously imagined. In particular, they dash any notion that Kim Il Sung's assault on South Korea was a carefully coordinated conspiracy. Indeed, they argue, the decision to invade (though backed by Stalin) was a reckless gamble, coming as it did in bits and pieces. But while China's rulers were reluctant dragons in Korea, Mao clung to the lessons he'd learned from enervating civil strife in his dealings with Stalin. For both strongmen, personal visions of national security were paramount in their foreign policies and negotiations with one another; among other consequences, each believed that he could bend Kim's adventurism to his own ends. But while Mao was intent on unifying China and keeping it independent of the Kremlin (whose economic and military aid he nonetheless needed), by mid-1949, events had narrowed his strategic options. Meanwhile, the formation of NATO presented Stalin with the prospect of stalemate in Europe, inducing him to look for protection along his vast domain's eastern flanks. For all their ruthless resolve, however, Moscow and Beijing failed to discern Washington's determination to stem what it deemed a red tide in spheres of vital interest. Nor did Marxist ideology play an important role in the Sino-Soviet partnership--built largely on mutual suspicion and iron-fisted perceptions of self-interest. A masterful appreciation of the tangled webs woven in the cause of power politics during the early years of the cold war. (Forty-two maps and 42 illustrations--not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8047-2115-7
Page count: 450pp
Publisher: Stanford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1993




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