The idea of building bridges with China seems always to have been what successive Indian leaders have wanted. Perhaps much of the failure to do so is not really their own, and really the nature of the task has been misjudged. It is a good time to look back at much of what actually were the realities of the Cold War, as they seem to be nearly forgotten today, and much that reality has been replaced by jingoism. The Soviet Union did lose the cold war, but much of it was not because of President Reagan, rather it imploded from decisions made far earlier. When the October 1917 revolution began in the Russian Empire, it was a revolution more of ideology than simply transferring or sharing political power. Unlike the revolutions of the past which were based on either cause for national freedom, religion or lack of representation in government. This revolution was about the very concepts of society and how they should function. The 1917 revolution was an international movement at its core, the concept that the premise of economics could be turned upside down, and that a greater benefit could be given to average people by taking ownership away and instead of granting access to utility had never been done before. The October Revolution, in reality, was supposed to be a precursor to the ultimate revolution which would bring in an age of true Communism. The Soviet Union never reached that stage and no communist nation has. The U.S.S.R. finally was formed after the Civil War in 1922. It survived World War II by making a deal with the West, in return for allied assistance, Stalin had agreed to stop the spread of Communism outside of defined zones of control. Many have viewed this decision by Stalin as accepting the beginnings of a Cold War. He knew the West would never give up trying to ideologically and militarily defeat the Soviet system, and at the same time, the October Revolution had at its core to spread socialism globally. By accepting limits on the spread of Communism, he had in effect conceded to the idea that the U.S.SR. could never become a Communist state, as by defining the geographical extent of the revolution it would only be a matter of time before it would be surrounded. and it would revert back to some form of mixed capitalism and socialism.
Socialist movements would, however, be supported by the U.S.S.R. after 1945, but as a whole, it was clear most newly independent nations did not become Communist and instead opted for a middle road of socialist reforms. The split which would occur with China is an issue which is long ignored, and actually of great importance when looking at the fall of the Soviet Union. Until 1945, the Soviet Union actually was telling Mao and the Chinese Communists to form a joint government with Chiang Kai-Shek. It was only after the later, objected to transfers of large parcels of land to the Soviet Union in Manchuria, that Stalin changed his stance and gave the Chinese Communists captured Japanese Equipment to begin a civil war against the nationalists led by Chiang Kai-Shek. The U.S. at the same time was trying to broker peace and also form a joint government in China, George Marshalled the task yet he failed after 13 months to even get close to an agreement.
Though the U.S. continued to finance and assist the nationalists the level of support was not enough to win the civil war. The U.S. was quite stretched militarily after World War II, and entering the Chinese Civil War was not an option. The effects would be a Communist Government in China and the nationalists fleeing in defeat to Taiwan. The issue would only become more cumbersome as time progressed. The Chinese Communists did not see a clear reason for the Soviet Union not spreading Communism and at its overtures at a strange but clear coexistence with the West, though under the threat of Nuclear War. The split would be accelerated as the Soviet Union wanted to maintain the friendship initiative that Prime Minister Nehru had launched with China, and China remained more concerned with border issues instead of the big picture. In 1959 while visiting China, Nakita Khrushchev would again advise Mao to keep peace with India, but he was taken back by the response of Chinese General Chen Yi who called the Soviet Union a “Time Keeper (or temporary Friendship)”, in response to Khrushchev trying to stop what he clearly saw as coming Chinese Aggression towards India. Khrushchev would answer back for Comrade Chen to take back his hand of friendship and then allude to ending the friendship between the U.S.S.R. and China.
Khrushchev at this point may well have wondered how bad an idea it had been to transfer Atomic knowledge to China and assist them every step of the way to making an Atomic Weapon. By 1959 China was close to making an atomic weapon. After the 1962 Armed Aggression against India by China, Khrushchev began to support India over China vocally. The Chinese Communist Party retaliated that the Soviet Union had negotiated an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis and “Capitulated”, to this the Soviet Union would respond that China’s foreign policies were “Disastrous”, by the end of 1962 diplomatic relations were severed, all communication had to take place in writing, and the brief period of good relations between China and the U.S.S.R. were over.
In 1967, China would again bash the Soviet Union in the open, accusing it of selling out the people of the Middle East, Asia and Africa to “American Imperialists.” The U.S. had offered the Soviet Union a joint task of taking out China’s Atomic Program, but the Soviet Union had refused in the early 1960s. In 1969, after a brief border war with China, the Soviet Union planned a preemptive atomic attack on China to end its hostility and to destroy its atomic program. The U.S. was informed of this and asked to stay neutral. The Nixon administration, however, had no intention of this occurring as it bought into the idea of China being a counterbalance to the U.S.S.R. A clandestine friendship was being developed with China via U.S. Ally Pakistan and there was no turning back on this idea by the Nixon-Kissinger team. The Soviet Union would call off the strikes and China would soon be economically supported by U.S. policy. The country which is 1967, called the U.S. “imperialists”, would adopt capitalism to strengthen its failed Communist revolution, nearly 60 Million Chinese perished in famines and the cultural revolution. China had achieved next to nothing on its own. It had been assisted by the Soviet Union from 1950 until 1960, and now it would be assisted by the U.S. In the decade it had been on its own, it had unleashed a brutal cultural revolution, which even resulted in Universities being shut down, as producing loyal Maoists became the main push. The Western uplift and support of China would be a far harsher blow the U.S.S.R. than anything which had or would occur. The Communist and socialist world now was split.
Over the next decade, the Soviet Union seemed to see no incentive to open its markets to even limited competition. China would see an infusion of American and western investment along with preferential access to Western markets for goods produced in China. Its economy soared, not because of socialism but because of capital infusion and the looking the other way of Western nations to artificial exchange rates which favoured China. The real profit came from the later aspect as commodity production was possible with very high profitability which under normal circumstances simply does not occur. Many in the Soviet Union saw this as a failure of their system and did not connect all the dots. For even if they adopted capitalism, they did not have access to Western Markets, and in reality, they never would be given this access.
The drop in oil prices greatly contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Economy under Gorbachev. However, with his reverse reforms, which brought political freedom without economic reform a disaster was created.
Gorbachev in 1985, employed two disastrous ideas simultaneously, he began delinking Eastern Bloc nations from the Soviet Union, and at the same time opened the forum for criticism of the Soviet System. The Sinatra doctrine, as it became known simply put much of Eastern Europe on the path to of going their own way. The Soviet Union did not even attempt, to reform economically as a whole. Of course the idea of that economically the Soviet Union was sinking became a rallying point for the demise of the system. His meetings with President Reagan hardly accomplished anything to economically benefit the Soviet Union. The political reforms quickly went out of control, and economically nothing improved. Had economic reforms been undertaken in 1985, the situation would have been different. The state-owned industry would not have been sold for fractionally what it was worth, and the U.S.S.R. would have remained capitalized. Instead by 1987, production had fallen, and shortages were present like never before. In essence, the state had seized up politically, production could not be ordered, as the authority of the state had vanished. The Soviet Union would end up having its assets sold for less than their replacement value in the early 1990s, it capital seized by those who knew where its oil accounts were, a new class of Communists who assigned assets to themselves became billionaires overnight. The U.S.S.R. vanished and this was a victory for President Reagan, and this was the end result of Gorbachev’s efforts. In all reality, it may well be that his reforms had no genuine intent other than to end the Soviet Union. Though he has made the case since 1991, that he had no intention of this happening and that they were others who betrayed the U.S.S.R. Yet in all this, there is one reality which is too often missed, the world before the 1917 Revolution does not exist anymore. It was a world where Western Colonialism held India and most of Africa in bondage. It was a world where wealth was even more concentrated, and most workers had little or no protection from injury or sickness. That world no longer exists, and many of the aspects of the Soviet Union became part of Capitalist nations integrating Socialist reforms after World War II. Some of what the Soviet Union pioneered including the 5 day work week, the idea of universal health care has survived its demise. The Soviet Union had its great faults and lack of human dignity as its core faults, Mikhail Gorbachev may have just believed that if these were reformed the rest would fall in place, but here he simply ignored the very history of the U.S.S.R. The factor which China played in this downfall is a subject which is just now being recognized.