Sovietology in post-Mao China, 1980-1999
The breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991 has had a variety of significant repercussions on Chinese politics, foreign policy, and other aspects. This doctoral project examines the evolution of Chinese intellectual perceptions of the Soviet Union in the 1980s and 1990s, before and after the collapse. Relying on a larger body of updated Chinese sources, this thesis will offer re-evaluations of many key issues in post-Mao Chinese Sovietology. The following topics will be explored or re-examined: Chinese views of Soviet policies in the early 1980s prior to Mikhail Gorbachev’s assumption of power; Chinese perceptions of Gorbachev’s political reform from the mid-1980s onward, before the outbreak of the Tiananmen Incident in 1989; Chinese scholars’ evolving views on Gorbachev from the 1980s to 1990s; the Chinese use of Vladimir Lenin and his policies in the early 1980s and early 1990s for bolstering and legitimizing the CCP regime after the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Incident, respectively; and the re-evaluations of Leonid Brezhnev and Joseph Stalin since the mid-1990s. First, the thesis argues that the changing Chinese views on the USSR were not only shaped by the ups-and-downs of Sino-Soviet (and later Sino-Russian) relations, China’s domestic political climate, and the political developments in Moscow. Even more importantly, views changed in response to the earth-shaking event of the rise and fall of world communism in the last two decades of the 20th century. Second, by researching the country of the Soviet Union, Chinese Soviet-watchers did not focus on the USSR alone, but mostly attempted to confirm and legitimize the Chinese state policies of reform and open door in both decades. By examining the Soviet past, Chinese scholars not only demonstrated concern for the survival of the CCP regime, but also attempted to envision the future direction and position of China in the post-communist world. This included analysis of how China could rise to be a powerful nation under the authoritarian one-party rule, without succumbing to Western democracy and the sort of collapse that doomed the USSR. In short, Chinese research on Soviet socialism has primarily served to trace the current problems of Chinese socialism, in order to legitimize their solutions – rather than a truth-seeking process devoted to knowledge of the Soviet Union.