The mainstream press has just come out with a Chinese expose that has informed an undoubtedly surprised world that in 1969 the USSR wished to settle its historical score with China and launch a nuclear attack. The USSR merely wanted an assurance of U.S. neutrality. Far from the USA welcoming this de-clawing of the growing dragon, it instead threatened that there would be retaliation from the U.S. against Russia.

According to a report first carried in the Daily Telegraph, Chinese historian Liu Chenshan, writing in an officially sanctioned newspaper, stated that the threat “came in 1969 at the height of a bitter border dispute between Moscow and Beijing that left more than one thousand people dead on both sides.” [1]

Mao and Nixon

1st Chairman of the Communist Party in China Mao Zedong and U.S. President Richard Nixon meeting in February, 1972.

Liu quotes Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin as stating to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev on October 15 that “Washington has drawn up ‘detailed plans’ for a nuclear war against the USSR if it attacked China.” The Telegraph writers also speculate that Liu is likely to have had access to official archives given the appearance of this as part of a series of six articles in an official news source.

The Telegraph article continues: “The historian claims that Washington saw the USSR as a greater threat than China and wanted a strong China to counter-balance Soviet power…” They also conclude: “Mr Liu, the author, admits his version of history is likely to be contested by rival scholars.”

However, this Chinese revelation is not “new” to informed observers. The Russian desire to settle with China, despite the cynically named Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance that had been signed between Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin in 1950 – which relegated China to colonial status rather than pave the way to super-power status[2] – came amidst the culmination of border disputes that had been ongoing since 1960.[3] The largest conflict had taken place on March 2, 1969, when Chinese troops ambushed Russian troops on the uninhabited Damansky Island in the Ussuri River, killing 32 Russians. The Soviets responded on the night of March 14 by shelling 20 kilometers into China. Approximately 60 Russians and 800 Chinese were killed in the conflict. So extensive was the Russian attack that Mao feared a Soviet invasion.

It was then that the USSR intended to drive home their offensive with a nuclear attack. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, in their book Mao: The Unknown Story, allude to an article at the time published in a London newspaper “by a KGB-linked Russian journalist Victor Louis”, who had been Russian emissary to Taiwan, stating that the Kremlin was discussing bombing China’s nuclear test site, and planning to set up an “alterative leadership” for the Chinese Communist party.[4] Moreover it was U.S. President Richard Nixon’s aide John Haldeman who seems to have first broken the nuclear attack story in his memoirs in 1978.[5] He stated that for years the USSR had been trying to warn the USA not to allow China to become a nuclear power. This claim by Haldeman seems to directly contradict the claim by Liu that Nixon, when responding to the 1969 Soviet request for neutrality, did so not only because he regarded China as a means of containing Russia, but also because he was still “smarting from a Soviet refusal five years earlier to stage a joint attack on China’s nascent nuclear programme.”[6]

If we place this all into context, I believe that the 1978 Haldeman version is more likely than that of Liu’s present contention. If the USA had asked for support from the USSR to bomb China’s nuclear programme in 1964, this was a year following Sino-Russian border conflicts amounting to 4000 dead. In 1960, there had been 400 clashes; in 1962, 5000.[7] The USSR would have no sentimental, comradely, ideological, diplomatic, or geo-political reasons to oppose such a US proposal and then change her mind five years later and make a similar suggestion to the USA.

The relationship between China, the USA, and the USSR is quite contrary to how it is generally perceived. A more accurate scenario is that the USA backed Mao and the USSR backed Chiang Kai-shek. Stalin, prior to Mao’s assumption to power, regarded him as a Trotskyite. While Stalin had previously backed Mao as a counter to a Trotskyite coterie in China headed by Prof. Chen Tu-hsiu, Mao’s onetime mentor, by 1938,[8] Mao was being denounced in the USSR as a Trotskyite.[9]

During World War II, while the USA was pushing Chiang to make an alliance with Mao against the Japanese, Stalin was counselling Chiang against this.[10] Gen. George Marshall warned Chiang in 1946 at a crucial time that if he persisted in pursuing the beleaguered Red Army into Northern Manchuria, U.S. aid would stop. This provided Mao with a base from which to recuperate and finally defeat Chiang. On the other hand, Stalin’s aid to Mao was granted according to Russian interests as distinct from communist fraternity, one particularly dramatic example of which was the demand for repayment in food that resulted in 10,000 peasants dying of starvation in Yenan.[11] This was a prelude to the debilitating Sino-Soviet Treaty that was to result in the “Great Famine” for the same reason.[12]

Mao thought that he could make China a great power on Stalin’s coat tails. This was a grave error. While the USA attempted to court China, Mao went out of his way to act “Bolshie” towards the “Paper Tiger,” in a futile effort to court Stalin. Chang and Halliday write: “It was widely thought that it was the U.S. that refused to recognize Mao’s China. In fact, Mao went out of his way to make recognition impossible by engaging in overtly hostile acts.”[13]

In 1979, the year for the renewal of the 1950 “friendship treaty” between Russia and China, Mao gestured as to what he by then thought the fraternal relationship by invading Russia’s ally Vietnam, which was particularly significant in that in 1978 the USSR had entered into a 25 year defence treaty with Vietnam.[14]

Given the historically strained (at best) relationship between China and Russia, even at a time when they were supposed to be ideologically aligned, what are likely future scenarios on the world stage? There seems to be a preponderant view that the USA and China will increasingly become rivals due to economical and raw material factors. There is also a view that the USA and Russia will align against China. Again turning to an article in the Daily Telegraph, there is an interesting item from 2009. This refers to the Russian ethnic population decline in the Russian Far East, in comparison to the burgeoning Chinese population across the border, coupled with the tremendous mineral resources of the area. David Blair writes:

The endless silver birch forests of the Russian Far East might appear so desolate and windswept that no one could possibly be interested in them. Yet the vast swath of territory between Lake Baikal and Vladivostok may become a new theatre of confrontation between Russia and China in the decades ahead.

For now, the two giant neighbours have been thrust together by their shared suspicion of America and they cooperate as tactical allies, working in the United Nations Security Council to contain Washington’s power. But this affinity is based on little more than having the same rival. The empty lands of the Russian Far East, far closer to Beijing than Moscow, contain major sources of tension between the two powers.

…The quest for raw materials is the central goal of the country’s foreign policy. And virtually every natural resource imaginable is found just over the border. Here, beneath steppe and tundra, are large reserves of natural gas, oil, diamonds and gold, while millions of square miles of birch and pine provide immense supplies of timber. All this amounts to an astonishing combination: a densely packed country trying to keep its economy roaring ahead by laying its hands on natural resources, living alongside a largely empty region with huge mineral wealth and fewer inhabitants year on year. Russia and China might operate a tactical alliance, but there is already tension between them over the Far East. Moscow is wary of large numbers of Chinese settlers moving into this region, bringing timber and mining companies in their wake.[15]

Blair’s contention that the present “accord” between Russia and China is a fragile marriage of convenience vis-à-vis the USA is in agreement with my contention that there could well be conflict between them – my scenario being based largely upon conflict over water resources in a region replete with water problems from South East Asia, to Tibet to Russia.[16]

Blair’s view is that, “If Russia begins losing control over the Far East to a resurgent China, the Kremlin will have to seek America’s help. While Mr. Putin’s driving purpose is to show that Russia has the strength to stand alone, in the end America may be an indispensable ally to contain a rising China. Those steadily emptying forests in the Far East explain why.”[17]

Pro-China Bias of U.S. Establishment

My view is quite the opposite, however, in regard to Blair’s belief that Russia could try and turn to China. Again, based on historical precedent spanning centuries, the USA will no more align itself with Russia against China than under the Nixon-Kissinger, or Carter-Trilateral regimes. Powerful interests in the USA have a long-term vested interest in China, and an almost innate distrust of Russia, whose relationship has not been cordial since the days of Abraham Lincoln, and the brief interregna under Trotsky-Lenin and the inherently doomed War World II alliance with Stalin against the Axis.

Like the Bolshevik Revolution during Wilson’s time, the US “foreign policy establishment’ was by no means hostile to a communist takeover of China. Despite Mao’s forlorn hope of Stalin’s comradely patronage, the “foreign policy establishment” and big business interests centred on the Rockefeller axis never gave up on China. While Gen. MacArthur was sacked in 1951 for wanting to act against China’s intervention in the Korean War, in 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, Mao sought an alliance with the USA. However the war made such an alliance impossible to sell to the American people.[18]

It was 1970 when the long-awaited rapport with China could be broached publicly; the year following Nixon’s threat to retaliate should the USSR try and take out China’s nuclear programme. As is well remembered, the omnipresent Henry Kissinger, a lifelong protégé of the Rockefeller dynasty, paved the way. That dynasty had been eyeing China since the 1920s. In 1956, John D. Rockefeller founded the Asia Society to promote business relations with Asia. In paying tribute to Kissinger at the 50th anniversary banquet of the Asia Society, Richard Holbrooke stated:

To discuss the Rockefeller Legacy, not just John D. Rockefeller III, but the whole family, there really was only one person who could do it, and that was Henry Kissinger. Henry has been a friend of the Rockefeller family as you all know, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, David Rockefeller, and the rest of the family, so many of whom are here tonight, for fifty years. He also has a very strong and deep connection to Asia. We all know that he was the main architect of the historic opening to China, which has resulted in so many positive achievements, and remains one of the most complicated, if not the most complicated, bilateral relationship we have in the world.[19]

The formalities of this rapport had been worked on by the self-described “foreign policy establishment” of the Council on Foreign Relations since the early 1960s. Peter Grosse writes in the CFR sanctioned history of that institution:

The Council turned in earnest to the problem of communist China early in the 1960s. Various Council publications had started developing the idea of a ‘two-China’ policy—recognition of both the Nationalist government of Taiwan and the communist government on the mainland. This, Council authors suggested, might be the least bad policy direction. Professor A. Doak Barnett published a trail-blazing book for the Council in 1960, Communist China and Asia. A major Council study of relations between the United States and China commenced in 1964, the year China exploded its first nuclear bomb; the group met systematically for the next four years. ‘Contentment with the present stalemate in relations with the Chinese is not statesmanship,’ declared Robert Blum of the Asia Society, the first director of the project. ‘American impatience and the strong currents of political emotion often make it impossible to plan ahead to manage our policy in a persevering but flexible way.'”[20]

Hence, the CFR was formulating a policy for the dumping of Taiwan and the recognition of Mao’s China in a typically Machiavellian manner. Grosse continues:

In 1969 the Council summed up the project under the title, The United States and China in World Affairs, [sic] publication came just as Richard Nixon, a longtime and outspoken foe of Chinese communism, became president of the United States. (Some months earlier, Nixon himself had chosen Foreign Affairs as his forum for exploring a fresh look at Asia in general, and China in particular.) Tilting at the long-prevailing freeze, the Council’s project defined a two-China policy with careful analysis. It advocated acquiescence in mainland Chinese membership in the United Nations, and argued that America must “abandon its effort to maintain the fiction that the Nationalist regime is the government of China.[21]

Grosse concludes by proudly citing Kissinger and Cyrus Vance in their pivotal roles of opening up Red China, inaugurating a process that has made China a world power:

Kissinger, acting as Nixon’s national security adviser, embarked on a secret mission to Beijing in 1971[22], to make official, exploratory contact with the communist regime. Nixon himself followed in 1972. The delicate process of normalizing diplomatic relations between the United States and China was completed in 1978 by Kissinger’s successor as secretary of state, Cyrus R. Vance, a leading Council officer before and after his government service.”[23]

The year that the USSR had approached the USA with this proposal for a final solution to the China problem was therefore the very year that the “foreign policy establishment” was busy preparing the way for a Sino-US accord. Given that this process was investigated on a formal basis from 1964, the year that Liu claims the USA had approached the USSR about dealing with China’s embryonic nuclear programme and had been rebuffed, if such an approach from the U.S. did occur, it hardly seams likely that it would have been sincere, and other motives must be considered.

Kissinger made his first trip to China in 1972 to plan a visit from Nixon. The Americans offered as a preliminary goodwill gesture the abandonment of Taiwan and official recognition of Red China, and offered to get China into the UN, as per the CFR blueprint. Additionally, the US would provide China with information on all its dealings with Russia. Kissinger also told the Chinese that the US would be withdrawing from South Vietnam[24], and that American troops would soon be pulled out of South Korea. China was not asked for any concessions.[25]

In 1973, Kissinger assured Mao that the U.S. would come to China’s assistance if attacked by Russia. [26] The groundwork was also laid for the technological and industrial build up of China, and therefore the establishment of the military strength that Mao had failed to achieve via the USSR. On July 6, Kissinger told Mao’s envoy: “I have talked to the French Foreign Minister about our interest in strengthening the PRC [People’s Republic of China]. We will do what we can to encourage our allies to speed up requests they receive from you on items for Chinese defence.

In particular you have asked for some Rolls-Royce technology. Under existing regulations we have to oppose this, but we have worked out a procedure with the British where they will go ahead anyway. We will take a formal position in opposition, but only that. Don’t be confused by what we do publicly…” [Emphasis added][27]

Kissinger’s last sentence is a key to understanding world history and politics [emphasis added]: “Don’t be confused by what we do publicly.” It is the manner in which high politics works behind the scenes, and has little to do with what is given out to the news media for public consumption.[28]In 1973, David Rockefeller went to China and waxed lyrical about the Mao regime, writing: “The social experiment in China under Chairman Mao’s leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history…”[29] David Rockefeller’s Standard Oil obtained exclusive rights to China’s oil exploration; his Chase Manhattan Bank to industrial finance.

The US-China relationship developed under the auspices of Rockefeller’s Trilateralist think tankers, such as National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who dominated the Carter regime from the president down, when in 1978 the “normalization of relations” was finalized.

When Taiwan was dumped in 1978 and diplomatic relations were formally established with the PRC, Leonard Woodcock, an early member of the Trilateral Commission, became first U.S. Ambassador to China. Apart from the Rockefeller interests, other early globalist corporations whose chief executives were Trilateralists included: Coca Cola, given the soft drink monopoly (J Paul Austin, a backer of Carter), Boeing Aircraft (T A Wilson), and Mitsui Petrochemical (Yoshizo Ikeda). Japanese Trilateralists were also heavily involved with early dealings in China. Mitsubishi, whose chairman Chujiro Funjino was chairman of the Japanese Trilateral Commission Executive Committee, got the contract to modernize the Shanghai shipyards, the largest in China. Hitachi Ltd. (president Hirokichi Yoshiyama) got a $100,000,000 contract to supply equipment for the Paoshan steelworks and to expand the Hungchi Shipyards. Nippon Steel (Yoshihiro Inayama) was involved with constructing a giant steel plant near Shanghai.[30]

U.S.-Chinese Economies Symbiotic

The most compelling reason that confrontation between the USA and China is unlikely is that the economies of the two are symbiotic, which cannot be said in regard to the relationship between China and Russia or Russia and the USA.

Dr. Niall Ferguson stated: “Since April 2002 the central banks of China and Hong Kong have bought 96 billion dollars of U.S. government securities.” This means that, “the U.S. is reliant on the central bank of the People’s Republic of China for the financing of about 4% per year of its federal borrowing.” Ferguson mentions the “growing interdependence” between the economies of the USA and China:

Far from being strategic rivals, these two empires have the air of economic partners. The only question is which of the two is the more dependent, [sic] which, to be precise, stands to lose more in the event of a crisis in their amicable relationship, now over thirty years old….[31]

Ferguson also states: “Many commentators have noted the very muted, even quiescent reaction of China to recent American interventions. Fewer have appreciated the extent to which China now helps underwrite American power.[32]

In contrast, the relations between Russia and the USA, with increasing U.S. provocations in regard to Russia’s neighbors of the former Soviet bloc, seem to have set the USA and Russia on course towards another Cold War. If that means the demise of the unipolar world system that has emerged with the demise of the USSR, better the tensions of a new Cold War than the far gloomier outlook of a USA free to continue blustering about the world stage without restraint.


[1] Andrew Osborn and Peter Foster, “USSR planned nuclear attack on china in 1969,” Telegraph.co.uk, 13 May 2010, < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/7720461/USSR-planned-nuclear-attack-on-China-in-1969.html>

[2] K R Bolton, “Russia and China: an approaching conflict?,” Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Vol. 34, No. 2, Summer 2009, p. 158.

[3] Ibid., p. 159.

[4] J Chang and J Halliday. Mao – the Unknown Story (London: Jonathon Cape, 2005), p. 572.

[5] H R Haldeman, The Ends of Power, (New York: New York Times Books, 1978).

[6] Andrew Osborn, op.cit.

[7] K R Bolton, op.cit., p. 159.

[8] J Chang, op.cit., p. 75. Chen had been head of the Chinese Communist Party.

[9] J. Chang, op.cit., p. 216.

[10] Ibid., Ch. “Saved by Washington,” 304-311.

[11] Ibid., p. 310.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., p. 368.

[14] K R Bolton, op.cit., p. 162.

[15] David Blair, “Why the restless Chinese and warming to Russia’s frozen east,” Telegraph.uk.co., 16 July 2009 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/5845646/Why-the-restless-Chinese-are-warming-to-Russias-frozen-east.html>

[16] K R Bolton, op.cit., 2009. Also, Bolton, “Water Wars,” World Affairs, India, Vol. 14, no. 1, Spring 2010.

[17] David Blair, op.cit.

[18] J Chang, op.cit. , p. 601.

[19] Richard Holbrooke, Asia Society Gala 50th anniversary dinner speeches <http://www.asiasociety.org/support/specialevents/anniversary_dinner/galaspeeches.html>

[20] Peter Grosse, Continuing The Inquiry: The Council on Foreign Relations from 1921 to 1996, (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2006). Chapter: “’X’ Leads the Way.” The entire book can be read online at: Council on Foreign Relations: <http://www.cfr.org/about/history/cfr/index.html>

[21] Peter Grosse, op.cit.

[22] Grosse mentions in a Note that: “Accompanying Kissinger on this momentous flight was his personal aide, Winston Lord, a former Foreign Service officer. Lord, … became president of the Council on Foreign Relations in 1977…”

[23] Ibid.

[24] However, a united Vietnam within the Soviet orbit was not in China’s interests.

[25] J. Chang, op.cit., pp. 604-605.

[26] Ibid., p. 612.

[27] Ibid. p. 613.

[28] K R Bolton, 2009, op.cit., p. 187.

[29] David Rockefeller, “From a China Traveller,” NY Times, Aug. 10, 1973.

[30] Antony Sutton, Trilaterals Over Washington, (Arizona: The August Corp., 1978), Vol. II, Chapter 6.

[31] Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise & Fall of the American Empire (London: Allen Lane, 2004), p. 261.

[32] Ibid., p. 262.