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Founding of the PRC on October 1, 1949

Throughout WWII, the U.S., the Soviet Union and the Kuomintang (KMT) Party of China were formal allies. But in 1949, Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forced the KMT to flee to Taiwan. On October 1st 1949, Mao formally announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The strategic triangle shifted as the U.S. lost a putative (and highly authoritarian) KMT ally in China and the Soviet Union gained a Communist comrade-in-arms with the CPP.


Sino-Soviet Split 1956-1964

The chumminess of this 1958 photo of Mao Zedong and Nikita Khrushchev belies the deep rifts — both ideological and geopolitical — which had been developing in the Sino-Soviet relationship since 1956. Despite efforts to patch over the differences, the divisions continued to grow until Mao announced the split in 1964 followed by a series of formal statements. Monolithic global Communism had ceased to exist.


Zhou Enlai Greets the Nixons after Air Force One Lands 2/21/1972

Fifty years ago today, Air Force One touched down in Beijing bringing President Nixon and the First Lady for their historic meeting with Mao Zedong. The Nixons’ visit to China lasted from February 21-28, 1972. It was then followed by years of rapprochement efforts — including the historic performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1973 — and culminated in the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China under President Carter in 1979. The Soviet Union was left out in the cold.


Xi & Putin seal partnership of “no limits” at 2022 Winter Olympics

Today — February 21, 2022 — Russia announced its formal recognition of two breakaway, largely Russian-speaking enclaves in eastern Ukraine. The post-WWII order of sovereignty, rule of law, and cooperation is being challenged. Two weeks earlier, Xi Jinping chose to support Putin’s Ukraine power-play, overturning decades of official “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” policy. The U.S.-China-Russia ground has shifted yet again.


Looking back on these seventy-five years of U.S.-China-Soviet/Russia relations, I expect that I will always pause to reflect on February 21 as each year passes. February 21, 1972 was deeply promising. February 21, 2022 is deeply foreboding. In a professional sense, today’s date will likely be for me somewhat like what I feel personally as other calendar days each year remind me of my mother’s and father’s deaths (and of their lives). Artificial and arbitrary dates on a calendar which nonetheless carry deep and lasting human meaning and consequence.

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