Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense Pact Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Defense Pact signed in Moscow formalized the political alliance between the two leading powers of the international communist movement. The alliance governed their relations in the 1950’s and contributed to the bipolar character of the Cold War.

Summary of Event

On October l, 1949, Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Communist Party, Chinese having defeated the nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-Shek, proclaimed the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Immediately, the PRC was recognized by the Soviet Union. The United States was among the states that chose not to recognize the PRC. At that time, the Soviet Union and the West had been engaged in a Cold War for some four years. There was little doubt which side the PRC would choose to align with. In mid-1949, Mao had declared his policy of “leaning to one side” as a commitment to the global forces of socialism. Mao and Stalin shared a belief in the doctrine of Marxism-Leninism (though they interpreted that doctrine differently), but more important, they had a common enemy in the United States. There were also serious differences between them. Mao wanted the restoration to China of concessions made to the Soviet Union by the 1945 Sino-Soviet treaty; he wanted more economic assistance than Moscow was prepared to give; and he wanted recognition from the Soviet leadership as an equal in the struggle against Western imperialism. Thus, even as they considered themselves partners, Stalin and Mao were also rivals. Cold War;mutual defense agreements Cold War;China Chinese-Soviet relations[Chinese Soviet relations] Soviet-Chinese relations[Soviet Chinese relations] [kw]Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense Pact (Feb. 14, 1950) [kw]Mao Pen a Defense Pact, Stalin and (Feb. 14, 1950) [kw]Defense Pact, Stalin and Mao Pen a (Feb. 14, 1950) [kw]Pact, Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense (Feb. 14, 1950) Cold War;mutual defense agreements Cold War;China Chinese-Soviet relations[Chinese Soviet relations] Soviet-Chinese relations[Soviet Chinese relations] [g]Asia;Feb. 14, 1950: Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense Pact[03160] [g]Europe;Feb. 14, 1950: Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense Pact[03160] [g]Soviet Union;Feb. 14, 1950: Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense Pact[03160] [g]China;Feb. 14, 1950: Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense Pact[03160] [c]Cold War;Feb. 14, 1950: Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense Pact[03160] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Feb. 14, 1950: Stalin and Mao Pen a Defense Pact[03160] Mao Zedong Stalin, Joseph [p]Stalin, Joseph;and China[China] Khrushchev, Nikita S. [p]Khrushchev, Nikita S.;and China[China]

To resolve their differences and formulate a common strategy, Mao went to Moscow in mid-December, 1949. The fact that he found it necessary to remain in Moscow for eight weeks was an indication that the negotiations were intensive and contentious. The result was the signing on February 14, 1950, of a thirty-year treaty of friendship, alliance, and mutual assistance. It provided for common action against aggression by Japan or any country acting in collaboration with Japan. The real target was the United States. Each power agreed to render military and other assistance should the other become involved in a war with Japan or any state allied with Japan.

On the contentious issue of Soviet concessions in China, Mao scored several major victories. Stalin agreed to surrender Soviet rights to ownership by 1952 of the Changchun Railroad without compensation. By the end of that year, Stalin also agreed to withdraw Soviet troops from Port Arthur. The fate of Dalian was left undetermined. A separate communique specified that both parties would recognize the independence of the Mongolian People’s Republic, a territory (Outer Mongolia) that the Chinese would have preferred to be a part of China. Stalin’s financial assistance was minimal, even niggardly. He agreed to loan China $300,000,000 (with interest) over the period 1950-1954. Overall, the terms of the 1950 alliance contained benefits and costs to both parties. However, Mao departed Moscow dissatisfied with the dominating role played by Stalin, who left no doubt which of the partners was senior and which junior.

Fundamentally, the Sino-Soviet alliance transformed the balance of power in East Asia. That transformation made possible the Korean War Korean War (1950-1953) , which broke out some four months later. The impetus for the North Korean attack on South Korea came from Kim Il Sung Kim Il Sung , North Korea’s leader. Stalin, assuming the success of the operation, gave his consent subject to Mao’s willingness to go along. Mao had some reservations about the timing of the attack but agreed to have China serve as a supply zone for the operation. Mao could not have known when the war began on June 25 that Chinese involvement would go well beyond supply operations. The success of the American campaign in the fall of 1950 brought American troops close to the Yalu River, the border between China and North Korea, threatening to destroy Kim Il Sung’s regime. Stalin pressured Mao to intervene, which he did on October 19,1950. Chinese intervention turned back the American advance. By the spring of 1951, the battle lines had hardened roughly along the original North Korean-South Korean demarcation zones, where they remained until the truce agreement in July, 1953, ended the fighting. China had won a dramatic victory but at a terrible price: some 900,000 killed or wounded. Though there were disagreements between the communist allies on the strategy and financing of the Korean War, the net impact of the war was to cement the Sino-Soviet alliance. Their successful assault on American troops gave the Chinese prestige in their efforts to prove themselves worthy of a leadership role in the world communist movement.

The Sino-Soviet alliance remained strong until the end of the 1950’s. Nikita S. Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor, even expanded upon the benefits given to the Chinese by his predecessor. His first foreign trip, in September-October, 1954, was to Beijing. He was the first party leader to visit Mao, a fact of enormous symbolic significance to the Chinese. Khrushchev agreed to turn over to China the Lushan naval base and Soviet shares in joint companies in Manchuria and Xin Jiang. Economic cooperation between the two countries reached new levels. Reversing its policy under Stalin, the Kremlin provided state-of-the-art technology to the Chinese. There was also a dramatic increase in the number of Soviet experts and advisors sent to China. With some reluctance, the Soviet Union in October, 1957, promised to supply China with a prototype nuclear weapon. That commitment was later withdrawn.

Problems in the relationship developed in the late 1950’s. Moscow became apprehensive about the radical character of Mao’s domestic program and his aggressiveness in foreign policy. Khrushchev’s policy of “peaceful coexistence” conflicted with China’s willingness to confront the United States over Taiwan. As evidence mounted that China’s nuclear program was designed to build an atomic bomb rather than for energy, the Kremlin in 1959 terminated nuclear assistance. From 1957 through 1959, distinct but muted criticisms of the other side were made in Moscow and Beijing. By 1959, Khrushchev and Mao each came to view the other as a threat to his own ambitions. Up to that time, the existence of a rupture in communist relations was unknown in the West. That changed on April 16, 1960, with the publication in China of an article “Long Live Leninism.” "Long Live Leninism" (government publication)[Long Live Leninism] The split in the alliance was openly acknowledged. A new stage in the Cold War had developed, and with it Chinese and Soviet relations with the West changed as well.


The Sino-Soviet pact of February, 1950, profoundly shaped relations between the two communist states and the character of the Cold War during the 1950’s. It established what many in the West believed to be a monolithic bloc of communist states. Prior to this alliance, the Cold War had been fought largely in Europe. With the alignment of China with the Soviet bloc, the struggle became global. The most immediate consequence of the pact was its impact on the Korean War. Though the text of the Sino-Soviet alliance made no mention of Korea, the pact created the political framework that made the war in Korea inevitable. It guaranteed that both states would cooperate in the effort to extend communist rule to South Korea, though no one could know at the time exactly what contributions each would make. As the Korean War worked itself out from 1950 through 1953, the costs turned out to be much higher for the Chinese than for the Soviets, a fact that in the longer term contributed to the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960’s. Another consequence of the alliance and the Korean War was an increase in the antagonism between the PRC and the United States. Following the intervention by communist Chinese forces in Korea in the fall of 1950, Sino-American relations sharply deteriorated. President Harry S. Truman Truman, Harry S. [p]Truman, Harry S.;Korean War sent the Seventh Fleet to neutralize the Taiwan Strait. The United States imposed an economic embargo on the PRC and vigorously opposed the representation of Beijing in the United Nations. Not until serious differences later developed between Moscow and Beijing was it possible for a rapprochement between the two adversaries. With that rapprochement, the structure of international politics moved from bipolarity to tripolarity. Cold War;mutual defense agreements Cold War;China Chinese-Soviet relations[Chinese Soviet relations] Soviet-Chinese relations[Soviet Chinese relations]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Borisov, O. B., and B. T. Koloskov. Soviet-Chinese Relations, 1945-1970. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975. Reflects official Soviet line toward China. Emphasis is on conflict with China during the 1960’s, but chapter 2 covers the Sino-Soviet pact. Highly polemical.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hunt, Michael H. The Genesis of Chinese Communist Foreign Policy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996. Scholarly study of modern Chinese history relying heavily on Chinese-language sources including party documents and the memoirs and writings of Mao Zedong.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Schwartz, Harry. Tsars, Mandarins, and Commissars: A History of Chinese-Russian Relations. Rev. ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1973. Short popular survey of Sino-Soviet relations written from an American perspective.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Westad, Odd Arne, ed. Brothers In Arms: The Rise and Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945-1963. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000. Scholars from China, Russia, the United States, and Western Europe use documentation available in the post-Soviet period to reassess the Sino-Soviet Alliance. A lengthy introduction gives a comprehensive yet concise overview of the 1950 alliance.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Zubok, Vladislav, and Constantine Pleshakov. Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996. Influential book using documents made available after Soviet collapse. Fine coverage of Stalin’s foreign policy beliefs.

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