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East German Files on China, 1967-1989

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Forty-six newly translated East German records offer a Socialist bloc perspective on developments in China's foreign and domestic policies from 1967 through 1989.

Zhao Ziyang in the GDR, June 1987
Zhao Ziyang on a tour of East Germany in June 1987.

Forty-six translated East German records, now available on DigitalArchive.org, offer a Socialist bloc perspective on developments in China's foreign and domestic policies from the height of the Cultural Revolution, into the period of reform and opening, and concluding with the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Dating from 1967 through 1989, the documents touch on subjects such as the Sino-Soviet border clash, the Cultural Revolution, Soviet bloc coordination vi-a-vis China, the Sino-American rapprochement, reform and opening, elite politics in the PRC, GDR-PRC political and economic relations, the Sino-Vietnamese war, and other developments in China’s foreign relations and domestic politics. A full list of the documents, all linked to the Digital Archive, is appended below.

The new collection is the subject of two separate blog posts written by Austin Jersild and Steven Grundy.

List of Documents

Security, 'Single Information about the Display in the Showcases of the Embassy of the PR China in the GDR with anti-Soviet Materials,’ 13 February 1967

BStU, ZA, HA XX, 1125. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on the anti-Soviet materials displayed in front of the Chinese Embassy in East Germany.

Transcript of a Telegram from the GDR Military Attaché in Beijing, 'About the Situation in the PR China,’ 12 April 1967

BStU, ZA, HA X, 652. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on the Chinese army and their interactions with other organized groups.

Ministry for State Security, 'Single Information about Rioting by Employees of the Embassy of the PR China in the GDR in the Context of a Grave Traffic Accident by a Vehicle of the Embassy on 27 June 1967,' 29 June 1967

BStU, ZA, ZAIG 1329. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report about Chinese protests against the GDR over the deaths of several embassy staff members in East Germany.

Embassy of the GDR in the PRC, 'Note about the Inaugural Visit of Comrade Ambassador [Gustav] Hertzfeldtt with the Acting Ambassador of the USSR in the PR China, Comrade Yelisavetin, on 10 March 1969,' 11 March 1969

PA AA, C 1365/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Notes on acting Ambassador of the USSR in the People’s Republic of China Alexei Yalisavetin’s remarks to German Democratic Republic Ambassador Gustav Hertzfeldtt about what he viewed as China’s troubling anti-Sovietism as well as the PRC’s attempt at rapprochement with America and West Germany. Yalisavetin also discussed the eventuality of Mao Zedong’s death and named Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, and Yao Wenyuan as likely successors.

Embassy of the GDR in the PRC, 'Note about a Working Breakfast of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of the Fraternal Countries on 28 March 1969 in the Bulgarian Embassy,' 1 April 1969

PA AA, C 1365/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Notes on a meeting between the Ambassadors to China of the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, the Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, and Poland, in which they discussed a border incident at the Ussuri River, among other recent developments in China.

Embassy of the GDR in the PRC, 'Note about a “Club Talk” of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of the fraternal countries on 25 April 1969 in the Embassy of the GDR,' 28 April 1969

PA AA, C 1365/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Ambassadors to China from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, and Mongolia discuss Chinese border provocations, the ninth Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, and other aspects of Chinese domestic and foreign policy.

Embassy of the GDR in the PRC, 'Note about the “Club Meeting” of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of the Fraternal Countries on 6 June 1969,' 10 June 1969

PA AA, C 1365/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Notes on a meeting between the Ambassadors to China of the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, the Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, and Poland in which they discussed a broad range of domestic and international concerns related to the People’s Republic of China including the Cultural Revolution, Vietnam, and provocations at the Soviet border. They report throughout on conversations with other Ambassadors in China.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about a Conversation of the Ambassador of the GDR in the PR China, Comrade Hertzfeldt, with the Head of Main Department in the Foreign Ministry of the PR China, Yu Zhan, on 2 June 1969,' 27 June 1969

PA AA, C 1365/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on the GDR's foreign relations with countries such as Cambodia, Iraq, and Sudan, as well as with West Germany.

GDR Embassy to the PR China, ‘Note on Exchanges of Opinions by the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of Hungary, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Bulgaria, Poland, and Mongolia on the Subject of “The PRC Position vis-a-vis the Socialist Countries' on 21 November and 3 December",' 29 December 1969

PA AA, C 1362/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

The Ambassadors of Hungary, GDR, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Bulgaria, Poland, and Mongolia discuss the development of socialism and Maoism in the PRC in relation to other countries in the socialist camp.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about the “Club Meeting” of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of Hungary, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Poland, Bulgaria, and Mongolia on 19 December 1969 in the Embassy of Mongolia,' 6 January 1970

PA AA, C 1362/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Ambassadors to China from Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, and Mongolia discuss Chinese preparations for war, Maoist groups in Western Europe and Japan, and other aspects of Chinese foreign policy.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about the “Club Meeting” of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of Hungary, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Poland, Bulgaria, and Mongolia on 9 January 1970 in the Embassy of the PR Poland,' 10 January 1970

PA AA, C 1362/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Ambassadors to China from Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Poland, Bulgaria, and Mongolia discuss the situations in Guangzhou and Shanghai, Chinese preparations for war, Chinese anti-Sovietism in the New Year Editorial, and Chinese foreign relations.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about the Club Meeting of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of Hungary, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Bulgaria, Poland, and Mongolia on 6 February 1970,' 11 February 1970

PA AA, C 1362/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on the current domestic situation in China, as well as their foreign policy with countries throughout the world.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about the Club Meeting of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of Hungary, the GDR, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Poland, Bulgaria, and Mongolia on 24 February 1970 in the Embassy of Czechoslovakia,' 6 March 1970

PA AA, C 1363/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Socialist bloc ambassadors discuss China’s domestic and foreign policy, with some emphasis on Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'First Assessment of the Course of the Chinese Leadership “Preparation for a Scenario of War and a Scenario of Disaster, Everything for the People”,’ 10 March 1970

PA AA, C 487/75. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

This document contains the East German (GDR) Embassy in China’s summary and preliminary evaluation of Chinese foreign policy aimed at achieving super power status; domestic militarization in China; and efforts to foster political unity around Maoist ideology.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about the Club Meeting of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the GDR, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, and Mongolia on 17 April 1970 in the Embassy of Poland,' 27 April 1970

PA AA, C 925/76. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on the current domestic situation of China and the country’s foreign policy.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about the Club Meeting of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of the GDR, the USSR, Bulgaria, Poland, Mongolia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, on 14 August 1970 in the Embassy of the Soviet Union,' 20 August 1970

PA AA, C 1364/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on the current domestic situation of China and changes in the country’s foreign policy.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about a Conversation of the Ambassador of the GDR in the PR China, Comrade Hertzfeldt, with the Deputy Foreign Minister of the PR China, Qiao Guanhua, on 24 August 1970 between 17:00 and 18:00 hours,' 27 August 1970

PA AA, C 1364/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A discussion about the East Germany, West Germany, and the Sino-Soviet border conflict.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about the Club Meeting of the Ambassadors and Acting Ambassadors of the GDR, Mongolia, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, and Hungary on 28 August 1970 in the Embassy of Czechoslovakia,' 1 September 1970

PA AA, C 1364/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Socialist bloc diplomats analyze the latest developments in China's foreign and domestic policies.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about a Conversation with Deputy Foreign Minister Qiao Guanhua on 14 September at the Send-Off Dinner for the new Ambassador of the PR China in the GDR in the Embassy of the GDR in Beijing,' 21 October 1970

PA AA, C 1364/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Hertzfeldt describes a conversation between himself and Qiao Guanhua, in which they discuss East Germany's concerns with current Sino-East German relations, and the timeline for accrediting the delegated ambassador of the PRC to the GDR.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Information about Some New Aspects of Tactical Modification of the Foreign Policy of the PR China,' 21 October 1970

PA AA, C 509/75. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on China’s foreign policy shift, especially towards the US and USSR.

Embassy of the GDR in the PR China, 'Note about a Conversation with the Acting Ambassador of the Soviet Embassy in Beijing, Comrade Yelisavetin, on 17 December 1970 in the Embassy of the GDR,' 18 December 1970

PA AA, C 1364/74. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A discussion of a conversation about the Mao regime, the establishment of the first Provincial Party Committee, the People’s Congress, and changes in foreign policy, specifically Sino-Soviet relations.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the GDR, Far Eastern Department/ United States Department, 'Assessment of the Invitation to President Nixon to visit the PR China,’ 26 July 1971

PA AA, C 496/75. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

An analysis of Sino-American relations following the Nixon invitation to visit China, US interests driving the rapprochement with China, and the potential effect of this relationship in the Asia-Pacific region.

German translation of a Russian-language information from the CPSU Central Committee sent to GDR leader Erich Honecker, 16 September 1971

SAPMO-BA, DY 30, J IV 2/202/542. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on Sino-Soviet and Sino-American relations with a discussion of Maoist policy. Specific attention is called to Sino-Soviet border disputes.

Information # 2 / 72 for the Members and Candidates of the Politburo of the Central Committee, 'Information about the So-Called Disputed Territories at the Soviet-Chinese Border,’ 4 January 1972

SAPMO-BA, DY 30, J IV B 2/20/29. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report, produced by the CPSU and shared with the East German SED, on the Sino-Soviet border conflict. The CPSU analyzes China's position on the disputed territories in their shared border, and how the Soviet Union ought to respond.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the GDR, Far East Department, 'The International Activities of the Chinese Leadership and Conclusions for the Structuring of Relations between the GDR and the PR China,' January 1972

PA AA, C 6563. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A discussion of Chinese foreign policy towards the Soviet Union, countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the United States, Japan, and Western Europe.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the GDR, Far East Department, ‘Note about a Conversation of the Head of the Far East Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the GDR, Comrade Schneidewind, with the Ambassador of the PR China in the GDR, Peng Guangwei, on 31 August 1972’

PA AA, C 6610. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Comrade Schneidewind and Ambassador Peng Guangwei discuss reports that China may be establishing diplomatic relations with West Germany

Letter from the Deputy Minister of the GDR Council of Ministers to Comrade Hermann Axen, 18 July 1973

PA AA, C 6610. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the GDR asks the PRC to comply with the status of West Berlin as part of the GDR.

Letter, Ewald Moldt to the Deputy of the Minister, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic, 10 September 1975

PA AA, MfAA, C 295/73. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A letter appended to a working directive for GDR representatives in China in their efforts to further develop Sino-East German Relations.

Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the GDR, Far East Department, 'Information about Current Problems of the Domestic and Foreign Policy of the PR China,’ 10 September 1975

PA AA, MfAA, C 295/73. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report by the East German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, discussing the shifting anti-Socialist and anti-Soviet attitudes amongst Chinese leadership. The majority of focus is given to China's military and foreign policy, specifically their efforts to strengthen military capabilities and their claims to territories held by neighboring states.

Ministry for State Security of the GDR, 'Information about Some Aspects of the Domestic, Economic, and Foreign Policy of the PR China,' 5 May 1976

BStU, ZA, HV A, 124. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report given to high-level officials in the SED Central Committee and GDR Foreign Ministry. The report discusses the 'Criticize Deng' campaign, current agricultural and industrial developments in China, and China's economic relations with West Germany, Japan, and the United States. The report also provides commentary from China experts in the US State Department, discussing future perspectives for Chinese foreign policy.

Helmut Peters, 'Note about a Talk in the Department for International Relations of the Central Committee of the CPSU on 13 December 1976,' 14 December 1976

SAPMO-BA, DY 30, IV B 2/20/126. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

GDR and Soviet officials discuss possible trajectories for China following the death of Mao.

Erich Honecker to the Politburo Members of the SED, 'Information about the Situation in China and the Policy of the New Leadership of the PRC,' 17 January 1977

SAPMO-BA, DY 30, IV B 2/20/29. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

This document discusses the shift in political leadership and the instability of the government in the wake of Mao Zedong's death. It also reports on China's economic situation and the beginnings of efforts to modernize the country, as well as foreign relations, especially with the Soviet Union.

Embassy of the GDR in the USSR, Political Department, 'Note about a Meeting with Comrade Kireyev, Deputy Head of the 1st Far Eastern Department of the MID on 24 May 1977,' 31 May 1977

PA AA, C 6559. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A description of Chinese domestic policy, specifically the continuation of Maoism, differences in policy held by political leaders (Hua Guofeng and Ye Jianying), and the campaign against the Gang of Four. China's foreign policy, specifically towards the Soviet Union, USA, Japan, and India is also discussed.

Information on the Chinese Question for the Leaderships of the Fraternal Parties of the Socialist Countries, 10 June 1977

SAPMO-BA, DY 30, IV B 2/20/590. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on China's growing anti-Soviet policies since the death of Mao Zedong, the potential for a Sino-Soviet war, border disputes with the Soviet Union, and Chinese relations with the United States, Western Europe, Japan, Southeast Asia, and the "Third World." The report also discusses Soviet strategy in response to these events.

Council of Ministers of the German Democratic Republic, 'Decision on the Directive for the Negotiations to Sign an Agreement about Trade and Payment Transactions with the Government of the PR China in 1979,' 2 November 1978

BStU, ZA, HA XVIII, 8379. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A detailed overview of trade negotiations between China and East Germany.

Decisions of the NVR from 9 March 1979: Oral Report on China’s Aggression against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, 37 March 1979

BStU, ZA, AGM 369. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on the Sino-Vietnamese Conflict, outlining the military forces on both sides and a description of combat operations from 17 February to 8 March.

Ministry for State Security of the GDR, Main Department I, 'Topical Report on the Status of Reorganization and Modernization of the Chinese Armed Forces,' 3 March 1986

BStU, ZA, HA I, 14897. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A detailed report on the status of China's armed forces, including the PRC's nuclear weapons strategy.

Embassy of the GDR in the USSR, 'Information on Some Issues of China's Current Policy,' 26 March 1980

SAPMO-BA, DY 30, IV B 2/20/126. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A discussion of the 5th Plenary Session of the CCP Central Committee and power struggles within the Chinese government, China's development targets, and foreign policy strategies, especially with the Soviet Union.

Information about a Meeting of Comrade Erich Honecker with Comrade Song Jian, on 20 May 1986

BStU, ZA, HA XVIII, 18262. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Erich Honecker and Song Jian discuss increased cooperation between China and East Germany on matters of science and technology, and recent technological improvements in East Germany. Honecker also provides the East German perspective on the current nuclear situation.

Ministry for Science and Technology, ‘Report about a Visit by the State Commissar and Director of the State Science and Technology Commission of the PR China, Comrade Song Jian , in the GDR between 18 and 25 May 1986,’ 27 May 1986

BStU, ZA, HA XVIII, 18262. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Song Jian visited the GDR to discuss science and technological exchanges between East Germany and China.

Ministry for State Security of the GDR, Main Department II, 'The Domestic Policy, especially the Economic Development of the PR China, since the XIII CCP Party Congress - Status and Conclusions for the Relations between the GDR and the PR China,' May 1987

BStU, ZA, HA II, 38917. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

An extensive report on China's economic policies and development.

Note about a Meeting of Comrade Dr. Herbert Weiz with Comrade Li Peng, on 14 May 1987

BStU, ZA, HA XVIII, 18262. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Both sides report on current economic conditions in their respective countries and discuss plans for future cooperation, specifically in science and technology.

Herbert Weiz, ‘Report about the Working Visit to the PR China from 10 to 16 May 1987,’ 18 May 1987

BStU, ZA, HA XVIII, 18262. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

Weiz reports on his meetings with Zhao Ziyang, Li Peng, Song Jian, Jiang Zemin, and other Chinese leaders.

Ministry for State Security of the GDR, Main Department II, 'Statements on Some Regimen and Structural Issues of the Ministry of State Security of the PR China,' 13 October 1987

BStU, ZA, HA II, 40864. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on the structure of the Chinese Ministry of State Security and the membership of the special service.

Opinions from a Member of an Intelligence Service of the PR China Operating in the GDR under Journalistic Cover, November 1987

BStU, ZA, HA II, 40864. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

A report on information obtained from a member of the Chinese intelligence service. This report discusses the individual’s opinions on East German-Soviet relations, relations between China and East Germany and China and the Soviet Union, and economic relations between East Germany and China.

Ministry for State Security, 'Information about Aspects of the Current Domestic and Foreign Policy Situation of China,' 22 September 1989

BStU, ZA, HV A 644, 1-2. Translated by Bernd Schaefer.

An analysis of Chinese domestic policy and the future of its economy. A report is also written about Jiang Zemin, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CCP.

About the Author

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Charles Kraus

Deputy Director, History and Public Policy Program

Charles Kraus is the Deputy Director of the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center.

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