Skip to main content
Blog post

Lions and (More) Paper Tigers: Additional Documents from Long Live Mao Zedong Thought

Chinese-language documents from the publication "Long Live Mao Zedong Thought" depict Mao's views of the Soviet Union, the United States, the atomic bomb, and other areas of Chinese foreign policy in the 1950s and 1960s.

Thirty-two additional Chinese-language documents from Long Live Mao Zedong Thought have just been published on the Chinese Foreign Policy Database

In a previous blog post, I introduced records of 58 conversations between Mao Zedong and foreign visitors to China, which Red Guards collected during the Cultural Revolution. Since many other materials from Long Live Mao Zedong Thought also pertain to the study of PRC foreign relations, I next sifted through the volumes to identify more documents about foreign affairs. In the end, I selected another 29 speeches, letters, and commentaries written by Mao, as well as two letters and one order that the PRC Minister of Defense, Marshal Peng Dehuai, issued during the Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1958. 

The newly added Chinese-language documents all feature descriptive English-language metadata. Synopses with authorship, subject, and geographic tags not only provide important context but enhance the discoverability of these records and orient individual documents in relation to others. Such details allow users to search for alternate versions of these foreign policy writings, which they may then verify or examine further. For example, readers may wish to compare the Chinese text of the “Statement of Support for Black Americans’ Struggle Against Violence” with the English translation that the Peking Review published on April 19, 1968.

The 32 writings of Mao Zedong and Peng Dehuai date from December 1949 through April 1968. Over these 18 years, Mao discussed a variety of geopolitical topics that both concerned and bolstered the Chinese communist struggle. Significantly, the documents begin with a clear glimpse of the Sino-Soviet friendship, when Mao honored Stalin and delivered a speech for his 70th birthday celebration in Moscow in December 1949. Documents from later years then capture the ensuing Sino-Soviet feud. By 1956, Mao felt the need to defend Stalin against criticisms from Nikita Khrushchev. According to an excerpt from “The Origin and Development of the Differences between the Leadership of the CPSU and Ourselves,” he did so in at least four conversations with Anastas Mikoyan, who became First Deputy Premier under Khrushchev, and with the Soviet Ambassador to China.

While the documents mark the shifts that occurred in Sino-Soviet relations, they also reveal the stability of Chinese opposition to American imperialism during the 1950s and 1960s. Mao often referred to the United States in both his conversations with foreign guests and in his other writings. On the one hand, during the 1960s, Mao predictably condemned the United States for waging a war in Southeast Asia (see, for example, his statement about imperialist aggression in South Vietnam).On the other hand, the specter of American imperialism impacted China’s relations with nearly every country, from Japan to Panama. In 1959, he even mentioned the United States in his comments on the draft of a speech for Pan Zili, China’s ambassador to India. 

Furthermore, just as he did in conversations with foreign guests, Mao described imperialists and reactionaries as “dead, paper, and tofu tigers.” China needed to wage class struggle against them because they were backward and decidedly un-revolutionary.

Both letters that Peng Dehuai addressed to “compatriots” in Taiwan and on the outlying islands of Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu followed the example that Mao set when he wrote about the United States. In the first letter, Peng urged the Nationalists (Kuomintang, or KMT) to negotiate with the CCP, arguing that the United States would eventually abandon Taiwan. Peng then ordered members of the People’s Liberation Army stationed on the coast of Fujian province to pause their bombardments for two weeks so that they could evaluate the situation at hand. Finally, a follow-up letter for the Nationalists reinforced the point from Peng’s first missive with a direct warning that the United States wanted to create “Two Chinas” through coercion. According to Peng (and, by extension, Mao), taking steps to resolve the Chinese Civil War between the KMT and the CCP would help thwart the machinations of the American imperialists.

Other documents in the collection touch on subjects such as the atomic bomb, Tibet, China’s relations with Albania, and the Chinese People’s Volunteers (CPV) who fought in Korea.

In assessing the main themes of these 32 documents, we can perceive the clear ways in which they mirror Mao’s conversations with foreign guests. Once again, “Mao Zedong Thought” remained consistent.

About the Author

Shelley Zhou

Research Assistant, History and Public Policy Program

Shelley Zhou is a fall 2020 research assistant for the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. She received her MA and BA degrees in History from the University of Kentucky.

Read More

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program strives to make public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, to facilitate scholarship based on those records, and to use these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

Cold War International History Project

The Cold War International History Project supports the full and prompt release of historical materials by governments on all sides of the Cold War. Through an award winning Digital Archive, the Project allows scholars, journalists, students, and the interested public to reassess the Cold War and its many contemporary legacies. It is part of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program.  Read more