Dr. John Garver, author of China’s Quest: The History of the Foreign Relations of the People’s Republic of China, discussed his book with National Committee Vice President Jan Berris on April 14, 2016 in New York City.
When the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, China was in a state of disarray. Decades of occupation and civil war had left the country fractured and impoverished. The nation embarked on an ambitious effort to overhaul its economic and political systems. While its domestic agenda was the priority for the Communist Party of China, China had to develop a foreign policy, particularly to deal with the world’s capitalist countries in the midst of the Cold War.
With memories of the “century of humiliation” fresh in Chinese people’s minds, countering inroads of Western bourgeois liberalism was at the top of the international agenda during the early years of the PRC. As the Cold War evolved, however, so, too, did China’s foreign policy concerns. Following Stalin’s death, China’s leadership grew increasingly skeptical of the Soviet Union and the intentions of its new Premier, Nikita Khrushchev. The Sino-Soviet split exposed what author and scholar John W. Garver considers the real force shaping the PRC’s foreign policy: regime survival. While many political scientists have analyzed China’s approach to the split through a realist lens, focusing on national interest, Dr. Garver argues that de-Stalinization in the Soviet Union threatened the ideological foundation of the Chinese communist regime.