Unequal Partners

The exceptional work of a Russian, an American, and a Chinese political scientist, UNEQUAL PARTNERS presents in great detail the multifaceted and ambiguous relationship between Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his Chinese counterpart, Mao Zedong. Working with many previously unavailable, or untranslated, documents (which they reproduce in an appendix that scholars will find extremely valuable), and incorporating interviews conducted with surviving key players, the three authors show convincingly how, after an extremely rocky start, the two Communist leaders forged an unequal alliance.

A few months after the signing of the Sino-Soviet Treaty in February of 1950, the authors demonstrate in chilling detail how Stalin and Mao put their partnership to the ultimate test. Reluctantly, both men allow North Korea’s leader Kim Il Sung to attack the South, regardless of the presence of American troops there.

As UNEQUAL PARTNERS reveals, the Korean War gradually changed the partnership between Stalin and Mao. Dealing from a position of superior strength, Stalin had considered Mao his junior partner, and even included a deeply humiliating secret agreement in their treaty, the existence of which Goncharov confirmed to the West in 1989. The defeat of the North Koreans by the Americans influenced Mao to send to Korea his Chinese “Volunteers”—a process analyzed in rewarding detail. Mao’s bold action earned him Stalin’s respect, and balanced their partnership.

One crucial weakness of UNEQUAL PARTNERS for the general reader is the omission of any description of the Korean War itself. After the careful study of the Communists’ decision to go to war, one would have expected more.

For a reader reasonably familiar with the Korean War, UNEQUAL PARTNERS offers a fascinating, well-documented look behind the facade of Communist unity which reveals a quite different world of inequality, intrigue, and an aggressive jockeying for positions between the leaders of the two largest Communist nations.