Soviet policies toward Indochina, 1949-1964. The Sino-Soviet alliance and the coming of the Indochina Wars

Led by Mari Olsen
Jan 1998 - Mar 2003

The project’s theme is Soviet perceptions of China’s role and influence in Vietnam (and Indochina), how these perceptions changed over time, and how they influenced Soviet decisionmaking toward the region.

When the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed in 1949, the Soviet Union saw an opportunity to strengthen its influence in Asia. Moscow proposed a so-called ‘division of labour’, under which China would be responsible for communism in Asia, and the Soviet Union in Europe. However, Moscow did not intend to completely give up control of the situation in Asia and, when the Sino–Soviet relationship started to deteriorate in the late 1950s, this influenced Moscow’s view of China’s role in Indochina.

The aim of this doctoral project is to describe and explain these perceptions, based on Soviet archival documents, Soviet newspapers and scholarly literature of the period. It focuses on changes in Soviet attitudes to China, the relationship between declared and practical policies, the role of the bureaucracy in influencing perceptions, the role of ideology in politics, and Soviet behaviour in alliances. The principal goal is a broader understanding of the Sino–Soviet relationship, through an analysis of its relations with Vietnam and the rest of Indochina.

The project (1998–2003) is funded by the Norwegian Research Council and supervised by Odd Arne Westad and Hilde Henriksen Waage.