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New Evidence on China’s Intent behind Its Approach to the Sino-Burmese Territorial Dispute 1954-1960

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  • IDSA Occasional Paper No. 44

    This paper features a detailed discussion of a speech by Zhou Enlai on July 9, 1957 which was meant to outline “New China's” approach to the Sino-Burmese border dispute. Hitherto available primary and secondary sources do not disclose much about the contents of this particular speech by Zhou. However, new evidence—a speech record recently discovered at China's Jiangsu Provincial Archives—reveals a substantial amount of previously unclear/unknown content of Zhou's speech. It describes in detail, for example, the departure and principles of Communist China's approach to the territorial dispute with Burma. It highlights the limited weight that Beijing attached to historical evidence and old maps in territorial negotiations. Among many other things that have not been made public previously is Zhou's unusual categorization of some of China's external behaviours in history as that of “invasion”. Last, but not least, the numerous references to other countries, especially India, suggests that the list of neighbours with whom Beijing hoped to resolve peacefully their outstanding border problem included, probably, not just Burma. Therefore, with the rich and nuanced information it contains, this speech record gives us a great opportunity to reassess previous assumptions about China's intent behind its external behaviours in the 1950s, that is, about whether the perceptions about Communist China at the time matched its real intentions.

    About the Author

    Qian Zhang attained both his BA (International Studies) and MA (International Relations and World History) degrees from University of Nottingham. Since 2012, he has studied at McGill University, Canada, under the supervision of Professor Lorenz Luthi. His dissertation project investigates Sino-Indian relations in the early Cold War period, attempting to understand especially the long-term mechanisms that led to the 1962 War. As an archive-based work, he has done extensive research at numerous archives in the world, including Library and Archives Canada (Ottawa), the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (College Park), Foreign Ministry Archive (Beijing) , the Academia Historica (Taipei), the National Archives of India (Delhi) and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (Delhi).

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