End of Empire100 days in 1945 that changed Asia and the world.

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  • Sino-Soviet friendship and Outer Mongolia



    0814.16Joseph Stalin in 1945



    0814.55Soong Tse-ven, Chinese Ambassador to the Soviet Union. T.V. Soong is believed to have been the world's richest man at the time. He is also the brother of the three Soong sisters, one of whom married Chiang Kai-shek, another Mao Tse-tung and a third Hong Kong entrepreneur H.H. Kung.





    0814.11Mao Tse-tung, ca 1950

    Bruce A. Elleman

    ‘The status quo in Outer-Mongolia (the Mongolian People’s Republic) shall be preserved.’ This Outer Mongolia clause agreed at Yalta has been blamed for helping Stalin pressure Chiang Kai-shek into granting Outer Mongolian independence. Chinese scholars blame Roosevelt for giving Stalin a powerful pretext for encroaching on Chinese national interests Western scholars even claim that Yalta demanded that the future of Outer Mongolia be settled by popular referendum. They are mistaken. In fact, the United States supported the Chinese interpretation. As the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow testified years later, Roosevelt had believed status quo meant Outer Mongolia was an integral part of China, as agreed in the 31 May 1924 Sino–Soviet treaty. Harriman further testified that once Sino–Soviet negotiations began, ‘Stalin, at the outset, made demands that went substantially beyond the Yalta understanding.’ (See also Mongolian independence and the United States)

    T.V. Soong, Chiang’s brother-in-law as well as China’s official envoy to Moscow during the 1945 Sino–Soviet negotiations, defended Washington’s definition of status quo in talks with Stalin: ‘When I left Washington I had no idea that Outer Mongolia question would be a problem … I said status quo was that juridical sovereignty remains with China.’ But Soviet Foreign Minister V. M. Molotov demanded that Chiang recognize Outer Mongolia’s independence: ‘It’s our formula. They signed. I am prepared to repeat that. … Independence was meant.’ Molotov was referring to the fact that since November 1924, six months after the treaty to which the Washington and Peking referred, Outer Mongolia declared itself ‘independent’ and could accurately be described as a Soviet puppet state. Sino–Soviet negotiations deadlocked.

    Chiang’s agreement to grant Outer Mongolian independence was made only after Stalin pledged that Soviet aid would be given only to the Nationalists. Thus, Chiang traded Outer Mongolian independence for Stalin’s promise not to support Chinese Communists. According to the 14 August 1945 Sino–Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, ‘the Government of the USSR agrees to render to China moral support and aid in military supplies and other material resources, such support and aid to be entirely given to the National Government as the Central Government of China.’ Recently, S.C.M. Paine (2012) has demonstrated that Roosevelt did not betray China, but that ‘Chiang Kai-shek traded Chinese sovereignty over Outer Mongolia for the return of Manchuria.’

    Chiang also suggested holding a face-saving plebiscite. According to Soong, it would be ‘more convenient for Chinese Government to confront Chinese people if there is a plebiscite.’ This plebiscite was merely for form’s sake, however, and Chiang did not dispute the results when it was reported that 98.14% of Outer Mongolia’s electorate voted in the plebiscite, virtually all of them for independence. The Nationalist government thereafter recognized Outer Mongolia’s independence on 1 January 1946. When the People’s Republic of China was formed in 1949, the Chinese Communists expected to regain Outer Mongolia. In 1936, Edgar Snow even quoted Mao Zedong: ‘When the people’s revolution has been victorious in China, the Outer Mongolian republic will automatically become a part of the Chinese federation, at their own will.’ There is no reason to believe that Mao’s position changed after he rose to power in 1949. Nonetheless, during Sino–Soviet negotiations conducted in Moscow during early 1950, Stalin refused to discuss this issue with Mao. As a result, Outer Mongolia remained little more than a Soviet puppet state through till the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s.

    See also Atwood 2005

    Bruce A. Elleman is William V. Pratt Professor of International History, US Naval War College



    0814.9Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang Kai-shek with Gen. Joseph Stilwell in Burma (1942)





    0814.1Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, signs the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance in Moscow on 14 August 1945, Soong Tse-ven standing to the left of Joseph Stalin.  (World War II Database, Peter Chen)






    Text of the 1945 Sino–Soviet Friendship Treaty

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