LI YINAN. Personnel Changes in the Chinese Direction of Soviet Foreign Policy in 1986


Li Yinan

Visiting Researcher,

Shanghai Academy of Global Governance & Area Studies,

Wenxiang Road, 1550, 201620 Shanghai, China;

Candidate for a Degree,

National Research University Higher School of Economics,

Malaya Ordynka St, 17, Bld. 1, 119017 Moscow, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. The subject of the study is the personnel changes carried out by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 in the framework of putting forward the improvement of Sino-Soviet relations. The object of the study is the activities of high-ranking Soviet sinologist-diplomats in the context of developing and implementing the USSR’s China policy. The purpose of the study is to determine the key figures in the diplomatic circles of the USSR who were in charge of China issues and accordingly reveal their influence on the process of normalizing Sino-Soviet relations in the second half of the 1980s.

Methods and materials. The analysis is based on the comprehensive and comparative use of the memories of witnesses to historical events in the USSR and the PRC, as well as archival documents from Russia and former socialist countries.

Analysis. Immediately after coming to power, Gorbachev began to consider the improvement of relations with China a priority of Soviet foreign policy and showed great enthusiasm for it. But Brezhnev’s foreign policy elites, including the minister of foreign affairs, two deputy foreign ministers, the first deputy head of the Department for Liaison with Communist and Workers’ Parties of Socialist Countries, and the Soviet ambassador to the PRC, did not support his efforts. For this reason, personnel changes were made. In the spirit of “new thinking”, the successors of the old Soviet sinologist-diplomats actively promoted political reconciliation with Beijing, which led to the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations in a short time.

Key words: Sino-Soviet relations, personnel changes, Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Citation. Li Yinan. Personnel Changes in the Chinese Direction of Soviet Foreign Policy in 1986. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2023, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 137-150. (in Russian). DOI:

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