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The Great Game 2

The Great Game

Ever since the Soviets and Outer Mongolia had signed a bilateral treaty in Moscow on November 5, 1921, the issue of Mongolia had been a bone of contention between the young Soviet Union and China.

Soviet’s Attempt to Persuade China

     On May 1, 1922, the Beijing government lodged a protest against this treaty with the Soviets through the Soviet special envoy in China, Alexander Parkes. The Chinese declared that although Outer Mongolia was claimed by China, the Soviet government continued the aggressive policies of Tsarist Russia.

     At that time the Chinese did not know much about the Soviet-Outer Mongolia treaty. It was only after an article published in the January issue of the magazine The Nation appeared in Chinese in Beijing that they learned the detail. The Chinese wanted clarification on Soviet intentions in Outer Mongolia. Paikes’ statement was the first clarification Beijing got from the Soviet Union on the meaning of the Karakhan Manifestos. It showed that the Soviets were committed to the 1915 Tripartite Treaty article, which granted Outer Mongolia status as ” an autonomous part of China under Russia’s influence”. After Li Gongzan, the Chinese attache proposed several versions of an Outer Mongolia settlement to Paikes, he finally secured a promise for a meeting between representatives of the Mongolian government and Chinese officials. But when Paikes insisted that Kalgan should be the site of the meeting, Li refused, for this would have meant a de facto recognition by the Chinese of Outer Mongolia’s autonomy and would have implied equality between China and Mongolia. This was unacceptable to China, and Li not only rejected any meeting with the Outer Mongolians but also urged the Soviet government to recall its envoy and to dispatch another man instead.

     In August 1922 the new Soviet representative, Adolf Joffe, arrived in Beijing and had lengthy negotiations with the Foreign Minister, Wellington Koo, on the Chinese Eastern railway and Outer Mongolia. The two sides were supposed to reach a preliminary official agreement on these two issues but never did. In his report back to Moscow, Joffe angrily stated, “Mongolia is the most difficult question in our policy toward China, but it is the only card the imperialists hold against us”. Joffe had different ideas from Yurin and Paikes, the two previous Soviet special envoys, who had tried to find a common language with China. He wanted to withdraw from the tripartite agreement and leave this backwater country, Mongolia, to China.

From Prime Minister Tserendorj’s Diary

1924, 4 June. The Soviet ambassador came to inform that the Sino-Soviet treaty had been ratified. According to the treaty, he said, Mongolia was part of China but, he added, it was only in words. The position of your government remains intact, he said. There will be no governor or military official from China coming to administer things here, so your government need not object. The Russian-Mongolian friendship had not undergone any change, he vowed.

Sino-Soviet Treaty 

     In 1924 the Russians and Chinese met in Beijing and after strenuous negotiations, the two sides reached an agreement and signed a treaty on May 31st of 1924. 

     If, in 1915, Tsarist Russia might have recognized China’s sovereignty over that land. The treaty said the Soviet Union was to recall its army from Mongolia, but the exact time of withdrawal would be fixed at a later time. The treaty of 1924 provided for the restoration of Chinese sovereignty in Outer Mongolia within six months. However, due to domestic crises in China, the supervising committee to carry this out made up to representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the Internal Ministry, was never formed. 

The Two Faces of the Soviet Union

     The Soviets were cunning with regards to the 1924 agreement. In the immediate aftermath of the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks denounced the secret treaties of the Tsarist government and declared that they would abandon imperialism in their foreign policy. Later, however, with the end of the civil war and the onset of hard times, the Soviet government realized that they couldn’t afford to renounce all the “achievements” of Tsarist foreign policy. Through the Beijing Agreement, the Soviets had gained Outer Mongolia in exchange for the Chinese Eastern Railway. Both Outer Mongolia and the Chinese Eastern Railway had always been exchange units in numerous previous Sino-Russian transactions. 

     Since then both Outer Mongolia and the Chinese Eastern Railway had always been exchange units in numerous previous Sino-Russian transactions. 

     From the time they became a political force, Soviet communists had been opponents of traditional imperialism. In reality, however, their catchphrase of “world revolution” was a new and more ambitious form of imperialism.

     To Tsarist Russia’s approach to Outer Mongolia, the Soviets added ideology. They looked upon Outer Mongolia not only as a place to disseminate their ideology but also as a place from where such dissemination could take place. Ever since 1918 they had played their double game, assuring Huree that Russia might one day recognize Outer Mongolia as an independent state, and telling Beijing that Russia respected her sovereignty over Outer Mongolia. As time went on this game got ever more confusing and almost impossible to disentangle.  

The Revolutionary Game

Zhang Zuolin’s domination of Northern China was doing a great deal of damage to Soviet control of the Chinese Eastern Railway. He needed to be driven out by the Guomindang, and the Guomindang had promised Moscow they would join in the world revolution.

     The Soviets decided to court Sun Yatsen’s revolutionaries and pending the actual coup, hinted to them that Outer Mongolia would be theirs. After Joffe visited Canton and reached an agreement with the Guomindang the Soviets began actively encouraging rapprochement between Outer Mongolia and the Guomindang. 

     Sun Yatsen sent five letters to the Mongols urging them to “come back into the family”. To say that the letters were based on China’s interests alone would be inconclusive. It is stated in the 1921 “Declaration for the people” and the “Ten Objectives” of 1923 that “If Southern China, the Sichuan region, Hoton, Manchukuo and Mongolia unite and establish a country these regions will no longer oppress one another… and will be well protected from foreign invasion”. This was not just because of the kind-heartedness of the Soviets but was in accordance with Sun Yatsen’s provisions.

     At the infamous Third Congress of the MPRP in August 1924, which took place after the Karakhan manifestos Rinchino answered questions about China:  “We shall have party contacts with Sun Yatsen,” “In order to counter the North Chinese aggressive and reactionary policies, we ought to establish contact with the people’s government of Canton in South China”. Maintaining contacts with the Guomindang is militarily and strategically important”. Upon Rinchino’s insistence, Congress adopted a “Message of the People of China” Thus the peaceful “project” of handing Mongolia over to Sun Yatsen was set in motion, everything now depending on the eventual success of the revolution. The Southern Chinese began flirting with the Mongols using revolutionary rhetoric.

     Outer Mongolian revolutionaries began encouraging revolution in Inner Mongolia by setting up revolutionary groups there. For obscure reasons the leader of the Union of Revolutionary Youth, the poet S.Buyannemeh, fled to Inner Mongolia, in disguise, and on foot and stayed there several years participating in revolutionary activity, probably on the order of Comintern. In 1925, the new Chairman of the MPRP Dambadorj reached Kalgan. He took part in the first congress of the Inner Mongolia People’s Revolutionary Party, which was held under the auspices of Marshal Feng and taught his “brothers” how to carry out a revolution. 

     The Chairman of the MPRP met Feng and discussed the matter of transferring weaponry from the Soviets through Mongolia and traveled on to Beijing and there met China’s president Duan Qirui, who proposed that the Outer Mongols live peacefully in one family with their Chinese brothers.

     Foreign Minister A.Amar also received this invitation from China’s President while in Beijing and also declined it, and instead invited the two countries to recognize each other and to co-exist peacefully.

     Amar and other MPRP representatives did conclude a secret treaty with the Guomindang. In the treaty, the MPRP assumed the responsibility to assist the transfer of weaponry to Feng’s army and supply it with horses and camels. However, the matter of persuading the Mongols remained China’s concern.   


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