Statesmen, it seems, have not thought to look into what Bible prophecy reveals about the future of Asia's biggest powers.
A new chilly period has developed in relations between the Soviet Union and China.
What does it mean?
The split between Asia's two communist giants is one of the most crucial variables in world power politics today. Strategic planners well understand that a settlement of their dispute would radically transform the entire global balance of power. A major war — presently unthinkable — between these two nuclear powers would have equally grave international repercussions. What's behind the Sino-Soviet quarrels? What lies ahead for the Soviet Union and China — yes, and even India, Japan and Southeast Asia? Newsmen and diplomats do not know.
War of Words
It was February 1950, in the midst of a freezing Russian winter. Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong) stood beaming in a Moscow railway station at the conclusion of a two-month stay in the Soviet Union. Bundled in a heavy fur coat and wearing a woolen cap, the Chairman of the Chinese People's Republic paused briefly before boarding his train to speak to the on-looking crowd. Having just concluded a mutual defense treaty with the Kremlin and having received his new nation's first foreign loan for $300 million, he confidently declared that Chinese-Soviet friendship would be "everlasting, indestructible and inalienable." It turned out to be one of history's unfulfilled predictions. By 1963, the friendship lay in ruins. Since then, Sino-Soviet relations have been on ice. Over the past two decades, the Kremlin has openly criticized aspects of Chinese policy as being "divisive" and at variance with socialist principles and standards. For their part, the Chinese have been equally critical of the Soviet model of socialism, labeling Moscow "a renegade capitalist regime." At its simplest, the central issue of the Sino-Soviet quarrel is who is going to be in charge in the communist world. The Soviet Union — the world's largest country in land area — claims ultimate supremacy within the whole communist world. China — the world's most populous country — challenges this alleged Soviet hegemony over the world communist movement by offering an alternative mother party. This ideological struggle continues throughout the world to this day. On both sides, the former days of communist solidarity are now but a dim memory.
Let's first look at the quarrel through Soviet eyes. Russia's "Chinaphobia" is by no means a recent phenomenon, nor solely a concoction of modern Kremlin thinkers. The roots of modern-day Sino-Soviet hostility extend deep into the past. Russians have never forgotten Genghis Khan's Golden Horde, and the Tatar-Mongol occupation of Russia that lasted for some 300 years. Those black years of Mongol domination are deeply rooted in Russia's historical memory. (The Mongols, of course, were not Chinese, but Russians make little distinction between the varied peoples of the East.) Diplomats in Moscow observe that the Russians are obsessed with a fear of the East. China's staggering population of one thousand million people is more than three times that of the Soviet Union! One Soviet academician once observed that, from Russia's viewpoint, their situation visa-vis China would be analogous to the United States having a thousand million Mexican neighbors — with nuclear weapons capacity! This demographic fear of China is indelibly ingrained in the Russian national consciousness. It is instinctive and possibly exaggerated — but to Russians, it is very real. The Chinese suffer from the counterpart of Russia's Sinophobia — namely, Russophobia. Invoking images of centuries past, Peking writers graphically picture the Russians as a restless people, brooding just outside the Great Wall. For years, the Chinese feared that their country might be subjected to a Czechoslovak-type invasion by the U.S.S.R. China consequently developed a civil defense system of immense scope. The Chinese citizenry was encouraged to "dig tunnels deep, store grain everywhere and prepare for war." The heated battle of words continues, with varying intensity, across the long Sino-Soviet border. Historic enmities are not easily shaken off.
Today's Sino-Soviet tensions are partly an outgrowth of a longstanding Chinese claim to vast stretches of territory now in Soviet hands in the Far East and Central Asia. These territories were ceded to Czar Alexander II of Russia by China's weak Manchu emperors more than a century ago. Peking maintains that the 19th-century territorial agreements were "unequal treaties" imposed on China by a stronger Czarist Russia. The Kremlin strongly rejects this claim, declaring that "the territories which Peking qualifies as so-called Chinese lands" were "actually never part of the Chinese state nor was their population Chinese." The history of the demarcation of the Sino-Soviet border, Moscow asserts, was "a long and complex one," and "the fact remains that Russia never seized any Chinese territory." Even the extent of China's territorial claim is not entirely clear. Over the years, figures for the size of the disputed area have ranged from 33,000 square kilometers (13,000 square miles) to 1.5 million square kilometers (577,000 square miles) — a vast area more than twice the size of Texas. Included in the disputed area are the strategic city of Vladivostok and much of the immense Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Concern over the Sino-Soviet border dispute reached its high point in March 1969. In that month, the controversy erupted into armed fighting on a disputed island in the ice-bound Ussuri River north of Vladivostok. The clash in the bleak snow-swept wilderness of eastern Asia involved at least a battalion of men on each side. It resulted in the deaths of more than 30 Soviet border guards and an unknown number of Chinese. The two nations appeared to be on a collision course, hovering close to full-scale war! In November 1972, came another border clash, this time thousands of miles to the west. It took the lives of at least five Soviet soldiers and several shepherds near the historic Dzungarian Gate. This "gate," used by Genghis Khan when he led his army into the West, is a natural mountain pass joining Soviet Kazakhstan and China's strategic Sinkiang (Xinjiang) province. In subsequent years, literally dozens of armed skirmishes have taken place in these remote disputed areas. The last round of border talks was broken off seven years ago. Some experts believe that the two nations have entered a classic prewar situation.
Major Arms Buildup
The Sino-Soviet borderlands are heavily fortified on both sides. It is estimated that the Soviet Union has nearly a third of its entire 3.7-million-man army positioned on or near the Russian-Chinese frontier. These Soviet troops are armed with the latest weapons and nuclear missiles. Also, the Soviet Union now has nearly 2,000 advanced aircraft in defensive position should a crisis occur with either China or Japan. China's military preparations are numerically impressive. China has the world's largest armed force — the 4.2-million-man People's Liberation Army. Much of its strength is concentrated near the sensitive border with the Soviet Union. And China now has missiles capable of hitting Moscow, Leningrad and other major centers in European Russia. Some military analysts believe that the preparations on the Sino-Soviet border represent the biggest arms buildup the world has ever seen!
Soviet Nuclear Blitz?
Just more than a decade ago, the Soviet Union could have attacked China with reasonable expectation of destroying her fledgling nuclear bases while running only a small risk of Chinese nuclear retaliation. A preemptive Soviet nuclear blitz against China was widely expected by military analysts at that time. But Western defense officials say today that the Soviet Union, under warning from the United States, missed its chance to destroy China's nuclear program while it was still safe to do so. China, as one observer put it, has long since "grown out of its atomic diapers." In view of Russia's diminishing nuclear advantage, diplomatic sources in Europe and Asia today virtually dismiss the possibility of a Russian preemptive strike against China. The Kremlin, they say, would not risk such a dangerous policy in the face of the present odds. True, Russia still has both qualitative and quantitative nuclear superiority. But China, apart from her nuclear factor, also has manpower! Kremlin planners realize that a vigorous Chinese counterattack would be certain — a nuclear counterattack if still possible, but unquestionably a massive land attack! The chances are high that the Soviets would quickly find themselves embroiled in a protracted "Vietnam-type" situation in China — a long conventional land war fueled by the tenaciousness and determination of the Chinese people to defend the motherland. The Chinese have publicly vowed to fight a 100-year war, if necessary, to achieve victory in any Sino-Soviet conflict that might erupt. The enemy, Peking has declared, would ultimately be "drowned in the ocean of a people's war." The specter of multiple millions of Chinese flooding across the border in a mammoth guerrilla campaign fills Kremlin strategists' nights with dread. Such a scenario is too horrible for the average Russian to contemplate. As one Western military expert observed a few years ago: "If Russia went into China, she may never come out." In his "Letter to- the Soviet Leaders," Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that a war with China would last 10 to 15 years and would cost Russia at least 60 million dead. The risks of a Soviet strike against China are clearly prohibitive. Such a war would be futile and counterproductive for all concerned. An unwanted accidental conflict — sparked by unforeseen causes and escalating quickly out of control — always remains a possibility. Such a conflict could conceivably remain non-nuclear and be limited to action in border regions. But even limited fighting of this sort is generally considered unlikely.
If war has indeed become unthinkable between the two communist superpowers, what are the prospects for reconciliation? Can the Sino-Soviet split be patched up? Twenty years of quarreling over frontiers and other issues will not quickly be put aside. But the Sino-Soviet dispute is not necessarily fixed in concrete. Indeed, both sides are well aware of the enormous advantages that could be realized by reconciliation. For both the Chinese and the Soviets, detente would allow a reduction of their crushingly burdensome military expenditures. It would also greatly bolster their leverage in the international political arena. Will it happen? And in what circumstances? A renewal of negotiations could yet eliminate the nettlesome boundary issue. The ideological issue — that of who will dominate world communism — would prove a thornier problem, though some sort of compromise or accommodation might be hammered out if sufficient motivation were present on both sides. It should be remembered that neither side has sought to sever diplomatic relations during their two-decades-long feud. Even Sino-Soviet trade has continued, totaling more than $1 billion last year. No attitude of reconciliation and understanding is apparent, however, at the moment. The rhetoric remains hot on both sides. Last July, China's Vice Foreign Minister Qian Qichen — Peking's top Kremlin specialist and chief negotiator in talks to normalize Sino-Soviet relations — returned from a fruitless trip to Moscow declaring that there had been no progress in improving ties. Shortly afterward, the official Xinhua News Agency accused the Soviet Union of increasing military tensions along its borders and of "distorting and attacking China's foreign policy." The Soviet Union was also sternly rebuked for failing to withdraw its occupation force from Afghanistan. Earlier, in May, the Soviet Union had abruptly postponed a long-planned visit to China by First Deputy Premier Ivan V. Arkhipov, the Kremlin's top economist. He was to have signed a far-reaching agreement on trade and economic cooperation with China. The Chinese were dumbfounded by the last-minute postponement. The Soviets reportedly felt that "the atmosphere was not proper" for what would have been the highest-ranking Soviet visitor to China in 15 years. In recent months, both sides have toughened their stance on numerous issues, and have engaged in furious press campaigns against each other. Many Kremlinologists and China-watchers, however, feel that both sides are privately interested in a cautious normalization of relations over the long term.
What does Bible prophecy reveal for the future of Asian relations? In numerous prophecies, the Bible points to the development of a giant Eurasian world power, linked with populous neighbors by military and/or political alliances. Almost 2,000 years ago, the aged apostle John saw in vision armies totaling 200 million men — armies that will sweep across Europe and critical battlefronts elsewhere, devastating the final restoration of the old Roman Empire that will have emerged just before the end of this age (Rev. 9:16). (Request The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last for more information.) These great armies — which could be mustered only by combining the forces of the Soviet Union and Asian allies — are also alluded to by the prophet Daniel (Dan. 11:44). He recorded that a sphere of power to the east and north of Palestine (where Soviet Russia is today) would become involved in a struggle, with the revived Roman Empire in Europe, for control of the Eastern Mediterranean. (It is explained in detail in our free booklet The Middle East In Prophecy.) The role of the Soviet Union and potential allies is also mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel, in chapters 38 and 39. Here is a lengthy prophecy that will not be fulfilled until shortly after the returning Jesus Christ restores the kingdom of God to this earth, with its new world capital at Jerusalem. Consider, now, how political alliances in Eurasia might come into being. The Soviet Union has a longstanding fear of one day being caught up in a two-front war — a simultaneous conflict with both Europe and China. Kremlin planners will do virtually anything to prevent that dire prospect. Worsening relations with China on her eastern flank, coupled with Eastern Europe's severe drain on Soviet economic and military resources, could eventually make it necessary for the Soviet Union to loosen its hold on Eastern Europe. The Kremlin may have to strike a political deal that would bring about the withdrawal of its military forces from Eastern Europe, for duty in Asia, and allow countries from Eastern Europe to associate themselves with the evolving West European union. This would create the circumstances necessary for the final emergence of a United Europe — the final restoration of the Roman Empire — as a major world power. Already, Moscow's buildup of military forces along the Chinese border has weakened her strategic position in Europe and undermined her control over Eastern Europe. But any such Russo-European "accommodation" would not last. Ultimately, as the prophesied United Europe rises to global super-powerdom, a fearful Kremlin would be forced to settle its differences with China — to be free to deal with rising European religious, political and military leadership. However it happens, Russia and Asian neighbors will ultimately find themselves in some degree joining forces out of necessity to confront a power they perceive as threatening the survival of world communism. Future developments in Soviet-Chinese and Sino-Indian relations will have profound and far-reaching repercussions for the entire world. Their relationships will play a large part in molding the shape of world events as the final years of this age draw near.