At this writing there remain a few additional observations to be made, but no serious modification of the original idea seems necessary on the basis of events of the past week.
The explanation of the Strong incident which seems to cover most of the known facts is that her arrest as a spy by the Russian police is an incident in the silent struggle between Russian imperialist objectives in China and the needs of the Chinese Communist Party. There have long been indications of difficulties between the two. The Strong incident is the first public declaration by Moscow of its determination and a warning to the Chinese and all Communist Parties.
Russian expansion in Asia has already dismembered large parts of China. At Yalta it received special privileges in Manchuria. There are indications that the Russians have established a stranglehold over Manchurian economy. But this also creates undue problems and difficulties for the Chinese Stalinists. For Manchuria, containing 75 to 85 per cent of all China’s industries, is the biggest prize in China, and without it Chinese economy is reduced to complete dependency.
There have been rumours of conflict for several years now between Russian and Chinese Stalinist policies. So much so that when the Russians marched into Manchuria in 1945 they brought with them “their own Chinese” under the leadership of Li Li-san, one time head of the Chinese party, who has since taken a post in top leadership and is key liaison man with the Russians.
The rumour will not lie down that General Lin Piao, chief of the Chinese CP armies in Manchuria, is also part of the Russian group. Li is assigned to his staff. His army of 300,000 is the best equipped of all Chinese armies. He seems to have replaced the Chinese veteran Chu Teh, Mao Tze-tung’s closest associate. Russian ambition seems to aim at a pan-Mongol and pan-Turk buffer zone extending from the Japan Sea to the Persian Gulf. As part of this vast and far-flung internal projection it comes into conflict with Chinese Stalinism in Manchuria, Sinkiang and possibly North China.
Miss Strong has been most closely identified with the Chinese party in recent years. Indeed she is the only propagandist to have travelled throughout Manchuria in the postwar period and the only one to have had frequent interviews with the entire top leadership of the Chinese party. In an essay entitled “The Thought of Mao Tze-tung” and in her most recent book, “Tomorrow’s China,” she reports extensively on the Chinese leadership. Indeed, A L Strong had become the international publicist of the Chinese party.
If any more evidence of this were needed, the publication by Borba, Yugoslav CP organ, of its exchange with the Soviet Information Bureau on Miss Strong’s book would be enough. The Yugoslav release quotes a letter from Miss Strong as follows: “I want to point out certain publishing changes that were made in Moscow by the editor of the Soviet Information Bureau. I do not have time to send you personally those changes, but the Soviet information Bureau will send you a copy through their representative in Belgrade.” Which means that up till a few months ago Miss Strong released her material on China through Russian propaganda agencies and her “notoriety,” as Tass described her in its announcement of her arrest as a spy, is rather of recent origin.
We wonder what the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy, US front organisation which published her book here, will have to say at this bold description of the book as a Stalinist handout. This particular organisation has circled some eminent persons — T A Bisson, Harrison Forman, Stanley Isaacs, Michael Straight. Arthur U Pope, Freda Kirchwey, Leland Stowe and numerous other obvious non-Stalinists.
The Yugoslav release brings us back to the question for whom could Miss Strong have been an agent? Surely not for the US. She is not even accused of that. Borba printed its revelations in answer to implied accusations that Yugoslavia had been the source for Miss Strong’s espionage. Whatever sub-service information exists, it seems infinitely more likely from available data that she was an agent of the Chinese Communist Party, not as a spy, but an agent for its policies or a protagonist of its leadership, and as such came into conflict and became a symbol of the conflict with Russian ambitions in China.
It is interesting, however, that Moscow should be tainting her, ever so lightly, it is true, with Titoism. For it is just this tendency in the Chinese party — its desire to organise a strong, unified China — that is at issue. This is not yet Titoism. It has a long way to go for that. That is why Miss Strong’s arrest must be viewed as a warning rather than a broadside. Nationalist tendencies in the multiform Russian empire may take more varied forms than Tito has shown and the single connotation of Titoism will not be broad enough to include them all.
An iron curtain has rung down over Manchuria. Correspondents are excluded; reports are scarce. A silent battle is raging there which may be of greater importance for the future of China than the Yangtze front. It is a war waged in camera between factions for strategic positions. But its ferocity should not be discounted. The prize is enormous. Like all differences in Stalinism, it is waged in the top committees only, in semi-conspiratorial fashion. That is the anatomy of Stalinist inner politics.
February 28, 1949