Zhou Enlai (b.1898) had been a man of the world for a long time when he became Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the new China in 1949. He had come to France in 1920 on what was supposed to be a work-study tour. Already a Marxist, he spent the next four years as an organizer of groups of Chinese students and workers in France and Germany and ferrying some of them through to the Soviet Union for training in the art of revolution. Another young Chinese similarly active was Deng Xiaoping. On his return to China, Zhou found himself navigating the twists and turns of the relationship between the Kuomintang and the Communists in the 1920s and 1930s. It was Communism as perceived by the world of the Comintern which initially guided his path. However, he backed Mao Zedong — who had not been so trained — for the party leadership in the mid-1930s. That support is sometimes seen to have been crucial. After 1937, until the end of the war, he was most often found in Chongqing in a pivotal role handling Communist relations with the Nationalist government there. At the end of the war, too, he was a key figure in the talks which the Americans hoped would produce a negotiated solution avoiding civil war. In 1946, in China, General George Marshall worked hard to this end, but to no avail. Stalin had also lent a hand, concluding a ‘treaty of friendship and alliance’ with Chiang Kai-shek which also brought him territorial concessions. In 1947, judged by their clear superiority in men and materials a Nationalist victory looked probable. However, weakened by corruption, defection and loss of morale, Nationalists lost ground inexorably. Chiang took his government and as much of his army as he could manage to the island of Formosa/Taiwan (it had been returned to China by Japan in 1945). He still proclaimed himself to be the legitimate government of China and still occupied the Chinese seat on the Security Council. He had the support of the USA.
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