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How did China's foreign policy evolve from 1949 to 1976?

China's foreign policy from 1949 to 1976 evolved from isolationism to a more open and pragmatic approach.

In 1949, the People's Republic of China (PRC) was established under the leadership of Mao Zedong. Initially, China adopted an isolationist foreign policy, largely due to the ideological differences with the West and the ongoing Cold War. The PRC aligned itself with the Soviet Union, sharing a common communist ideology. This period was characterised by the signing of the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance in 1950, which solidified their alliance.

However, the Sino-Soviet split in the late 1950s and early 1960s marked a significant shift in China's foreign policy. Ideological and strategic differences led to a breakdown in the relationship between the two communist powers. China began to distance itself from the Soviet model and sought to establish its own path to socialism. This period also saw China's attempts to increase its influence in the developing world, particularly in Africa and Asia, as part of its 'Third World' strategy.

The 1970s marked another significant shift in China's foreign policy. The PRC began to adopt a more pragmatic approach, prioritising national interest over ideological considerations. This was evident in the rapprochement with the United States, culminating in President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972. This move was largely driven by China's desire to counter the Soviet threat and to gain international recognition.

Furthermore, China sought to gain a greater role in international organisations. In 1971, the PRC replaced the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the representative of China in the United Nations. This marked a significant step in China's efforts to gain international legitimacy and recognition.

In summary, China's foreign policy from 1949 to 1976 evolved significantly, from initial alignment with the Soviet Union and isolation from the West, to a more independent and pragmatic approach, seeking international recognition and prioritising national interest.

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