Our 2016 alum Yifan Song worked with former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union for his graduate thesis.
Over the course of Yifan’s senior year (2017-18), he worked on his thesis about the American Cold War perception of Chinese-Soviet relations between 1944 and 1963. His advisor is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock. With a diplomatic and academic career spanning the entirety of the Cold War, Ambassador Matlock is perhaps the most suitable advisor he could have for his thesis. His research included perusing through declassified government documents such as diplomatic papers and CIA reports.
In the beginning of his thesis, he ask the fundamental question why it took the U.S. so long to realize problems in the Chinese-Soviet relationship that would eventually culminate in the Sino-Soviet Split? In short, a combination of factors such as the Chinese intervention in the Korean War, America’s militarized Cold War grand strategy, and McCarthy’s anticommunist hysteria led many in the U.S. government to adopt a monolithic view of communism. Hence, China and the Soviet Union were thought of as inseparable allies. Over time, misconceptions of communism would be dropped and the U.S. government would gradually come to realize Sino-Soviet discord that led to a split. Ultimately, the Sino-Soviet Split has significant ramifications for U.S. foreign policy. It was the foundation for Nixon and Kissinger’s rapprochement with China beginning in 1971-72. The lessons learned from assessing Chinese-Soviet relations are still relevant to this day as the U.S., China, and Russia are still the three foremost powers in the world.