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  • Sino-Soviet Relations, Decolonization, and the Global Cold War
  • Austin Jersild
Jeremy Friedman, Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World. 304pp. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. ISBN-13 978-1469623764. $35.00.
Leslie James and Elisabeth Leake, eds., Decolonization and the Cold War: Negotiating Independence. 328pp. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. ISBN-13 978-1472571205. $39.95.

These two books broaden our understanding of the parameters of the Cold War, place the problem of imperialism at the center of study, and suggest similarities between the Soviet Union and the United States in the decolonizing world. The Cold War and decolonization intersected with each other, as Leslie James and Elisabeth Leake emphasize in the introduction to their edited volume, and were never “isolated, parallel phenomena.” The ideological battle between the United States and the Soviet Union—or their contrasting “imaginative projects” about social structures, economies, political systems, and culture—was central to the Cold War and shaped the Global South as well (2). While both the Soviet Union and the United States, in different ways, drew on histories of opposition to imperialism, “each also negotiated complicated past and present projects of empire” (7). Contributors to Decolonization and the Cold War explore fascinating episodes and individuals, from Lebanon to the Congo, illustrative of the two intersecting histories. Perhaps the loudest accusations of imperialism came from the Chinese, who claimed special solidarity with the Global South against the twin threats of Western imperialism and “socialist imperialism.” The Sino-Soviet rivalry in global context is the subject of the excellent book by Jeremy Friedman. [End Page 217]

The United States and the Soviet Union both expected high levels of conformity to their “models of development,” explains Simon Toner in his study of agricultural programs in Vietnam. Both North and South Vietnam interacted with their superpower patrons to envision “the state guiding a malleable peasantry to serve its economic interests” (43–44).1 “Developmentalist thinking,” argues Benjamin Siegel in his study of assistance programs in India, crossed “national borders and Iron Curtains” (23). The two superpowers both accorded a significant role to state planning and guidance in the process of development, a vision generally appealing to numerous state builders in the decolonizing states, according to Siegel and Ryan M. Irwin (21–42, 208).

Imperial impulses and Cold War anxieties connected parts of the otherwise distant globe. Moshik Temkin describes the visit and expulsion of Malcolm X by the French in February 1965 as an example of their use of travel control to insulate France from decolonization. The travels of the African American activist in 1964 included visits to Mecca in Saudi Arabia and to postcolonial leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Gamal Abdel-Nasser of Egypt, and Sékou Touré of Guinea (223). Regarding the Soviet Union, Hanna Jensen draws on the extensive literature on the Soviet ethno-territorial state to explore the work and ideas of B. G. Gafurov, the director of the Institute for Oriental Studies in Moscow. One of Gafurov’s main interests was to show cultural and historic connections of the Tajiks to Persio-Islamic civilization. This approach served to “strengthen the image of the Soviet Union as a benefactor of foreign diaspora communities and as a homeland for ‘liberated’ minority nations abroad,” argues Jensen (150).

The Global South was far from passive in its reception and reworking of imperial or neo-imperial programs, and regional responses to the Cold War were shaped by local dilemmas. The Lebanese thinker and politician Charles Malik, argues Andrew Arsan, creatively managed to “refashion and manipulate the discursive and material forces of the Cold War” (112). William Carruthers explores how Egyptian archaeologists at Mit Rahina (ancient Memphis) helped shape notions about Egypt’s future and the meaning of decolonization (167–82). Anna Belogurova traces how ethnically Chinese migrants in radical political organizations in Malaya under British dominion evolved to articulate a vision of a multiethnic and independent Malayan nation (125–44). Security officials in Pakistan and India, explains Paul McGarr, frequently manipulated their counterparts at MI5 and the CIA [End Page 218] and were thus far from “unwitting victims of Western intelligence” (297). Like the Chinese after 1958, sometimes...


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