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POLISH-CHINESE POLITICAL RELATIONS
Direct contacts between Poland and China date back to the 17th century and the activities of Micha Boym (1612-1659) and other Polish missionaries in China. It is only since the early decades of the 20th century, however, that one can speak of closer political relations between Poland and China.
China recognized Polish independence quite late, on 27 March 1920. Initially the only Polish representative office was the consulate in Shanghai, then another consulate was opened in Harbin. It was only in March 1929 that Polish embassy was created, accredited with the government of the Republic of China in Nanjing (then moved with it to Chongqing in 1937).
On 5 July 1945 the government of the Republic of China withdrew its recognition of the Polish government in exile and acknowledged the Interim Government of National Unity in Warsaw. Like other diplomatic representations at the time of the war with Japan, the embassy representing the new authorities in Warsaw was moved to the Republic’s historical capital – Nanjing. On October 4, 1949, shortly after the victory of the communist revolution and the proclamation of the PRC, the representative of the Embassy of the Republic of China in Warsaw was called to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and informed that due to the developments in China, the government in Guangzhou lost its title to represent the interests of the Chinese nation. Hence, the diplomatic relations between Poland and the government in Guangzhou ceased to exist.
On behalf of the government of People's Republic of Poland (PRP), the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to the Prime Minister of the Administrative Council and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of PRC Zhou Enlai proposing the establishment of diplomatic relations on the embassy level.
The response from Prime Minister Zhou Enlai arrived in Warsaw on October 7 which became the official date of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the PRP and PRC. Poland was the second country, just after the Soviet Union, to open its diplomatic representation with the new authorities in China. The first Chargé d'Affaires – Jan Jerzy Piankowski, was appointed to this position on October 27, 1949, and launched the new Polish diplomatic mission in Beijing on November 23..
The first Polish Ambassador in the PRC, colonel Juliusz Burgin, presented his credentials to Chairman Mao Zedong on June 12, 1950. The first Ambassador of the PRC in Warsaw, appointed at the beginning of 1950, was general Peng Mingzhi. China was keen on opening its second embassy - after USSR - in Poland, one the largest countries in the socialist camp.
Among guests during first national day receptions in 1950 were: Chairman Mao Zedong (first and only time), Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, head of the PLA general Zhu De and other high ranking party and state officials – in the Embassy of Poland in Beijing, as well as President Bolesław Bierut, Prime Minister Józef Cyrankiewicz and the most influential members of the Political Bureau Jakub Berman and Hilary Minc - in the PRC’s Embassy in Warsaw. Both countries also opened General Consulates.
The degree of subordination to Moscow and gigantic domestic problems faced by both countries both had a major impact on the Polish-Chinese relations in the first half of the 1950s. Despite the enormous scale of tasks that both Poland and China were facing in the post-war period, their geographical distance, as well as civilization and cultural differences, their bilateral relations developed smoothly, especially in the cultural field.
Polish-Chinese political contacts were inaugurated by the visit of Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the PRC Zhou Enlai in Poland on his way back from the Geneva Conference (26-28 July 1954). It was at that time a very significant event. The Chinese side praised the active role played by the Polish during the Geneva Conference. The Chinese interest in Poland rose due to the Polish participation in the International Control and Supervisory and Repatriation Committees in Korea (since 1953) and in the International Control and Supervisory Committee in Indochina. The interest contributed to broadening of the Sino-Polish cooperation on the international scene and brought about closer bilateral ties. Soon contacts at the highest level followed. Polish delegation headed by the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party, Bolesław Bierut (28.09-10.10.1954 ) took part in the celebrations of the 5th anniversary of of the PRC and held talks with Chinese leaders.
In May 1955 the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense of the PRC Marshal Peng Dehuai took part as an observer at the conference of seven countries of the Eastern bloc in May 1955 – during which Warsaw Pact was set up.
Probably the most important event in our relations in the 50s was a visit in the PRC of the delegation of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party (PUWP) led by first secretary Edward Ochab, which took part in the 8th CPC Congress and met with Chinese leaders (September 1956). This greatly influenced the attitude of the PRC leaders towards the events in Poland in October of the same year. After the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and October events in 1956 the Sino-Polish ties underwent an evolution due to more equal relations between Moscow and Beijing. Another visit by the Prime Minister Zhou Enlai in Warsaw (11-17 January 1957) and his talks with new leaders of the Central Committee of the PUWP led by W. Gomułka had an important impact on the ties. In the end, after a heated discussion, a common statement was issued. In the document, Prime Minister Zhou Enlai - on behalf of the PRC government - backed the Polish claims concerning Poland’s border with Germany. Nevertheless, it was evident from the talks that important discrepancies had emerged in positions of both sides concerning socio-economic policies. The underlying cause of the divide was the upcoming change in the course of Chinese internal politics, ultimately resulting in the Great Leap Forward.
Along with growing tensions and differences between Moscow and Beijing, as well as the introduction of the Great Leap Forward policies in China, the political relations between Poland and the PRC lost their dynamics. Polish leaders, especially W. Gomułka, were very negative in their assessment of CPC’s policies, both socio-economic and foreign.
In the early 60s the bilateral economic cooperation has almost ceased as a result of growing internal problems in China. In the period from 1962 to 1969 Warsaw and Beijing took fundamentally different stands on crucial socio-economic as well as foreign policy issues. In the first half of 60s mutual relations were gradually getting more limited, the range of cooperation was narrowed and the level of relations was lowered. After the start of Cultural Revolution in China the Chinese side severed all political relations at party and state level. In 1967, after the Chinese ambassador was recalled from Poland, the level of diplomatic missions was lowered. Cooperation and contacts in all sectors were stopped.
The start of the “reform and opening-up policy” in 1978 brought about important changes in Chinese foreign policy. There was a gradual normalization of relations with countries like Poland. The official signal of change was a sentence that for the first time in two decades appeared in the expose of the Chinese Prime Minister during a session of National People's Congress in 1983. Zhao Ziyang said that Chinese people share a feeling of friendship towards Eastern European nations , admire their achievements and experience in socialism building as well as their progress in various areas of bilateral relations. For Poland the most important aspect of this change was strong Chinese opposition to a potential Soviet military intervention in our country in 1981. In reaction to sanctions imposed against the People's Republic of Poland by the U.S. administration, China side gave Poland financial assistance in order to improve a dramatic situation concerning food supply. Polish authorities and diplomats tried to facilitate normalization of ties between Beijing and Moscow.
In May 1983 the Deputy Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China Qian Qichen paid the first “unofficial” visit to Warsaw for 20 years. Views on international situation were exchanged and prospects for development of bilateral relations discussed. This visit prepared the ground for the first meeting of Polish and Chinese foreign ministers in 21 years - during an annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in autumn 1983. In 1985 the Deputy Foreign Minister of the PRP Ernest Kucza paid an official visit to Beijing.
An important moment in our mutual relations was the 40th anniversary of the Manifesto of the Polish Committee of National Liberation when the Deputy Prime Minister Tian Jiyun, the Foreign Minister Wu Xueqian as well heads of other ministries participated in the reception at the Polish Embassy in Beijing. The Chinese National Day was celebrated at a similar level in Warsaw. Official visits paid by the Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Obodowski in China in March 1985 and a revisit paid by the Deputy Prime Minister Li Peng in Poland in May of the same year were of great importance adding dynamics to the bilateral relations.
The process of normalization of Polish-Chinese relations in the 80. was completed when the then chairman of the State Council general Wojciech Jaruzelski visited China in September 1986 by. During his visit to China Jaruzelski met top chiense leaders – Mr. Deng Xiaoping, Chairman of the PRC Li Xiannian, Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang and CPC Secretary General Hu Yaobang.
In 1987 Chinese Prime Minister Zhao Ziyang paid an official state visit to Poland. In the summer of 1988 his Polish counterpart Zbigniew Messner visited China. As a result of his visit both sides signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of agriculture, electronics, mining, energy and fishery.
The turn of the decade witnessed a decline in the dynamics of Poland’s relations with China and other Asian countries. Main Asian partners paid a close attention to the developments in Poland waiting to see the confirmation of political and economic changes. Starting from 1991 political dialogue and political relations with main partners in Asia were gradually restored. In 1991 foreign ministers of the two countries (Mr. Qian Qichen and Mr. Krzysztof Skubiszewski) as well as Chinese and Polish ministers for foreign economic cooperation exchanged bilateral visits. Regular political consultations on the level of undersecretaries of state were established at that time. Contacts between the parliaments of the two countries were also restored in the year 1991. In 1993 deputy prime ministers of Poland and China, Mr. Henryk Goryszewski and Mr. Zou Jiahua exchanged visits which resulted in signing of the new agreement on economic and trade relations between the two countries.
Polish Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak visited China in September of 1994. The fact that he met with the President of the PRC Jiang Zemin and the Prime Minister Li Peng was a sign of high importance attached to the visit by the Chinese side. It was a great success of the visit that the Chinese side for the first time expressed its understanding for Polish activities towards political and economic integration with the EU as well as Poland’s membership in NATO.
In November of 1997 Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski paid an official visit to China – the first Polish head of state to do so in 38 years. During the visit the leaders of both countries signed “The Joint Communique of the People’s Republic of China and The Republic of Poland”. In December of 2000 the Minister of Forign Affairs of China Tang Jiaxuan paid an official visit to Poland. During his talks with President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, the Marshal of Sejm Maciej Plazynski and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Wladyslaw Bartoszewski both sides confirmed their interest in developing equal, pragmatic and mutually beneficial relations taking into consideration new external and internal conditions of both countries. Both Poland and China expressed their willingness to revitalize bilateral contacts and exchanges in all fields: governmental, parliamentary, scientific and cultural.
The visit of the President of PRC to Poland in 2004 crowned the period of constructing new Sino-Polish relations after the political changes of 1989. During the visit Presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Hu Jintao signed “The Common Statement between the Republic of Poland and the People’s Republic of China”. The document has become the framework for the bilateral relations in the present period.
The positive momentum was reinforced by several high-ranking bilateral exchanges including – among others -the visits of the Prime Minister Mr. Donald Tusk and the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Poland Mr. Grzegorz Schetyna to China, as well as Chairman of the National People’s Congress Mr. Wu Bangguo, the Chairman of the Chinese People Political Consultative Conference Mr. Jia Qinglin, and a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of CPC CC Mr. He Guoqiang to Poland.
The state visit of the President of Poland Mr. Bronisław Komorowski to China in December 2011 became another threshold in the history of Polish-Sino relations. In the common statement signed by President Komorowski and President Hu Jintao both countries agreed to lift their relations to the level of strategic partnership.
A number of important agreements were also signed during the visit, Including a memorandum of understanding considering the mutual opening of culture centers in both countries and an agreement on cooperation in the area of higher education.