Since 1956—after Nikita Khrushchev denounced Joseph Stalin and Stalinism—China and Russia had progressively disagreed and diverged about orthodox interpretation of Marxist ideology. By 1961, intractable differences of philosophy provoked the Communist Party of China to formally denounce Soviet communism as the product of "Revisionist Traitors". The Sino-Soviet split was about who would lead the revolution of world communism—to whom, China or Russia, would the vanguard parties of the world turn for aid and assistance? In that vein, the USSR and the PRC competed for ideological leadership through their respective networks of communist parties in the countries of their spheres of influence.
Geopolitically, the Sino-Soviet split was a pivotal event of the bi-polar Cold War (1945–1991) as important as the Berlin Wall (1961), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) and the Vietnam War (1965–1975) because it facilitated the Sino-American rapprochement of the 1972 Nixon visit to China. Internationally, the geopolitical rivalry between communists—Chinese Stalinism and Russian peaceful coexistence—eliminated the myth that monolithic Communism was an actor in the 1947–1950 period of the Vietnam War and in world politics—such Realpolitik established the tri-polar geopolitics of the latter part of the Cold War.
In taking Communism to China, the leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Mao Zedong, fought against Imperial Japan, and especially the Chinese Civil War (1927–1949), against the Nationalist Kuomintang, led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. Stalin played both sides and Mao ignored most of his advice. During the Second World War (1939–1945), Stalin advised Mao to enter an anti-Japanese-coalition with Chiang Kai-shek. After the war, Stalin advised Mao against seizing power and to collaborate with the Nationalists, because of Stalin's Treaty of Friendship and Alliance (1945) with the Kuomintang; in communist solidarity, Mao abided Stalin. In the event, Gen. Chiang Kai-shek opposed the USSR's annexation of Tannu Uriankhai; three months after the Japanese surrender, Stalin broke the treaty requiring Soviet withdrawal from Manchuria, gave Mao control of the region, and ordered Gen. Rodion Malinovsky to give the Japanese army's spoils of war to the Chinese Communists.
In the 1945–1949 period, Chiang Kai-shek received large amounts of financial and military assistance from the United States, which tried to broker peace between him and Mao. In 1948–1949, the Nationalist armies collapsed and the leaders fled to Formosa (Taiwan).
As head-of-state of the People's Republic of China, Mao visited Moscow (December 1949–February 1950) and returned to China with the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship (1950), which included a $300 million loan, the transfer of former Russian colonial properties, and a 30-year military alliance. Under Soviet guidance, the PRC applied the soviet model of centralised planned economy; the planning and development made heavy industry the priority and consumer-goods production the second priority. Despite Soviet guidance, Mao developed the basic ideas of China's Great Leap Forward (1958–1961), from an agrarian society to an industrial society.
Ideologically, to justify realising the modernisation of China, Mao argued that orthodox Marxism, rooted in industrialized Europe, could not readily be adapted and applied to the agricultural societies of eastern Asia, and adapted Marxism to Chinese socio-economic conditions. In 1947, Mao sent the journalist Anna Louise Strong with documents to the West, and to “show them to Party leaders in the United States and Europe”, but that it was not "necessary to take them to Moscow". Mao's trust in Strong derived from her article “The Thought of Mao Tse-Tung” and the book Dawn Comes Up Like Thunder Out of China: An Intimate Account of the Liberated Areas in China (1948), reporting that Mao's intellectual feat was "to change Marxism from a European to an Asiatic form ... in ways of which neither Marx nor Lenin could dream"; the book was banned in the USSR, as anti-soviet literature.
In 1954, Nikita Khrushchev used trade agreements to improve the USSR's relations with the People's Republic of China, acknowledged Stalin’s economic unfairness to China, and negotiated for the USSR to fund fifteen industrial projects, and mutual exchanges of technicians. The trade agreements exchanged economic specialists (ca. 10,000 by 1960) and political advisors (ca. 1,500); and the PRC sent labourers to reduce the shortage of workers in Siberia; nonetheless, despite their economic agreement, personally, the Chinese and Russian heads of state, Mao Zedong and Nikita Khrushchev, disliked each other.