On the Question of the Differentiation of the Three Worlds

(February 22, 1974)

Mao Zedong

Three decades ago fierce polemics were conducted in the international communist movement on the theses of the Communist Party of China on the theory of the three worlds which differentiated the planet into three zones and argued for the unity of the second and third worlds and even US imperialism against the threat of Soviet social-imperialism. These views came into prominence after the speech of Deng Xiaoping at the United Nations on this theme in 1974. As US and Chinese diplomacy became more intimate after the meeting of Nixon and Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1972, which took place even as the US B-52 bombers were blasting the people of Vietnam, questions came to the fore on the support of People’s China to the pro-US client regimes of the Shah of Iran, Mobutu, and the fascist states of Spain and Chile. From 1971 at its Sixth Congress and onwards the Party of Labour of Albania expressed its opposition to any proposal to pull back from the struggle against both of the two superpowers. On the 7th July 1977 Zeri i Popullit published the editorial ’The Theory and Practice of Revolution’ which openly assailed the stand of the CPC on the theory of three worlds. The bulk of the trends in the CPI (ML) supported the CPC stand on three worlds theory as being the epitome of Mao Zedong thought with the honourable exception of the Mass Line tendency which briefly adhered to the PLA positions. As People’s China increasingly linked up with the US at the international level and as commodity-money relations accelerated and multiplied in the economy of People’s China the CPI (ML) groups quietly abandoned the theory of three worlds. In the context of these now historical polemics the following text which consists of the published excerpts of Mao Zedong’s talk with President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, and which is little known in India, is of considerable interest.

Vijay Singh

Chairman Mao Zedong (hereinafter referred to as Mao): We hope the Third World will unite. The Third World has a large population!

President Kenneth David Kaunda (hereinafter referred to as Kaunda): That’s right.

Mao: Who belongs to the First World?

Kaunda: I think it ought to be world of exploiters and imperialists.

Mao: And the Second World?

Kaunda: Those who have become revisionists.

Mao: I hold that the U.S. and the Soviet Union belong to the First World. The middle elements, such as Japan, Europe, Australia and Canada, belong to the Second World. We are the Third World.

Kaunda: I agree with your analysis, Mr. Chairman.

Mao: The U.S. and the Soviet Union have a lot of atomic bombs, and they are richer. Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada, of the Second World, do not possess so many atomic bombs and are not so rich as the First World, but richer than the Third World. What do you think of this explanation?

Kaunda: Mr. Chairman, you analysis is very pertinent and correct.

Mao: We can discuss it.

Kaunda: I think we can reach agreement without discussion, because I believe this analysis is already very pertinent.

Mao: The Third World is very populous.

Kaunda: Precisely so.

Mao: All Asian countries, except Japan, belong to the Third World. All of Africa and also Latin America belong to the Third World.

(From the verbatim record)

Mao Zedong on Diplomacy, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1998, page 454.

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