Little and Large: Economic Exchanges between the People’s Republics of Bulgaria and China during the Sino-Soviet Alliance

When the New China became socialist, for East European economic and political officials the possibility of a partnership of unlimited opportunities seemed to open up. Their bloc would become politically powerful on a global scale, and in, front of all, they would gain a large market for industrial facilities, which would keep their machine-building enterprises, design offices and urban planning studios occupied for a long time. This holds true for the countries with the leading industries in the Soviet Bloc, like the GDR and Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union itself – but what did the partnership with China mean for a small and still mostly agrarian country like Bulgaria? The presentation looks at the different strands of intra-socialist exchange, trade, industrial projects and Scientific-Technical Cooperation during the 1950s. The aim is to picture the Bulgarian bureaucracy involved in exchanges with China and to ask for these actors’ rationales. The paper will argue that Bulgarian planners sought a niche in exchanges with China, but that the basic rationale of industrializing not only their domestic economy but also the export structure was similar to the Soviet bloc’s high-tech countries’ main goals. The Bulgarian planners and traders did aspire to export their newly acquired industrial knowledge and to import raw materials, but these aspirations faltered in the context of a highly asymmetrical power relation and implied competition with other Soviet bloc countries.