Artillery types

Chinese artillery shells found on Russian-Ukrainian battlefield reveal CCP’s past European ambitions

Many Chinese artillery shells have been used by Ukrainian forces in the ongoing war against Russia. However, these weapons were not supplied by China, they came from Albania. This sheds light on the history between the Communist Party of Albania (CPA) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the Cold War that many may have forgotten.

On September 17, the Ukraine Weapons Tracker (UWT), a Twitter account that tracks the progress of the war between Ukraine and Russia, posted a video of weapons left behind by the Russian military, including several shells from Chinese Type 63 60mm mortar, which were seized by Ukrainian soldiers. The video shows that the shell body and shell storage boxes have Simplified Chinese characters printed on them.

The UWT said the mortar shells seen in the video were made in 1975. However, the Russian military did not use 60mm caliber mortars on the battlefield, so the shells did not were supplied by China but were probably seized by the Russian army from the Ukrainians and later recovered by the Ukrainians after the Russians withdrew. The UWT suspects the shells came from Albanian military aid to Ukraine, which began in March. Details of the aid were not disclosed.

From the mid-1950s to the late 1970s, relations between the Communist Party of China and the Communist Party of Albania were close. The CCP presented the CPA as the “socialist beacon of Europe”.

In 1953, after the death of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin, his successor Nikita Khrushchev launched a de-Stalinization campaign and had a major ideological disagreement with the CCP which denounced Khrushchev as a “revisionist”. After that, the CPA, which supported the Stalinist model, and the CCP became closer ideologically and strategically.

Enver Hoxha, the communist dictator of Albania at the time, saw that an alliance with the CCP would not only free them from Soviet control, but also provide an opportunity to find a new clientelist state. For Chinese dictator Mao Zedong, this would be an opportunity to create a satellite state in Europe that would help the CCP challenge Moscow’s position of strength in the region. Thus, from 1960, the two parties established a relationship of “comradeship and brotherhood”.

In the 1960s and 1970s, especially during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in China under the Communists, the CCP began supporting Albania at the expense of China’s own interests. The Chinese edition New York Times reported in 2013 that the two countries had signed a loan agreement worth $125 million at the time.

Moreover, according to the memoirs of Chinese state media Xinhua News reporter Hongqi Wang, the CCP granted 75 loans to the CPA from 1954 to 1978, with an agreed total of more than $1.4 billion, of which the funds military accounted for more than 43%. Wang further explained that the CCP has assisted the CPA with a total of 142 projects, of which 91 have been completed, including new industrial sectors such as steel, fertilizer, alkali, glass, processing copper ore, paper, plastics and the military industry. , as well as additional projects in the power, coal, petroleum, machinery, light industry, textile, building materials, communications and broadcasting sectors, significantly increasing the level of industrialization in Albania.

Also, Xiong Geng, who briefly served as China’s ambassador to Albania, mentioned in his memoirs that he was particularly concerned about aid to Albania. Since 1954, he explained, the CCP has provided nearly 9 billion yuan in economic and military aid to Albania. Adjusted for inflation, this equates to 900 billion yuan ($126.26 billion) today. Albania, with a population of just over 2 million at the time, received more than $560 per capita in aid from China while China’s own per capita income was only $28 a year at the time. China also experienced three years of famine during the Great Leap Forward, followed by economic collapse during the Cultural Revolution. In terms of military aid, Geng said the number of military aid projects and the amount of aid far exceed Albania’s own national defense needs.

However, in the 1970s, relations between the two communist countries fell apart, especially after the CCP took the initiative to ease relations with the United States. In 1978, after 18 years of friendly relations, the CCP ended its economic support for Albania under the new Chinese dictator Deng Xiaoping. The end of the alliance led the CPA to accuse the CCP of “revisionism”, a term used by communists to stigmatize those who are not loyal to the revolution.

Following the collapse of the Communist International and the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, Albania abandoned its one-party system in 1991, gradually democratized the country, joined NATO in 2009 and started importing more advanced weapons from Western countries. This explains why the old weapons of the Soviet Union and China were no longer used and were therefore given to the Ukrainians during the Russian invasion of 2022.


Julia Ye is an Australia-based journalist who joined The Epoch Times in 2021. She mainly covers China-related issues and has been a journalist since 2003.