The Tet Offensive

By Marc Jason Gilbert; William Head | Go to book overview
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3
The Tet Offensive and Sino-Vietnamese Relations

John Garver

This chapter seeks to answer the questions: Did the Vietnamese Worker's Party (VWP) decision to launch the Tet Offensive lead to a deterioration of Sino-Vietnamese relations? Did the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) object to the Tet Offensive? If so, why?

There is strong evidence of new strains in Sino-North Vietnamese relations beginning in 1968. According to Hanoi, during 1968 when planning the 1969 aid program, China reduced the amount of aid by 20 percent compared with 1968. The next year, aid was again cut by 30 percent. Beijing threatened to cut off aid altogether, again according to Hanoi.1 Beijing denounced the charge that it threatened to suspend aid entirely as "sheer fabrication," but did not dispute the changes in annual levels of assistance cited by Hanoi.2 This and other evidence suggests that Chinese aid did in fact decrease at this juncture. Chinese media attention to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong (VC) struggle also declined drastically during 1968 and 1969.3

Most important of all, the withdrawal of Chinese armed forces from North Vietnam began in the spring of 1968. Between October 1965 and March 1968 China sent 320,000 soldiers to North Vietnam to run railways and to build and man coastal defense fortifications and antiaircraft artillery positions. Chinese forces also repaired North Vietnam's transportation infrastructure after American bombing. Chinese forces in North Vietnam reached a peak of 170,000.4 This Chinese assistance was vital to North Vietnam's effort to keep open the logistic supply lines to South Vietnam. The withdrawal of those forces from North Vietnam began in the spring of 1968 and was complete by July 1970 .5

What were the policy objectives underlying these shifts in Chinese policy?

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