Deng Xiaoping's Long War: The Military Conflict between China and Vietnam, 1979-1991

Deng Xiaoping's Long War: The Military Conflict between China and Vietnam, 1979-1991

Deng Xiaoping's Long War: The Military Conflict between China and Vietnam, 1979-1991

Deng Xiaoping's Long War: The Military Conflict between China and Vietnam, 1979-1991

Synopsis

The surprise Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979 shocked the international community. The two communist nations had seemed firm political and cultural allies, but the twenty-nine-day border war imposed heavy casualties, ruined urban and agricultural infrastructure, leveled three Vietnamese cities, and catalyzed a decadelong conflict. In this groundbreaking book, Xiaoming Zhang traces the roots of the conflict to the historic relationship between the peoples of China and Vietnam, the ongoing Sino-Soviet dispute, and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's desire to modernize his country. Deng's perceptions of the Soviet Union, combined with his plans for economic and military reform, shaped China's strategic vision. Drawing on newly declassified Chinese documents and memoirs by senior military and civilian figures, Zhang takes readers into the heart of Beijing's decision-making process and illustrates the war's importance for understanding the modern Chinese military, as well as China's role in the Asian-Pacific world today.

Excerpt

In mid-February 1979, the world was shocked when military forces from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) suddenly invaded the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV). To many outsiders, the two nations seemed firm allies, and the invasion was all the more surprising because, in the words of the Chinese leadership in Beijing, the prc had gone to war to “teach Vietnam a lesson” it would not soon forget. For the next twenty-nine days, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fought fiercely against Vietnam’s army and militia. Though the Vietnamese fought doggedly, slowing the PLA’s advance and inflicting heavy casualties, the Chinese army steadily ground down its opposition, breaking through Vietnam’s hastily established defensive lines. the border region was devastated as the military rampage destroyed civilian infrastructure and leveled three provincial capitals. the invasion ended with Beijing claiming victory. the two communist nations, once called “brother plus comrade,” then entered a more-than-decade-long enmity with further bloodshed along their borders.

Background of a Border War

Since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, China has been involved in two large-scale wars— one in Korea against the United States, South Korea, and its United Nations allies, and the other against Vietnam in 1979. Beginning in the late 1980s, much was written about the PRC’s involvement in the Korean War thanks to a more relaxed political atmosphere in the era of Deng Xiaoping and his successors and the release of many important documents. Coincidentally, in the early 1990s, many documents from the former Soviet Union also became available, casting new light on that nation’s role in the Korean conflict.1 Regrettably, however, the war with Vietnam has become forgotten history in China as a result of the government’s ongoing sensitivity regarding the subject. Current public knowledge and understanding about why China attacked Vietnam differs little from that at the time of the invasion—that is, the war . . .

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