The Korean War: Handbook of the Literature and Research

By Lester H. Brune; Robin Higham | Go to book overview

11 Chinese Policy and the
Korean War

Chen Jian

When Mao Zedong's government sent the "Chinese People's Volunteers" to fight in the Korean War in October 1950, the newly established Chinese communist regime had just celebrated its first anniversary. Mao Zedong's revolutionary regime faced enormous challenges on the home front, among them, achieving political consolidation, rebuilding a war-shattered economy, and finishing reunification of the country. Why, then, did the Beijing leadership decide to send troops to Korea? What was the Chinese experience during the Korean War? What role did China play in the beginning, continuation, and conclusion of the war?

The pursuit of scholarly answers to these questions has long been hindered by the absence of access to reliable Chinese sources. Before the mid-1980s, most studies about China's involvement in the war had to rely on information gleaned from contemporary Chinese newspapers and official statements, and it was difficult for scholars to draw a comprehensive picture about the scope and changing process of Chinese involvement in Korea, let alone provide an accurate account of Beijing's decision making. As a result, scholars had to speculate on Beijing's motives and intentions during various stages of the war.

The end of the cold war, echoed by the continuous flourishing of China's reform and opening policy, changed the situation. Since the mid- 1980s, many fresh and meaningful materials concerning China's involvement in the Korean War have been released, offering the opportunity to reexamine China's experiences during the war. This chapter reviews the literature on China and the Korean War in both Chinese and English. Although it covers all important issues related to Chinese policy toward the Korean War, its emphasis is China's entry into the war.

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