Sino-Vietnamese War (1979): What was the end results of it ?

Viktor Jav

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You last sentence is exactly where you are mistaken.

The Sino-Vietnam War of 1979 paved the way for lasting peace between China and Vietnam.

Your view of this war is heavily influenced by the Western narrative, which seeks to downplay Chinese gains and exaggerate Chinese losses.

The truth is Chinese losses were ~8000 deaths and ~20,000 wounded, far below the 30,000 deaths and 40,000 wounded given by Western estimates.

Furthermore, Cambodia was only one issue leading to the war. The other issue was Vietnamese harassment of Chinese borders, including the commission of war crimes such as massacring a hospital.

If you want to understand this war, you need to look at the regional political situation at the end of the US-Vietnam war. The North Vietnamese were freshly victorious from their civil war, having defeated the world's number 1 superpower, and flush with battle-hardened veterans and modern soviet equipment. They quickly began to cast their ambitions on the surrounding countries.

The invasion of Cambodia was the catalyst that prompted China to take action. China had already been engaged in skirmishes with Vietnam along their borders, and the invasion of Cambodia was proof that Vietnam was beginning a campaign of expansion. Therefore, Deng made the decision to conduct a punitive strike against Vietnam in order to nip their ambitions in the bud.

There's a lot of misinformation in western media about the Chinese performance in this war. While it is true that lack of training (mostly green recruits) and logistic difficulties resulted in heavy casualties for the PLA (again, nowhere near Western propaganda), the Vietnamese forces were crushed. All of the PLA fronts achieved their objectives on schedule despite heavy resistance. The Vietnamese like to claim that they didn't use their regular forces against China, but the truth is they knew their regular forces didn't stand a chance either, and was throwing their militia into the meat grinder in the hope of delaying PLA advance long enough to prompt a Soviet intervention.

The Soviet intervention, of course, never came. The PLA had stationed their most elite units on the Soviet border to deter any notion of military intervention from the USSR. Shortly after capturing Lang Son, China announced a unilateral ceasefire and began withdrawing.

Once again, the Western narrative completely fails to understand the Chinese intentions. From the very outset of the war, China had announced that it was not interested in a single inch of Vietnamese territory. The capture of Lang Son was highly strategic, as the difficult terrain so far had prevented Chinese armor from being effective. With the capture of Lang Son, however, Chinese armor now had an open road to Hanoi, and Chinese commanders knew this sent an effective message to their Vietnamese counterparts. This is a combat philosophy known as "点到即止", meaning you stop your attack when your opponent's defense fails. This is used when you do not want to humiliate your opponent.

China is not interested in conquering Vietnam, it just wants a peaceful border to build their economy. The war of 1979 follows that objective. Of course, real life being rather messy, it took Vietnam another few years of heavy skirmishes along the border to finally accept the fact that it cannot challenge China. When this acceptance finally came, however, the peace that resulted has been long lasting.

It was never a matter of luck.
Admitted I cited Western observations regarding the war casualties in this case as they give a balanced perception of the losses suffered by both sides. In China's case. 30,000 killed against 37,000 Vietnamese losses is not a bad score. And if we are to take China's claim of 8,000 killed. Then we will also have to take Vietnam's claim of suffering around 10,000 killed themselves in to consideration as well. Which considering that the war lasted just 27 days is a pretty impressive toll for both.

And we can only speculate on what both sides think or knew of the situation because in the end the war was concluded without a decisive victory on both sides. Invading Hanoi will very likely result in a South East Asian Battle of Stalingrad.

And in the end Vietnam left Cambodia entirely on its' own accord and terms. The war in no way made any significant changes to Vietnam's foreign policy.
 
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solarz

Brigadier
Admitted I cited Western observations regarding the war casualties in this case as they give a balanced perception of the losses suffered by both sides. In China's case. 30,000 killed against 37,000 Vietnamese losses is not a bad score. And if we are to take China's claim of 8,000 killed. Then we will also have to take Vietnam's claim of suffering around 10,000 killed themselves in to consideration as well.

And we can only speculate on what both sides think or knew of the situation because in the end the war was concluded without a decisive victory on both sides.

And in the end Vietnam left Cambodia entirely on its' own accord and terms.
Dude, just because they assigned similar numbers to both sides ("balanced"), doesn't mean they're in any way accurate.

No Western country was even involved in this war, so they don't even have any first hand sources.

Notice that I did not say the Chinese claim of Vietnamese casualties were accurate. However, their own casualties are far more reliable because you need to notify the family of every dead soldier, and every wounded soldier needs to be triaged for medical care and financial support.
 

AndrewS

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And in the end Vietnam left Cambodia entirely on its' own accord and terms. The war in no way made any significant changes to Vietnam's foreign policy.
Let's list what happened:
  • Vietnam was abandoned by the Soviet Union
  • The road to Hanoi was open to the Chinese Army
  • Vietnam knew that the Chinese Air Force and Chinese Navy could conduct an effective military blockade of Vietnam
  • Vietnam knew that China and ASEAN have Vietnam completely surrounded and isolated
  • A defacto China-Thailand alliance is created against Vietnam
These events most certainly influenced Vietnam's foreign policy thinking.

Plus Vietnam didn't leave Cambodia on its own terms.
Vietnam left because they were suffering from food shortages and because the Soviet Union stopped sending them aid.
 

Viktor Jav

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Let's list what happened:
  • (1)Vietnam was abandoned by the Soviet Union
  • (2)The road to Hanoi was open to the Chinese Army
  • (3)Vietnam knew that the Chinese Air Force and Chinese Navy could conduct an effective military blockade of Vietnam
  • (4)Vietnam knew that China and ASEAN have Vietnam completely surrounded and isolated
  • (5)A defacto China-Thailand alliance is created against Vietnam
These events most certainly influenced Vietnam's foreign policy thinking.

Plus Vietnam didn't leave Cambodia on its own terms.
Vietnam left because they were suffering from food shortages and because the Soviet Union stopped sending them aid.
1) Actually the USSR did provided support for Vietnam in both logistics and intelligence, they did not support them openly but that was because China assured them that the war would be a limited one.
2) Personally I do not think that Vietnam would surrender even if Hanoi was taken, they have fought guerrilla wars for so long that centralized command and control would be anathema to them. Bloody street fighting would make Hanoi a SEA Stalingrad.
3)Seeing how both the PLAAF and the PLAN were never utilized, it is unlikely that a blockade was ever on Vietnam's mind. Which again because China made it clear to the USSR that the war was limited.
4) Correct, Vietnam's actions in Cambodia did effectively drop their standing in the world community for sometime afterwards.
5)Vietnam's relation with Thailand was already frayed at that point, they already knew that China was covertly assisting them to prop up Pol Pot before the war so really a de facto alliance just merely made public what was already common knowledge at that point.

The USSR did not completely stop aid to Vietnam, they did however reduce aid to all allied countries in 1986 but seeing as Vietnam pulled out in 1989 it is hard to see how that is the root cause. Even if it did, the cause lies with the decline of the USSR rather than the policies of Vietnam.
The continuous insurgency instead was the main culprit, in the end Vietnam concluded it's basic commitments in Cambodia and left it with a government and a standing army which as poorly as it was equipped, did not allowed for a resurgence of Pol Pot in Cambodia which was the main concern for Vietnam. That this new government is now friendly again with China is perhaps one of the greatest ironies in history but as they would say in this case hindsight when measured against the present does leaves much to be desired at times.
 
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AndrewS

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1) Actually the USSR did provided support for Vietnam in both logistics and intelligence, they did not support them openly but that was because China assured them that the war would be a limited one.
You acknowledge that China and the USSR came to a deal - which was at the expense of Vietnam.
That is Vietnam being abandoned by the USSR.

2) Personally I do not think that Vietnam would surrender even if Hanoi was taken, they have fought guerrilla wars for so long that centralized command and control would be anathema to them. Bloody street fighting would make Hanoi a SEA Stalingrad.
True. But China doesn't need to conquer Vietnam to achieve its objectives.

3)Seeing how both the PLAAF and the PLAN were never utilized, it is unlikely that a blockade was ever on Vietnam's mind. Which again because China made it clear to the USSR that the war was limited.
Remember that Vietnam started an emergency airlift of elite troops from Cambodia to Hanoi, once it was clear that the road to Hanoi was open to the Chinese Army. They wouldn't do that if they were that sure it was a limited war, and not actually the prelude to a bigger war. Following on from this, it means Vietnam feared that the Chinese military might actually implement an air and sea blockade of Vietnam.

4) Correct, Vietnam's actions in Cambodia did effectively drop their standing in the world community for sometime afterwards.
5)Vietnam's relation with Thailand was already frayed at that point, they already knew that China was covertly assisting them to prop up Pol Pot before the war so really a de facto alliance just merely made public what was already common knowledge at that point.
There's a big difference between assisting in the background, and actually sending in troops to wage a war.
Thailand could actually count on overt Chinese military intervention against Vietnam.
In comparison, Vietnam was abandoned by the USSR, when China and the USSR made a deal.


The USSR did not completely stop aid to Vietnam, they did however reduce aid to all allied countries in 1986 but seeing as Vietnam pulled out in 1989 it is hard to see how that is the root cause. Even if it did, the cause lies with the decline of the USSR rather than the policies of Vietnam.
The continuous insurgency instead was the main culprit, in the end Vietnam concluded it's basic commitments in Cambodia and left it with a government and a standing army which as poorly as it was equipped, did not allowed for a resurgence of Pol Pot in Cambodia which was the main concern for Vietnam. That this new government is now friendly again with China is perhaps one of the greatest ironies in history but as they would say in this case hindsight when measured against the present does leaves much to be desired at times.
When Vietnam aligned with the USSR and also invaded Cambodia, it isolated itself and made an enemy of its neighbours in ASEAN, China and the USA.
So Vietnam decided it had to have a huge standing army (1.26 million soldiers in 1984), because the Chinese military was some 3x larger.
But that was a huge burden to Vietnam which is tiny compared to China.

Plus who was funding the continued insurgency in Cambodia against Vietnam? It was Thailand (ASEAN) and China, with implicit support from the USA.

So the end result of Vietnam's failed Soviet alliance policy and 11year occupation of Cambodia was Vietnam:

1. having a huge outsized and expensive military to defend against China
2. being bogged down in an expensive insurgency in Cambodia, which was funded by China/Thailand
3. being unable to trade with its neighbours, with the Chinese economy being larger than the rest of Asia

Remember that Vietnam chose this failed path, rather than accept it is just a small country that has to take Chinese interests into account.

And historically, Vietnam has recognised this reality, and has maintained friendly relations with China for the vast majority of its history.
 

PiSigma

"the engineer"
You acknowledge that China and the USSR came to a deal - which was at the expense of Vietnam.
That is Vietnam being abandoned by the USSR.



True. But China doesn't need to conquer Vietnam to achieve its objectives.



Remember that Vietnam started an emergency airlift of elite troops from Cambodia to Hanoi, once it was clear that the road to Hanoi was open to the Chinese Army. They wouldn't do that if they were that sure it was a limited war, and not actually the prelude to a bigger war. Following on from this, it means Vietnam feared that the Chinese military might actually implement an air and sea blockade of Vietnam.



There's a big difference between assisting in the background, and actually sending in troops to wage a war.
Thailand could actually count on overt Chinese military intervention against Vietnam.
In comparison, Vietnam was abandoned by the USSR, when China and the USSR made a deal.




When Vietnam aligned with the USSR and also invaded Cambodia, it isolated itself and made an enemy of its neighbours in ASEAN, China and the USA.
So Vietnam decided it had to have a huge standing army (1.26 million soldiers in 1984), because the Chinese military was some 3x larger.
But that was a huge burden to Vietnam which is tiny compared to China.

Plus who was funding the continued insurgency in Cambodia against Vietnam? It was Thailand (ASEAN) and China, with implicit support from the USA.

So the end result of Vietnam's failed Soviet alliance policy and 11year occupation of Cambodia was Vietnam:

1. having a huge outsized and expensive military to defend against China
2. being bogged down in an expensive insurgency in Cambodia, which was funded by China/Thailand
3. being unable to trade with its neighbours, with the Chinese economy being larger than the rest of Asia

Remember that Vietnam chose this failed path, rather than accept it is just a small country that has to take Chinese interests into account.

And historically, Vietnam has recognised this reality, and has maintained friendly relations with China for the vast majority of its history.
Also China trashed all the industry and farms on the way out after the war. A lot of Vietnam's heavy industry was located near the Chinese border because they thought the Americans won't bomb it due to Chinese objection (Korea example). Just rebuilding all that industry is probably a 10 year backward step in industrialization for Vietnam.
 

Viktor Jav

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You acknowledge that China and the USSR came to a deal - which was at the expense of Vietnam.
That is Vietnam being abandoned by the USSR.
There is a difference between abandonment and limited assistance here, just as how China did not intervene in North Korea until they were push till the breaking limit. The USSR knew that this conflict will not require it to assist Vietnam because it is not dire and they will most likely inform Vietnam about that.

True. But China doesn't need to conquer Vietnam to achieve its objectives.
Considering how the objectives were never truly defined that is a generous assumption.

Remember that Vietnam started an emergency airlift of elite troops from Cambodia to Hanoi, once it was clear that the road to Hanoi was open to the Chinese Army. They wouldn't do that if they were that sure it was a limited war, and not actually the prelude to a bigger war. Following on from this, it means Vietnam feared that the Chinese military might actually implement an air and sea blockade of Vietnam.
But they still leave a sizeable force back to occupy Cambodia, hardly and indication of a nation who is prepared to fight a total war under a blockade.


There's a big difference between assisting in the background, and actually sending in troops to wage a war.
Thailand could actually count on overt Chinese military intervention against Vietnam.
In comparison, Vietnam was abandoned by the USSR, when China and the USSR made a deal.
I will refer back to the very top post for this. Depending on what kind of conflict Vietnam found itself it, the USSR would have assist it.

When Vietnam aligned with the USSR and also invaded Cambodia, it isolated itself and made an enemy of its neighbours in ASEAN, China and the USA.
So Vietnam decided it had to have a huge standing army (1.26 million soldiers in 1984), because the Chinese military was some 3x larger.
But that was a huge burden to Vietnam which is tiny compared to China.
During the Cold War, nearly all nations of opposing blocks maintained huge armies. So Vietnam having one is not so big of an issue. The USA was always going to be a issue with Vietnam. And also the VPA was actively involved in economic activities in Vietnam just as how the PLA was in China so it was not a complete drain to Vietnam as one might think, following a trend often seen in soviet style states.

Plus who was funding the continued insurgency in Cambodia against Vietnam? It was Thailand (ASEAN) and China, with implicit support from the USA.

So the end result of Vietnam's failed Soviet alliance policy and 11year occupation of Cambodia was Vietnam:

1. having a huge outsized and expensive military to defend against China
2. being bogged down in an expensive insurgency in Cambodia, which was funded by China/Thailand
3. being unable to trade with its neighbours, with the Chinese economy being larger than the rest of Asia
I will hardly say that Vietnam was bogged down in an insurgency in Cambodia see how they pulled on their timetable leaving a government that is still existing to this day.
And trade did still happen between Vietnam and the rest of Asia but it was definitely not on the level of today's.
 
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Viktor Jav

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Also China trashed all the industry and farms on the way out after the war. A lot of Vietnam's heavy industry was located near the Chinese border because they thought the Americans won't bomb it due to Chinese objection (Korea example). Just rebuilding all that industry is probably a 10 year backward step in industrialization for Vietnam.
Actually the US did bombard North Vietnam installations during the war. And with unification, they were actively at work to distribute economic growth and industrialization throughout Vietnam.
 

PiSigma

"the engineer"
Actually the US did bombard North Vietnam installations during the war. And with unification, they were actively at work to distribute economic growth and industrialization throughout Vietnam.
I know they did. But not so close to the Chinese border because they didn't want a repeat of the Korean war.

A lot of the heavy industry Vietnam built was close to the border area and they all got demolished when the PLA left.
 
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