Background Brief China-Vietnam Border War, 1979 Carlyle A. Thayer February 16, 2014
The following e-mail interview was initiated by VNExpress. Its editor chose to censor this article along with several others on the 1979 border war to comply with a directive from higher ups.
QUESTION: Many Vietnamese are marking the 35
anniversary of Sino-Vietnamese Border War this year. What is your analysis of the reasons why China invaded Vietnam on February 17
, and why it withdrew its troops by March 16
? ANSWER: China invaded Vietnam on February 17 and withdrew its forces on March 16, 1979. When China invaded Vietnam Deng Xiaoping and the top generals in the
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) thought they could accomplish their objectives in a
matter of days. Their objectives were to force Vietnam to withdraw military forces from Kampuchea (Cambodia) and stop their attacks on the Khmer Rouge. China also had the objective of engaging Vietnam main force units and inflicting heavy defeats on two or more main force divisions. And China hop
ed to destroy Vietnam’s
northern defences and economic infrastructure by pushing in and seizing a number of provincial capitals. China did not accomplish it major objectives. It did not alter the military balance in Kampuchea and nor did it force Vietnam to withdraw troops from Kampuchea and
rush them to the northern border. China did not succeed in destroying Vietnam’s
main force units. Generally, the main force units were held in reserve. The fighting
took place mainly between China’s PLA and Vietnamese
local forces and militia. China failed to accomplish both of these objectives in a matter of days. In the initial fighting China took very high casualties. China succeeded in overrunning several provincial towns, Lao Cai, Lai Chau, Cao Bang and Lang Son for example. China destroyed tunnels and other defensive fortifications. After 5
March when they withdrew, Chinese forces deliberately blew up and destroyed much of the economic infrastructure.
ABN # 65 648 097 123