2/ Some said Deng Xiaoping went to war because he wanted to keep the army busy while he was resolving inner-party conflict. What is your assessment? Answer: It was clear that by the third plenum (eleventh congress) of the Chinese Communist Party held in November-December 1978 that Deng Xiaoping had been rehabilitated (for a second time) and enjoyed support from the majority of the Chinese leadership. Deng was already known for his hard line views against Vietnam
arising from the expulsion of the Hoa peoples. Vietnam’s December
25, 1978 invasion of Cambodia was the turning point. It was because Deng was now the undisputed leader that he could order the PLA
to “teach Vietnam a lesson.” Deng
also felt the battlefield experience would be useful.
3/ Some historians speculated that the war was Deng’s test of the fighting ability of
the PLA troops, and it fits into his modernization plans since it highlighted many of the technological deficiencies of his army. What is your assessment? Answer: The four modernizations were launched a year before the attack on
Vietnam. Military modernization was the fourth priority. Deng didn’t want to test the
fighting ability of the PLA so much as to score a dramatic victory over Vietnam and in the process gain valuable battlefield experience. Deng and his top generals did not know that the PLA was incapable of
conducting “people’s war under modern conditions.”
4/ Why do you think China wants to forget about the war that they originally called a
victory and a ‘self
-defense and counterattack against Vietnam
Answer: Few nations draw attention to their failure and defeat in war. China is no exception. The difficulty for China is how to commemorate the border war without raising
questions about the veracity of Deng’s claim of having achieved success. Also,
a re-examination of the 1979 border war would reveal that China was the aggressor not Vietnam.
5/ Did the war change China’s military strategy, as well as foreign policy, and
if yes, please elaborate? Answer: The border war was a wakeup call to modernize and more importantly professionalize the PLA. The border war relied heavily on mass assaults redolent of
the Korean War. “People’s war under modern conditions” is about defendi
from a more modern adversary. It is a perversion of “people’s war” to use it to invade another country. “People’s war under modern conditions” in 1979 did not see
the PLA employ
especially modern weapons. The only people’s war aspect was the
mobilization of the militia for logistics and rear area security. Even then Vietnamese
units were able to cross into China in a real “counter
-attack in self-defence,
they did not inflict much damage. China-Vietnam relations were frozen for more than a decade and during this period China kept sustaining the Khmer Rouge through the provision of military supplies.
China’s foreign policy only began to change as a result of overtures from the Soviet
Union, first under Brezhnev and then Gorbachev. China pointedly changed policy towards Vietnam only after the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement and not in September 1989 when Vietnam unilaterally withdrew its military forces.