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Oct-24-2010 19:54printcommentsVideo

Vietnam's Bloody Defeat of China

Flashback in time to a war most Americans aren't familiar with.

Chinese female soldiers in the Sino-Vietnam War
The Chinese invaders did not succeed in achieving a military victory against the battle hardened Vietnamese forces. Photos: and Global Times

(SALEM, Ore.) - China lost a significant war in 1979 against Vietnam, though many people in the west do not realize this important history. This side of Vietnam that is rarely recognized involves the country's willingness to defeat the barbaric Khmer Rouge neighbors in Cambodia after the U.S. war in SE Asia. For this China invaded Vietnam, only to lose and retreat after 29 days, ultimately abandoning their military aggression.

VN troops on captured Chinese tank

Let's back up to 1970, when the U.S. was six years into the Vietnam War; the year that American forces invaded Cambodia, which borders both North and South Vietnam. Communist forces fighting American military units; North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong guerrillas, used Cambodia as a refuge and passageway. They would enter this country from the north, and show up in the U.S. controlled southern areas.

In 1973 a cease fire was called in Vietnam. In 1975 the last U.S. forces pulled out of the country for good, leaving behind only POW's and MIA's.

At this point all of Vietnam was under the control of Communist Hanoi and it has remained that way ever since.

What is interesting is that Vietnam was primarily supported by the USSR during the U.S. war, not by neighboring China as might reasonably be expected. China was a big supporter of Vietnam right until the start of the U.S. war; that is the year China's support of Vietnam ceased.

As Wikipedia states, the Chinese Communist Party and the Viet Minh had a long history. When Vietnam was fighting France in 1950, the recently founded communist People's Republic of China and the Viet Minh enjoyed close relations. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the 'Chinese Military Advisory Group' under Wei Guoqing played an important role in the Viet Minh's defeat of the French military.

Relations between the Soviets and Chinese began to dissolve after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin- who was responsible for the Murder of millions of Russians. Mao Zedong said Nikita Khrushchev made a serious error in a 'Secret Speech' that denounced Stalin. What really got Chairman Mao heated was Khrushchev's support of peaceful co-existence with the west.

The hostilities increased and led to what is known as the 'Sino-Soviet split'.

At this point, just prior to the start of the U.S. Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese still supported China, mainly due to China's support of North Vietnam's re-unification policy; something the Soviet Union had so far remained indifferent to.

China withdrew support from North Vietnam the same year the U.S. war began, in 1964, when Khrushchev's party sent him packing. He was replaced with Leonid Brezhnev as First Secretary and Alexei Kosygin as Premier.

Beginning in 1965, Vietnamese communist loyalty shifted toward the Soviet Union; with both the Soviet Union and China now supplying arms to North Vietnam in their war against South Vietnam and the U.S.

Fallout with Khmer Rouge

The Vietnamese Communists and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge worked together in the beginning, but the relations unraveled when the Cambodian regime demanded that Vietnam return certain parcels of land to Cambodia that had been "lost" several centuries earlier. Vietnam wasn't interested, and Pol Pot responded by laying waste to ethnic Vietnamese in a massacre inside Cambodia.

Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge

It is important to note that the Khmer Rouge committed genocide against people of different races including ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodians.

The Soviets ultimately backed the Vietnamese in a war to defeat Pol Pot in Cambodia, following the tragic notorious period of genocide. The People's Republic of China's (PRC) support of Pol Pot caused the USSR to see it all as an opportunity. They backed the seasoned battle forces of the Vietnamese army which easily defeated the genocidal Khmer Rouge.

The Vietnamese knew there could be a reprisal from China, but they chose to take the Soviet support and hoped the show of force would keep the Chinese at bay. In the long run they lost their gamble.

The official Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia happened late in 1978. The Khmer Rouge was inexperienced in combat; their experience was in bullying and murdering the local civilian populace, not in actual military engagement.

By 7 January 1979, Cambodian forces backed by the Vietnamese government, seized the capital Phnom Penh, terminating the Khmer Rouge regime. Pol Pot fled into the jungle and lived for many years. Until 1997 he and a remaining remnant of the Khmer Rouge operated in the border region of Cambodia and Thailand.

The 29 Day War

The only thing missing from China's invasion of Vietnam on 17 February 1979 was aircraft. China rolled across major sections of the Vietnam border with infantry, armor, and artillery. Their 29 day war achieved no substantial victory and failed as a show of force against the Soviet Union.

According to Wikipedia:

Within a single day, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) had advanced some eight kilometers into Vietnam along a broad front. It then slowed and nearly stalled because of heavy Vietnamese resistance and difficulties within the Chinese supply system. On 21 February, the advance resumed against Cao Bang in the far north and against the all-important regional hub of Lang Son. Chinese troops entered Cao Bang on 27 February, but the city was not secured completely until 2 March. Lang Son fell two days later. On 5 March, the Chinese, saying Vietnam had been sufficiently chastised, announced that the campaign was over. Beijing declared its "lesson" finished and the PLA withdrawal was completed on 16 March.

Vietnam's position in the wake of combat operations, was that Beijing had suffered a military setback if not an outright defeat.

According to

The 1979 attack confirmed Hanoi's perception of China as a threat. The PAVN high command henceforth had to assume, for planning purposes, that the Chinese might come again and might not halt in the foothills but might drive on to Hanoi. The border war strengthened Soviet-Vietnamese relations.

The Soviet military role in Vietnam increased during the 1980s as the Soviets provided arms to Vietnam; moreover, Soviet ships enjoyed access to the harbors at Danang and Cam Ranh Bay, and Soviet reconnaissance aircraft operated out of Vietnamese airfields.

The Vietnamese responded to the Chinese campaign by turning the districts along the China border into "iron fortresses" manned by well-equipped and well-trained paramilitary troops. In all, an estimated 600,000 troops were assigned to counter Chinese operations and to stand ready for another Chinese invasion. The precise dimensions of the frontier operations were difficult to determine, but its monetary cost to Vietnam was considerable.

Vietnamese POW's

Chinese POW's

According to the Website, the legacy of the war is enduring, particularly in Vietnam. In this nation already devastated by two recent wars, the Chinese in all essence, implemented a "scorched-earth policy" as they retreated back to China, causing extensive damage to the Vietnamese countryside and infrastructure.

Villages were reduced to rubble, roads and railroads received damage at the hands of the Chinese.

In Gerald Segal's 1985 book Defending China, it was concluded that China's 1979 war against Vietnam was a complete failure: "China failed to force a Vietnamese withdrawal from [Cambodia], failed to end border clashes, failed to cast doubt on the strength of the Soviet power, failed to dispel the image of China as a paper tiger, and failed to draw the United States into an anti-Soviet coalition."

Still, as Wikipedia relates, Bruce Elleman argued that "one of the primary diplomatic goals behind China's attack was to expose Soviet assurances of military support to Vietnam as a fraud. Seen in this light, Beijing's policy was actually a diplomatic success, since Moscow did not actively intervene, thus showing the practical limitations of the Soviet-Vietnamese military pact... China achieved a strategic victory by minimizing the future possibility of a two-front war against the USSR and Vietnam."

China-Vietnam War from Vietnamese perspective

China-Vietnam War from Chinese perspective

"Border skirmishes continued throughout the 1980s, including a significant skirmish in April of 1984; this saw the first use of the Type 81 Assault Rifle by the Chinese," according to

After years of unsuccessful negotiations, a border pact was finally signed between the two countries in 1999. The exact position of the border was kept secret, problems continued, and Vietnam eventually relinquished the property back to China.

On a positive note, it was announced in December 2007 that the Hanoi-Kunming highway; a landmark in Sino-Vietnamese relations, would be built. The road will cross the border that was once a battlefield for these countries. It should contribute to demilitarizing the border region, as well as facilitating trade and industrial cooperation between the nations, notes


Sino-Vietnamese War - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chinese Invasion of VietnamFebruary 1979 -



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ANTHONY Le January 18, 2018 7:05 pm (Pacific time)

Chinese Historians authors, Dr. Xiaoming Zhang. Even said that Chinese troops preform poorly against the Vietnamese to the United States Army Heritage and Education Center in United States. The Vietnamese post evidence video on YouTube showing a bunch camouflage Vietnamese civilians marching to battle against the Chinese invasion force in Vietnam.

Michael October 30, 2016 1:13 am (Pacific time)

Complete nonsense. The only reason why China withdrew was because they were afraid of a possible Soviet retaliation, not any military defeat. With regard to any military defeat, this is not true as Vietnam did indeed suffer higher casualties (there are numerous sources). China could have taken Hanoi regardless as they advanced had advanced onto the northern Vietnamese plains where resistance was little.

peter September 7, 2015 11:32 pm (Pacific time)

manchus ruled china for 300 years till 1911. Manchu conquest of China - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The population rate was 100,000,000 chinese VS 1.000.000 manchus.

peter September 7, 2015 11:31 pm (Pacific time)

In most of times, china was enslaved by others. 1) chinese were enslaved by mongol, manchu, xianbei, Khitan, Jurchen empires. genghis khan's law, killing a chinese = killing a donkey, sorry to mention this. Kublai Khan said: what is the use of chinese Sorry to mention this.

Anonymous December 29, 2013 2:56 pm (Pacific time)

This happened before your time King, you have no concept of history nor what is going on today.

Right I guess I'm disqualified from writing about WWII, WWI and the Civil War too?  

Anonymous December 28, 2013 10:54 am (Pacific time)

It's amazing how so many American-haters misinterpret history. As far as American involvement with South Vietnam via the SEATO Treaty, we had clearly defeated North Vietnam after the TET 1968 Offensive. It was the emerging far left in America during this period, aided by the Zionist-controlled media, that put out misinformation. People like Walter Cronkite, cowardly John Kerry (himself a Zionist), etc., were the ones who caused tens of thousands of more Americans to be killed because of the false info being put out. Currently the same Zionists are using similar tactics, while you anti-Zionists have no idea how you are simply their "tools." Their endgame was clearly put out thousands of years ago, and the ancient Greeks provided clear warning about these incredibly evil creatures. Meanwhile many of you become easily distracted by absurd topics like this article and it's inane conclusions. Simply look at how our Constitution is being ripped apart on a daily level while you move from one useless topic to another. All this tech you use can evaporate in a is coming. Look at the daily mob crimes and who really are the Zionists soldiers. Wise up, and exercise your 2nd Amendment, because registration and soon confiscation is on the horizon. See what is happening in places like Conn., currently, right now, today.

You must be incapable of understanding how your rant sounds, life isn't about shooting the messenger (Cronkite) or bashing the peacenicks (Like Jesus) - I'm no fan of Zionism, I hate what is happening as a result of that bent philosophy, but the problems are nor rooted around people who want peace, just the opposite.  This story is not a result of misinterpretation. 

Luong P December 28, 2013 8:40 am (Pacific time)

The border war, as it is called by Vietnamese, broke out when I was six. Living in Hanoi in the northern Vietnam, I still remember how the adults around me reacted to the news of the sudden attack. There was no fear, it's only a deep anger of being bullied by a strong neighbor that used to be considered comrade while we're at war in another front with Khmer Rouge. Kids like me didn't fully comprehend the grave situation that the country was facing, fighting two wars at once when we'd just finished two decade-long others only four years earlier. The Vietnamese forces deployed in the border were only local army and guerrillas. They fiercely resisted, successfully blocked the advance of Chinese forces that outnumbered them vastly for weeks. The 1st Army Corps, the only regular force stationed in the North at the time, was kept as the second line of defense, as the government prepared for a possible Chinese advance deep into Vietnamese territory. No evacuation yet, but ditches were dug on Hanoi streets, about 250km south from the border. Man like my father, an university professor at his 30s, were mobilized, but then the war stopped, as abruptly as it had started, before any of them were actually drafted and shipped to the front line. According to Vietnamese media, we have inflicted a huge casualties on Chinese forces. Tens of thousands of their soldiers killed. While the real number maybe smaller, and the border skirmishes was long from over, Vietnam won that war as defenders. As aggressors wanting to teach us a lesson by a show of force, the only thing that Vietnam learned was we had to be constantly vigilant toward them.
If the destructive border war was really triggered by our invasion of Cambodia to overthrow the Khmer Rouge, and therefore somewhat avoidable, from hindsight, I still think it's worth the cost and the sacrifice. The Cambodia war was a must. Not only Vietnam needed to stop the repeated cross-border attacks by Democratic Kampuchea once and for good, but also it was a just cause in itself to help Cambodians get rid of the atrocities and genocide by Pol Pot regime. However, 10 years was too long for any foreign military intervention. Vietnam should not stay and fight when it gradually became a war of choice.

Randy September 28, 2013 8:02 pm (Pacific time)

In my perception, China vs Vietnam, man-to-man, China would have never won over Vietnam. Given to the fact of Vietnam history in long wars with different and powerful Armies, China couldn't beat Vietnam in...ANY WAR. That's why there is a Vietnam nation nowadays, RIGHT NEXT TO CHINA and Vietnam does have a...+ 4 thousands years of history...

Anonymous April 22, 2013 6:44 pm (Pacific time)

china won the war not vietnam

China lost the war and returned home, Vietnam won the war.

someone January 6, 2013 12:06 am (Pacific time)

china does only take. All history shows they take more life than any other people of mankind.

Anonymous May 17, 2012 6:05 am (Pacific time)

What kind of a source is wiki? Do some real research!

cowboy April 25, 2012 1:04 am (Pacific time)

To see the full truth, see sino-vietnamese var in wiki. Examples, in wiki, the "torched land" activities mainly destroyed what the chinese had given to the viet during the us-viet war; and after the cease fire pact was signed, many vietnameses were unhappy about land being ceded to china. The author censored materials carefully to support the title of this article.

Tim King: That was not my intention, Vietnam had recently defeated my own nation at war and I simply tried to lay out the story as I saw it, particularly because most Americans are not familiar with the war having taken place.  

Ho March 10, 2011 1:40 am (Pacific time)

Vietnam had its share of imperialism and expansionism against Cambodia and Lao. Forgetting its place in the 'power structure', it had to reminded by the US and then China. Vietnamese imperialism and expansionism had be stopped

REALLY???? November 29, 2010 4:54 pm (Pacific time)

Sino-Vietnamese conflicts 1979–1990 was a series of border clashes between China and Vietnam following the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979. When Chinese troops withdrew from Vietnam in March 1979 after the war, China announced that they were not ambitious for "any square inch of the territory of Vietnam".[1] In fact, Chinese troops occupied an area of 60 km2 [2], which was disputed land controlled by Vietnam before hostilities broke out. In some places such as the area around Friendship Gate in Lang Son, Chinese troops occupied territories which have no military value but important symbolic value. Elsewhere, Chinese troops occupied the strategic positions of military importance as a springboard to attack Vietnam.[3] The Chinese occupation of border territory angered Vietnam, and this ushered in a series of fights between the two sides to gain control of the area. Border conflicts between Vietnam and China continued until 1988, peaking in the years 1984-1985.[4] By the early 1990s, along with the withdrawal of Vietnam from Cambodia and the collapse of the Soviet Union, relationship between the two countries gradually returned normal. China gradually withdrew from the positions controlled by Vietnam before the conflict broke out

Mao October 25, 2010 9:27 pm (Pacific time)

Vietnam after reunited the whole country turned their back at China, and attached China's follower, which was Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. To stop Vietnam trying to control Cambodia in the South, China must attach VN from the north, so Viet's army power must move all up north to protect their land. As the history shown, it will repeat again in Pacific ocean soon. China never learn their lessons.

Nguyen October 25, 2010 12:36 am (Pacific time)

China knew Vietnam faced many hardship after Vietnam war ended, and took advantage of war torn country. a lots of damages, poor, embargo from US and western countries. Vietnam lost crop for several years without foods. Most people depend on Caritas International to have foods. Vietnam also had to protect Cambodia people from Khmer Rouge which supported from China. A lots of people had only one meal/day to be alive. China took advantage when Vietnam was very weak position to get lands, Islands and sea. China has not having the gut to deal with strong country. Can China be a "big" GUY or a "PIG" GUY?

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.


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