The China Quarterly

China's 1979 War with Vietnam: A Reassessment 1

Xiaoming  Zhang 

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This article attempts to reveal China's own perceptions of the 1979 war with Vietnam. It includes China's historical relations with Vietnam and their influence on Beijing's approach towards the war, as well as the role of Deng Xiaoping, Chinese military strategy and preparations for the attack. It shows how Beijing's approach to warfare has a distinctive set of Chinese characteristics: calculating when and how to use military power, the underlying aim during the war, and the basis upon which success was evaluated. The article reviews the repercussions of the conflict, both politically and militarily, and lessons learned as seen by Chinese themselves.


1 I greatly benefited from comments and suggestions by Nick Sarantakes, Andrew Scobell, Toshi Yoshihara and Zhai Qiang. The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense or the US government.