Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L)

China Counters Viet Nam’s Aggression

First Published: Unity, Vol. 2, No. 4, February 23-March 8, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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On the morning of February 17, Chinese People’s Liberation Army frontier troops staged a military counter-attack against Viet Nam, in response to repeated Vietnamese armed provocations along the Sino-Vietnamese border. The counter-attack involved infantry and armored divisions from Guangxi (Kwangsi) and Yunnan military provinces, with air support; and hit Viet Nam along the 480-mile border, striking 10 miles into Viet Nam at some points. Leading the command were General Yang Dezhi (Yang Teh-chih), a veteran of the Long March and a deputy commander of Chinese volunteer troops in Korea in 1952; and General Wang Bichen, of the PLA Air Force and also a military leader in the Chinese Revolution.

The counter-attack was an act to check Viet Nam’s aggression against China’s border areas, which started two years ago and which has escalated in the past period. In the past six months alone, Viet Nam staged armed incursions into Chinese territory 700 times, killing or wounding over 300 Chinese militiamen and civilians.

The attacks escalated even more since December 1978. Vietnamese have opened fire on Chinese border guards and civilians, including peasants working in commune fields. In Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, they fired rifles, machine guns, tommy guns, 60 mm mortars and grenades. Vietnamese have laid mines in Chinese territory, killing and wounding many Chinese. They have also attacked Chinese villages and trains, destroyed property, and have even opened fire at schools.

Between February 8 and 12, armed Vietnamese encroached on Chinese territory nearly 30 times, in five counties in the Guangxi-zhuang Autonomous Region and five counties in Yunnan Province, killing or wounding 34 Chinese. Vietnamese gun-boats have run close to shore of China’s Hainan Island, well across the Gulf of Tonkin. On February 14, a Vietnamese-laid mine killed 22 and wounded 20 Chinese. The Vietnamese government has ignored all warnings issued by China.

“Driven beyond forbearance“

In a Xinhua (Hsinhua) News Agency release on February 17, announcing the counter-attack, China stressed that it “would not like to fight” and that it “does not want a single inch of Vietnamese territory, but neither will we tolerate wanton incursions into Chinese territory. All we want is a peaceful and stable border. After counter-attacking the Vietnamese aggressors as they deserve, the Chinese frontier troops will strictly keep to defending the borders of their own country. ”

China pointed out that it had exercised extreme restraint but that its frontier troops had been “driven beyond forbearance.” China pointed out that Viet Nam had arrogantly mistaken “China’s restraint and desire for peace as a sign of weakness.” The counter-attack was consistent with the Chinese government and people’s stand of “We will not attack unless we are attacked. If we are attacked, we will certainly counter-attack.”

The statement also stressed the history of revolutionary friendship between the Chinese and Vietnamese peoples, and that the current situation was wholly the making of the Vietnamese authorities’ hostile anti-China policy. China called for speedy negotiations to resolve the armed conflict and to begin to discuss other disputes of border and territory.

On February 17, Chinese representative to the United Nations Chen Zhu appealed to the Security Council to take steps to stop Viet Nam’s armed attacks at China’s border areas.

Viet Nam’s anti-China, anti-Chinese policies

In addition to its armed incursions into Chinese territory, the Vietnamese authorities have since 1975 practiced an increasingly anti-China, anti-Chinese policy. In 1975, Viet Nam invaded and occupied two Chinese islands, Nansha and Xisha, and blatantly claimed sovereignty over them.

Over the past year, Vietnamese authorities have persecuted thousands of Chinese nationals living in Viet Nam. Most of them are laboring people who have lived and worked in Viet Nam for many years and fought for Viet Nam’s liberation from U.S. imperialism. The authorities stripped their rights of residence and employment, withheld their food-grain quotas, and ostracized them. Over 170,000 Chinese were forced to flee Viet Nam to China.

Need to check Viet Nam’s aggression in Southeast Asia

In addition to its attacks on China and Chinese nationals, Viet Nam has been creating tensions across Southeast Asia through acts of aggression and bullying. All throughout 1978 Viet Nam carried out border raids against China and socialist Democratic Kampuchea; and it has 40,000 troops occupying Laos.

In November 1978, the Vietnamese authorities and the Soviet social-imperialists signed a “Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation” which was a military pact promising each other support in the event of any “attack or threat of attack” against the other. The treaty sealed the unity between the big Soviet hegemonists and the lesser Vietnamese regional hegemonists, in aiding each other’s ambitions for domination.

Since the signing of the treaty, Viet Nam has become incredibly arrogant and bold in carrying out its expansionist aims and playing the part of the Soviet Union’s “Cuba in Asia.” In December, Viet Nam intensified its attacks against China and Kampuchea. In January Viet Nam launched a full-scale military invasion into Kampuchea which it still occupies by force. Other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Malaysia have expressed worry over their safety from Vietnamese expansionism.

In this context, the decision by China to counter-attack against Viet Nam is important to the entire Southeast Asia region and the world, by letting the Vietnamese authorities and the Soviet imperialists know that they cannot continue their bullying and intimidation unchecked.