Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Revolutionary Communist Party

Superpowers Tally Score in Asia Battles

First Published: Revolutionary Worker, Vol. 4, No. 12, March 24, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(WPS)–China’s invasion and occupation of Vietnam’s northern border region entered its second month on March 17. Some fighting was continuing and there were contradictory claims about the speed and extent of the Chinese withdrawal. The lack of any decisive “victory” by China has been used by some U.S. ruling circles to point to the “unmodemized” state of China’s army. This could well be used in the near future to justify calls for large-scale arms sales to their new ally. But it is clear that no decisive military victory was ever intended, and that China and the U.S. have gotten much of what they wanted out of the invasion of Vietnam. Specifically, it has put Hanoi (and Moscow) on notice that they will not be able to romp merrily through Southeast Asia–without the U.S.–and its junior partner China– saying loud, this is our turf. This has reassured other U.S. dependencies in the area and strengthened U.S. influence there.

Peking’s announcement earlier this month that Chinese troops would be withdrawn has since been qualified to include the possibility of a more long-term military presence in Vietnam. Indeed, while some Chinese troops have been pulled back, the “withdrawal” period has thus far lasted nearly as long as the invasion. Contrary to the self-righteous blustering of the Chinese, the slowness of their departure is not due to any heavy Vietnamese counterattacks. Vietnamese regulars have been moved in from south Vietnam and Kampuchea (Cambodia), but so far Hanoi has shown little interest in throwing them into battle.

At the same time, China is concentrating troops on the Laotian border, making periodic incursions into Laos and threatening full scale invasion. Peking continues to rail against Vietnam’s “swashbuckling” in Laos and Kampuchea. For its part, Hanoi continues to issue warnings and threats of retaliation against China, while boasting that China’s “withdrawal” is evidence of Vietnam’s “victory” in the war.

In the face of all this, the capitalist press in this country has taken to scratching its head and asking what it all means. Their dilemma, of course, is that they can’t answer such a question without first admitting that the war between China and Vietnam is in fact a war by proxy between the two superpowers–the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Each superpower has pointed an accusing finger at the other while piously denying its own complicity, but their game is more and more exposed as events unfold.

China’s invasion of Vietnam has served to threaten the growth of Soviet influence in Southeast Asia. Through Vietnam, the Soviets had gained effective control in Laos and in Kampuchea (Cambodia) since Vietnam’s invasion of that country early this year. U.S. client states in the area–including Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines had been getting more and more uneasy. But the fact that China, on behalf of the U.S., has now taken military action against Vietnam and has threatened more military action has changed this political situation. China’s action has served as a rallying point for the area’s U.S. clients to gather around–to toughen up in their pro-U.S. and anti-Soviet stand.

With the new junior partner, China, the U.S. imperialists have put their Soviet act-alike rivals on notice that Soviet moves will not go unchallenged and U.S. economic and political interests in Southeast Asia will not go undefended. By taking up the defense of U.S. interests in Southeast Asia, China has provided the U.S. with more freedom and maneuvering room to make greater inroads in this area of the world, where the U.S. ability to openly intervene had been seriously weakened by its defeat in the Indochina war. This has also lent strength to U.S. activities in other areas of the world, where competition with the Soviet Union is heating up–particularly the Middle East, including Iran, Yemen and other ”hot spots.”

In the meantime, the U.S. ruling class, through its press, is trying to sow confusion about what is really going on in Vietnam by characterizing the China-Vietnam war as “a war between Asian communist nations,” when in fact they themselves and their Soviet counterparts are the puppeteers pulling all the strings.

This is not to say that China and Vietnam are unwilling participants in all this or that their actions are not based on what their rulers perceive to be their own best interest.

Since the revolutionary rule of the working class has been overthrown in China and since Vietnam, too, has clearly taken the road of capitalism, it was inevitable that they would align themselves with one or the other superpower and quite willingly prostitute themselves to superpower interests.


Particularly revealing in this regard has been China’s two-faced dealings around Kampuchea.

Since January, the Chinese have scrupulously avoided mentioning the revolutionary Pol Pot government and have instead heaped praise on the former Cambodian monarch, Prince Sihanouk. Sihanouk would be much more “acceptable” (that is bootlicking to all the imperialists–especially the U.S. Latest reports indicate that China is trying to persuade Vietnam to accept the Prince as a compromise ruler for Kampuchea. A recent Peking wall poster openly criticizing Pol Pot lends credence to these reports. The revolutionary resistance of the Pol Pot forces has given the Vietnamese lots more trouble than they had expected and continuing today.

The final chapter in Southeast Asia is far from being written. The war between China and Vietnam as well as Vietnam’s occupation of Kampuchea and its control of Laos are all thoroughly reactionary and unjust. Behind all of this lies the fierce rivalry between the imperialist rulers of the U.S. and the Soviet Union as they jockey for position and prepare to throw the whole world into war.