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Chapter 15: Defiant Vietnam: The Newest American Ally?
A willing acceptance of subordination to China is not a Vietnamese trait, to say the least, in spite of immediate proximity, and an extreme imbalance in overall power. Moreover, the close similarity between the ideology and inner-party practices of the local Communist party (Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam) and those of the CCP, and their joint inheritance of Leninist methods, Stalinist techniques, and Checkist tricks, only sharpens the resolve of VCP leaders to resist CCP intentions for Vietnam.
The unambiguous 1975 victory of Communist Vietnam against the United States and its local allies, auxiliaries and expeditionary allies, now likewise serves to reinforce its government’s determination to resist Chinese power wholly and firmly—in effect negating the imbalance of power. To simply deny the balance of power because of ignorance, pride or a transcendental creed, to refuse the accommodations and concessions that it may require, is an unfailing prescription for yet greater losses and worse humiliations if not utter destruction.
But that is not an error the VCP leadership is likely to commit, because another legacy of the long struggle that finally resulted in victory in 1975 is a diplomatic, military and comprehensively strategic culture characterized by bitter realism, and quite free of military adventurism or wishful thinking about the workings of regional and world politics.
Accordingly, the government of Vietnam has never denied the balance of power in dealing with China to any greater extent that it could actually negate its superiority, whether with its own military strength if only localized, or by finding allies willing to confront China.
That is how Vietnam survived the February 1979 Chinese invasion—or rather counter-invasion, for in January some 150,000 Vietnamese troops had invaded, defeated and occupied China’s ally, the Cambodia or Kampuchea of the auto-genocidal Khmer Rouge. With other motives as well but most immediately to force the Vietnamese to withdraw from Cambodia, on February 17, 1979 the PLA attacked in 26 sectors of the 480- mile border with at least 200,000 troops and perhaps as many as 250,000. The operational-level aim was apparently to wear down Vietnam’s army by forcing it to defend the provincial capitals near the border: Laocai, Caobang, Dong Dang and Long Son.