Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Sino - Vietnam War of 2013


Ebberdobby knows Collectivist China"s Naughtical Nautiness has been getting rowdy with her territorial sea claims - yet could events deliver one heck of a hello to reshape the face of Asia?

This spat over the Vietnam Maritime Law is merely one in a long line of conflicts between China and Vietnam. Vietnam’s origins are rooted in China’s history and its history is marred by periods of feudal strife, colonial oppression, and civil war. Although the ruling parties of each country fly the flag of Communism, at times necessary allies and enemies, there is little love lost between them.

Although wars have been fought between the two, the last to be fought between China and an independent Vietnam was the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979, sparked largely by Vietnam’s invasion and overthrow of the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia a month earlier. 

The Sino-Vietnamese War saw Chinese forces invade parts of northern Vietnam, ultimately transforming into a border war between the two countries. Vietnam, provided with intelligence from the Soviet Union (an ally of Vietnam and opponent of China), was able to react accordingly and keep the war from spreading farther south. Casualties were in the thousands and little had changed by the war’s end a month later. Both sides would claim victory, although small skirmishes continued well into the 1980s.

Deng Xiaoping’s assertion that it would teach Vietnam a lesson failed in its goal of sacking Hanoi, but it did reinforce hostilities between the two neighbors. Said hostilities lessened during the 1990s, but the Spratly and Paracel disputes continue to plague both nations.

China is clearly capable of carrying out similarly limited military operations against Vietnam. Since 1979, China has not only grown economically; it has also taken steps to improve its military capabilities. It is no longer a predominantly peasant nation but a modernizing state. That China could “teach Vietnam a lesson” is not the question. The question is whether China will impart said lesson.

Military force, however, is a brutish and costly approach to resolving matters better handled diplomatically and/or economically. Today, China has in its arsenal of responses the ability to impose its will economically. In 1979, China’s attempt to teach Vietnam a lesson involved sending soldiers across the border. In 2012 and beyond, one can assume that China might simply counter any perceived Vietnamese intransigence via threat of economic consequences. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that China could absorb Vietnam economically. No need for guns when one’s opponent could simply buy one out.

Beyond international perception of China, Beijing must also contend with the United States, which will not sit idly by should war come about. The US is unlikely to meet China openly on the battlefield; however, it would be foolish to assume that they will do nothing. It is quite possible that the US would fulfill the expected role of the Soviet Union during 1979 and perhaps more. American support can come in the form of diplomatic, economic, and intelligence assistance, leaving direct assistance to pro-American agents inside Vietnam.
 Pic - "South China Sea dispute offers Great Satan a golden opportunity to come back to Asia, talk about friendship, energy deals and arms sales."