Archive for July 11th, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Vietnam 1979: Lone Decisions, Hurt Relations

In the end, an investment of 56 bn dollars for a bullet train with Japanese technology were too much for Vietnam’s Communist-controlled national assembly to approve, given a public debt accounting for 47.5 per cent of GDP, and given that, as one of the deputies critical of the megaproject noted, “our country is still poor”. Instead, Hanoi may now come back to China’s passenger train system, which is currently the world’s fastest.

It would be cheaper than Japan’s offer, too – Yazhou Zhoukan, apparently basing a cost estimate of its own on the “very similar” Beijing-Shanghai bullet train which it says took an investment of 32 bn dollars, suggests that connecting Hanoi and Ho-Chi-Minh City would therefore be only about half as costly as the Japanese project. Security concerns had originally led to favoring Japan’s Shinkansen bullet-train technology anyway, one of them being that Chinese troops could use the railway which would run from north to south, driving straight through and thus endangering Vietnam’s defense (中國的軍隊會使用貫通南北的高鐵「長驅直入」,會危及越南國防).

Neither China nor Vietnam wanted to get back to history issues, writes Yazhou Zhoukan.

Harmony and mutual trust is a prerequisite for international relations and cooperation. […] To reflect on the vaning historical memory is undoubtedly of practical significance for today’s and tomorrow’s Chinese-Vietnamese relations, and war deliberations. History can’t be dodged; one future generation after another must face this period of history. Just smiling can’t completely eliminate ill feelings.

The article then enters into a description of bilateral boundary demarcation work. While this had become rather unemotional, naval disputes kept running high, writes Yazhou Zhoukan, especially over the Spratley  Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), the Gulf of Tonkin, and Nightingale Island (Bach Long Vi island, 白龍尾島).

After an account of the war, the article quotes Deng Xiaoping‘s (邓先圣) explanations of February 6, 1979, during a stay in Tokyo on his way back from the US, to Japan’s prime minister Kakuei Tanaka (田中角榮)*)

Without punishment for the aggressor, the danger of a chain reaction arises. (…) In the process of these considerations, even if certain risks need to be taken to exact punishment, action should still be taken. […] Without the necessary lesson, I’m afraid any other method won’t achieve results.

Deng wanted to break up the long-running disputes with in the CPC leadership about his plans for reforms and opening by shifting attention from the domestic disputes to the “lesson” for Vietnam, thus creating a sense of national “one mind” (民族同心力), making use of his position as the national military commissions’ deputy chairman, the article quotes  Ni Chuanghui (倪创辉), author on an apparently well-known book about the Sino-Vietnamese war. Ni was a PLA soldier aged seventeen or eighteen in 1979 and took part in the war or “punishment” on Vietnam.

The Yazhou Zhoukan article also quotes Ni as saying that a stronger rule of law would have helped to avoid mistakes in dealing with Vietnam. The Korean war had been Mao Zedong‘s decision. The Vietnam war of 1979 had been Deng Xiaping’s decision. Historic mistakes could easily be made when only one or a few people made the decisions. Neither the NPC (National People’s Congress) nor its Standing Committee had been involved in such decisionmaking.


*) According to Wikipedia of today, the prime minister in February 1979 was Masayoshi Ohira.

Taiwan’s Security: a Case of DIY, July 10, 2010
“Under Threat of Invasion”, April 29, 2009
Net Nanny: Easily Manageable, Sept 22, 2008

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