The second half of the 20th century was characterized by numerous military conflicts in different parts of the world. Traditionally, they are considered as consequences of the Cold War and the struggle for domination between two superstates and their allies. The Korean War, numerous military operations in the Middle East, and the Vietnam War were preconditioned by the clash of ideologies and parties unwillingness to make a compromise. Moreover, regions which experienced these conflicts had been suffering from their aftermath for an extended period of time. For instance, Vietnam was involved in several wars with mighty opponents starting from the USA and ending with China. The first conflict is sadly remembered by its consequences and great attention it attracted. At the same time, the opposition between China and Vietnam, or the Third Vietnam War, is often disregarded. Thus, Kissinger in his book delves into the issue and provides the most important aspects related to the conflict.
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The formal cause of the war was Chinas desire to respond to the Vietnamese expansion to Cambodia. In a broader sense, it was the war for domination in the region and the right to follow the outlined course. Kissinger says that “the invasion served its fundamental objective: when the Soviet Union failed to respond it demonstrated the limitations of its strategic reach” (344). It means that China wanted to demonstrate its readiness to act independently. At the same time, Vietnams primary goal was to preserve its national identity, security, and resist invaders. For this reason, at the very beginning of this conflict, China was doomed to fail. Kissinger compares Chinese involvement in the Third Vietnam War to the U.S. one as both these states underestimated the power of nationalism peculiar to people living in the Vietnam, and which “drives other societies to lose their sense of proportion and to misapprehend Vietnamese motivations and their own possibilities” (345). As a result, China had to retreat from Vietnam to protect its borders as the state suffered from an extremely vulnerable position. The USSR had about 50 divisions along the border whereas Afghanistan controlled by the Soviet Union also threatened Chinese state (Kissinger 348). In such a way, demonstrating a complicated situation in which China occurred, Kissinger also outlined the increased importance of diplomacy and its role in this war. However, Chinese and Western diplomatic strategies related to the war were different as U.S. diplomats insisted on the preservation of careful position, whereas Chinese response was extremely aggressive (Kissinger 348). These differences came from the divergences in strategic goals the states had at that moment and the situation in the region. However, the Third Vietnam War demonstrated a significant shift in the balance of power.
Therefore, Kissinger’s description of these events could be considered informative and fundamental for the improved comprehension of events of peculiar to that era and of the fight for dominance. I should say that he suggests relevant ideas supported by credible examples. First of all, the author touches upon the issue that remains unknown for a bigger part of the audience. The Third Vietnam War is not so famous as the opposition with the USA. For this reason, this reading is critical for the analysis. I think that Kissingers attempt to comment on the issue through the prism of the Cold War is the most appropriate way to speak about it.
In his cogitations, the author states that this war is the turning point in the evolution of the opposition between superstates and their dominance in the region (Kissinger 345). Having read the chapter, this idea becomes clear. Chinas attempt to teach Vietnam a lesson and show its power is a perfect example of how countries try to establish their leading roles and a get beyond the control of their powerful allies. Kissinger offers the idea that Chinas entry into the war was preconditioned by the desire to act regarding the shifted balance of power and I agree with this statement. I believe that there were no apparent causes for the proclamation of war other than the desire to monitor the worlds response to these actions. For this reason, diplomacy was one of the fundamental elements in this conflict. This idea is also provided by Kissinger who outlines different perspectives peculiar to Western and Chinese diplomatic strategies. The USA tried to act carefully whereas China needed this conflict.
Altogether, Kissengers cogitations about the Third Vietnam War are extremely important regarding the global political discourse. The current crisis we observe traces its roots to the period of the Cold War. That is why the majority of ideas suggested by the author remain relevant and could be applied to the modern environment. Today we can observe numerous military conflicts preconditioned by the clash of leading states interests and their desire to dominate in a particular strategic region. I am sure that their motifs are close to those outlined by Kissinger in his book On China. In this regard, it could be recommended as an essential source to improve the understanding of the Cold War and local conflicts triggered by the deterioration in relations between superstates.
Kissinger, Henry. On China. Penguin Books, 2012.