Montag, 7. November 2011

Loosing China's Soft Power

Photo courtesy of US Army on Flickr

It is now well known that China's somewhat inevitable rise to being one of the world's most powerful nations is creating some backlash among its Asian neighbours (take a look at all the China stuff I put out on this blog). But what is hardly covered is the full extent of this sometimes painful relationship. With its newly gained prominence, the Chinese leadership is often finding itself abandoning its long-held philosophy of a peaceful rise and is instead bragging about, what it calls, its anti-imperialist legacy. Neighbouring nations are often fringing at the imagery China employs. Vietnam's elite—Vietnam is of course itself a rising power—has seen its record in fighting American and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam war called into question by largely inflated claims by China's elite about its role in the fight. It might indeed be one of the reasons why the Vietnamese elite, despite the Vietnam war, is trying to forge a close alliance with the U.S. I am currently reading Andrew Wiest's highly readable collection of essays in Rolling Thunder in a Gentle Land and came across this short piece written by Bui Tin, himself a veteran of the Vietnam war whilst serving in the armed forces of the North:

“The Chinese inflated their importance when they claimed that 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese troops had fought in the American air war. In truth, the Chinese supplied about 40 gun squads, belonging to 12 battalions, and four regiments of air defense, along with several corps of army engineers and various transportation, communication, logistics, and medial units. These rotated through the country in two-to-three-month cycles, from 1966 until 1972, when they were recalled. They were stationed north of the Hong River, at the request of the People's Liberation Army of China, who wanted their troops 'to get combat experience suited for modern warfare and learn about the activities of the American Air Force.' At Vietnam's request, the Chinese soldiers lived in the jungle away from Vietnamese population, to avoid trading between the two peoples and the formation of relationships between the Chinese soldiers and local women. The local Vietnamese disdained the Chinese for being on a 'wild turkey shoot.' The Chinese expended great amounts of ammunition, shooting skyward while reciting Mao's slogans and waving his little red book over their heads, but they never downed a single American aircraft.”

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