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How come a small country like Vietnam was able to defeat the Chinese Army during the Sino-Vietnam war?

The Sino-Vietnamese War was a border war fought between China and Vietnam in early 1979. China launched an offensive in response to Vietnam's actions against the Khmer Rouge in 1978, which ended the rule of the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge. Both China and Vietnam claimed victory in the last of the Indochina Wars.

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I would like to describe the military conflict between China and Vietnam from a different perspective. The Sino-Vietnamese war was essentially a conflict between China and a military bloc led by the Soviet Union. In the 1970s relations between China and the United States normalised, but there was a very significant conflict between China and the Soviet Union, and Chinese diplomacy began to tilt towards the United States, which also did not want to see the expansion of Soviet power in Southeast Asia represented by Vietnam. After reunification Vietnam received large amounts of material support from the Soviet Union, became politically close to the Soviet Union and began to purge the pro-Chinese faction of the Vietnamese Communist Party, which caused strong resentment in Beijing.

The main reason for the war was to free the Khmer Rouge regime. I have no intention of defending Pol Pot, who was a demon, and this is probably why the war is rarely mentioned in mainland China. If the war is seen as a Chinese invasion of Vietnam, there is no doubt that Vietnam was victorious. But it seems to me that China had no intention of acquiring any Vietnamese territory other than the disputed border areas. The Chinese army destroyed a great deal of infrastructure in northern Vietnam as they retreated, and I think that was one of their war objectives. Of course, the poor command of General Xu Shiyou in this war caused considerable losses to the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and the backwardness of the weaponry led the Communist Party's top brass to decide to reform the army.

After the end of the Sino-Vietnamese War, the Sino-Vietnamese border did not lead to peace and some military conflicts continued. For example, the Battle of Fakashan in 1981 and the Battle of Laoshan in 1984. believe it or not, military conflicts on various scales continued until 1989, which was a delicate point in time when Sino-Soviet relations normalised, wasn't it? According to the agreement, the Soviet Union was supposed to lend a helping hand when Vietnam was attacked, but they didn't, which certainly exacerbated the split between the Soviet and Eastern blocs. This objectively also contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. So who was the victor? I don't know.

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Well, on Chinese side, it was a limited punishment war as what Deng told the Americans during his visit to US. A retaliation of aggression of vietnam in Cambodia and harassment along Chinese border. As the result, we did destroyed infrastructures in north Vietnam and took everything for what we aided viet during their fight against US. USSR was the primary concern for China and most force were deployed around china-USSR border for defence instead of entering vietnam.

Deng was confident on achieving his goal. However, i dont think our government foresee the serious lost of man and tanks during the war. The death toll on both sides were too huge and painful for any sides to claim a total victory. A short story from my family, my uncle was served in air force during the war. After his departure, my dad remembered my grandma was crying and praying in the church (she was Christian) every day for my uncle’s safe return. My uncle was back unharmed, he was lucky as the Chinese air force was not involved in any real operations. Several young man from the same village who entered the real battleground were never made it back which cause many families broken.

For the result of war, I think we lost. As what other quora answer stated, when a huge country like china or US can not completely crush a smaller country like Vietnam, it was called a military defeat. However, we Chinese think the war was the extension to political conflict. We achieved something beyond the battle

1, use a limited war to avoid possible direct conflict with USSR,

2, show the world we are willing to join the west side on against USSR,

3, transferred the public focus on sorting culture revolution’s after math,

4, pave the way to economic reform, earning valuable peaceful time and aids.

5, helped reformed the military through real practice,

6, stopped Vietnam’s aggression in Cambodia so they would not be able to establish a de facto long term control in that area.

All in all, do i think it was worth a war? the answer is yes and no. I love peace, which is the instinct of human being, however, i know few political conflict can actually be solved peacefully. In fact, I think all Chinese love peace and shows no interest on taking other peoples land or invade. We hate invasions as much as any others in this world. If you know the chinese history, Han chinese holds similar amount of lands as much as thousands years ago. If one day our country have a warlord in charge and want to conquer the world, probably we will be the first to kick him/her out of the throne.

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The PLA wasn’t defeated in battle vs the VPA, this point isn’t disputed. Every single argument that China lost the war makes certain assumptions on what the strategic Chinese goals were, and speculate that those were not achieved.

Vietnam certainly didn’t lose the war that badly, measured against their goal of territorial defense, they only lost a bit of territory in the end. (The current China-Vietnam border is a few km south of the traditional border)

What is in more dispute is whether China won or lost. I think China mostly achieved its strategic objectives, so it did win the conflict. However, the loser isn’t really Vietnam, it is the Soviet Union.

The main goal of China’s invasion of Vietnam was to demonstrate that the Soviet Union is a paper tiger. The Soviet Union had a defense pact with Vietnam like the US has with NATO countries. The fact that China can invade a Soviet ally at will with no military response from the Soviet Union basically demonstrated the military impotence of the Soviet Union.

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The VPA(Vietnamese People's Army) is the reflection of the PLA(People's Liberation Army) ,so,How could Vietnamese Army defeat Chinese Army in the Sino-Vietnam war? or How could a person be defeated by his reflection?

Why could the VPA be regarded as the reflection of the PLA?

1 : It is Not Through the frontal battlefield But Through the guerrilla warfare in the tropical rainforest that VPA defeated USA,so,Whom did the VPA learn the guerrilla warfare from? Of course from PLA. In fact,Chairman MAO is the master of the guerrilla warfare,and he had spent nearly 20 years on theorizing his practice of the guerrilla warfare in the cruel civil war and WWII. In his theory of the guerrilla warfare,he emphasized the importance of Building the revolution base,and solved the problem of how to build a revolution base not only in military but also in political. The former was well done through building the Trinity of the main army,the local army,and the militia while the latter was well done through socialist transformation of agriculture,handicrafts,capitalist industry and commerce. Actually Chairman MAO had two greatest contribution to the liberation of the colonized people:

A:In military.

War is nothing but a continuation of politics. The war usually wins its political goals through the frontal battlefield before era of MAO while Chairman MAO wins its political goals not only through the frontal battlefield in the civil war but also through the guerrilla warfare in the WWII ,So the guerrilla warfare has achieved the same status as the frontal battlefield especially for the colonized people.

B:In political.

Chairman MAO propose a creative idea of Violent and Noncooperation Movements in china while Gandhi propose a creative idea of Nonviolent and Noncooperation Movements in india. So,even the girls would be organized to be the women militia,then the enemy couldn't establish the rule order in the land they occupied because no one would collaborate with them. So,the cost of occupation would be so high that it would be economically and politically unacceptable. For example:In 1945,some japanese soldiers in the north china had to been employed by the chinese to feed themselves even though they were still in the war,they preferred sweat to blood. Actually,japanese army had no choice,every time they destroyed the local power of KMT(the ruling party of china),CCP(Chinese Communism Party) would build their revolution base instead. Japanese army only could control the key cities and the key railways while CCP could control the rural areas,it is Chairman MAO's thought of "surrounding the cities from the countryside". The more areas japanese army occupied,the more areas CCP could control. In fact,in 1945,CCP had 100 million people and one million troops in the revolution base,then CCP defeated KMT in the civil war through the frontal battlefield. So,PLA could fight not only through the frontal battlefield but also through the guerrilla warfare while VPA is lack of the frontal battlefield experience even though they are good at the guerrilla warfare in the tropical rainforest.


Chinese women militia in WWII


Vietnamese militia in the vietnam war

It is why USA nearly won every battle but they still lost the whole war.

It is why China only taught vietnam a lesson and they don't want to occupy it from the very beginning.

So, if China didn't wanted to occupy vietnam from the very beginning,how could vietnam defeat china?

2:The most of educated officers of VPA were graduated from Guilin military college,and some army of VPA even got training and consolidated as a whole in china. So,in the 1979,in the war,maybe the commanders on both sides of the battlefield were classmates,it was so sad,wasn't it?

3:The VPA could got any military equipment they wanted only if it could be made in china. So,in the 1979,in the war,The PLA's communications were often interposed by the Vietnamese because they used the same Communication equipment.

The biggest headache for Deng xiaoping was that every time vietnamese visited beijing,what they wanted exceeded what they needed. After all,when everything is free,everyone would ask more. What's more,All aids were unconditional,Vietnam didn't have to side with China even though it seemed as if there would be a war between china and russia at that time.

How did the PLA fight with his reflection?

1:In 1979,The PLA broke through the north vietnam border which located in mountain area,and got the gateway to Hanoi, then withdrew to China.

2:To defend the Hanoi,the VPA had to rebuild huge fortifications in the mountains nearby the border,then in 1984 the PLA occupied the mountains again,and the VPA had to fight with the PLA to recover the mountains in the place which the PLA chose in a way the VPA was not good at. The vietnamese nationalism made things worse,then the mountains became the wound of Vietnam from 1984 to 1989. The mountains were returned to the vietnam after Vietnam resumed the normal relations with China in 1991 and the PLA cleaned the mines of the mountains in 1999.

What lessons did china teach vietnam?

A:in military.

Lesson 1:China could occupy the fortifications in the mountains nearby the border,but china really didn't want to do it,so PLA withdrew to china just as what they did in 1979.

Lesson 2:China could occupy the fortifications in the mountains nearby the border,then transformed it into the wound of vietnam, but china really didn't want to do it,so china returned it to vietnam just as what they did from 1984 to 1989 and what they did in 1999.

Lesson 3:China could get the gateway to Hanoi,then attacked it,but china really didn't want to do it,so PLA withdrew to china just as what they did in 1979.

Lesson 4:China's defense policy is active defense. So,In The Strategy Level, China is defense while In The Tactics Level,China would be offensive.

B:in political.

Lesson 1:China offered the aids to vietnam as much as possible,All aids were free and unconditional,and Chairman MAO even apologized to vietnam for China hegemony in the history. It didn't mean that China's goodwill was boundless,Actually China's goodwill extended only so far as its interests are not affected.

Lesson 2:China's revenge is not boundless, China's revenge extended only so far as its interests are affected.

Lesson 3:When China would take military action,China would protest repeatedly,and the protest would be intensified little by little,then the protest would be evolved to the ultimate protest"勿谓言之不预" which means "Do not blame us for not having forewarned you". Military action would be followed by the ultimate protest. The ultimate protest appeared before the korea war,sino-india war,and sino-vietnam war.

BTW:When vietnam was conquered by french,vietnamese did Not inspire the nationalism But inspired the consciousness of chinese civilization community,So the vietnamese revolutionaries allied with the chinese revolutionaries to liberate china firstly,then liberate vietnam. So did the korean revolutionaries. Actually,the vietnamese revolutionaries and the korean revolutionaries regarded the chinese revolutionaries as their comrades and brothers.

Ho Chi Minh had received good Chinese education,and he had a chinese lover,but his marriage application was rejected by the Vietcong political bureau,so he stayed alone till death. It is really weird,just think about Chairman MAO,Stalin and Lenin,Who dares interfere in their marriage?So,in my opinion,Ho Chi Minh already lost his power,and 黎笋(Lê Duẩn) make him a mere figurehead,so vietnam could get aids from china. If a man couldn't defend his lover,how could he defend his country?When stalin insulted Lenin's wife,Lenin became very angry and he ordered stalin to apologize to his wife even though he was sick unto death at that time.


洪水(Hồng Thủyo) or 阮山(Nguyễn Sơn) ,he is not only the major general of PLA but also the major general of VPA (he should be the

Lieutenant General of PLA but Ho Chi Minh thought the two Army should view one another as equals,so his rank in PLA should not be higher than his rank in VPA,then he only accepted the major general of PLA ),then he is the only one with duel military status and duel party membership in the PLA or in the world. Moreover,He took part in the Long March. In 1956,when he was sick unto death,he decided to return to his homeland. Chairman mao went to the CPPCC Auditorium to see him off,then Marshal Peng dehuai and more than two hundred generals went to the station platform to see him off. He rid Chairman MAO special train to vietnam,and died in Hanoi 25 days later.

However,after vietnam won its independence with the help of china,vietnamese did inspire the nationalism when they faced china…

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I agree with Randy McDonald's answer in that the intention of the war was to punish Vietnamese's 'disobedience' over the toppling of the Khmer Rouge puppet regime (I'm certainly glad somebody put an end to these horrible 'people').

While it wasn't exactly a successful campaign based on the number of casualties, both sides suffered similar number of death, though the true numbers are difficult to obtain.

Saying it was a 'defeat' for the Chinese is probably a bit exaggerated.

Being from China, I was fortunate enough to have encountered some first hand stories from the people who went to that war.

1. The playing field is very leveled for both sides - since most weapons used by the Vietnamese army were sent by the Chinese during the Vietnam war over a decade, both sides were using almost the exact same equipment.

Anecdote (I don't know if it was true or not): The radio from both sides can tune to the exact same channels. A make-shift alternative of was pulling kids from athlete schools and local villages to relay important messages by foot. The boarder between Vietnam and China is very mountainous and though it is dangerous and slow, this was the only way to avoid orders being intercepted by either sides apparently.

2. One thing the Chinese PLA supposed to have advantage over is heavy weaponry. Unfortunately the disastrous Cultural Revolution years have taken a cull on the quality of PLA's inventory. More tanks broke down on the way to the battlefield that the ones that were actually knocked out by Viet Cons. In the end it was more or less a boxing match in the same weight division - much to the disappointment of Chinese generals.

3. Northern Vietnamese and Southern Chinese were historically close. Even before the tumultuous 19 and 20th century, the minority groups in that region shared strong bonds in their struggle from emperors to warlords. Their shared history goes back to before 200 BC when the region was then known as 南越, (Nam-Viet or the Southern Yue State). At the beginning of the border conflict, PLA mobilized troops from Jinan Military Region and Nanjing Military Region instead of the local Guangzhou Military Region to address this issue. (Again this is strictly word-of-mouth information).

4. The final stage of the war was an organized operation of retreat, sabotage and looting. Again, the main aim of the entire expedition was to 'teach a lesson' and the PLA made sure it will take a long time for north Vietnam to recover economically. Using railway, it was rumored that the PLA took every machinery, cattle and usable material with them. The north-bound train ran for months after the military campaign has seized, causing significant damage to the community of northern Vietnam regions.

I have tried to verify many of such stories with overseas Vietnamese students. However most of them seem to hail from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in the south and are generally oblivious to the war's existence entirely. It looks like this war isn't something that either government is too keen to speak about, and I wonder why.

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It's very interesting that on quora there are always questions posted anonymously with tendentious content, and then some Vietnamese accounts are able to spot them in the first place and reply with enthusiasm, and this question is one of them.

Vietnam defeated China in 1979, well, right!

One, a defeated China took control of all the disputed areas along the Sino-Vietnamese border after the war, prior to which part of the disputed areas were controlled by China and part by Vietnam. After the 1979 war, the defeated China, took control of all the disputed areas and the victorious Vietnam lost all the disputed areas.

In 1999 China and Vietnam signed a border treaty. The land borders were adjusted and all the land that Vietnam had lost in the fighting was given to China, including South Suppressing Pass, the traditional border and entry point between Vietnam and China, which caused widespread frustration in the Vietnamese community.

Youyi Pass, which was built in the early Ming Dynasty under the name " South Suppressing Pass" (simplified Chinese: Zhennan Pass; Vietnamese: TrấnNam Quan), was renamed in 1953 as " South In 1965, its name was changed again to the current Friendship Pass, reflecting the close political, military and economic ties between the People's Republic of China and North Vietnam during the then ongoing Vietnam War.


Traditionally, this pass was the exact border between China and Vietnam, hence the historical Vietnamese saying: "N QuancViệtNam tatrảidàit Nami Nam QuanđếnmũiCàMau", which translates as "From Ai Nam Quan Vietnamese country all the way to Phu Quem Ou". However, the most recent pass has been controlled by China, and in June 2000 the border treaty between China and Vietnam confirmed that some of the Vietnamese territory along the Sino-Vietnamese border, namely in Cao Bang and Lang Son provinces, had been ceded to China.

This is very interesting and it shows that Vietnam does not mind its own territory.

Vietnam is still willing to cede territory to China even after it has been victorious.

Secondly, according to a comprehensive report by the BBC, the defeated Chinese army suffered about 27,000 casualties and the victorious Vietnamese army about 80,000.

Vietnamese sources claim that the Chinese People's Liberation Army suffered a total of 62,500 casualties, and Wei Jingsheng, an anti-government pro-democracy activist in China, told the Western media in 1980 that the Chinese army had lost 9,000 men killed and about 10,000 wounded in the war. Leaks from the Chinese military indicate that China suffered 6,954 deaths.

The Vietnamese government has never officially announced any news of its actual military casualties. China estimates that Vietnam lost 57,000 soldiers and 70,000 militiamen during the war. Official Vietnamese newspapers claimed that Vietnam suffered more than 100,000 civilian deaths during the Chinese invasion, and earlier, on 17 May 1979, reported statistics of heavy damage to industrial and agricultural property.

III. A defeated China received a significant amount of support from ethnic minorities in Vietnam

The Chinese received a significant amount of defectors from the Thu Lao ethnic minority in Vietnam during the war.

During the war China received as migrants the entire A Lù based population of the Phù Lá ethnic minority.

China received so many defectors from the ethnic minorities in Vietnam that it raised shock among Vietnam which had to launch a new effort re-assert dominance. China received so many defectors from the ethnic minorities in Vietnam that it raised shock among Vietnam which had to launch a new effort re-assert dominance over the ethnic minorities and classify them.

Post Vietnam War, insurgency against Vietnam lasted among the indigenous Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesians of the Central Highlands ...Assistance was sought from China by the Hmong ethnic minority

The border was frequently crossed by Chinese, Lao, Kinh, Hmong, Yao, Nung, and Tai. The Laotian Hmong and FULRO were both supported against Vietnam by China and Thailand.

The Laotian Hmong and FULRO were both supported against Vietnam by China and Thailand.

In the spring of 1979, some 8,000 Goans were expelled from Hanoi to the southern 'New Economic Zone' and the Hmong and other ethnic minorities were partially resettled from the northernmost provinces. In response to the defection of Hoàng VănHoan, a purge was launched to cleanse the Vietnamese Communist Party of pro-Chinese elements and personnel who had succumbed to the advancing Chinese army during the war. 20,468 members of the party were expelled in 1979.

V. The failed Chinese army also inflicted the following losses on Vietnam

The Vietnamese Communist Party organ, the People's Newspaper, published a statement entitled "A Preliminary Table of Some Presently Visible Losses as of the End of March 1979", which gave a preliminary account of some of the losses incurred by the Vietnamese side during the month-long Sino-Vietnamese border war. The details were as follows.

1. Cities destroyed: four out of a total of four, or one hundred per cent.

2. Communes destroyed: 320 out of a total of 320, or 100 per cent.

3. The area of houses destroyed in the cities: 600,000 square metres.

4. The number of people who lost their homes in the cities: 150,000.

5. The number of houses destroyed in the countryside: 45,000.

6. The number of people who lost their homes in the countryside: 200,000.

7. Primary and secondary schools destroyed: 735 out of a total of 904, or 81%.

8. Number of students without schooling: 180,000.

9. Kindergartens destroyed: all 691 out of a total of 900 were destroyed.

10. Number of children without a place to study: 14,000.

11. Number of teachers who lost their schools: 5,570.

12. Hospitals and health posts destroyed: four hundred and twenty-eight out of a total of four hundred and thirty were destroyed, or 99.5 per cent. Of these; all four of the total number of provincial hospitals were destroyed, accounting for one hundred percent; twenty-four of the total number of twenty-six county hospitals were destroyed, accounting for ninety-two percent; all four hundred of the total number of communal health stations were destroyed, accounting for one hundred percent.

13. Destroyed forest farms: thirty-eight out of a total of forty-two were destroyed, accounting for ninety per cent.

14. Farms and agricultural stations destroyed: forty-one.

15. Cattle killed or robbed: 157,000 out of a total of 260,000 were killed or robbed, or sixty per cent.

16. Pigs killed or looted: 244,000 out of a total of 305,000, or eighty per cent.

I find some of the Vietnamese interesting, and the Vietnamese also like to say that Cambodians are very grateful to the Vietnamese (there are 200,000 people of Vietnamese descent in Cambodia, and Cambodia refuses to issue them with identity documents; for those interested, do a search for "Cambodian Vietnamese").

I also came across a Vietnamese saying that Chinese characters were invented by Vietnamese ancestors (someone in Korea has also suggested that Chinese characters were invented by Korean ancestors), and I wondered why Vietnam does not use Chinese characters now if this is the case.

The funniest thing is that the Vietnamese say that their ancestors controlled south of the Yangtze River. Contrast this with the Koreans who also say that their ancestors controlled north of the Yangtze River.


The Tibetan separatist movement people say that Tibet has been an independent country since ancient times. The Western media say: Mongolia and Xinjiang are not Chinese.

So where are the Chinese? Hahahahahahahahahaha

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Question: How come a small country like Vietnam was able to defeat the Chinese Army during the Sino-Vietnam war?

Answer: I am not sure how you define the word defeat. However, in general, with this war, Vietnam could claim victory over China in most of its targets and also its military strategies.


(Vietnam-China border)

Firstly, The failures of China, are some of the reasons to wage this war against Vietnam.

All wars lead to killings, misery, losses on both sides; so, each side shall try to propagandize their motives to wage or join any wars, which make them more legal and more rational in the international community. Of course, Each party shall have their own reasons to defend their war and the difference is on the persuasive level. Even Hilter and the Germany Nazis or Polpot also had their own way to motivate tens of millions of their people to fight for their own purposes. However, for this war, China failed to convince the international community that they were correct, while waging this war against Vietnam.

Why did China invade Vietnam?

To protect the Chinese border in the south against the Vietnamese aggressor?

Comment : No, Vietnam did not intend to invade China

To protect the Chinese people against the Vietnamese atrocities?

Comment : No, Vietnam also did not massacre the Chinese.

To protect its allies - the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia?

Comment: This reason may be logical but failed after that, since the world knows the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. Nowadays, China do not dare condemn Vietnam for invading Cambodia in 1978.

To protect or create democracy in Vietnam like What America often does?

Comment : No, China was not more democratic than Vietnam.

To punish Vietnam because Vietnam decided to side with the Soviet Union?

Comment: Vietnam is an independent country,and not a vassal state of the Chinese Empire in the past. China did not have the right to punish other countries only because of the differences in foreign policy. Why China would not punish Laos, South Korea, Japan, but Vietnam? However, It exposes the great Hanism/ the Han chauvinism that exists in the Chinese mindset and also the combative and atrocious nature of the Chinese when waging a war against others only because of ridiculous reasons.


(Opium war 1841)

To sum up : China failed before Vietnam for initiating ridiculous reasons to wage this war, which should had only existed in the barbarian periods of human history. Even the world today is not equal for all, but America too find some civilized reasons like creating democracy/ protecting human rights to wage a war against other countries.


(Iraq War 2003)

P/s: The Han chauvinism express through the way China exercises its foreign policy in which the weak countries around it must obey unconditionally, the Chinese ambition and blindly follow the Chinese policy. If not, China shall punish them as what had happened during the Chinese empire period before the Opium Wars 1841 . Also, China and the Chinese regarded themselves as the center of this universe from culture, economy, politics …etc, and regarded all of the non-Han ethnics around them as barbarians. Whatever China has done is correct, and the barbarians are wrong, if being contradictory to the Chinese view.

For example , China could have a tacit understanding with France during the 1954 conference about Indochina or with America about the Vietnam war since the first visit of the American president to China in 1972. On the other hand, China could sell North Vietnam to France or America but Vietnam must be loyal to China

(You could research on Google about these tacit understandings)

For example , China could lean to America during the period from 1972, but Vietnam could not do it with the Soviet Union, when the national interests of Vietnam were seriously threatened by China and the Khmer Rouge.

Secondly , China failed at the military strategies while facing the Vietnamese army.

During this war, China wanted to use large number of soldiers around 200.000 combatants to surprisingly attack the Vietnamese territories and create clear victories before Vietnam in a short time. However, Vietnam did not allow the Chinese strategy to be successful, because the Vietnamese army held a strong defense against China along their Northern border with local forces, even if they were little surprised with the Chinese invasion . Also, Vietnam did not hurry to hold its professional forces stationed around Hanoi to counter-attack China in the Northern border of Vietnam.

Why Vietnam did not immediately counterattack China back to the Chinese territories?

Here are some reasons from Vietnam:

Vietnam needs more time to move its forces from the Cambodian war to North Vietnam.


(Vietnamese forces in Cambodia during the Vietnamese-Cambodian War in 1978)

If China escalated the border war into the full-scale war, Vietnam would want the Soviet Union intervention or at least wait for the Soviet Union to mobilize its troops into the Chinese border in the Northern side before counter-attacking China.


To counter the Chinese military tactic (attack fast, win fast), Vietnam applied the tactic is fighting firm , advancing firm. Unlike China, Vietnam did not have enough resources to risk in any war against superpowers like China or America. It is the style of fighting of the poor houses. The Vietnamese forces chose to fight/attack, when they had enough troops and the ability to win, if not, they shall choose to defend first.


(Mr. Vo Nguyen Giap, the architecture of the Vietnamese military)

To sum up : Vietnam did not allow China to obtain the main victory along the border, which even could make China stuck in guerrilla warfare with the Vietnamese militants. It forced China to choose two options:

Escalating this border conflicts with Vietnam into full-scale war and may risk full war with the Soviet Union in the Northern border of China and with Vietnam in the Southern border of China at the same time (Vietnam did not want to fight alone with China, if it had the Soviet Union)

Retreating out of the Vietnamese border territories with proclaiming victory.

And, the history says, China was pragmatic and chose the second option. However, in military context, China completely failed in its military strategy against Vietnam during this war. Thus, too mad for this failure, China kept its blind support to the genocidal regime - the Khmer Rouge against Vietnam and also the border conflict until 1991 even though they knew how brutal the Khmer Rouge was and How kind Vietnam is (Vietnamese said) in the Cambodian-Vietnam war 1978.

In conclusion: Vietnam defeated China in both kinds of war on the diplomatic battle and real battle.


P/s: I write answers based upon the gist and requirement of the question. Readers are requested to read it with neutrality and rational approach. I throughout this answer has no intention of showing any disrespect towards any group of people or country.

All bests

Lusia Millar

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I’ve got a nice chat with my father in law who was a veteran in both American war and Chinese border war.

His unit arrived at the border just 1 day before the invasion to setup the defense line.

The next day at exact 07:00 there was countless human wave attack his position. That afternoon when his positon about to break, to his surprise, the Chinese army stop.

The next few days, same thing repeat: Attack at 07:00 and stop at 16:00. Soon he realized facing an old school army where front line officers have little room to exploit the actual progress, the officer’s main task is to follow whatever the far away headquarter commander think it’s right. Also they don’t have airplane , tank are generally obsolete and can’t do shit in mountainous battlefield.

After 1 week fighting, father’s unit run out of ammunition and supply and they have to fall back at night. They tried and failed retreating via jungle (you can’t simply infiltrate through tropical dense forest) and decided using the lightly guarded trail. To his surprise, few Chinese guards see them but did nothing to stop the retreat. They may tired, demotivated or just don’t feel like fighting outside the “office hours” 07:00–16:00…

Feb 1979, my father in law unit lost 60 of total 300 man but he said facing Chinese army is nothing compared to fighting the American. Amateur.

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Perhaps the most important reason, beyond China's relative military weakness and the competence of the Vietnamese military on the defense, is that China was not committed to crushing Vietnam. By all accounts, the Sino-Vietnamese War was initiated by China with the goal of punishing a Soviet-aligned Vietnam for invading Chinese-allied Cambodia, possibly even forcing a Vietnamese withdrawal. China was not committed to anything like regime change in Hanoi, for sound geopolitical and domestic reasons. (The Soviet Union would surely have reacted badly to the destruction of its Southeast Asian client, and a bloody war in Southeast Asia could have derailed Deng Xiaopeng's reform agenda.) China instead waged a limited war, at cost to itself, and then returned to its borders of its own will.

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Actually that's not true. The Chinese marched in and out unimpeded. That showed that China won the war.

Furthermore the purpose of the invasion into Vietnam was to bait the USSR into attacking China because it had a military treaty with Vietnam. Thus the premier Chinese soldiers were up in the North waiting to pounce at the incoming Soviet force. Only the village soldiers were dispatched to attack Vietnam.

China had taught Vietnam that her treaty with the USSR was a piece of useless paper.

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