Depends on who you ask.
The average Vietnamese:
China don’t have a legitimate reason to invade us.
The war was caused by the China and Cambodia.
The war resulted in unecessary loss of lives and economic potential.
If you ask me, it is the same as above. However, it is much more complicated than that. Let me explain.
We complete our objective of protecting the central government and deposing the Khmer Rogue. The victory was a pyhrric victory, which means it reaped no benefits for Vietnam. It should have been avoided from both sides.
I don’t get the Chinese’s reasoning. Why tf would we want Indochina under our heel? We didn’t invade Laos in that war, mind you. The population which was quite idealistic at the time would not tolerate it. We were not the US and were in no shape to pull the same feat. The idea of us wanting to dominate Indochina sounds absurd to the average Vietnamese just like how the idea of China wanting to dominate Vietname sounds to the average Chinese. We were tired from years of war, especially in the North where most of the leadership comes from.
And we certainly didn’t invade China (at least with not the intent for mass destruction and huge land grab, by the law, it was still invasions ) first. Yes, there were disputes in the border, since we had no border treaty and thus all wanted to get a hand on that land. Of course, China saw this as a legal invasion (which by technicality, I agree, the same applied to Vietnam). But going on a war with full intent of destruction to “punish” that? Really? Are we El Salvador and Honduras?
We were quite confident in our military at the time, or one could say arrogant. I agree with the Chinese on this one.
The persecution of “Chinese” in Vietnam. China is a civilization state. The Han culture tends to make one seeing others that share blood as one of their own. Our culture encourages the same view. However from a legal perspective, the Chinese refugees in Vietnam have no PRC’s citizenship. They control much of the economy in the South and run a monopoly on business, which conflicted with VCP’s policy (and CCP too, if you ask). Vietnamese were undoubtedly wary of them. Last but not least, they didn’t even have Vietnamese citizenship. Which means they paid no tax, offered no military services, etc. They wanted to be put above the law, and dominate Vietnamese’s market. We offered them citizenship, they refused. You knew what came next. Were we saint and have no hidden agenda when committing the act? No. Doesn’t mean the Chinese goverment had a say in the matter. I thought with the example of Xinjiang and Tibet, the Chinese would have understood our actions by now.
And while I deeply admired the noble thought of saving all Chinese, most of the “boat people” are actually die-hard antifans of China and supposedly all communist countries. You will be shocked at how similar the radicals in HK are to those you call “fellow Chinese”.
The only legal binding for China to actually have a good reason to invade Vietnam was the defense treaty between China and Cambodia. However, I felt Chinese nationals were conveniently leaving out the part that the Khmer Rogue was one of the most geonocidal regime on Earth. And they did a proper invasion on the border and commit genocide. They openly talked about how they would kill all Vietnamese. They killed nearly 40% of Cambodian population. Why Chinese nationals were so reluctant to openly admit that the decision to support the Khmer Rogue was wrong? Why such an important piece of history is almost left out in every Chinese answer I found regarding the topic?
Sorry for the harsh tone. Pragmatism is much more of a reason for the fateful war in 1979. The Chinese were more concerned with the fate of China than Cambodia and Vietnam, the latter declared the enemy. The Khmer Rouge was backed by the international community, and by both the US and Vietnam. The 1979 war cemented US support for China. China removed a potential threat in the South. The ones who suffered the most were Cambodians and Vietnamese.
The war to the Chinese was about getting US support and removing the Vietnamese threat( considering how PLA destroyed all of our industrial infrastructure).
No nation is perfect. I get that. Many US nationals and historians expressed their grief and openly apologize for their nation’s hand in the Khmer Rogue. Why can’t some of Chinese nationals and historians at least admit their part in the Khmer Rogue? Why insisting that we Vietnamese wanting some vague “Indochina federation” to throw all of our efforts out of the door ? Aren’t we all result-oriented? Why can’t the Chinese at least praise or admit our role in deposing that inhuman government?
I DON’T GET IT. And most Vietnamese don’t get it too. That part of history were cemented in Vietnamese as dark times: the grief we have to bear, the condemnation we faced from the United Nations etc. The war will divide our nations for decades to come if the Chinese can’t at least loosen their narrative.
We both won. I concur.
We fucked up. “You” fucked up, too. It’s time for both sides get off our high horses.