Teaching Bitter Lessons: China's Use of Force in Territorial Disputes 1962-1988
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIR AND SPACE STUDIES
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This study examines the Chinese decision to employ force in territorial disputes using the 1962 Sino-Indo War, the 1969 Sino-Soviet border conflict, and the Chinese conflicts with Vietnam in 1974, 1979, and 1988 as case studies. Six observations about the Chinese decision to use force are drawn from these cases 1 Fear of exploitation following domestic unrest, 2 Perceived decline in bargaining power over a disputed territory, 3 Conclusion that with time matters would continue to worsen, 4 The perceived need to deter future aggression and exploitation by changing the adversary s perception through a demonstration of Chinese strength, 5 Deliberate and reasonable risk assessment and risk mitigation efforts through close coordination of political and military objectives, and 6 The dual roles for the use of force to deliver a psychological shock and to eliminate the threat to Chinese bargaining power along the contested border. The central claim of this thesis is that China s stated intention of teaching a bitter lesson to its adversaries in these disputes accurately captures China s desire to align its neighbors perceptions of China s strength with China s self-perception. China also acted to thwart Soviet influence in Chinese border states by testing alliances with military action. The case studies suggest that in the effort to teach a lesson, China demonstrated close coordination between political and military objectives. Chinese decisions for the use of force have been rational, risk-aware, and made in response to a changing security environment as influenced by a Chinese appreciation of its history. In each case, China acknowledged the threat of escalation, avoided it when able, and attempted to control escalation when it could not be avoided through careful preparation.
- Government and Political Science
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics