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IMAGO / Zoonar

Country Reports

The Sino-Vietnamese Border Conflict

by Niklas Beke-Bramkamp, Florian C. Feyerabend

A Forgotten War?

A review of the ten-year border conflict (1979 to 1989) between China and Vietnam and the culture of remembrance as a reflection of bilateral relations

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In the painful 20th century, Vietnam had to assert itself several times in military conflicts with major powers. The anti-colonial and anti-imperial wars of liberation against France (First Indochina War, 1946 to 1954) and the United States, as well as the Republic of Vietnam supported by Washington (Second Indochina War, 1955 to 1973/1975), which are heroically depicted in Vietnamese historiography, not only dominate the historical view from the outside, but also the national culture of remembrance in Vietnam. The last armed conflict between Vietnam and a major power is lost from sight: the border conflict with the People's Republic of China (1979 to 1989). Even within Vietnam, after the normalization of relations with Beijing (1991), the sensitive topic was hardly discussed for years, reports were censored, exhibitions in museums explicitly avoided the word "war" and did not mention China at all. In recent years, however, this virtual taboo on war has changed somewhat: with the more aggressive Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, Vietnam's view of its neighbour to the north and how the painful past is dealt with has changed (again). The official commemoration is thus a mirror image and an instrument in the bilateral relations between Hanoi and Beijing.


The full-length publication is only available in German.

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Florian C. Feyerabend

Florian Constantin Feyerabend (2020)

Head of KAS Vietnam


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