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Building Ho's Army: Chinese Military Assistance to North Vietnam

by Xiaobing Li

Availablecloth$50.00x 978-0-8131-7794-6
296 pages  Pubdate: 09/10/2019  6 x 9  8 maps

Built upon a solid foundation of sources, memoirs, and interviews, this study sheds new light on China’s efforts in the Vietnam War. Utilizing secondary works in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Western languages, and the author’s own familiarity as a former member of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, this examination expands the knowledge of China’s relations with the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) during the 1950s and 1960s.

As a communist state bordering Vietnam, China actively facilitated the transformation of Ho Chi Minh’s army from a small, loosely organized, poorly equipped guerrilla force in the 1940s into a formidable, well-trained professional army capable of defeating first the French (1946–1954) and then the Americans (1963–1973). Even after the signing of the Geneva Peace Agreement, China continued to aggressively support Vietnam. Between 1955 and 1963, Chinese military aid totaled $106 million and these massive contributions enabled Ho Chi Minh to build up a strong conventional force. After 1964, China increased its aid and provided approximately $20 billion more in military and economic aid to Vietnam.

Western strategists and historians have long speculated about the extent of China’s involvement in Vietnam, but it was not until recently that newly available archival materials revealed the true extent of China’s influence—its level of military assistance training, strategic advising, and monetary means during the war. This illuminating study answers questions about China’s intention, objective, strategy, and operations of its involvement in the Vietnam Wars.

Xiaobing Li is a professor of history at the University of Central Oklahoma. He has published several books including China’s Battle for Korea: The 1951 Spring Offensive, A History of the Modern Chinese Army, Voices from the Vietnam War: Stories from American, Asian, and Russian Veterans, and Civil Liberties in China.

Within a broad and well-constructed analytic framework, Li traces the arc of Chinese military assistance to their fraternal Vietnamese communist comrades—from its early origins on a small scale through its growing importance in the victory over France [and] the struggle against the US and its South Vietnamese client state. -- Steven I. Levine, coauthor of coauthor of Arc of Empire: America's Wars in Asia from the Philippin to Vietnam

A very valuable addition to the historiography of the Indochinese wars, Xiaobing Li’s latest book is a thoroughly researched, highly readable account of China’s essential contribution to transforming the guerrilla force of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam into a formidable regular army. Drawing on newly available Chinese-language primary and secondary sources, this fascinating military history provides a detailed view of China’s strategic, advisory, and logistic assistance to the DRV. -- William J. Rust, of Eisenhower and Cambodia: Diplomacy, Covert Action, and the Origins of the Second Indochina War

Xiaobing Li’s detailed account of Chinese military assistance to North Vietnam between 1950 and 1956 is essential reading for anyone interested in the military dimension of Sino-Vietnam relations in the early years of the Indochina War. -- Ang Cheng Guan, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies