The Iron Wall: China's Conventional Military Capabilities

Rosemary Foot

in The Practice of Power

Published in print April 1997 | ISBN: 9780198292920
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599286 | DOI:
 The Iron Wall: China's Conventional Military Capabilities

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This is the second of four chapters focusing on America’s perceptions of China’s capabilities, and dwelling on the correspondence between those perceptions and the projected consequences. It looks at American perceptions of China’s capabilities as a military power, discussing them in relation to the successive conflicts in which China was involved: the Korean war, the two Taiwan Straits crises, the Sino-Indian and Sino-Soviet border conflicts, the Vietnam war and the Sino-Vietnamese fighting in 1979. The discussion marks the transition from the Truman and Eisenhower administration appraisals of China’s conventional strength as a ‘candidate great power’ (in military terms), to the perceptions in the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, that China had not developed advanced conventional forces, and had been sufficiently weakened through its domestic and foreign policies eventually to require it to embark on a domestic modernization programme that led to the reduction and then ending of its support for the national liberation struggles it had previously championed. Moreover, it needed American military protection to help it deal with Soviet encirclement. This evolution in the understanding of China’s needs and capacities helped ease the path to the rapprochement and then normalization of relations between these two former military opponents, much as America’s own defeat in Vietnam made it easier for Mao to turn to Washington.

Keywords: American military protection; American perceptions of Chinese power; American—Chinese relations; China; China's capabilities; Korean war; military capabilities; military power; normalization; power; rapprochement; Sino-Indian border conflicts; Sino-Soviet border conflicts; Sino-Vietnamese conflict; Taiwan Straits crises; United States; Vietnam war

Chapter.  9807 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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