TIMELINES: What invasion that Vietnam quickly repelled began Feb. 17, 1979?

February 17, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Friday, Feb. 17, 2012


On Feb. 17, 1979, following the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, Chinese forces invade Vietnam. After the Vietnam War ends in 1975 tensions between China and Vietnam grow with Vietnam pushing to expand its influence. Vietnam establishes a military presence in Laos and in 1978 signs the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union. In December 1978, Vietnam overruns Cambodia, toppling the pro-Beijing communist regime of Pol Pot. The rising tension over Vietnam’s efforts to establish dominance in Southeast Asia leads China to attack on Feb. 17. Chinese regime forces advance into Vietnam and take a few northern cities while fighting off tough resistance. On March 5, the Chinese communist regime announces the campaign is over, saying Vietnam had been chastised. However, Hanoi maintains it thwarted Beijing’s invasion. Chinese forces withdraw by March 16.


For the decade following the border war, tension between the neighbors was high. In 1991 the two agreed to put the past aside and build better relations. Warmer relations continued until 2007, but since then, Vietnam has grown more concerned about the Chinese Communist Party’s aggression in the South China Sea. Half a dozen nations have internationally-recognized claims in the region, yet the Chinese regime claims sovereignty over almost the entire the South China Sea. The sea is believed to be rich in (undiscovered) natural resources. Last June, tension between China and Vietnam flared up again when Chinese vessels allegedly cut cables belonging to Vietnamese oil survey ships. This led to anti-Chinese protests in Hanoi. Vietnam responded by conducting nine hours of live-fire military exercises off the coast.