Based on new archival research in many countries, this volume broadens the context of the U.S. intervention in Vietnam. Its primary focus is on relations between China and Vietnam in the mid-twentieth century; but the book also deals with China’s relations with Cambodia, U.S. dealings with both China and Vietnam, French attitudes toward Vietnam and China, and Soviet views of Vietnam and China. Contributors from seven countries range from senior scholars and officials with decades of experience to young academics just finishing their dissertations. The general impact of this work is to internationalize the history of the Vietnam War, going well beyond the long-standing focus on the role of the United States.

Contributors include Chen Jian, James G. Hershberg, Li Danhui, Fredrik Logevall, Stephen J. Morris, Niu Jun, Shen Zhihua, Yang Kuisong, and Shu Guang Zhang.

Priscilla Roberts has been a Lecturer in History at the University of Hong Kong since 1984 and the Director of the University’s Centre of American Studies since 1995.


James G. Hershberg

List of Abbreviations

Introduction: The Vietnam War in Its International Setting
Priscilla Roberts

Part I. The Beginning: From Colonial Rule to Escalation
1. Mao Zedong and the Indochina Wars
Yang Kuisong
2. Forging a New Relationship: The Soviet Union and Vietnam, 1955
Mari Olsen
3. Opportunities Lost? Kennedy, China, and Vietnam
Noam Kochavi
4. The French Recognition of China and Its Implications for the Vietnam War
Fredrik Logevall
5. The Economic and Political Impact of the Vietnam War on China in 1964
Li Xiangqian

Part II. The Widening War
6. Informing the Enemy: Sino-American “Signaling” and the Vietnam War, 1965
James G. Hershberg and Chen Jian
7. Beijing’s Aid to Hanoi and the United States–China Confrontations, 1964–1968
Shu Guang Zhang
8. The Sino-Soviet Soviet Dispute over Assistance to Vietnam’s Anti-American War, 1965–1972
Li Danhui
9. The Background to the Shift in Chinese Policy toward the United States in the Late 1960s
Niu Jun
10. Sino-U.S. Reconciliation and China’s Vietnam Policy
Shen Zhihua
11. China and the Cambodian Conflict, 1970–1975
Zhai Qiang
12. The Soviet–Vietnamese–Chinese Triangle in the 1970s: The View from Moscow
Stephen Morris
13. Commentary: A Vietnamese Scholar’s Perspective on the Communist Big Powers and Vietnam
Luu Doan Huynh

Part III. Documents
14. Le Duan and the Break with China
Stein Tønnesson and Christopher E. Goscha
15. Selected Conversations of Asian Communist Leaders on Indochina


“A model anthology, these cross-referenced essays find unity in substantiation of the editor’s conclusion that during the Vietnam Was, ideology ‘could not trump differences in political culture and style’ or divergent national interests between Communist allies, as disagreement and discord raged behind the Bamboo Curtain.”—Pacific Affairs

“This book is certainly long-awaited and should refine, deepen, and change our understanding of the Vietnam War.… All the chapters are well-written, cutting-edge and worth reading.”—The China Review

“This addition to the growing literature of the Vietnam War is long overdue.”—Choice

“This volume marks the first time that top Chinese scholars have joined with leading U.S. and European scholars on this topic. Because of this important work, a number of issues surrounding the U.S. war in Vietnam will need to be reconsidered.”—Odd Arne Westad, Professor of International History and Director of the Cold War Studies Centre, London School of Economics

Behind the Bamboo Curtain is an important collection of essays on Sino-Vietnamese relations during the Cold War. An excellent contribution from a Vietnamese historian and well-documented chapters on Soviet and French policy further augment the importance of the volume. The contributors make extensive use of primary documents from the United States, the People's Republic of China, Vietnam, and Russia and offer authoritative analyses.”—The Journal of Cold War Studies

Behind the Bamboo Curtain is a decidedly international effort. It began life as a conference organized jointly by the University of Hong Kong and the Cold War International History Project in Washington, DC and was subsequently transformed, through the rare skill of the editor, Priscilla Roberts, into a coherent volume addressing the complex interactions among China, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, France, and the United States form the early 1950s to 1975.”—Cold War History