The Korean War from the Other Side

Chinese troops crossing Amrokgang river

People in the US and in Korea and remembering the 60th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the Korean War. A lot of good articles talk about the experiences of American veterans, but I also found an interesting article by the BBC about veterans of the War from China.

China did not originally fight in the war, but when the UN forces reached the Yalu River, China felt threatened and joined the war. The Chinese military, the PLA, was famous for its “human wave” tactic, which was effective in surprising UN soldiers. Clarence Adams, in his memoirs, described the surprise and confusion caused by the Chinese forces.

However, the same tactics costed many lives, and the BBC interviews show how bloody the war was for China. It must have been very traumatic seeing so many friends and comrades getting killed. It reminds me of a book from Vietnam called The Sorry of War. Although North Vietnam won the Vietnam War, the author shows how the war was very traumatic, and deeply scarred many people in Vietnam.

Listening to the second interviewee, Zhang Hengshui, it’s interesting to see that the Chinese really believed that the UN would invade China. Also, his comments about America are interesting.

American Imperialism will never change. They always think they have the right to tell people what to do.

One could simply dismiss this as propaganda, but if you read Clarence Adams’s biography or something like Lenin’s famous treaty “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism“,1 a person has to wonder if Zhang Hengshui is right.

Also, Zhang Hengshui’s comments about North Korea are also interesting:

Only we Chinese soldiers understand why North Korea does what it does. It wants a formal peace treaty. Without it, survival for the North lies only in the nuclear option.

I am not sure I agree with the second part, but I do agree that a formal peace treaty in Korea is long, long overdue.

1 In my college years, I was an avid Marxist, and Imperialism was among my favorite essays to read. Although it was written in 1916, it’s amazing how true it is 100 years later. Especially after the recent financial crash in 2008-2009. You can read a copy of it here.

Why am I not a Marxist now? I still believe in the spirit of Marxism (social justice, equality, etc), but I’ve seen what life in Vietnam was like, and I’ve seen what happens when people abuse power. If there is no balance of power, you get something like this. Of course, this can happen in completely different political systems too: theocracies, dictatorships, even unbalanced democracies.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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