The People’s Republic of China and Socialist Republic of Vietnam had a complicated and wearisome historical background that eventually brought the world to its attention due to their increasing tensions over the past few years. The two communist nations had territorial disputes since 1950s over sovereignty of the islands, Paracels and Spratlys, that could help fulfill China’s hunger for its expansion in politics, economics and energies in order to accomplished its ideology.
“The first major threat to Vietnam's existence as a separate people and nation was the conquest of the Red River Delta by the Chinese, under the mighty Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), in the first century B.C” (Ronald J. Cima). Vietnam had been under China rule for 1,000 years and finally succeed in overthrowing them in the tenth century. Yet, scars remained after every brutal war, leaving a tragic historical background between the two nations. When People’s Republic of China established, China initiated its ideology of “ensuring their national security, consolidating power, and developing the economy” (Robert L. Worden). These goals are what standing behind every steps and moves that China takes. Not long after that, China and Sino-Soviet signed a Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance in Moscow. The fact that North Vietnam was an ally with Sino-Soviet during this period of time established itself a bond with People’s Republic of China and protected Vietnam from China’s attack. During Vietnam War, Chinese provided North Vietnam with weapons to fight against South Vietnam. Thus, the two nations agreed to defer territorial disputes until South Vietnam was defeated. It was the issue over sovereignty Paracels and Spratlys islands in the South China Sea. Half of Paracels were controlled by China and the other half were by South Vietnam in the 1950s.
Yet, in 1973, the tensions between South Vietnam and China once again heightened as “Hanoi announces to Beijing its intentions to negotiate contracts with foreign firms for the exploration of oil in the Gulf of Tonkin, part of the South China Sea. The disputed islands in the South China Sea assume importance only after it is disclosed that they are near the potential sites of substantial offshore oil deposits” (CNN). A year after that, Chinese took complete control over Paracels and claimed sovereignty over Spratlys. In the year of 1975, North Vietnam took over the South Vietnam occupied part of Spratlys Islands. “China’s complete occupation of the Paracel Islands by military forces in January 1974 was strongly opposed by RVN (Republic South of Vietnam), which took every opportunity to affirm its sovereignty, including sending letter to demand an intervention from the President of the United Nations General Assembly and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, issuing statements to re-affirm sovereignty at the meeting in March 1974, the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (1974), and proclaiming the White Paper on the Paracel and Spratly Islands (February 1975). The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is the successor of the two prior States and has had all legal titles over the Paracel and Spratly Islands since July 2, 1976, not long before Vietnam unified as a single nation.” (Nguyễn Thái Linh).
However, the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance, and Mutual Assistance expired in 1979 due to the split of Sino-Soviet (late 1950s to early 1960s) which allowed China to attack Vietnam, Sino-Soviet’s ally. “During February to March, China responded offensively to Vietnam’s invasion and occupation of Cambodia, making this the largest military operation of China since the Korean War” (CNN). Since then, China continuingly threatened Vietnam of a “second lesson” in 1985 over the past with Cambodia. Vietnam and China increased the tension by having offshore battle in 1988 led to the death of 70 Vietnamese sailors. The two countries agreed to