Korean War worth the cost for China

Source:Global Times Published: 2010-10-27 0:11:15

Xu Yan

Editor's Note:

On October 25, 1950, the "Chinese People's Volunteers" crossed the Yalu River to battle the US-led UN forces in North Korea. Chinese forces drove the US back to the 38th Parallel, but at the cost of at least 180,000 Chinese lives. Sixty years later, was the Chinese intervention worthwhile? How did the war influence China's development? People's Daily Online (PO) talked to Major General Xu Yan (Xu), a professor at the Chinese People's Liberation Army's National Defense University, on these issues.

PO: What's the historical significance of commemorating the 60th anniversary of the "War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea" on October 25?

Xu:. The war had a great influence on China's progress and is of immense historical significance.

Participating in the Korean War provided a sound foundation for the development of the newly established PRC. At that time, as a new country, China was rather backward and in dire need of a full-scale reconstruction.

It was undoubtedly a great victory that China fought the troops of the US, the strongest power in the world, back to the 38th Parallel. The success ensured a peaceful development environment for China and the Chinese army's international prestige was successfully built through the war.

Great changes have taken place in East Asia and the whole world in the 60 years since the war.

To commemorate the war today, we should inherit the valuable spirit of the Chinese volunteer army to safeguard and construct our country.

There are two sets of spiritual values we should inherit from the Korean War, namely the patriotic spirit and the revolutionary heroic spirit. Both the spirits are magic weapons to deal with challenges and opportunities. The young Chinese today haven't suffered a baptism of fire, but they still need a patriotic and revolutionary spirit to reinvigorate China's national ideals.

PO: Was China's participation in the war worthwhile?

Xu: In recent years, as Chinese society has become more diversified, many domestic scholars have been affected by Western opinion and have questioned the correctness of China's decision to enter the war. It is understandable, but the fact is that to aid North Korea in the war was a necessary choice for China.

When we look back to the war today, we should recognize the correctness and reasonability of China's participation in the war. The US controlled Taiwan at that time, but China lacked effective air and naval forces to counter it.

Since China's security on land was further threatened by the US imperialist aggression, China had to strike back.

China indeed paid a heavy price for its decision. According to contemporary calculations, the total number of sacrificed Chinese soldiers in the war amounts to 180,000. And China also paid a serious economic cost. The war costs were as much as 6.2 billion yuan and China's military debt to the Soviet Union reached 3 billion yuan.

However, in a broad perspective, compared to what China gained from the war, the sacrifice and cost was a secondary matter. China's involvement in the war provided a peaceful environment for China's domestic development.

During the 2 years and 9 months of the war, China's economy was growing at an average annual rate of 15 percent. Because the cost on the war only took up 12 percent of the government expenditure, it didn't affect the quick development of the national economy.

The New China demonstrated its fighting capacity through participation in the Korean War. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union provided considerable material rewards to China in the background. The greatest rewards were not those guns and ammunition, but that the Soviet Union assisted China in building up 156 key construction projects, which laid the foundations for China's industrialization.

Chairman Mao Zedong once said that "entering the war is greatly to our advantage and it is greatly to our disadvantage if we do not enter the war." After six decades, when we review the economic development, defense construction and whole historical progress of the New China, we can be sure that what has happened proved the correctness of Mao's judgment.


PO: Why didn't China station forces in the Korean Peninsula after the war?

Xu: Since the ceasefire, the Chinese government has advocated that all the foreign troops should withdraw from the peninsula and let the Korean people solve their own problems by themselves. I still think China's position is correct.

Foreign troops being stationed in a country shows disrespect for the country's territorial sovereignty. Since the establishment of PRC, the Chinese government has insisted on strict policies of struggling against foreign invasion and not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

China's decision to send troops to the Korean Peninsula was driven by US aggression.

So after the ceasefire, China repeatedly suggested withdrawing troops from the peninsula and actively withdrew its own forces. It was a reflection of China's basic principles.

Besides, the Chinese government believed that North Korea should defend its own security after the war and made a commitment that if North Korea needed them, the Chinese army would be ready to provide help. So China's withdrawal from the peninsula was correct and embodied of China's foreign policy.

PO: It's been argued that the Korean War Armistice Agreement didn't really mean an end to the Korean War and foreshadowed an unstable Northeast Asia. Do you agree?

Xu: I don't think so. It was the Korean War Armistice Agreement that stabilized the situation of Northeast Asia.

The Korean War was a hot war against the background of the Cold War. It was the Korean War Armistice Agreement that ended this hot war. Fifty-seven years have passed since the signing of the agreement.

Both sides on the peninsula involving the war have restrained their actions and haven't crossed the lines drawn up in the agreement.

The Korean War Armistice Agreement was conducive to maintaining stability in Northeast Asia.

PO: Some people say that the Korean War has delayed China's social transformation and institutional reform for several decades. What do you think?

Xu: Because aiding Korea pushed China closer to the Soviet Union, the war really influenced the social system of China at that time.

As China accepted a great deal of assistance from the Soviet Union during the war, China had to learn a lot from its political and economic system, which had a side effect on the economic development and political reform of China. It was inevitable.

But even without the war, it would have been hard for China to avoid imitating the Soviet system.

China made efforts to break from the Soviet model as early as the second Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956, but due to the special historical situation of Chinese society, breaking the Soviet model was combined with the traditional feudal ideology, which made it a very arduous historical task.

Obstacles to social system reform were not caused only by the Korean War, and to break from the Soviet model called for a long term fundamental transformation of China's social structure.

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