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China Index

In the 1950s China limited its military cooperation almost entirely to communist nations and to insurgent movements in Southeast Asia. The Soviet Union provided China with substantial assistance, and with advice in modernizing the PLA and developing China's defense industry (see Military Modernization in the 1950s and 1960s , this ch.). China provided North Korea with arms and assistance, and the PLA and the Korean People's Army developed close ties because of their association in the Korean War. In 1961 China and North Korea signed a mutual defense agreement, and Chinese-North Korean military cooperation continued in the late 1980s. China also provided weapons and military and economic assistance to Vietnam, which ended in 1978 when relations between the two countries soured. In the 1950s and 1960s, China provided weapons to communist insurgent groups in Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

In the 1960s and 1970s, China began developing military ties with Third World nations in Asia and Africa, while maintaining or promoting cooperation with North Korea, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), and Albania. Chinese military cooperation with North Korea and North Vietnam stemmed from security considerations. Chinese military assistance to Third World countries arose from attempts to extend Chinese influence and counteract Soviet and United States influence. China became increasingly anti-Soviet in the 1970s. In the 1980s China developed close military ties and provided considerable military assistance to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka in South Asia; Egypt in the Middle East; and Tanzania, Sudan, Somalia, Zaire, and Zambia in Africa.

In the late 1970s, the scope and tenor of foreign military cooperation changed with the shift to commercial arms sales, attempts to gain some influence in Eastern Europe, and improvement in relations with the United States and Western Europe. Chinese military assistance to communist insurgents, especially in Southeast Asia, tapered off. Nevertheless, China continued to provide weapons both to the Khmer Rouge and to noncommunist Cambodian resistance groups, and it developed close relations with and sold weapons to Thailand. Traditionally friendly states in South Asia continued to have close military ties with China and to purchase Chinese military hardware under generous terms. ChineseAlbanian relations deteriorated in the 1970s, and Beijing terminated all assistance in 1978. But at the same time, China began to exchange military delegations with two other East European countries--Yugoslavia and Romania. Chinese military relations with these two countries were limited and, especially in the case of Romania (a Warsaw Pact member), served to irritate the Soviet Union.

A major change in foreign military cooperation occurred when China began developing military contacts with West European nations and the United States in the late 1970s and the 1980s. This change reflected China's desire to counter Soviet influence, especially in Europe, as well as to develop relations with modern armed forces. China needed advanced hardware and technology and organizational, training, personnel, logistics, and doctrinal concepts for modernizing the PLA. Chinese military ties with West European countries were strongest with Britain, France, and Italy. Chinese military relations with the United States developed rapidly in the 1980s and included exchanges of high-level military officials and working-level delegations in training, logistics, and education. The United States sold some weapons to China for defensive purposes, but China was unlikely to purchase large amounts of American arms because of financial and political constraints (see Sino-American Relations , ch. 12).

Beginning in 1979, when China introduced its policy of opening up to the outside world, military exchanges with foreign countries grew substantially (see Historical Legacy and Worldview , ch. 12). The PLA hosted 500 military delegations from 1979 to 1987 and sent thousands of military officials abroad for visits, study, and lectures. China received port calls from thirty-three foreign warships, including United States, British, French, and Australian ships, and it sent two naval ships to visit Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka in 1985. PLA departments, academies, and research institutes opened their doors to foreign military visitors. In 1987 China had ties with eighty-five foreign armies, posted Chinese military attaches in sixty countries, and hosted forty military attaches in Beijing.

Data as of July 1987

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