Brothers in Arms

Brothers in Arms: Chinese Aid to the Khmer Rouge, 1975–1979

Andrew Mertha
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Cornell University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt5hh1k6
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  • Book Info
    Brothers in Arms
    Book Description:

    When the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia in 1975, they inherited a war-ravaged and internationally isolated country. Pol Pot's government espoused the rhetoric of self-reliance, but Democratic Kampuchea was utterly dependent on Chinese foreign aid and technical assistance to survive. Yet in a markedly asymmetrical relationship between a modernizing, nuclear power and a virtually premodern state, China was largely unable to use its power to influence Cambodian politics or policy. In Brothers in Arms, Andrew Mertha traces this surprising lack of influence to variations between the Chinese and Cambodian institutions that administered military aid, technology transfer, and international trade.

    Today, China's extensive engagement with the developing world suggests an inexorably rising China in the process of securing a degree of economic and political dominance that was unthinkable even a decade ago. Yet, China's experience with its first-ever client state suggests that the effectiveness of Chinese foreign aid, and influence that comes with it, is only as good as the institutions that manage the relationship. By focusing on the links between China and Democratic Kampuchea, Mertha peers into the "black box" of Chinese foreign aid to illustrate how domestic institutional fragmentation limits Beijing's ability to influence the countries that accept its assistance.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7073-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. A Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 CHINA’S RELATIONS WITH DEMOCRATIC KAMPUCHEA
    (pp. 1-19)

    A particularly haunting Vietnam War–era photograph, taken by the Japanese photojournalist Taizo Ichinose, who would himself perish behind enemy lines in 1973, shows the road leading to Angkor Thom, the twelfth-century epicenter of Cambodian civilization that today is a bustling tourist site.⁴ The road is covered in detritus from the forest and is devoid of any trace of people—but for a human spinal cord mixed in with the debris (fig. 1.1).⁵ There is nothing romantic about the image: this jungle evokes Carthage, not Walden. It is as ugly and grotesque an image of a rural setting as can...

  7. 2 THE KHMER ROUGE BUREAUCRACY
    (pp. 20-55)

    In many ways, Democratic Kampuchea (DK) represents a breathtakingly literal approach to totalitarian rule. As with Hannah Arendt’s conceptualization of totalitarianism, DK cloaked itself in an ideological foundation that was shared by most of the top leaders and was used to coopt ignorant and uneducated peasants into various positions of authority; like Friedrich and Brzezinski’s, DK was formed around a single party that monopolized communication, centralized production, and ruled by terror.³ Certainly, the overall environment conforms with Benito Mussolini’s articulation of “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” outside of which “no human or spiritual...

  8. 3 THE BUREAUCRATIC STRUCTURE OF CHINESE OVERSEAS ASSISTANCE
    (pp. 56-76)

    For many of the thousands of Chinese technicians, skilled workers, and other expatriates, working in Democratic Kampuchea invoked an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu.³ Although most of them were still in their thirties or forties, they had already gone through enough political convulsions to last a lifetime. As members of the intellectual class (zhishi fenzi), they had become a lightning rod for criticism and a perennial target for political purges, especially after the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957–1958) in which intellectuals, who had been encouraged to criticize the Party just months before during the Hundred Flowers Movement, were purged en masse...

  9. 4 DK PUSHBACK AND MILITARY INSTITUTIONAL INTEGRITY
    (pp. 77-97)

    Just outside the Cambodian village of Palarng lies the ghostly specter of the vast, unfinished Krang Leav airfield, built by slave laborers, many of whom were murdered upon completing their service. They did not include the disgraced urban bourgeoisie, remnants from theancien régime;rather, they were made up of DK soldiers in varying degrees of political purgatory or disgrace.³ As Cambodian-Vietnamese relations began to deteriorate from 1977 onwards, the Democratic Kampuchean leadership purged leading and rank-and-file CPK cadres in the Eastern Zone suspected of secretly supporting Hanoi. By some estimates, tens of thousands of former Eastern Zone cadres were...

  10. 5 THE FAILURE OF THE KAMPONG SOM PETROLEUM REFINERY PROJECT
    (pp. 98-118)

    The port of Kampong Som boasts a history far more colorful than its sleepy environs would indicate. It was the site of one of the last, great infrastructure developments of the Sangkum era of Norodom Sihanouk, the petroleum refinery, which began operations at the end of 1968. The port was the final act of a bizarre mutiny, the first on a U.S. ship in 150 years, of the SSColumbia Eagle,which was carrying napalm and war materiel to Thailand for use by American forces in Vietnam, by two idealistic but misguided young crewmembers, Clyde McKay and Alvin Glatkowski. Assuming...

  11. 6 CHINA’S DEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRATIC KAMPUCHEAN TRADE
    (pp. 119-131)

    Hong Kong’s Happy Valley, Pao Ma Di in Chinese, is an upper-middle-income section of Hong Kong Island sandwiched between the neighborhoods of Wanchai and Causeway Bay. It is the site of various roads and tunnels that lead to the southern part of the island, the famous horseracing track, and, for a time, the place where CPK cadres running Democratic Kampuchea’s import-export trading company made their home, at 39 Village Road.

    Their leader was Van Rith, who came to resemble China’s own “red capitalist” of the 1970s and 1980s, Rong Yiren. Van Rith’s political education came early, having been imprisoned in...

  12. 7 WHAT IS PAST IS PRESENT
    (pp. 132-144)

    InThe God Delusion,Richard Dawkins discusses the cult on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, which reveres a possibly apocryphal figure named John Frum, who, among other things, was said to have claimed to be the “King of America.” After American troops arrived to recruit workers for a U.S. base on nearby Éfaté Island during the Second World War, Tannans by the hundreds cleared off an area in the middle of the island so that John Frum’s own plane could land:

    The airstrip had a bamboo control tower with “air traffic controllers” wearing dummy headphones made of wood. There...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 145-162)
  14. Glossary of Selected Terms
    (pp. 163-170)
  15. Index
    (pp. 171-176)