Soviet Biscuit Factories and Chinese Financial Grants: North Vietnam's Economic Diplomacy in 1967 and 1968

Authors

  • HARISH C. MEHTA


  • The author conducted research at National Archives Center Number 3 in Hanoi in 2006, courtesy of a Richard Fuller Memorial Grant from McMaster University, and at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, and the Nixon Presidential Papers at College Park, Maryland, in 2007, courtesy of a Samuel Flagg Bemis Research Award from SHAFR. The author thanks several historians for their comments on this article: Stephen Streeter, David P. Barrett, and Virginia Aksan at McMaster; Jeffrey Kimball, who commented on this article as panel chair at the SHAFR annual conference in 2007; Andrew Johns and Fredrik Logevall (panel commentator and chair, respectively) for their comments on this article at the American Historical Association's annual conference in 2009; and Diplomatic History's Robert Schulzinger and Thomas Zeiler, and the two anonymous peer reviewers, for their suggestions. The author thanks Do Kien of the Institute of Vietnamese Studies and Development Sciences in Hanoi, for arranging access to the archive, and archive manager Nguyen Tien Dinh, for his warm welcome. The author also thanks John Wilson and Regina Greenwell, archivists at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library for their assistance in this project.

Abstract

The author revises existing historical accounts of a critical period during the Vietnam War when the North Vietnamese urgently needed economic aid from their Communist allies in order to prepare for the ambitious Tet Offensive in January 1968, and to help the DRV economy survive President Lyndon B. Johnson's bombardment of North Vietnam under Operation Rolling Thunder. Using new evidence from the archives in Hanoi, this article shows that China—not the Soviet Union—was the biggest donor of economic aid to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV, or North Vietnam) in 1967 and 1968. The new evidence suggests that American intelligence estimates of Communist bloc economic aid to the DRV were incorrect. Misled by inaccurate data, U.S. officials failed to understand the remarkable resilience of the DRV economy to survive U.S. bombardment. An accurate understanding of Communist bloc aid arrangements might have strengthened the arguments of those American officials advocating early peace negotiations with the DRV.

Ancillary