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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April 10, 1967

ZHOU ENLAI'S TALK WITH PHAM VAN DONG AND VO NGUYEN GIAP

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    Excerpt from the talk in which Zhou Enlai offers encouragement and advice concerning the Vietnam War
    "Zhou Enlai's Talk with Pham Van Dong and Vo Nguyen Giap," April 10, 1967, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, The Diplomatic History Research Office of the People's Republic of China Foreign Ministry, ed., Zhou Enlai waijiao huodong dashiji, 1949-1975 (Chronology of Zhou Enlai's Diplomatic Activities, 1949-1975) (Beijing: Shijie zhishi chubanshe, 1993), p. 510. Translated by Qiang Zhai. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/112660
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In considering the prospect of the war, we should include two or three possibilities. One possibility is that the war will continue and expand. The law of war is often not decided by the will of people, neither by our will nor by the enemy's will. War has its own law. Even if the enemy wants to stop the war, it may not be able to do so. Therefore, for the sake of the future, we must prepare for the continuation and expansion of the war. Another possibility is that the enemy will blockade your coast. If the enemy wages a total blockade, then it is very likely that it intends to expand the hostilities into a total war. If the enemy just wants to force you into compromise by blockading your coast and if you refuse to compromise, then what will the enemy do? The enemy must have a follow-up plan. A total blockade of the coast will not be a simple matter. It will involve the deployment of many fleets. It will be a major operation. It will strain the enemy's relations with other countries. A third possibility is what the two of you have just mentioned: the crucial moment will be the dry season next year. You may defeat the enemy, forcing it to admit its failure and withdraw from Vietnam. As to the likelihood that the war will neither end nor expand but simply wear on, that is inconceivable. The war will end inevitably and the question is when. It is impossible that the war will wear on forever without a result. Concerning the issue of political struggle, it is without doubt that political struggle should be carried out at any time. War is the highest form of the development of political struggle. It is impossible that war will not involve political struggle. Things like strengthening international propaganda, winning sympathy, weakening and dividing enemies, and exploiting contradictions between them all fall into the category of political struggle. You have done those things in the past and you must continue doing so in the future.