Howard French: Was the War Pointless? China Shows How to Bury It

From The New York Times:

After a walk up a steep stone staircase, first-time visitors are astonished when the veterans’ cemetery just outside this town finally pops into view: as far as the eye can see, the curving arcade of hillside is lined with row after row of crypts, each with its concrete headstone emblazoned with a large red star, a name and an inscription.

Long Chaogang and Bai Tianrong, though, had both been here before. The two men, veterans of China’s war with , which began with intense combat in mid-February of 1979, return from time to time looking for lost friends. And for more than an hour this day, they climbed up and down the deserted mountainside near the Vietnam border searching in vain through the names of the 957 soldiers buried here, stopping now and then to light a cigarette and place it on a tomb in offering to a comrade.

The silence that prevails here, disturbed only by a gentle breeze rustling through the cemetery’s bamboo groves, is fitting for a war that is being deliberately forgotten in China. By official reckoning, 20,000 Chinese died during the first month of fighting, when this country’s forces invaded Vietnam in the face of spirited resistance, and untold others died as the war sputtered on through the 1980’s. There are no official estimates of Vietnamese casualties, but they are thought to have been lower.

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