The lessons are also relevant for China’s other neighbors because the 1962 war helped uncover the key elements of Beijing’s war-fighting doctrine — a doctrine it brought into play in 1969 (provoking bloody border clashes with Soviet forces), 1974 (occupying the Paracel Islands), 1979 (invading Vietnam), 1988 (seizing Johnson Reef), and 1995 (grabbing Mischief Reef). In each of those aggressions, the major 1962 elements were replicated.
As a 2010 Pentagon report citing the 1962 war, among others, put it, “The history of modern Chinese warfare provides numerous case studies in which China’s leaders have claimed military pre-emption as a strategically defensive act.” In fact, a 2010 essay in the Qiu Shi Journal — the ideological and theoretical organ of the Chinese Communist Party’s central committee — underscored the centrality of “offense as defense” in Chinese policy by declaring that “Throughout the history of new China, peace in China has never been gained by giving in, only through war. Safeguarding national interests is never achieved by mere negotiations, but by war.“
Here are six of the 1962 principles China replicated in its subsequent aggressions: (1) take the adversary by surprise to maximize political and psychological shock; (2) strike only when the international and regional timing is opportune; (3) hit as fast and as hard as possible by unleashing “human wave” assaults; (4) be willing to take military gambles; (5) mask offense as defense; and (6) wage war with the political objective to “teach a lesson” — an aim publicly acknowledged by Beijing in the 1962 and 1979 attacks.