China and the Pol Pot Regime
John D. Ciorciari
University of Michigan - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
May 23, 2013
Cold War History Vol. 14, No. 2, 2014
This article attempts to shed additional light on one of the most sensitive aspects of China’s Cold War legacy — its support for Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea (DK) between April 1975 and January 1979. Drawing on field interviews with former Khmer Rouge cadres and official DK records, it examines how the terms of the Sino-DK entente were understood by the parties and affected Chinese influence on the ground. The evidence shows that despite providing important technical guidance, China developed little influence over high-level Khmer Rouge policies, even when such policies put China’s own interests at risk. The Sino-DK relationship illustrates the capacity of weak states to exercise considerable autonomy in asymmetric alliances and some of the dangers of relatively unconditional great-power assistance.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 28
Keywords: China, Cambodia, Khmer Rouge, Cold War, alliances
Date posted: May 24, 2013 ; Last revised: August 21, 2015
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