China and the Pol Pot Regime
Cold War History Vol. 14, No. 2, 2014
28 Pages Posted: 24 May 2013 Last revised: 21 Aug 2015
Date Written: May 23, 2013
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.
Keywords: China, Cambodia, Khmer Rouge, Cold War, alliances
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