THE DUEL OF THE GIANTS: China and Russia in Asia by Drew Middleton

THE DUEL OF THE GIANTS: China and Russia in Asia

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Like participants in a vindictive divorce proceeding, the USSR and China, once allies against the West, save their most vitriolic rhetoric for each other. The seriousness of the rift came to world attention during a series of skirmishes along their common border in Manchuria in 1969, which coincided with Chinese overtures to the U.S. The possibility of a major war between these powers prompts Middleton, the New York Times' military correspondent, to weigh the prospective combatants' chances. While emphasizing Soviet superiority in weapons technology--especially in tactical nuclear weapons--Middleton supports the view that Russian strategy is based on a lightning offensive into resource-rich Manchuria, and discounts the Chinese expectation of a mass invasion. After their historical experience with the armies of Napoleon and Hitler, and with the increased logistical problems of supply, the Russians, he feels, would not leave themselves open to defeat by a guerrilla war in the vast expanses of China. Without completely discounting the merits of Chinese defensive preparations--the civilian militia and tunnel systems--and the enormous Chinese army, the USSR looks to Middleton like a sure winner. He fleshes out the book with some banal analysis of contemporary China based on a recent trip there (the Chinese want stability, economic development, etc.), and some skeletal historical information on Sino-Soviet relations, and ends with the problem a war would pose for the U.S. (arms for China?). Politically astute readers may still wonder why a war seems so likely, aside from Russian paranoia and the availability of resources in Siberia and Manchuria. Strong on armaments inventory, a little too quick on the trigger.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Scribners