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Tea Leaves

Vietnam learns to live in China's shadow

Four decades on, China's 1979 border war is officially 'forgotten' in Hanoi

Many of the Vietnamese soldiers killed during the 1979 border war with China came to rest in military graveyards still scattered across northern Vietnam. (Photos by Sebastian Strangio)

Shortly before dawn on Feb. 17, 1979, as the morning mist clung to the jagged rocks of the Sino-Vietnamese frontier, more than 400,000 soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army swept into northern Vietnam.

At the time, Ly Thi Kham was a 25-year-old private in the People's Army of Vietnam, which was dug in along the frontier. In a recent conversation at his home in the border town of Dong Dang, the gravel-voiced veteran recalled the serried ranks of PLA soldiers advancing through the dim light, drums pounding and horns blaring.

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