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The Vietnam War is considered by some (most?) Vietnamese people as a fight against US-led invasion of Vietnam. Hence...

The Vietnam War (Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Việt Nam), also known ... in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America (Vietnamese: Kháng chiến chống Mỹ) or simply the American War ...

In contrast, the USA were trying to inhibit the spread of communism, i.e., it was an anti-communism war. So communist China entered to support the North Vietnamese.

In Chinese the Vietnam War is called 越南战争 (literally Vietnam [越南] War [战争], the same as in English). I find this historically and etymologically curious: there is the phrase 抗日战争 ("Resistance War Against the Japanese") which could be easily adapted to 抗美战争, but wasn't.

Question: Why isn't the Vietnam War called e.g. 抗美战争 ("Resistance War Against America") like in Vietnamese?

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    抗日戰爭 is a war waged by Japan against China, not against Communism. 抗美戰爭 would only make sense in Vietnamese, not Chinese, as America never invaded China. As you would expect, Kháng chiến chống Mỹ (抗戰挵美) means Resistance War against America. – dROOOze Apr 21 at 3:51
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    We call the Japan, China war "抗日战争" because the Japanese was in China waging war against us, so we resisted. – Tang Ho Apr 21 at 3:52
  • I wonder what they, the Chinese, (ancient or modern), called it when the Mongols / Manchurians invaded China? – Wayne Cheah Apr 21 at 5:19
  • @WayneCheah I bet you can find the answer in 宋史 and 明史 – dROOOze Apr 21 at 5:23
  • @WayneCheah 抗蒙战争, 抗清战争? – Tang Ho Apr 21 at 5:24
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Here I come!

The formal name of 抗日战争 is War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, that involved Chinese themselves, so we(Chinese) have to resist(抗) them(日).

However we are not imediatelly involved in 越南战争, which is an affair of another country, so we would not to use 抗美战争 which literally seems like who resist American are Chinese rather than Vietnamese, because, I conjecture, generally if we see a noun which lacks a subject, we may suggest the missing subject is ourselves.

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The native Vietnamese names of the Vietnam War are Chiến tranh Việt Nam (戰爭越南) and Kháng chiến chống Mỹ (抗戰𢶢美). If you translate these two Vietnamese names directly into Chinese, they are 越南战争 and 对美抗战 respectively. We Chinese people choose to use 越南战争.

There is another “Resistance War Against America” better-known to China, which is called 抗美援朝战争, literally, “War to Resist America and Aid Chosŏn”, whose English name is the Korean War. (Note: Chosŏn is the official native Korean name of North Korea.)

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