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The Bamboo Curtain in 1959. The Curtain itself is in green. Note that at the time, Laos (directly to the west of North Vietnam), was allied with the United States, as the Communist Pathet Lao did not take over the country until later. In addition, in this map, Bangladesh is East Pakistan, as it did not gain independence until 1971. Modern-day boundaries of the now-independent former Soviet republics are shown in pink.

The Bamboo Curtain was a euphemism for the east Asian version of the Iron Curtain. As a physical boundary, it was marked by the borders around the Communist states of East Asia, in particular those of the People's Republic of China that were shared with non-Communist nations, during the Cold War. As such, this term did not include the Chinese border with the eastern Soviet Union, North Korea, or Mongolia.

The term was less often applied to the border dividing North and South Korea (which is also known as the DMZ or Demilitarized Zone) and the flexible border between Communism and the West (here referring to the forces aligned against Communism during the Cold War) in Southeast Asia.

During the Cultural Revolution in China, the Chinese authorities put its sections of the Curtain under a lock-down of sorts, forbidding entry into or passage out of the country without explicit permission from the Chinese government. Many would-be refugees attempting to flee to capitalist countries were prevented from escaping in this manner.

The term "Bamboo Curtain" was used less often than the term "Iron Curtain" in part because while the latter remained relatively static for over 40 years, the former shifted constantly and was somewhat more porous. It was also a less accurate description of the political situation in Asia because of the lack of cohesion within the East Asian Communist Bloc, which ultimately resulted in the Sino-Soviet split; The Communist governments of Mongolia, Vietnam and later Laos were allies of the Soviet Union, while Cambodia's regime of Pol Pot was loyal to China. Shortly after the Korean War, North Korea swore allegiance to neither the USSR or China (this refusal to take sides by North Korea continues today, though now in the opposite direction: North Korea proclaims solidarity with both Russia and China).

Improved relations between China and the United States during the later years of the Cold War rendered the term more or less obsolete, except when it referred to the Korean Peninsula and the divide between allies of the US and allies of the USSR in Southeast Asia. Today, the term is more often used to refer to the tightly-guarded borders of Burma,[1] whereas DMZ, when used in a political sense, is generally used for the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea.

References

  1. ^ The Atlantic, September 2008. "Lifting the Bamboo Curtain." Retrieved February 2009. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200809/burma
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