• Vietnam became independent in the year 1945 but it took another three decades to become Republic of Vietnam.
  • Due to the colonialization, the different communities in Vietnam were brought together.
  • The functioning of the colonial empires in Vietnam and their anti-imperial movement was different from that of India and China.

Emerging From the Shadow of China

  • The Indo-China region in the earlier time was comprised of the modern countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. There was diversity of groups of people living in this area which was under the control of the empire of China.
  • Vietnam was linked with the maritime silk route through which goods, people and ideas were brought.
  • Vietnam was a colony of French. The French dominated over the military and economy of Vietnam and also tried to reshape the culture of Vietnamese. In the year 1858, the French troops landed in Vietnam and established control over the northern region.
  • In the year 1887, French Indo-China was formed after the Franco-Chinese war. Like the other western nations, France also thought that the colonies are necessary – to supply natural resources and other important goods and for bringing the benefits of the civilisation to the backward nations.
  • France build canals and draining lands in the Mekong delta region. This resulted in the increase of the rice production and by the year 1931, Vietnam became the third largest exporter of rice in the world.
  • For the movement of goods, military garrisons and control over the region, the French developed the infrastructural projects in Vietnam. A trans-Indo-China rail network was developed which linked Vietnam from north to south with China.
  • It was believed that the colonies had to serve the interest of the mother country. According to the Paul Bernard, it was possible only when the economy of the colonies was developed.
  • He said that if we had to get profit from the colonies then we needed to develop it and also raised the standard of living of the people. This would lead to increase in sale of goods and expansion of French business.
  • Paul Bernard said that high population growth, low agricultural production and indebtedness were the barriers to economic growth in Vietnam. He suggested some measures to reduce the rural poverty and increase the agricultural production. They were land reform measures and industrialisation which would create employment opportunities.
  • The economy of Vietnam was based mainly on the rice cultivation and the rubber plantation. These were mostly owned by the French and small Vietnamese elite people which was facilitated by the rail and ports.

The Dilemma of Colonial Education

  • France also had a ‘civilizing mission’ in Vietnam. They said that Europe had the most advanced civilizations and therefore it was their duty to introduce these modern ideas in their colonies.
  • For this civilizing mission, they even destroyed the local cultures, religion and traditions because they thought that these were outdated and barriers in the modern development process.
  • The French wanted to civilize the natives through education but the dilemma was how far they might should be educated. By educating the natives, French would get educated local labour force but they had the fear that the educated natives might start questioning the colonial domination.
  • The colons or the French citizens in Vietnam had the fear of losing their jobs ifthe Vietnamese get full access to the French education. So this policy was opposed by the colons.
  • The elite Vietnamese were highly influenced by the Chinese culture and traditional educational system which was dismantled by the French by opening French schools in Vietnam.
  • Another important dilemma with theFrench was aboutthe medium ofinstruction in Vietnam. For this, there were two broad views. One group was in favour of the introduction of French as the only medium of instruction whereas another group suggested French language for the higher class and Vietnamese language for the lower class. One more group gave the suggestion of rewarding the French citizenship to those who acquired French culture.
  • By introducing French language as a medium of instruction, Vietnamese would get a feel of the French culture and civilisation and would help in creating an Asiatic France solidly tied to European France. By this, the educated Vietnamese people would respect the French sentiments and ideals.
  • Only a small fraction of the Vietnamese elite people enrolled in the schools but very few were able to pass the school-leaving examination due to the deliberate policy of failing the students by the French. It was to restrict them from getting qualified for the better paid jobs.
  • In Vietnam, the school textbooks glorified the French and justified that the colonial rule by stating that the peasants were no longer in terror and there was peace in the country.
  • In the school textbooks, the Vietnamese were represented as primitive, backward, manual labourers and skilled copyist. They were not intellectual, not creative and could not rule themselves.
  • In the year 1907, Tonkin Free School was set up for providing western style education in Vietnam that focused on science, hygiene and French.
  • The approach of this school was to make them modern which was not possible just by the science and western ideas but also by the adoption of the western looks such as having a short hair and keeping hygiene.
  • These changes were opposed in both the ways, openly and silently. The Vietnamese teachers quietly modified the texts and also not followed the curriculum blindly.
  • In the year 1926, a major protest erupted in the Saigon Native Girls School when a Vietnamese girl was expelled by the principal for refusing the front seat for a French student. All other students who supported her in this protest were expelled.
  • In other schools of Vietnam, the students were fighting against the colonial government schooling system and their deliberate policy of failing the students so that they could not qualify for the white color jobs.
  • Students in Vietnam were forming political parties by the year 1920s. One such party was party of Young Annan and they published a journal named Annanese Student.
  • The French wanted to change the values, norms and the perception of the people through the control of education. They wanted to make Vietnamese believe in the superiority of French civilisation and inferiority of Vietnamese. The Vietnamese were losing their control over the territory, identity, culture and customs. Therefore, the Vietnamese mobilized the people with patriotic feelings and convicted that it was the duty of the educated Vietnamese to fight against these domination.

Hygiene, Disease and Everyday Resistance

  • In the process of modernizing Vietnam, the French decided to rebuild Hanoi, a new and modern city by using the latest architecture and engineering skills.
  • Bubonic plague spread in the modern city of Hanoi in the year 1903.
  • The French part of Hanoi was beautifully built as a clean city with wide avenues and better sewer system whereas the native quarters were not provided such modern facilities.
  • The waste from the old city either drained into the river or overflowed the streets during the heavy rainfall and flood time.
  • The sewer system in the French part of Hanoi was an easy route for the rats to move around the city and they began to enter the well cared homes through the sewage pipes.
  • To control the invasion of the rats, a rat hunt programme was initiated in the year 1902. The Vietnamese workers were hired and paid for each rat they caught. They were given bounty when a tail was shown as a proof of killed rat.
  • The Vietnamese started negotiating for a higher bounty. They also just clipped the tail of the rats and released them so that the process could be repeated and also some people began raising rats to earn profit.

Religion and Anti-Colonialism

  • In Vietnam, there was a mixture of religious beliefs such as Buddhism, Confucianism and many other local practices among which the introduction of Christianity by the French was intolerable by the Vietnamese.
  • In the year 1868, the Scholars Revolt took place which was basically against the French control and the spread of Christianity in Vietnam.
  • In the Ngu An and the Ha Tien provinces, thousands of Catholics were killed by the French but inspired other patriots.
  • The Hoa Hao movement started in the year 1939 in the Mekong delta region. This movement was founded by Huynh Phu So. This movement was based on the religious ideas.
  • Huynh Phu So performed miracles, helped the poor, criticized the useless expenditure, the sale of child brides, gambling and also the use of alcohol and opium.
  • Huynh Phu So was declared mad by the French and was called Mad Bonze. Later on, he was put in mental asylum where the doctors proved him sane. Then after he was exiled to Laos and his followers were sent to the concentration camps.

The Vision of Modernisation

  • In the vision of modernization, the Vietnamese were thinking over the meaning of modernization and nationalism. Different intellectuals had different view on this. Some of them favoured the strengthening of Vietnam for resisting the domination of the West whereas some said that Vietnam should learn while opposing the west.
  • In the late 19th century, the Confucian scholar-activists such as Phan Boi Chau resisted the French domination.
  • Phan Boi Chau formed the Revolutionary Society called Duy Tan Hoi in the year 1903. Prince Cuong De was the head of the society.
  • Phan Boi Chan wrote the book named “The History of the Loss of Vietnam” which became very popular in Vietnam and China. This book focused on two themes: the loss of sovereignty and the severing of ties with China.
  • Phan Chu Trinh was a nationalist who had different view than Phan Boi Chau. He was totally against the monarchy system. He wanted to establish a democratic republic.
  • Phan Chu Trinh was influenced by the democratic ideals of the West. So, he did not wanted a complete rejection of the western civilisation. He wanted the French to set up legal and educational institution and develop the agriculture and industries.
  • Japan and China were also helping Vietnam by providing models for change and refuge for those who escaped from the French police.
  • ‘The Go East’ movement became very popular in the first decade of the 20th century. In the year 1907-08, some 300 Vietnamese students migrated to Japan.
  • The main objectives of this Go East Movement was to acquire modern education, to drive out the French from Vietnam, to overthrow the puppet emperor in Vietnam and to re-establish the Nguyen dynasty.
  • The Vietnamese students set up a branch of the Restoration Society in Tokyo which was clamped down by the Japanese Ministry of Interior after the year 1908. The Vietnamese including Phan Boi Chau were deported and forced to seek exile in China and Thailand.
  • In the year 1911, a republic was set up in China after overthrowing a long established monarchy by the help of the popular movement led by the leader Sun Yat-Sen.
  • Inspired by the developments in China, the Vietnamese students organized the association for the Restoration of Vietnam (Viet-Nam Quan Phuc Hoi) and also the objective of the national movement changed from setting up constitutional monarchy to democratic republic.

The Communist Movement and Vietnamese Nationalism

  • In 1930s, there was a great depression in Vietnam due to which the prices of rubber and rice fell down which resulted in the rising of rural debts, unemployment and rural uprisings.
  • The Nghe An and Ha Tinh were the two poorest provinces in Vietnam which was called the ‘electrical fuses’ because they were the first to blow when the system was under pressure.
  • Ho Chi Minh established the Vietnamese Communist Party named Vietnam Cong San Dang in February 1930. Later on, this party was renamed as Indo-Chinese Communist Party.
  • Japan occupied Vietnam in the year 1940. The league for the Independence of Vietnam fought against this domination and recaptured Hanoi in September 1945. This resulted in the formation of The Democratic Republic of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh became the Chairman.
  • The new democratic republic of Vietnam was again controlled by the French using Bao Dai as their puppet and also forced Vietminh to retreat to the hills. But again in the year 1954, the French were defeated.
  • After the French defeat, peace negotiations held in Geneva where the Vietnamese accepted the division of the country.
  • Vietnam was divided into North and South. The north came under the power of Ho Chi Minh and the communist whereas the south was put in power of Bao Dai.
  • Later on, the Bao Dai regime of south was overthrown by a coup led by Ngo Dinh Diem. He was quite repressive and authoritarian. Those who opposed him were called communist and were sent to jail and killed.
  • The national liberation front of the South Vietnam took the help of the Ho Chi Minh government in the north and fought against the Diem dictatorship and for the unification of the country.
  • The US was in fear with this alliance of the national liberation front and Ho Chi Minh government. Thus the US sent its troops and arms in Vietnam. This war proved costly to both the Vietnamese and the Americans.
  • This battle was proved brutal as thousands were killed and lakhs were injured. Heavy weapons, tanks, powerful bombers like B52s and the chemical weapons were used at a large scale.
  • The Ho Chi Minh trail was an immense network of footpath and roads which was used for transporting men and material from north to south during the US-Vietnam war.
  • The trail was mostly outside Vietnam in Laos and Cambodia. The trail had its branch lines extending into South Vietnam. This trail was regularly bombed and destroyed by the US but was rebuilt very quickly.

The Nation and Its Heroes

  • Traditionally, the lower class Vietnamese women enjoyed greater equality than in China. But they had limited freedom to decide their future and were not participating in public life.
  • During the national movement, a new image of womanhood emerged which was idealized by the writers and the political thinkers.
  • In the year 1913, Phan Boi Chau wrote a play which was based on the lives of the Trung sisters. The Trung sisters fought against the Chinese domination. Then after, the Trung sisters were glorified and idealized as they were depicted in the paintings, plays and novels.
  • The Trung sisters had gathered a force of over 30,000 and were capable of resisting the Chinese for two years. But after the defeat, they committed suicide instead of surrendering to the enemy.
  • Trieu Au was a woman rebel and a popular nationalist lore in the 3rd century CE. She was orphaned in the childhood living with her brother but left home and went to jungle. There she organized a large army and tried to resist the Chinese rule in Vietnam. After the defeat she drowned herself and became a sacred figure of the nation.
  • In Vietnam, the women were portrayed as young, brave and dedicated fighters. They were not only showed as warriors but also as workers because they had rifle in one hand and hammer in the other. They selflessly worked as nursing, constructing underground rooms and tunnels and also fighting with the enemies.
  • When the peace talks begins in the 1970s, the women were represented as workers working in the agricultural fields, factories and the production units rather than as fighters.

The End of The War

  • The US-Vietnam war was strongly questioned in the US because the US failed to crush the Vietnamese resistance and also thousands of young US soldiers lost their lives.
  • This war was called the first television war because the battle scenes were shown on the daily news. It was also called the greatest threat to peace and international cooperation.
  • In January 1974, a peace settlement was signed in Paris to negotiate to end to the war but the fighting between the Saigon regime and the NLF continued.
  • On 30th April 1975, the NLF occupied the Saigon and thus completed the unification of Vietnam.