History of Vietnam

From Academic Kids

The History of Vietnam dates back more than 2,500 years. For a thousand years, it was under the rule of successive dynasties of the Chinese Empire. Vietnam regained independence in the early 10th century, and complete autonomy a century later. The native dynastic period ended in mid-19th century, when the country was colonized by France. During WWII, Japan occupied Vietnam. After the war, France attempted to re-establish control but ultimately failed. The Geneva Accords partitioned the country in two. During this Cold War period, the North was supported by China and the USSR while the South was supported by the USA. Tensions quickly escalated into the Vietnam War. The war ended with the American withdrawal from Vietnam in March 1973 and the capture of Saigon in April 1975. Template:History of Vietnam



According to Vietnamese legends, the first Vietnamese descended from the dragon lord Lạc Long Quân and the heavenly spirit Âu Cơ. Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ had 100 sons, and the eldest one became the first in the lines of early Vietnamese line of kings, collectively known as Hùng Vương (or Brave King). Under the Hùng kings, the civilization that would later become Việt Nam was called Văn Lang. The people of Văn Lang were known as the Lạc Việt people. The Vietnamese language is a member of Mon-Khmer language family, mixed with many elements similar to Cantonese.

By the 3rd century BC, another Viet group, the Âu Việt, emigrated from present southern China to the Red River delta and mixed with the indigenous Văn Lang population. In 258 BC, a new kingdom called Âu Lạc (from the union of the u Việt and the Lạc Việt) was formed by Thục Phán in North Vietnam. Thục Phán proclaimed himself king An Dương Vương. After a long war with the Chinese Qin dynasty, An Dương Vương was finally defeated by a Qin general named Triệu Đà in 208 BC. Triệu Đà proclaimed himself king when the Qin empire fell to the Han. He combined Âu Lạc with territories in southern China and named his kingdom Nam Việt. Nam means south, and Việt is a derivation of Yue, the Chinese name for the Guangdong, Guangxi and Vietnam regions.

The Triệu dynasty is a controversial era among Vietnameses. Some consider it a Chinese domination, because Triệu Đà was a Qin general who defeated An Dương Vương to established his rule. Yet others consider it an era of independence, because Triệu Đà's family ruled Nam Việt in defiance of the Han dynasty until 111 BC, when the Han troops invaded the country and incorporated it into the Han empire as Giao Chỉ prefecture. Nam Việt's Triệu dynasty had five kings:

Despite a program of Sinicization, the Viets refused assimilation and continually rebelled. In 40 AD, after her husband had been executed by the Chinese, a Vietnamese woman named Trưng Trắc and her sister Trưng Nhị led an uprising against the Hans. They were able to drive off the Chinese and set capital at Mê Linh (Phú Thọ province). In 41 AD, Han emperor Wudi sent his general M Viện and troops to crush the Trưng rebellion. After two years of fighting, the Trưng sisters were defeated and committed suicide by drowning themselves in Hát river. Known collectively in Vietnamese folklore as Hai Bà Trưng, the Trưng sisters are admired as the first Vietnamese patriots. They are often depicted as riding war elephants to battle.

Later on, another Vietnamese woman, Triệu Trinh, and her brother, Triệu Quốc Đạt, also rebelled against East Wu Chinese rule. Commonly known as Bà Triệu, Triệu Trinh is also depicted as riding an elephant to battle with her brother riding a horse besides. The Trưng sisters' and Triệu Trinh's stories may be hints that early Vietnamese civilizations were largely matriarchal, where it was easy for women to assume the leading position and mobilize people.

Much of northern Vietnam (from the Red River delta down to about the region of modern Hue) was incorporated into the Chinese province of Jiaozhi, or Giao Chỉ (later called Tonkin), through much of the Han dynasty and the period of the Three Kingdoms. Jiaozhi (with its capital near modern Hanoi) became a flourishing port receiving goods from the southern seas. The Hou Hanshu relates that in 166 CE the first envoy from the Roman Empire to China arrived by this route, and merchants were soon to follow. The 3rd century Weilue speaks of a "water route" (i.e. the Red River) from Jiaozhi into what is now southern Yunnan. From there goods were taken overland to the rest of China via the regions of modern Kunming and Chengdu.

Many other rebellions also took place in this period, such as those of Mai Thúc Loan (Mai Hắc Đế - Mai the Black King), Phùng Hưng (Bố Cái Đại Vương - The Great Guardian Lord), Triệu Quang Phục (Triệu Việt Vương - Triệu the Viet King), and Lý Bí (a.k.a Lý Bôn).

Early Independence

The Viets threw off Chinese domination in 938 AD. At the battle on Bạch Đằng river in North Vietnam, Ngô Quyền defeated South Han navy and established the Ngô dynasty.

After Ng Quyền's death, a power struggle ensued between his family members and generals, and the kingdom fell into disorder. A civil war broke out among the Twelve Warlords (12 Sứ quân) and lasted for two decades. One of the warlords, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, defeated the others, and set up the Đinh dynasty. He is referred to as Đinh Tiên Hoàng (Đinh the Previous Emperor), because the Đinh dynasty only survived for two rulers.

When Đinh Bộ Lĩnh and his eldest son, Liễn, were assassinated by a eunuch, the 6-year-old Đinh Toàn assumed the throne. The country was immediately under threat by Chinese Sung troops, so Đinh Bộ Lĩnh's widow Dương Vân Nga married the court's top general Lê Hoàn to rely on him to fight off the Chinese. L Hoàn took the throne and proceeded to defeat Sung troops at Chi Lăng (now Lạng Sơn province) and Tây Kết. His dynasty is later regarded as the Tiền Lê (Anterior L).

Dynastic Period

When the Lê emperor L Long Đĩnh died in his twenties, a court general named Lý Công Uẩn took the chance to take over the throne and founded the Lý dynasty. This event is regarded as the beginning of a golden era in Vietnamese history, with great dynasties following one another. Lý Công Uẩn (commonly called L Thái Tổ - L the Founding Emperor) changed the country's name to Đại Việt, established the capital in present-day Hanoi and called it Thăng Long (Ascending Dragon) under the pretext of seeing a dragon when he was touring the area. As with other dynasties in Vietnamese history, the Lý had many wars with the Chinese, most notably when Lý troops under command of the eunuch-turned-general Lý Thường Kiệt invaded the two Southern provinces of the Sung empire. Lý Thường Kiệt later defeated Sung troops at the battle by Như Nguyệt river (commonly Cầu river), now in Băc Ninh province.

During the late Lý era, a court official named Trần Thủ Độ became powerful. He forced the emperor L Huệ Tông to become a Buddhist monk and set L Chiêu Hoàng, Huệ Tông's young daughter, to become the empress. Trần Thủ Độ then arranged the marriage of Chiêu Hoàng to his nephew Trần Cảnh and the transfer of the throne between the two. Thus ended the Lý dynasty and started the Trần dynasty.

During the Trần dynasty, Đại Việt was under attacks three times by the Mongols, who had occupied China and were ruling as the Yuan dynasty. It was during this period that Vietnamese nationalism began to form, as the Trần used the so-called "Đông A spirit" to mobilize people to fight against Mongol invaders. According to Vietnamese pronunciation of Chinese characters, the word "Việt" consists of the two words "Đông" and "A". Using this propaganda combined with guerilla warfare tactics, Trần troops stopped all three Yuan invasions. The Yuan-Trần war reached its climax when Yuan navy was decimated at the battle of Bạch Đằng river. Trần troops, with the noble lord Trần Hưng Đạo as commander-in-chief, used the exact same tactics as Ngô Quyền had used centuries before, at the exact same site, to defeat northern invaders. Trần Hưng Đạo, whose real name was Trần Quốc Tuấn, is regarded as the national hero and a major figure in Vietnamese history's lineup of great military strategists.

It was also during this period that the Trần kings waged many wars against the southern kingdom of Chiêm Thành (Champa), continuing the Viets' long history of southern expansion (known as Nam Tiến) that had begun shortly after gaining independence from China. However, they encountered strong resistance from the Chams, and Champa troops led by their king Chế Bồng Nga (Binasuor) even sacked Đại Việt's capital Thăng Long in 1372 and again in 1377.

The Trần dynasty was in turn overthrown by one of its own court official, Hồ Quý Ly. Hồ Quý Ly also forced the last Trần emperor to resigned to a pagoda and assumed the throne in 1400. He changed the country name to Đại Ngu and moved the capital to Tây Đô (Western Capital, now Thanh Hóa). Thăng Long was renamed Đông Đô (Eastern Capital). Although widely blamed as the person who disrupted the Trần dynasty and let the country fall under the rule of the Chinese Ming dynasty, Hồ Quý Ly's reign actually saw a lot of progressive, ambitious reforms, including free education, the adoption of Nôm characters for writing official documents, and land reform. He ceded the throne to his son, Hồ Hán Thương, in 1401 and assumed the title Thái Thượng Hoàng (The Highest Father Emperor).

In 1407, Ming troops sacked Tây Đô and captured Hồ Quý Ly and Hồ Hán Thương. The Hồ dynasty came to an end after mere 7 years.

L Lợi waged a guerilla war against the Ming for over a decade from the forest of Lam Sơn (Thanh Hóa province). After many defeats, he finally gathered momentum and was able to launch a siege at Đông Quan (now Hanoi), the site of the Ming administration. The Ming emperor sent a reinforcement force to rescue, but L Lợi staged an ambush and killed the general, Liu Shan. Ming's troops at Đông Quan surrendered. In 1428, L Lợi ascended to the throne and the Hậu Lê dynasty (Posterior L) began.

In 1472, Lê troops led by the emperor Lê Thánh Tông (L the Saintly Emperor) invaded Champa, captured its capital Đồ Bàn (Indrapura) and massacred the city's residents. This event effectively ended the centuries-old wars between the Vietnamese and Cham kingdoms, and initiated the dispersal of the Cham diaspora across southeast Asia.

With the kingdom of Champa annihilated and the Cham people exiled or suppressed, Vietnamese colonization of what is now central Vietnam proceeded without substantial resistance. However, despite becoming greatly outnumbered by Kinh settlers and the integration of formerly Cham territory into the Vietnamese nation (it is notable that the modern city of Hue lies where the Champa capital of Indrapura once stood), populations of Cham nevertheless remained in Vietnam and now comprise one of the minority peoples of modern Vietnam.

The Lê dynasty was overthrown by a general named Mạc Đăng Dung in 1527. He killed the Lê emperor and set himself as king, starting the Mạc dynasty. After ruling for two years, Mạc Đăng Dung adopted Hồ Quý Ly's practice and ceded the throne to his son, Mạc Đăng Doanh, and himself become Thái Thượng Hoàng. Nguyễn Kim, a former official in the Lê court, set up a Lê prince as the emperor L Trang Tông and rebelled against the Mạc. A civil war ensued.

Nguyễn Kim's side was winning the war, and he controlled most of the country, leaving only the area around the capital Đông Quan to the Mạc. When Nguyễn Kim was assassinated in 1545, military power fell into the hand of his son-in-law, Trịnh Kiểm. The civil war between Lê and Mạc dynasties came to an end in 1592, when the Mạc emperor Mạc Mậu Hợp was captured and executed. Survivors of the Mạc royal family fled to the mountains in province of Cao Bằng and continue to rule there until 1677.

After Trịnh Kiểm assumed power from Nguyễn Kim, he killed Nguyễn Kim's son Nguyễn Uông. Another son of Nguyễn Kim's named Nguyễn Hoàng fled to the province of Thuận Hóa and waged a war against the Trịnh Lords, who was by then effectively ruled the country, with the Lê emperors having no true power. The Trịnh-Nguyễn civil war lasted a century and a half, and is the longest war in the nation's history.

Meanwhile, the Nguyễn Lords continued the southward expansion by conquest of the various Khmer territories in the Mekong delta, and by the end of their rule had brough Vietnam's territory to almost present-day shape. Similar to the defeat of Champa, Vietnamese military victories in these territories initiated the large-scale colonization of what is now southern Vietnam by Kinh settlers in an area previously populated mainly by Khmers. Those who remained in the territories settled by the Vietnamese settlers became the Khmer Krom minority of modern Vietnam and have maintained a distinct ethnic identity, despite substantial intermarriage with Vietnamese and widespread adoption of the Vietnamese language and cultural influence.

In 1771, the Tây Sơn rebellion broke out in Bình Định province, under the Nguyễn Lord's rule. Leaders of this rebellion were three Nguyễn brothers (not related to the Nguyễn lords): Nguyễn Nhạc, Nguyễn Huệ, and Nguyễn Lữ. By 1777, the Tây Sơn had occupied all of the Nguyễn Lord's land and killed Lord Nguyễn Phúc Thuận. The surviving prince Nguyễn Phúc Ánh fled to Siam, and pledged to the Siamese king for support. When Nguyễn Phúc Ánh came back with Siamese troops in an attempt to regain power, he was defeated at Rạch Gầm and Xoài Mút by Nguyễn Huệ. Nguyễn Phúc Ánh had to flee again.

The Tây Sơn (西山) under Nguyễn Huệ's command pushed north to fight the Trịnh Lord. He succeeded in wiping out all the Trịnh troops and captured the capital, once again had been renamed Thăng Long. The Lê emperor, Lê Chiêu Thống, fled to China and pledged for help. The Qing emperor Qianlong supplied Lê Chiêu Thống with a massive army to support him. (The Manchus had conquered China and assumed the dynastic name of Qing.) Nguyễn Huệ proclaimed himself as the Emperor Quang Trung and defeated Qing troops in a quick, decisive attack to Hanoi. During his reign, Quang Trung imposed many reforms and is widely regarded as a good emperor. He died in 1792, at 40 years old.

After Quang Trung's death, the Tây Sơn court became unstable. Nguyễn Phúc Ánh, the surviving prince of the Nguyễn Lords, received help from France. In 1800, Nguyễn Phúc Ánh captured Tây Sơn's citadel Quy Nhơn. One year later, he occupied Phú Xuân (now Huế), Tây Sơn's central capital. Nguyễn Phúc Ánh finally won the war in 1802, when he sieged Thăng Long, captured and executed Quang Trung's son, Nguyễn Quang Toản, along with many Tây Sơn's generals and court officials. Nguyễn Phúc Ánh ascended to the throne and chose the name Gia Long. Gia is for Gia Định, the old name of Saigon; Long is for Thăng Long, the old name of Hanoi. Hence Gia Long implies the unification of the country. The Nguyễn dynasty lasted until Bảo Đại's abdication in 1945.

The modern name of Vietnam came under the Emperor Gia Long's reign. In 1802, he asked the Manchu Chinese emperor for permission to rename the country, from An Nam to Nam Viet. To prevent any confusion of Gia Long's kingdom with Triệu Đ's ancient kingdom, the Chinese emperor reversed the order of the two words to Viet Nam.

There were over ten recognizable dynasties in Vietnam's history. Some are not considered official, such as the Southern and Northern Dynasties, and the Tây Sơn dynasty.

Almost all Vietnamese dynasties are named after the ruler's family name, unlike the Chinese dynasties, whose names are an attribute chosen by the first emperors.

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The Changing Names

During the period of Chinese domination, Vietnam was called An Nam (or Pacified South). When Vietnam broke free, it was called Đại Cồ Việt (大瞿越), Đại Ngu or Đại Việt (大越). In 1802, Emperor Gia Long requested the Qing Empire to allow his country to be known as Nam Việt (南越). To prevent confusion with Triệu Đ's ancient kingdom, the Qing Manchu Chinese Emperor reversed the two words to Việt Nam. In 1838, during the Nguyen Dynasty, the nation's name was changed temporarily to Đại Nam (大南). During the French colonization, Vietnam was divided into: Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ or North Vietnam), Annam (Trung Kỳ or Central Vietnam), and Cochin China (Nam Kỳ or South Vietnam).


France's involvement can be traced to Alexandre de Rhodes, a Jesuit priest who converted many Vietnamese to Catholicism in the early 1600s. Rhodes improved on earlier works by Portugese missionaries and developed the Vietnamese romanized alphabet Quốc Ngữ. It was another priest, Pierre-Joseph Pigneaux de Bhaine, who intertwined Vietnam's and France's destinies.

By the late 1700s, Vietnam was in turmoil. A hundred years before, the posterior L dynasty disentegrated and two noble families partitioned the country. The Nguyễn Lords ruled the South and the Trịnh Lords ruled the North. The two constantly warred against each other, always in the name of the nominal L Emperor. The Trịnh launched offensive campaigns in 1661 and 1672 but failed to subdue the Nguyễn. Vietnam's economy was wrecked and the peasantry were open to revolt.

In 1771, the Ty Sơn rebels led by Nguyễn Huệ (later known as Emperor Quang Trung) fought a savage war against the Nguyễn Lords. The peasants had become tired of the corruption and tyranny of both the Trịnh and Nguyễn officials and eagerly joined the common uprising of the Ty Sơn, who enacted many social reforms. Taking sides with Nguyễn Phc nh, Pigneaux sailed to France with Nguyễn Phc nh's youngest son. At Louis XVI's court, Pigneaux brokered the Little Treaty of Versailles, which promised French military aid in return for Vietnamese concessions. The French Revolution intervened and Pigneaux's ambition seemed for naught. Undaunted, Pigneaux went to the French territory of Pondicherry, India. He secured two ships, a regiment of Indian troops, and a handful of volunteers and returned to Vietnam in 1788.

Meanwhile Nguyễn Huệ defeated the Trịnh and temporarily united the country. The last Emperor of the L dynasty, L Chiu Thống, then went to the Qing Manchu Chinese emperor and asked for 200,000 troops to re-install himself. The Chinese were eager to comply and sent their army south. Nguyễn Huệ fought the Chinese near present day Hanoi and won a major victory in a surprise attack during the Tet holiday. The same tactic would be used centuries later by V Nguyn Gip against the Americans. Unfortunately, Nguyễn Huệ died mysteriously at the age of 40 without a worthy successor.

One of Pigneaux's volunteers, Jean-Marie Dayot, reorganized Nguyễn Phc nh's navy along European lines and defeated the Ty Sơn navy at Quy Nhơn in 1792. Another volunteer, Victor Olivier de Puymanel would later build the Gia Định fort in central Saigon. With Nguyễn Huệ's early demise and Pigneaux's aid, Nguyễn Phc nh defeated the Ty Sơn and secured Hanoi in 1802. Nguyễn Phc nh proclaimed himself as Emperor Gia Long.

Gia Long buried Pigneaux with full honors in Saigon in 1799. Gia Long also tolerated Catholicism. However he and his successors were staunch Confucians and admirers of China, not of France. His successors, Ming Mạng and Tự Đức, brutally suppressed Catholicism and attempted to undo French influence. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese and foreign-born Christians were massacred during this period, an act which provoked the Catholic nations of Europe to retaliate. The reactionary adherence to Confucianism during this time also meant that the Emperors refused to allow any modernization or technological advancement. When conflict came, as a result of this isolationist policy, the Vietnamese were sadly out-matched.

Under the orders of Napoleon III of France, the landing of French forces in the port of Tourane, (present-day Đ Nẵng) in August 1858, heralded the beginning of the colonial occupation which was to last almost a century. France assumed sovereignty over Annam and Tonkin after the Franco-Chinese War (1884-1885). French Indochina was formed in October 1887 from Annam, Tonkin, Cochin China, and the Khmer Republic; Laos was added in 1893.

With the death of Tự Đức in 1883, a succession of Emperors were quickly elevated and just as quickly deposed. The teenage Emperor Hm Nghi left the Imperial Palace of Hue in 1885 and started the Cần Vương, or "Aid the King", movement. Hm Nghi asked the people to rally with him to resist the French. He was captured in 1888 and exiled to French Algeria. A former mandarin Phan Đnh Phng continued the Cần Vương movement until his death in 1895.

In 1905 Vietnamese resistance centered on the intellectual, Phan Bội Chu. Phan Bội Chu looked to Japan, which had modernized itself and was alone among Asian nations to resist colonization. With Prince Cường Để, Phan Bội Chu started two organizations in Japan: Duy Tn Hội and Việt Nam Cng Hiến Hội. Due to French pressure, Japan deported Phan Bội Chu to China. Witnessing Sun Yat-Sen's 1911 nationalist revolution, Phan Bội Chu was inspired to create the Vietnam Quang Phục Hội movement in Guangzhou. From 1914 to 1917, he was imprisoned by Yuan Shi Kai's counter-revolutionary government. In 1925, he was captured by French agents in Shanghai and spirited to Vietnam. Due to his popularity, Phan Bội Chu was spared from execution and placed under house arrest, until his death in 1940.

In 1940, Japan, coinciding with their ally Germany's invasion of France -- invaded Indochina. Keeping the German-controlled Vichy French colonial administration in place, the Japanese ruled from behind the scenes in parallel. As far as the Vietnamese were concerned, this was a double-puppet government. The symbolic Emperor Bảo Đại collaborated with the Japanese, just as he had with the French, causing no trouble and ensuring his lifestyle could continue.

Meanwhile, in 1941 Hồ Ch Minh, a trained communist revolutionary, returned to Vietnam and joined the Việt Nam Cch Mạng Đồng Minh Hội or "Viet Minh", which means "Vietnamese Allied." Hồ Ch Minh was a founding member of the French Communist Party in the 1920s in Paris. He spent many years in Moscow and participated in the International Comintern. At the direction of Moscow, he first convinced everybody of his patriotic intention and absorbed the various Vietnamese revolutionist groups into the Viet Minh. In order to win trust he de-emphasised his communist ties by dissolving the Indochinese Communist Party, which he had created in Hong Kong in 1930.

Post World War II Period

Main article: Vietnam War
In 1945, due to a combination of Japanese exploitation and poor weather, a famine broke out in Tonkin killing approximately 2 million. The Viet Minh arranged a massive relief effort and won over many people. In North Vietnam, the Japanese surrendered to the Chinese Nationalists. The Viet Minh organized the "August Revolution" uprisings across the country. At the beginning of a new future, Emperor Bảo Đại was happy to abdicate on August 25, 1945 and surrender his power to the Viet Minh, of which Hồ Ch Minh was now the leader. In order to gain popularity, Hồ Ch Minh made Bảo Đại "supreme advisor" to the Viet Minh led government in Hanoi, which asserted independence on September 2. In 1946 Vietnam gained its first constitution and a new name, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV).

North Vietnam came under the control of Hồ Ch Minh. In South Vietnam, the Japanese surrendered to British forces. The British supported the Free French in fighting the Viet Minh, the armed religious Cao Đi and Ha Hảo sects, and the Bnh Xuyn organized crime group for power. In 1948, France tried to regain control over Vietnam. The French re-installed Bảo Đại as head of state of "the State of Vietnam", which comprised of central and south Vietnam. The First Indochina War lasted until 1954, with the French being defeated at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

After World War II, the United States and the USSR entered into the Cold War, with both sides determined to expand their influence over the globe. The Korean War broke out between the North Koreans, supported by China and the USSR, and the Republic of Korea, supported by the US and allied nations. Initially the conflict was limited to North Korea, the Republic of Korea, and US military forces. However, when General Douglas MacArthur penetrated deep into North Korea, the Chinese flooded the country with an enormous army. The Korean War would have deep implications for the American involvement in Vietnam.

The United States became strongly opposed to Hồ Ch Minh, who had now re-asserted the dominance of the Communist Party within the Viet Minh in 1950. In the South of the same year, the government of Bảo Đại gained recognition by the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Geneva Conference of 1954 ended France's colonial presence in Vietnam and partitioned the country into 2 states: North and South Vietnam. From his home in France, Emperor Bảo Đại appointed Ng Đnh Diệm as Prime Minister of South Vietnam. While Ng Đnh Diệm was trying to settle the differences between the armed groups, Bảo Đại was persuaded to reduce his power. This forced Ng Đnh Diệm to use a referendum in 1955 to remove the former Emperor and declare himself as president of the Republic of Vietnam (Việt Nam Cộng Ha).

The Geneva Accords promised elections to determine a national government for a united Vietnam. However, only France and the North Vietnamese government (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) signed the document. The US and the Saigon government refused to abide by the agreement, surmising that Hồ Ch Minh would readily win the election easily because of his popularity. The result was the "Second Indochina War", also known as the Vietnam War. The war reached its height in 1966, when President Lyndon Johnson ordered 500,000 American troops into South Vietnam. Fearing the Chinese would directly enter the war with a massive army, as had occurred when U.S.-led United Nations forces approached the Chinese border during the Korean War, American ground troops were forbidden to enter North Vietnam.

The 1968 Tet Offensive by communist forces led the American people to view the war as unwinnable. President Richard Nixon entered office with a pledge to end the war "with honor". He normalized US relations with China in 1972 (Sino-American relations) and entered into Dtente with the USSR. With the Paris Peace Agreement of 1973, American military forces withdrew from Vietnam. Despite the peace treaty, the North continued the war, and defeated the South in April 1975. In 1976, Vietnam was officially reunited under the current Vietnamese government as "The Socialist Republic of Vietnam".

Aftermath of the Vietnam War and Reunification

After 1975, an exodus of Vietnamese fled the country either by sea or overland through Cambodia. Nguyen Ngoc Ngan, a novelist and a popular host of the video music program Paris by Night, exemplifies these Boat People's experience. A former sailor in the South Vietnamese Navy, he was sent to a "re-education" camp for 3 years and nearly died from disease. He was released from the camp and ordered to report to a new economic zone labor camp in the jungle. Instead, he with his wife and 4 year old son, boarded a fishing vessel crammed with over a hundred other refugees. After a week at sea, the boat capsized off the coast of Malaysia, killing his wife and son. Nguyen Ngoc Ngan wrote about this ordeal in his first novel in a Malaysian refugee camp, titled "Những Người Đn B Cn Ở Lại", or The Women Left Behind.

Debate about the significance of the Vietnam War continue to this day. Whether the war was internal civil war or a proxy war. Whether the Vietnam War disproved the Domino Theory or that the war mitigated the consequences of the fallen domino, Vietnam. Whether the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the resulting genocide, is a direct result of the Vietnam War or not. Whether if Nixon had avoided the Watergate scandal, he would have prevented the fall of Saigon or he had intended to abandon Vietnam all along.

Chinese Invasion

In 1979 China invaded Vietnam in response to Vietnam's pre-emptive attack on the Chinese-supported Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. The Sino-Vietnamese War was brief, but casualties were high on both sides. The country's third constitution, based on that of the USSR, was written in 1980.

Current Developments

Through the 1980s, Vietnam received nearly $3 billion a year in economic and military aid from the Soviet Union and conducted most of its trade with the USSR and other Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) countries. With the decline Soviet aid at the end of the decade, Vietnam was forced to withdraw its forces from Cambodia in 1989.


In 1986 Vietnam, under new leader Nguyen Van Linh, abandoned its attempt to maintain a purely planned economy. Many restrictions on private enterprise were lifted, and the education system was liberalised. In 1995 Vietnam joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A stock exchange opened in 2000. However, journalism and political dissent are still controlled, and Vietnam is still a one-party state. The arrest of Democracy, human rights, and religious freedom advocates give Vietnam a negative image. The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and ethnic minority Protestants in the northern and central highlands are also suppressed. In June 2004, Japan announced it will link its aid to Vietnam with Vietnam's respect for human rights. Although Japan's aid to Vietnam still rose steadily in the last decade. In September 2004, the US State Department designated Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern because of Vietnams particularly severe violations of religious freedom. Nevertheless, Vietnamese are enjoying more and more freedom. Vietnam is growing fast economically (GDP doubled every ten years in the last two decades) and adopting a more and more transparent and effective governing style to further reduce poverty. Vietnam intends to be a member of the WTO (World Trade Organization) in late 2005 or early 2006.


  • Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." 2nd Draft Edition.[1] (http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/texts/hhshu/hou_han_shu.html)
  • Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation. [2] (http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/texts/weilue/weilue.html)
  • Mesny, William. 1884. Tungking. Noronha & Co., Hong Kong.
  • Stevens, Keith. 1996. "A Jersey Adventurer in China: Gun Runner, Customs Officer, and Business Entrepreneur and General in the Chinese Imperial Army. 1842-1919." Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. 32 (1992). Published in 1996.
  • Francis Fitzgerald. 1972. Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and Americans in Vietnam. Little, Brown and Company.
  • Hung, Hoang Duy. 2005. A Common Quest for Vietnam's Future. Viet Long Publishing.

External links

  • http://www.mesny.com/ (This website contains much of interest including all of William Mesny's book, Tungking, which includes a detailed history of northern Vietnam up to the 19th century as well as accounts of his own campaigns there with the Chinese army, and many passages on his adventures in China from his journal, Mesny's Miscellany.)
  • Independence of Vietnam (http://www.vietnamtourism.com/e_pages/vietnam/introduction/history/eih_bacthuoc.htm) by Vietnam Tourism.
  • History of Vietnam (http://www.richmond.edu/~ebolt/history398/PrecolonialVietnam.html) by Professor Ernest Bolt, University of Richmond.
  • Re-Education Camps (http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-69-524-2706/life_society/boat_people/clip2) by Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
  • French IndoChina (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07765a.htm) Fascinating entry in a 1910 French Catholic Encyclopedia about Indochina by New Advent.
  • Virtual Vietnam Archive (http://www.vietnam.ttu.edu/virtualarchive/index.htm) Exhaustive collection of Vietnam related documents by Texas Tech University.
  • Geneva Accords of 1954 (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/genevacc.htm) Text of the 1954 Accords by Vincent Ferraro of Mount Holyoke College.
  • Vietnam Dragons and Legends (http://perso.limsi.fr/dang/webvn/anglais.htm) Vietnamese history and culture by French Vietnamien Dang Tuan.

nl:Geschiedenis van Vietnam ja:ベトナムの歴史 pl:Historia Wietnamu vi:Lịch sử Việt Nam


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