Thursday, December 24, 2009

Vietnam History Part 4: French Occupation

The region Annam was seized by the French by 1874 and became part of French Indochina in 1887. Two other Vietnamese regions, Cochinchina (Nam Kỳ) in the South and Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ) in the North, were also units of French Indochina. The region had a dual system of French and Vietnamese administration with a puppet emperor residing in Huế. France assumed sovereignty over all of Vietnam after the Sino-French War (1884-1885)中法戰争. The French colonial government then divided Vietnam into three different administrative territories. They named the territories: Tonkin (in the north), Annam (in the center), and Cochinchina (in the south). These territories were fairly arbitrary in their geographic extent.

Note: To China , Annam means "Pacified South" in Sino-Vietnamese,derived from the Chinese word, An Nan (安南). In the History of Vietnam, the designation is one of several given by the Chinese to the core territory of modern-day Vietnam. This territory surrounds the city of Hanoi and runs from the Gulf of Tonkin to the mountains which surround the plains of the Red River. Annam was a French protectorate encompassing the central region of Vietnam. Nationalists writers adopted the word "Vietnam" in the late 1920s. The general public embraced the word "Vietnam" during the revolution of August 1945. Since that time, the word "Annam" has been regarded as demeaning

French interest in northern Vietnam dated from the 1840s, when France annexed several southern provinces of Vietnam to become the colony of Cochinchina, laying the foundations for its later colonial empire in Indochina. French explorers followed the course of the Red River through northern Vietnam to its source in Yunnan, arousing hopes that an extremely profitable overland trade route could be established with China, bypassing the treaty ports of the Chinese coastal provinces. The main obstacle to the realization of this dream was the Black Flag Army, a well-organized bandit force under a formidable leader, Liu Yongfu (Liu Yung-fu, 劉永福), which was levying exorbitant dues on trade on the Red River between Son Tay and the town of Lao Cai on the Yunnan border. Black Flag Army helped Vietnam and Qing armies to fight French invasion.

The Sino-French War (Chinese: 中法戰争; French: Guerre franco-chinoise, Vietnamese: Chiến tranh Pháp-Thanh) was a limited conflict fought between August 1884 and April 1885 to decide whether France should replace Qing (China) in control of Tonkin (northern Vietnam).

Note: In the 17th century, Vietnam was divided between the Trịnh Lords to the north and the Nguyễn Lords to the south. The northern section was called Tonkin by Europeans, and the southern part called Cochinchina by most Europeans and Quinam by the Dutch. During the French colonial period, the label moved further south, and came to refer to the southernmost part of Vietnam, controlled by Cambodia in prior centuries, and lying to its southeast. Its capital was at Saigon. The two other parts of Vietnam at the time were known as Annam and Tonkin. The name "Cochin" derives from the Malay Kuchi which referred to all of Vietnam. This term was in turn derived from the Chinese jiao zhi, pronounced giao chỉ in Vietnam.

The Nguyễn Dynasty (阮朝,1802-1945)
The Nguyễn Dynasty (Vietnamese: Nhà Nguyễn; Hán Việt: 阮朝, Nguyễn triều) was the last ruling family of Vietnam. Their rule lasted a total of 143 years. It began in 1802 when Emperor Gia Long ascended the throne after defeating the Tây Sơn Dynasty and ended in 1945 when Bảo Đại abdicated the throne and transferred power to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. During the reign of Emperor Gia Long, the nation officially became known as Việt Nam (越南), but from the reign of emperor Minh Mạng on, the nation was renamed Đại Nam (大南, literally "Great South"). Their rule was marked by the increasing influence of French colonialism; the nation was eventually partitioned into three, Cochinchina became a French colony while Annam and Tonkin became protectorates which were independent in name only.

French Colonization(1885-1954)
Vietnam's independence was gradually eroded by France in a series of military conquests from 1859 until 1885 when the entire country became part of French Indochina. The French administration imposed significant political and cultural changes on Vietnamese society. A Western-style system of modern education was developed, and Christianity was propagated widely in Vietnamese society. Most of the French settlers in Indochina were concentrated in Cochinchina (southern Vietnam whose principal city was Saigon). Developing a plantation economy to promote the exports of tobacco, indigo, tea and coffee, the French largely ignored increasing calls for self-government and civil rights. A nationalist political movement soon emerged, with leaders such as Phan Boi Chau, Phan Chu Trinh, Phan Dinh Phung, Emperor Ham Nghi and Ho Chi Minh calling for independence.

WW2: Japanese Occupation(1941-1945)
French maintained control of their colonies until World War II, when the Japanese war in the Pacific triggered the invasion of French Indochina in 1941. The natural resources of Vietnam were exploited for the purposes of the Japanese Empire's military campaigns into the British Indochinese colonies of Burma, the Malay Peninsula and India.

In 1941, the Viet Minh — a communist and nationalist liberation movement — emerged under Ho Chi Minh, to seek independence for Vietnam from France as well as to oppose the Japanese occupation. An estimated 2 million Vietnamese, or 10% of the population then, died during the Vietnamese famine of 1944–45. Following the military defeat of Japan and the fall of its Empire of Vietnam in August 1945, Viet Minh occupied Hanoi and proclaimed a provisional government, which asserted independence on 2 September. In the same year the Provisional French Republic sent the French Far East Expeditionary Corps, which was originally created to fight the Japanese occupation forces, in order to pacify the liberation movement and to restore French rule.

First Indochina War(1946-1954)
On November 20, 1946, triggered by the Haiphong Incident, the First Indochina War between Viet Minh and the French forces ensued, lasting until 20 July 1954.

Despite fewer losses — Expeditionary Corps suffered one-third the casualties of the Chinese and Soviet-backed Viet Minh — during the course of the war, the French and Vietnamese loyalists eventually suffered a major strategic setback at the Siege of Dien Bien Phu, which allowed Ho Chi Minh to negotiate a ceasefire with a favorable position at the ongoing Geneva conference of 1954. Colonial administration ended as French Indochina was dissolved.

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu(奠边府战役)

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The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (French: Bataille de Diên Biên Phu; Vietnamese: Chiến dịch Điện Biên Phủ) was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries. The battle occurred between March and May 1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that influenced negotiations over the future of Indochina at Geneva. Military historian Martin Windrow wrote that Điện Biên Phủ was "the first time that a non-European colonial independence movement had evolved through all the stages from guerrilla bands to a conventionally organized and equipped army able to defeat a modern Western occupier in pitched battle.

Geneva Conference 1954 - The politically divided Vietnam

According to the Geneva Accords of 1954 the forces of former French supporters and communist nationalists were separated south and north, respectively, with the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, at the 17th parallel, between. A Partition of Vietnam, with Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam in North Vietnam, and Emperor Bao Dai's State of Vietnam in the South Vietnam, was not intended by the 1954 Agreements, and they expressly forbade the interference of third powers. Counter to the counsel of his American advisor, the State of Vietnam Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem toppled Bao Dai in a fraudulent referendum organised by his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu, and proclaimed himself president of the Republic of Vietnam. The Accords mandated nationwide elections by 1956, which Diem refused to hold, despite repeated calls from the North for talks to discuss elections

After the war, the Geneva Conference on July 21, 1954, made a provisional division of Vietnam at the 17th parallel, with control of the north given to the Viet Minh as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh, and the south becoming the State of Vietnam under Emperor Bảo Đại, in order to prevent Ho Chi Minh from gaining control of the entire country.

1955 - Creation of Republic of Vietnam
A year later, Bảo Đại was deposed by his prime minister, Ngô Đình Diệm, creating the Republic of Vietnam. Diem's refusal to enter into negotiations with North Vietnam about holding nationwide elections in 1956, as had been stipulated by the Geneva Conference, would eventually lead to war breaking out again in South Vietnam in 1959 - the Second Indochina War(The Vietnam War).

Related articles:

1.Battle of Dien Bien Phu,
3. Interview with Vo Nguyen Giap, Viet Minh Commander:
4. Testimonial of General Giap, 50 years after the battle (May 7th, 2004), in French:
5. Testimonial of General Bigeard, 50 years after the battle (May 3rd, 2004),
6. An Analysis Of The French Defeat At Dien Bien Phu(1991),by Major Harry D. Bloomer, USA
7. Sino-French War,

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