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Is a Sino-Vietnamese war imminent? Revisiting Vietnamese nationalism Tuong Vu University of Oregon.

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Presentation on theme: "Is a Sino-Vietnamese war imminent? Revisiting Vietnamese nationalism Tuong Vu University of Oregon."— Presentation transcript:

1 Is a Sino-Vietnamese war imminent? Revisiting Vietnamese nationalism Tuong Vu University of Oregon

2 Nature of Vietnamese nationalism Earlier view: Ancient animosity toward China New scholarship: – Traditional Sino-Annamese relations mostly peaceful – Annamese elites proud of being part of Sinic civilization – Struggle for local autonomy/independence not understood in ethnic or national terms

3 Nationalism & communism Modern Viet national consciousness emerged in 1900s Viet communists = patriots who identified national interests with working class interests – Successfully mobilized popular nationalism – Worshipped Mao in the 1950s but accused China of chauvinism in the 1970s – War with China 1979-88

4 Back into China’s fold New leadership (1986) embraced economic reform but remained loyal to socialism 6/1989: asked Gorbachev to convene conference to save socialist camp 9/1990: traveled secretly to Chengdu to propose ideological alliance with China to save socialism – China: “chauvinist yet socialist, better than imperialist US”

5 Foreign Policy 1991-2007 Officially: “friends of all nations” Reality: closest to China Deep suspicion of US and fear of US invasion

6 Imagined US Invasion “[In the case of war,] it is certain that the enemy would attack us first from the air on a large scale, with guided missiles and advanced aircrafts armed with smart bombs. Unlike bombings of the North [during the Vietnam War], the enemy would not increase the intensity of the bombing gradually but would … strike at all targets at once—first at air defense system, airports… then at economic and political targets all over the country, leading to economic paralysis and political instability. Taking advantage of this situation, domestic counter- revolutionary forces would launch an uprising and seize our local governments in strategic locations. The enemy could then deploy rapid reactionary forces to help them establish a government and a base, then call for international support to overthrow our regime.” (JPD, 2002)

7 Official narrative about the nation Nation possesses unique and exceptional qualities Nation has no choice but socialism, no future without the Party China is long-time comrade vs. US still plotting against Vietnam

8 New nationalist movement Participants: Intellectuals, retired officials, urban youth, farmers robbed of land, religious groups Demands: government take strong actions to defend territory, allow peaceful protests & freedom of speech, tackle official corruption and land grabbing

9 Debunking myths in new nationalist discourse “After at least two thousand years of existence … Vietnam is still one of the poorest and most backward country in the world. But …that’s not as frightening to me [as the fact that our country] has never been anything but poor and backward. It was like that when I was born. It was like that when my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were born… Greece is now the poorest country in Europe, but that’s not always the case. Russia is now beset with problems, but that’s not always the case either. Only Vietnam…” (Pham Thi Hoai)

10 Rescue nation from Party’s grip [The Party] drew a battle line for an ideological war within the body of the Vietnamese nation; sacrificed Vietnamese lives in that war; yielded ancestors’ sacred territories to Chinese communists to maintain power… The history of the VCP is a history in which enormous interests of the Vietnamese nation were sacrificed for the sake of the Party’s own, narrow interests (Col. Pham Dinh Trong)

11 Hanoi, 12/2007

12 Ho Chi Minh City, 03/2008

13 Hanoi, July 2011

14 Hanoi’s politics of coping Top leaders held different views and slow to reassess situation Two broad, cross-cutting factions: – loyalist/pro-China: Party, propaganda, security, military? – pragmatic/rent-seeking: state, provincial leaders, SOE managers

15 Hanoi’s policies since 2005 Overriding goal: stability & status quo, not to wreck relations with China Appease China on basis of shared ideology & interests Warm up to US, Japan, Russia, India Increase defense spending Suppress anti-China protests


17 Is war imminent? The good news: No, not war any time soon The bad news (for some Vietnamese): Vietnam acquiesces in China’s expansion of control over South China Sea The risks for Hanoi: – China’s excessive use of force – Protests will continue & may destabilize the regime

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