Lang – the early beginnings
The emergence of the Vietnam as a coherent entity is veiled
by the mists of time. Legends proliferate, and are dominated
by images of dragons that act as protectors of a vulnerable
land and people. Little is known of Van Lang, the kingdom
of the early Viet people, ruled by a succession of ‘Hung’
kings. Such evidence as exists suggests it was a well-established
feudal society, proficient in agriculture, skilled in using
metal and advanced in its beliefs and artistic expression.
Such a ‘soft’ target would be very attractive
to raiding parties of Cham pirates and the expanding Chinese
empire. Perhaps the necessity to protect their land of plenty
inspired the will to resist and, more importantly, taught
the Vietnamese ways to protect their country.
Van Lang was conquered by a nearby kingdom in 257 BC to
form a new kingdom called Au Lac. Fifty years later, Au
Lac was overwhelmed by the Chinese.
As Chinese expansionists took over kingdom
after kingdom, their practice was to begin the process of
pacification immediately – dividing the country into tightly
controlled administrative districts and sub-districts and
importing Confucianism, ancestor worship, Chinese script
and a powerful legislature.
Typically, the subject people in the territories
they controlled were soon completely Sinocised and their
territory absorbed into Greater China. However, in Vietnam
they met with local revolts and wider insurrections that
continued throughout their thousand years of occupation.
Of all the kingdoms and countries that were subject to China,
only Vietnam shook off its chains.
Resistance at all costs
Then and since, Vietnamese foreign and domestic policy has
been driven by an overriding imperative to secure and protect
the county’s territory and identity regardless of cost.
Over the turbulent centuries that followed
the expulsion of the Chinese, the cost of independence was
paid many times over. Invasion after invasion was driven
back. Invariably, defeat and occupation was confronted with
unyielding resistance and eventual ejection of the occupying
The value of sovereignty
In modern times, foreigners often remark upon Vietnam’s
apparently unprincipled pragmatism in both domestic policy
and international relations. Not realising Vietnam’s unwavering
commitment to self-determination, they see enthusiastic
overtures to Western capitalism as blatant opportunism and
question its status as a ‘communist’ country.
Our bitter experiences have taught us that
we can only be safe from aggression by becoming a full member
of an international community of peace-loving nations and
building a sound economy based upon industry and commerce.
Our socialism is not a dogmatic ideology - it is a path
to the betterment of our Vietnamese community and the security
of our country.
For us Vietnamese, no evil could be greater
than the loss of sovereignty. The events following the end
of the Japanese occupation of Vietnam in 1945 clearly demonstrate
Not pragmatism, but
the logic of resistance
In the wake of the surrender, Ho Chi Minh took advantage
of the power vacuum and proclaimed the Democratic Republic
of Vietnam. However, the victorious allied forces determined
that the Nationalist Chinese would occupy North Vietnam
and the British the south.
Ho Chi Minh, who had previously created
the Vietminh guerrilla force to fight the Japanese, correctly
perceived that a Chinese presence in Vietnam’s heartland
posed a major threat. Although the Japanese invasion had
ended nearly a century of oppressive colonial rule by France,
he had no hesitation in making a deal with the hated French
to take over North Vietnam for yet another five years. When
challenged to justify such seemingly perverse behaviour,
he famously replied “Better to sniff French shit for the
next five years than eat Chinese shit for the rest of my
Although his analysis of the
comparative strengths of the French and Chinese was precise,
he misjudged the timing. The French predictably reneged
on the deal and, with British support, attempted to re-colonise
Vietnam. It took a further nine years of bitter fighting
until the Vietnamese victory at Dien Bien Phu finally drove
the colonialists out of our country!