323 Indochina

323 Indochina - The First Indochinese War (vn1) The history...

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The First Indochinese War (vn1) The history of Vietnam permits us to examine one of the major sets of developments in the post- 1945 world--(a) how colonialism transformed a society, creating conditions for a popular anti- colonialist/nationalist/anti-capitalist movement; (b) how such a movement became a focal point of the Cold War; and finally (c) how this conflict affected the combatant powers. 1. Vietnam Under the French The French established control over modern-day Vietnam in the final decades of the nineteenth century. Vietnam differed from most of the African colonies set up by the European powers at this time in that the Vietnamese had a strong national identity developed during long wars with the Chinese and four centuries of independence. Failure to understand this nationalism would be at the heart of the American tragedy in Vietnam. The French administration of Vietnam exemplified many of the most brutal and corrosive aspects of colonialism. a. The French established monopolies on salt, alcohol and opium and used the proceeds to finance administration of the colony. This form of taxation fell disproportionately on the poor. b. The French exacerbated conflicts over landholdings. This was less apparent in northern Vietnam where a large population of small landholders faced a small number of large landowners. In the south, however, the French drained large tracts of land and provided them at bargain prices to French colonists and to the Vietnamese elite. They also turned over lands collectively owned by villages to private ownership. As a result, the south became an area of large landowners and numerous landless tenants. c. The French pursued these policies as part of the policy of promoting Vietnam's entry into the international rice trade. With the widespread introduction of commercialized agriculture based on the large plantations, wage labor and the export of the product, the per capita consumption of rice in Vietnam actually fell as the production of rice grew. d. The French developed extensive extractive industries (rubber, coal and metals), but severely limited industrial development in Vietnam so that the Vietnamese would purchase French-made goods. French taxes and the requirement that villages buy set quantities of opium and alcohol from the state forced many peasants to work on plantations or in mines.
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e. The French named a disproportionately high number of Vietnamese who had converted to Catholicism to positions of authority. Yet even this narrow "Europeanized" colonial elite were given only the most subaltern posts. In sum, the French ran the colony with the aid of a Vietnamese elite culturally and economically differentiated--largely through French policies--from the vast majority of the population. French economic policies enriched this elite and France while contributing to immiseration of the Vietnamese population as a whole. 2. Ho Chi Minh and the Communists
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This note was uploaded on 12/10/2009 for the course HIST 151 taught by Professor Hunziker during the Spring '07 term at UNC.

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323 Indochina - The First Indochinese War (vn1) The history...

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