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History of Vietnam:
Vietnam’s history goes back more than 2,500 years, when it was a part of the unified Chinese Empire. Vietnam became a kingdom in early 10th century, and gained virtual autonomy a century later. The native dynastic period ended in mid-19th century, when the country was invaded by France, subsequently by Japan in the following century. It gained sovereignty in 1954, but a war ensued, causing the new nation to split briefly.
Relationship with China:
Vietnam was a part of the unified Chinese Qin Empire, called Xiang Prefecture, which also included parts of Guangxi.
In 111 BC, Emperor Wudi of Han China sent armies to the southernmost tip of Vietnam, Cochin. For the next millennium, Chinese technology (such as agriculture) and art (such as writing system and literature) were introduced into Vietnam, establishing a close relationship between the two places. However, many Vietnamese commoners were not fully Sinicized, and there were those, such as the Trung Sisters in 39 CE, who resisted the Chinese influences.
Since 939, Vietnam had been a partially independent kingdom and a tributary to the Emperors of China. In 1009, the Ly dynasty, Vietnam’s first independent dynasty, was proclaimed. The “four great dynasties” of Vietnam were the Ly, the Tran, the Later Le, and the Nguyen. The last, the Nguyen dynasty, declared its monarchs to be emperors.
There were over ten recognizable dynasties in Vietnam’s history. Some are not considered official, such as the Southern and Northern Dynasties, and the Tay Son dynasty.
Vietnam had been divided into the Three Bo, which included the Northern Bo (since the French Occupation, Tonkin), Central Bo (Annam), and Southern Bo (Cochin China).
Under the orders of Napoleon III of France, the landing of French forces in the port of Tourane, (present-day Danang) in August 1858, heralded the beginning of the colonial occupation which was to last almost a century. In 1884, the French had complete control over the country, which now formed the largest part of French Indochina. However, the French allowed the Vietnamese to keep their monarchy. The last Emperor was Bao Dai, who ruled until 1954/55.
In 1940 during World War II, coinciding with their ally Germany’s invasion of France, the Japanese invaded Indochina. While they did not eject the French administration, the Japanese directed policy from behind the scenes in a parallel of Vichy France. As far as Bao Dai and the Vietnamese were concerned, this was now a kind of double-puppet government. This arrangement lasted until March 9, 1945 when the French were overrun and Bao Dai had little option but to switch allegiance to Japan.
The Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, and the Communist Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh aimed to take power. Due to the Japanese associations, Ho was able to persuade Bao Dai to abdicate on August 25, 1945, handing power to the Viet Minh — an event that greatly enhanced Ho’s legitimacy in the eyes of the Vietnamese people. Bao Dai was appointed “supreme adviser” in the new government in Hanoi, which asserted independence on September 2.
Vietnam descended into violence — rival Vietnamese factions clashing with each other and with the French. The First Indochina War lasted until 1954, when the Viet Minh won a major victory at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.
The USA, nervous since the war of Ho Chi Minh’s communism, became strongly opposed to the idea of a Vietnam run by Ho after his government of the north, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in 1950 gained recognition from the Soviet Union and China. In the south in the same year, the government of Bao Dai in Saigon was recognized by the United States and the United Kingdom, but did not enjoy wide popular support.
The Geneva Conference involved a Chinese-inspired, supposedly temporary partition of the country into North and South. Bao Dai had intentions to take full control of South Vietnam, and from his home in France appointed the religious nationalist Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister. However, in 1955 Diem used a referendum to remove the Emperor and took control of the South himself, managing to win American support.
In response to the failure of establishing unifying elections, the National Liberation Front (NLF or Viet Cong) was formed as a guerrilla movement in opposition to the South Vietnamese government. (The RVN and the US referred to the NLF as Viet Cong, short for Viet Nam Cong San, or “Vietnamese Communist”. The NLF itself never went by this name.) In response to the guerrilla war, the United States began sending military advisors in support of the government in the South. This escalated into what is called the Vietnam War, or the “Second Indochina War”.
The war lasted until 1975, when the North finally gained control over all of Vietnam. In 1976, Vietnam was officially reunited under the North Vietnamese government as “The Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.
In 1979 China invaded Vietnam in response to Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia. The Sino-Vietnamese War was brief, but casualties were high on both sides.