Nationalism in Indo-China: Short Notes and Video Lectures


Indo-China comprises the modern countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia under the Chinese rule .

Story of Vietnam

  • Vietnam in a monarchy under Chinese influence .
  • French army invaded Vietnam in 1858
  • Vietnam gained independence in 1945

  • Vietnam returned back to monarchy .
  • After a long war of 30 years , The republic of Vietnam was formed in 1975 .
  •  The Republic of Vietnam was formed after three decades of their independence.
  • Even after independence, Chinese culture and systems of government were maintained in Vietnam.
  • Vietnam functioned as the maritime silk route that brought in goods, ideas and people.

Colonial Domination of Vietnam

  •  1858: French troops landed in Vietnam.
  •  Mid-1880s: France had established a firm grip over the other regions of Vietnam.

  •  Post Franco-Chinese War: French assumed control over Tonkin and Anaam.
  •  1887: French Indo-China was formed.
  •  Realisation of sufferings experienced under the French rule mobilised nationalist resistance in Vietnam.

Effects of French Colonization

  •   The French built canals and drainage lands in the Mekong delta to increase cultivation. This benefitted production and export of rice.
  • 1931: Vietnam was the third largest exporter of rice in the world.

  •  A trans Indo-China rail network was built in order to adjoin the Northern and Southern parts of Vietnam and China. Vietnam was connected with other parts of China and Southeast Asia through railways.
  • This final link with Yunnan in China was completed by 1910
  • The second line was also built, linking Vietnam to Siam


Education System

  • The French wanted to introduce “ Modern Education System “ .
  • French feared that education may lead to Vietnamese raising questions on colonial rule.
  • French schools were set up but full access to French education was denied to the Vietnamese.

Modern Education

  • There was a deliberate policy of failing the students in the final year of French classes to prevent the local from qualifying for the better-paid jobs.
  • The school textbooks glorified the French and justified colonial rule.
  • The Vietnamese were shown as primitive and backward who were only capable of manual labor .

Resistance in Schools

  • Teachers and students did not blindly follow what was written in the curriculum.
  • By the 1920 students began to form political parties and to publish nationalist journals.
  • The Party of Young Annan (political party) and Annanese Student (journal) are some examples.

Health and Hygiene

  • The city of Hanoi was built by using modern engineering and architecture .
  • The sewer system; which was being touted as the symbol of hygiene became the perfect breeding ground for rats and led to the plague epidemic in Hanoi.


Rat Hunt

  •  To stop the spread of plague, as rat hunt was started in 1902.
  • Vietnamese workers were hired for the task and were paid for each rat being caught.

  • The payment was done when a tail of a rat was shown as a proof that a rat had been killed. Many people began just clipping the tails and collecting the bounty.
  •  Many people even began to raise rat to earn more

Religious Movements

  • Colonial domination influenced the religious sentiments of people .
  • Most Vietnamese followed Buddhism .
  • To oppose the introduction of Christianity by the French , The Scholars Revolt was started .
  • This revolt was suppressed by French officials .

Hoa – Hao  Movement

  • Launched in 1939
  • Based on religious ideas popular in anti-French uprisings
  • Founded by Huynh Phu So
  • Helped the poor and performed miracles .
  • Opposed the sale of child brides, gambling and the use of alcohol and opium.
  • To stop movement , he was declared mad and sent to mental asylum for 2 years .
  • In 1941, French doctors declared that he was sane.
  • The French authorities exiled him to Laos and sent many of his followers to concentration camps.

Nationalist  Movement In Indo-China

  • Ideas of nationalism started to grow due to French interference in the private life of people .
  • Their were Two set of viewpoints .

1 Supported French colonization

2 Opposed French Colonization

Phan Boi Chao

  • He formed the Revolutionary Society (Duy Tan Hoi) in 1903; with Prince Cuong De as the head.
  • He met the Chinese reformer Liang Qichao in Yokohama
  • ‘The History of the Loss of Vietnam’ was the most influential book written by Phan. It was written under the strong influence and advice of Qichao.
  • Phan became one of the leading figures of the anti-colonial movement in Vietnam.

Phan Chu Trinh

  • He strongly differed with Phan Boi Chau.
  • He was hostile to the monarchy and opposed the idea of resisting French with the help of court.
  • He was highly influenced by the democratic ideals of the west.
  • He accepted the French ideals of liberty.
  • He wanted the French to set up legal and educational institutions, and develop agriculture and industries.

Influence of Japan and China

  • Many Vietnamese students went to Japan for getting modern education. . They appealed to the Japanese as fellow Asians and wanted to gain independence from French .
  • Japan had become a modern country and had successfully resisted the colonization by the west. They had strong military capabilities.
  • After 1908, the Japanese Government stopped revolutionary activities of Vietnamese students .
  • Many revolutionaries were deported and forced to seek exile in China and Thailand. Phan Boi Chau was also among them.
  • Developments in China also inspired Vietnamese nationalists.
  • They formed the Association for the Restoration of Vietnam (Viet-Nam Quan Phuc Hoi). The objective of the anti-French independence movement was now to set up a democratic republic.

The Communist Movement

  • The Great Depression of the 1930’s had a profound impact on Vietnam.  The prices of rice and rubber fell
  • This led to a rise in rural debts and unemployment, and finally in rural uprisings.
  • However, the uprising was dealt with severely by the French. Even planes and bombs were used to suppress the uprising.
  • In February 1930, Ho Chi Minh brought together competing nationalist groups to establish the Vietnamese Communist (Vietnam Cong San Dang) Party. It was later renamed as the Indo -Chinese Communist Party.

    Independence Of Vietnam

  • The French tried to regain control. They used the emperor Bao Dai as their puppet in this endeavor.
  • After eight years of fighting, the Vietnamese were able to defeat the French in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu.
  • A peace negotiation took place in Geneva after the French defeat. Vietnam was divided into two countries, viz. south and north Vietnam.

  Entry of US into the war

  • In order to stop the spread of communism, the US attacked Vietnam.
  • The US occupation of Vietnam involved use of a high number of services personnel and also the use of latest warfare.
  • In spite of advanced technology and good medical supplies, the US casualties were very high in Vietnam.
  • About 47,000 US soldiers died and 303, 000 were wounded. About 23,000 suffered 100% disability.
  • The struggle of the Vietnamese people against the US showed that the inspiration of saving the motherland  turned even the weak into a great battle force.

End Of US occupation

  • A peace settlement was signed in Paris in January 1974.
  • This ended conflict with the US but fighting between the Saigon regime and the National Liberation Front continued.
  • The NLF occupied the presidential palace in Saigon on 30 April 1975 and unified Vietnam.

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