Vietnam (Yuènán)

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By Quang-Tuan Luong © 2001

In 111 BC the Nam Viet kingdom, which stretched from the Red River delta to north of Guangzhou, encompasing the present Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong, was conquered by the Wave Suppressing Han general Ma Yuan and became a district of China. For the next thousand years Vietnam was drawn into the Chinese cultural sphere, its elite educated in the Chinese model, with the Chinese classics and Chinese characters the only written language.

However, nationalist sentiment did not entirely die out and there were numerous uprisings most notably that of the Trung sisters in 40-43 BC, the Ly Bon rebellions from 542 to 545. During the entire Vietnam history, China has been both a model and a threat, someimes revered and often hated.

602: Chinese ruled NamViet as a protectorate, the capital being Dai La Thanh (Hanoi)

939: Ngo Quyen frees the country under the dynasty name Dai Co Viet by brilliantly vanquishing the Chinese navies and armies at the Bach Dang River near present day Haiphong.

968: Dinh Bo Linh pacifies the country, and reorganizes it on the Chinese model. Mandarins are recruited by literary contests at the Van Mieu Temple from 1075 until 1919. The capital moved to Hoa Lu with the Dinh dynasty and the first of the Le dynasties.

1010: The Ly dynasty moved its capital to Thanh Long, Hanoi. During the Ly dynasty, Chinese, Khmer, and Cham attacks are repelled. Vietnamese expanded towards the south destroying the Hindu Cham dynasty in central Vietnam.

1226: Tran dynasty.

1288: After thirty years of periodic invasions, the Mongols, Yuan Dynasty, are defeated by Tran Hung Dao at the Bach Dang River, using the same aggressive defensive tactics of Ngo Quyen in 939.

1407: Ming dynasty armies conquer Vietnama were very unpopular 如lers.

1428: Nguyen Trai, Le Loi, vanquished the Ming Chinese armies, and began the second Le dynasty. Further penetration and annexations in the South.

1524: Start of a long period of political instability. While the Le governed nominally, a feudal war raged between the Trinh from the North from Thang Long and the Nguyen from the south near Hue.

1651: Jesuit Alexandres de Rhodes publishes in Roma a Latin Vietnamese catechism and creates the Ngoc Ngu, the roman-based script currently used for Vietnamese.

1771: The Tay Son brothers start a rebellion causing heavy damage. One of the brothers, Nguyen Hue, reigned as Quang Trung and defeated the Chinese army at Dong Da.

1802: After pushing back the Tay Son with the help of French mercenaries recruited by Jesuit Pigneau de Behaine, Nguyen Anh (the only survivor from the massacre of the Nguyens by the Tay Son brothers) changed his name to Gia Long and founded the Nguyen dynasty with the capital in Hue.

1858: The French navy attacked Da Nang.

1867: Cochinchina (the South) becomes a French Colony.

1883: Tonkin (the North) and Annam (the Center) become French protectorates.

1887: Creation of the Indochina Union, Cochinchina, Annam, Tonkin, Cambodia, and latter Laos.

1932: Bao Dai, the last emperor, begins his reign as an infant.

1940: Invasion of Indochina by Japan. The French Vichey collaborated with the Japanese and continued to rule the colony under Japanese diection.

1941: Ho Chi Minh starts the Viet Minh selecting Leninist thought as an ideological weapon to serve Vietnamese nationalism in its fight against French colonialism.

1945: The Japanese up end French authority. (Aug 19): The Viet Minh starts a general popular insurrection. Bao Dai abdicates. (Sept 2): Ho Chi Minh declares independence in Hanoi, with US agents by his side, Sept 23: The French military reoccupies the South.

1946: After the Fontainebleau conference between Ho Chi Minh and the French government, which failed over the question of the status of Cochinchina, and the bombing of Haiphong by the French (6000 killed), the war between the French troops and the Viet Minh for the control of Vietnam began in earnest..

1954: The bulk of the French army is defeated at Dien Bien Phu (This is the first time in history a colonial power is militarily defeated and a massive worldwide decolonization followed). At the Geneva conference, the Vietnam is partitioned at the 17th parallel as an interim stage. The North becomes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, a communist state supported by China and the USSR.

1955: Refusing to implement the Geneva accords, Ngo Dinh Diem proclaimed himself president of the Republic of South Vietnam with backing from the West.

1959: The communist party started military operations in the South and the Ho Chi Minh Trail came into being..

1961: Kennedy decides to increase US military aid to South Vietnam. USA military advisors incresed to 16,000 by 1965.

1963: Ngo Dinh Diem is assassinated in a US supported coup.

1964: Although elected as a dovish candidate against Goldwater, Johnson decides to escalate the war. All but two US senators pass the "Tonkin Gulf resolution", which gives blank check to US presidents over Vietnam po;icy.

1965 In February the first US aerial raids over the North. The tonnage of bombs, including chemical arms, used during the US intervention, largely against civilian targets in Vietnam, exceeded that used during the whole of WW II. In March the first US troops arrived in Danang. Their number grew to more than half a million. Nguyen Van Thieu is elected president.

1968 In January the Viet Cong's unleashed the Tet offensive, which although a military failure, stuned America and became a psychological turning point in the war. Anti-war movements ratcheted up in America, fuelled in part by the revelations in the 1971 "Pentagon papers". Negotiations begin again in Paris, but in Vietnam military actions escalate.

1973: The Paris accords are ratified and the U S miliary withdraws.

1975 On April 30 Viet Cong troops enter Saigon, after a two-month campaign.

1976: The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is officially proclaimed.

1978: Vietnam joins the USSR-lead Comecon. The tragedy of the Hai Hong, old cargo boat overloaded with refugees brings to the world attention about the "boat people" fleeing the new regime. They will total more than half a million people.

1979 Vietnamese troops enter Phnom Penh and end the murderous Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. A retaliatory invasion from China is repelled during a month-long war.

1987: A law on foreign investments marks the beginning of the liberalization of the economy (but not of politics, also seen of China and other Asian countries). The first tourists visit the country.

1989: Withdrawal from Cambodia.

1991: Relationships are normalized with China.

1995: Diplomatic relationships are normalized with the US, one year after the end of the US embargo.

Charles Hirschman, Samuel Preston, and Vu Manh Loi, "Vietnamese Casualties During the American War : A New Estimate," Population and Development Review, vol. 21 (December 1995).

"The loss of one million Vietnamese in the war, proportionately 100 times greater than that suffered by the United States, continues to be the dominant historical memory for most Vietnamese above the age of 40"

"As high as Vietnamese death rates were, they were not high enough to sustain the assumptions behind a war of attrition" waged by the United States.

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