In this blog, we are going to learn about the Nationalist Movement In Indo-China. Indo-China comprises the modern countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Its early history shows many different groups of people living in this area under the shadow of the powerful empire of China. Even when an independent country was established in what is now northern and central Vietnam, its rulers continued to maintain the Chinese system of government as well as Chinese culture. Vietnam was also linked to what has been called the maritime silk route that brought in goods, people, and ideas. Other networks of trade connected it to the hinterlands where non-Vietnamese people such as the Khmer Cambodians lived.
The colonization of Vietnam by the French brought the people of the country into conflict with the colonizers in all areas of life. The most visible form of French control was military and economic domination but the French also built a system that tried to reshape the culture of the Vietnamese. Nationalism in Vietnam emerged through the efforts of different sections of society to fight against the French and all they represented.
French troops landed in Vietnam in 1858 and by the mid-1880s they had established a firm grip over the northern region. After the Franco-Chinese war, the French assumed control of Tonkin and Anaam and, in 1887, French Indo-China was formed. In the following decades the French sought to consolidate their position, and people in Vietnam began reflecting on the nature of the loss that Vietnam was suffering. Nationalist resistance developed out of this reflection
The famous blind poet Ngyuyen Dinh Chieu (1822-88) bemoaned what was happening to his country:
I would rather face eternal darkness than see the faces of traitors.
I would rather see no man than encounter one man’s suffering.
I would rather see nothing than witness the dismembering of the country in decline.
The Nationalist Movement in Indo-China
Vietnam gained formal independence in 1945, before India, but it took another three decades of fighting before the Republic of Vietnam was formed. This chapter on Indo-China will introduce you to one of the important states of the peninsula, namely, Vietnam. Nationalism in Indo-China developed in a colonial context. The knitting together of a modern Vietnamese nation that brought the different communities together was in part the result of colonization but, as importantly, it was shaped by the struggle against domination.
If you see the historical experience of Indo-China in relation to that of India, you will discover important differences in the way colonial empires functioned and the anti-imperial movement developed. By looking at such differences and similarities you can understand the variety of ways in which nationalism has developed and shaped the contemporary world.