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Cities in VIETNAM



Antiquity and Middle Ages

Dong Son drums Vietnam 500 BC Dong Son drums Vietnam 500 BCPhoto: Grenouille vert CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Vietnamese are descended from migrants from Central Asia and from islands in the Pacific. Like most other peoples, they were first hunters and gatherers, turning to agriculture only after centuries.

The first historically recognized empire was that of Au Lac, which was soon succeeded by the empire Nam Viet, and it meant 'Country in the south' 111 years BC. Vietnam was conquered by armies of the Chinese Han dynasty. The Chinese would leave their mark on the social, cultural and political life of Vietnam for centuries. Ho Ewel is regularly opposed the Chinese did it all just little. On the contrary, most of the revolts were bloody suppressed and the hold of the Chinese over Vietnam, calling their southernmost province Annam, became more and more tight.

Head of Shiva of Champa civilization, Vietnam 800 AD. Head of Shiva of Champa civilization, Vietnam 800 ADPhoto: DoktorMax iin the public domain

Yet other peoples also managed to gain a foothold in Vietnam over the centuries. Indian merchants founded Funan in the Mekong Delta, which developed into a powerful city-state between the third and fifth centuries. At the same time, another Indian empire was developing on the east coast of central Vietnam: Champa. Between the fourth and thirteenth centuries, the temple city of My Son was the religious and cultural center of the Hindu Ham, a highly educated people, but also notorious for their piracy. Between the sixth and tenth centuries, they controlled the spice trade in Southeast Asia and traded with all the major powers in East and Southeast Asia. The Cham often conflicted with the Vietnamese in the north and the Khmer in the west, and eventually the Champa Empire fell into two pieces. This made the two empires so weak that they could easily be conquered by the Vietnamese. However, this would not be finalized until the 17th century.

Vietnam sovereign for the first time

Cannon from the days of the Le Dynasty, Vietnam Cannon from the days of the Le Dynasty, VietnamPhoto: Gary Todd in the public domain

Vietnam first became a sovereign state in the 10th century. The reigning Chinese Tang Dynasty collapsed and in 939 an emperor of its own was elected, calling the country Dai Co Viet, "Great Viet". Thang Long became the first capital, later this would be Hanoi. The kingdom of the Cham was also incorporated.

In the thirteenth century Vietnam was attacked from China by the Mongols. However, the Mongols did not manage to conquer the country, but the result was that the Chinese did manage to return. The Chinese in turn were expelled by Le Li, a local ruler, who then founded the Le Dynasty as King Le Thai To.

Arrival of the Europeans

Battle of Tho Xuong River between Tay Son and Qing army in December 1788, Vietnam Battle of Tho Xuong River between Tay Son and Qing army in 1788, VietnamPhoto: Public domain

In the 16th century, the dynasty weakened to such an extent that two rival clans took over: the Trinh in the north and the Nguyen in the center of the country. The rivalry between the two clans was so great that the country actually split into two pieces again and the Nguyen conquered the Mekong Delta. This rivalry continued throughout the eighteenth century.

In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese were the first Europeans to set foot on Vietnamese land and immediately set up trading posts. The inevitable missionaries also followed in their tracks and were especially successful with the poor rural population, despite often fierce opposition from the ruling class.

The French missionaries in particular had a great influence on daily life in Vietnam, and also played an important role in the fierce economic competition with the English. Around 1770, the French gained a firm foothold on the entire Indo-Chinese peninsula. The second half of the eighteenth century was marked by many revolts, all directed against the rule of the Trinh and Nguyen clans.

Ultimately, the Tay Son Rebellion of 1771 was successful and the Trinh and Nguyen rulers were dethroned. The rebels allowed the Le dynasty to stay put, but they did not trust the cause and in 1788 enlisted the help of the Chinese, who soon occupied Hanoi with a large army. In response, one of the Tay Son brothers, Nguyn Hue proclaimed himself emperor and then defeated the Chinese. He called himself Quang Trung.

In 1802, the throne was taken over by Gia Long. He was one of the few Nguyens who survived the uprising and made an agreement with the French: in exchange for territory and trade concessions, Gia Long received military support from the French.

Vietnam becomes French protectorate

Former Palace of the Governor of Indochina in Hanoi, Vietnam Former Palace of the Governor of Indochina in Hanoi, VietnamPhoto: Jorge L & aacute; scar CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

For the first time in history, the country was called Vietnam, with central authority in the centrally located capital Hue. Fia Long then abolished all reforms and Vietnam fell back to a feudal system with a strong government, a lot of bureaucracy and a poor and oppressed peasant population.

However, it would not be long before Vietnam would be occupied by the French again. Gia Long and his successors did not keep the promised trade concessions and missionaries and converted Vietnamese were persecuted. Furthermore, the French were very concerned that after India and Singapore, the British also China. In 1858, an army of Napoleon III conquered Saigon, the Mekong Delta and some southern provinces without much trouble. The conquered territory was called Cochin-China by the French and Annam (Central Vietnam) and Tonkin (North Vietnam) were also occupied by the French without the reigning Emperor Tu Doc being able to do much about it. Tu Doc officially remained the head of state of Vietnam. In 1887, the occupied Vietnamese territories were merged with the protectorates Cambodia and Laos to form the Union of (French) Indochina, with as governor the later president of France , Paul Doumer.

The French put a lot of money into the colony's infrastructure, but Vietnam was hit by a global economic crisis. Farmers had to work on plantations under terrible conditions and the educated elite were only eligible for bad jobs and that would be the seed for resistance. For the time being, however, anti-colonial movements have failed to make a fist against the French occupier. That changed significantly when the radical Vietnamese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang came into action. A first uprising was crushed and the leaders imprisoned or executed. In 1925, the Marxist-Leninist farmer's son Ho Chi Minh founded the Revolutionary Youth League, and four years later this movement had grown into an Indochinese Communist Party; main goal was independence. This was gradually being prepared by party executives who established party centers in the countryside and in the cities.

Several revolts took place in the 1930s. The French reacted mercilessly: many Vietnamese died violently, including many leaders of the uprising. Ho Chi Minh was arrested in Hong Kong in 1931. The next five years were captured put about 10,000 Vietnamese Communists. Due to internal conditions in France, thousands of political prisoners were again released, and the result of all that was that Indochina remained just a French colony.


 Flag of the Viet Minh (North Vietnam) Flag of the Viet Minh (North Vietnam)Photo: Public domain

With the colonial regime in Vietnam totally cut off from the motherland, the French Vichy government collaborated with the Japanese, allowing the Japanese to occupy Vietnam in 1941. It soon became apparent that the Japanese were not inferior to the French in terms of exploitation and disregard for Vietnam and the Vietnamese. In just a few years, Vietnam was looted and about 2 million Vietnamese died of starvation in 1945 alone.

Ho Chi Minh returned from China in 1941, along with Vo Nguyen Giap and Pham Van Dong to Vietnam. Together with them he formed the nationalist League for Independence, which would later become known as Vietminh. Vietminh fighters started a guerrilla war against the Japanese and received help from the Chinese, but also from the Allies. As a final convulsion, the Japanese declared an independent state in March 1945, with Bao Dai, the last Nguyen emperor, as a puppet. The entire French army was even captured, but after the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, the role of the Japanese in Vietnam was over.


Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam Ho Chi Minh, VietnamPhoto: Public domain

As a result of the resulting power vacuum, Ho Chi Minh called for a national uprising on August 15. A few weeks later, the Vietminh controlled most of the country, and Bao Dai surrendered the throne to Ho Chi Minh, who proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi on September 2, 1945. However, the Americans refused to lend support to the new rulers, and Chiang Kai Shek's and British anti-communist Kuomintang were ordered to disarm the remaining Japanese. Before they could take action, however, the Vietminh had already fulfilled that task.

In the south, the British declared martial law, and together with a French army, Saigon was soon, and after that the whole south too, back in French hands. In the north, the Chinese left after an agreement between the French and the Kuomintang. Ho Chi Minh decided to choose the lesser of two evils and let the French do their thing. In return, France recognized the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a free state within a French Union. Permission was also given to hold a referendum on whether the South should join the new state.

It soon became apparent that the French were not concerned about the agreement. Ho Chi Minh was told in Parisin 1946 that France insisted that the south of Vietnam should remain a colony and the north a protectorate. Not long after, the first skirmishes broke out between the French and the Vietminh and the first Indo-Chinese War started, which would last until 1954. In December Ho Chi Minh fled with his army into the mountains and harassed the French from the jungle. The French sought to gain popular support by putting Bao Dai back on the throne as head of a united Vietnam. However, this did not help and the war continued.

When the communists came to power in China in 1949 things changed significantly. Ho Chi Minh got immediate military support from both China and the Soviet Union, and that was the sign for the Americans to get involved and back the French. However, the Vietminh gained the upper hand and even attacked Hanoi in 1951. The Americans again threatened with nuclear weapons, but France tried to negotiate an agreement with the Vietnamese. This should have come to pass at the Geneva Conference , but before then the strategic outpost of the French, Dien Bien Phu, fell. This forced the French to surrender to the Vietminh prior to the Conference.

New war inevitable

Bao Dao, Vietnam Bao Dao, VietnamPhoto: Manhai (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

The Geneva Conference (July 1954) continued, however, but not to the satisfaction of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh. China benefited from a divided Vietnam on its southern border and its delegation leader Chou En-Lai pushed for a divided Vietnam along the 17th parallel, and a demilitarized buffer zone was established pending free elections. An immediate ceasefire was further declared and all troops should withdraw to their assigned areas. China, the Soviet Union, England, France and the Vietminh agreed to the treaty, the United States and Bao Dai's government, of course, not. According to President Eisenhower, free elections would certainly lead to a major victory for the communist Ho Chi Minh, and that was unthinkable in the days of the Cold War. During the conference, the Americans in Saigon installed the regime of the Catholic anti-communist Ngo Dinh Diem.

A popular migration started: more than a million refugees moved from the north to the south and About 100,000 anti-French guerrillas moved north, leaving about 10,000 Vietminh fighters in the south. Bao Dai had in the meantime appointed himself president, but that fairy tale does not last long. Diem put him aside and declared himself president. He carried out a real reign of terror against political dissenters, and up to 1960 tens of thousands of people were thrown in prison without much trial and about 50,000 more were murdered in pogroms.

In the north the situation was not much better. The infrastructure was largely destroyed and because of the division, the north no longer received rice from the south. Furthermore, so-called & lsquo; landowners & rsquo; as imperialists severely punished. Only when an uprising broke out in Ho Chi Minh province, Ho admitted that things had gone wrong and many prisoners were released.

The Americans are definitely joining the fray

Lyndon B Johnson, US President Lyndon B Johnson, US PresidentPhoto: Billy Hathorn in the public domain

Diem's extermination efforts in the south had also meant that the Vietminh guerrilla's not much was left, and the north benefited. From 1960 onwards, many men and equipment were sent from the north to the south and there the National Liberation Front, the NLF, was also established, consisting of a coalition of communist, non-communist, Catholic and Buddhist nationalists. Diem called these guerrillas Viet Cong or VC, Vietnamese Communists.

From this time on, the Americans became very actively engaged in the fighting in Vietnam, having financially supported Diem's government and the French from 1950 onwards. The advance of the Vietcong made the Americans fear that the last bastion of the free world would fall into the hands of the communists.

By the summer of 1962, more than ten thousand American advisers were already present in South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese people were gradually losing confidence in Diem's corrupt regime. Especially the & lsquo; strategic villages program & rsquo; met with a lot of resistance and after the shooting of a number of Buddhist monks, many demonstrations followed with the commitment of freedom of religion. And when images of the monk Thich Quang Duc's self-immolation in Saigon spread around the world, the Americans finally intervened. shot dead. Three weeks later, US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and succeeded by Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson reluctantly felt compelled to step up support for South Vietnam. The governments that came to power after Diem were just as corrupt and inefficient and meanwhile the Vietcong gained more and more support in the countryside.

Tonkin Incident: Vietnam War Erupts

Captured Vietcong fighters , Vietnam Captured Vietcong fighters , VietnamPhoto: Public Domain

After a bogus incident involving the US warship USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin, Johnson decided to station US troops in Vietnam, after which the conflict erupted in full force. Northern military bases were bombed in ways unparalleled in history. However, it did not help much, more and more Vietcong soldiers infiltrated in the south. In March 1965, the first US ground forces arrived in Vietnam, and two years later there were already more than half a million US soldiers in South Vietnam.

In early 1968, the US military base Khe Sanh was destroyed by a large North Vietnamese force under siege. That turned out to be a diversion, because during the New Year's truce, the Vietcong massively attacked more than a hundred city centers in the south. However, the Vietcong were everywhere beaten back and by then there was in fact no structured army left.

Still, the Americans in the street believed that this war could never be won and Johnson and his government became convinced of it. He therefore refused to send any more troops to Vietnam, despite the insistence of the military leadership in Vietnam. On March 31, 1968, he announced an end to the bombing and a month later peace negotiations began in Paris, which, however, would last more than five years.

Vietnam War ended

Vietnam War Protests in Wahington Vietnam War Protests in WahingtonPhoto: Leena A. Krohn CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 1969, Richard M. Nixon, Johnson's successor, promised to end the war, but this had to be done without losing face. At the same time, however, General Diem's ARVN forces were reinforced with the aim of infiltrating and undermining the Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam. Here thousands of Vietcong were tortured and slain. In addition, the war was expanded to Cambodia and Laos, because there were many supply depots of the Vietcong. In March 1969, these targets were continuously bombed in secret. In the United States, meanwhile, the massive anti-war demonstrations stood out. Nixon didn't take much notice of this, however, and bombed Hanoi in the north. In Paris, negotiations dragged on between the American Henri Kissinger and the North Vietnamese Le Duc Tho.

A few days after Nixon's re-election, the United States, South Vietnam and the Vietcong signed the Paris Agreement. A ceasefire was agreed and mutual prisoners of war were released. A National Reconciliation Council was established, which included both the government in Saigon and the communists. Indeed, the accord allowed the Americans to withdraw their troops without losing face. However, the Vietcong troops were still in the south, and that would inevitably lead to another confrontation with the southern forces, which were additionally expanded and modernized with American support. However, this would not help because by the end of 1974 almost all of South Vietnam had been overrun by the Vietcong. On April 21, 1975, the last line of defense for Saigon fell and President Thieu, who took office in 1967, fled to Taiwan.

North and South Vietnam reunited

Reunification Palace in Vietnam Reunification Palace in VietnamPhoto: Dennis Jarvis CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

For the first time since the French colonization, Vietnam was a united country again and in July 1976 the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was proclaimed. Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese were sent to re-education camps without trial, and South Vietnam was economically aligned with North Vietnam. For example, all private land ownership was confiscated and both industry and trade become the hands of the state. It should come as no surprise that productivity fell dramatically. In the years that followed, Vietnam tried to reconnect with the United States, but this was banned by the US government. Until 1993 Vietnam could not even borrow money from the World Bank. Vietnam only received support from the Soviet Union.

Vietnam was also deeply involved in the civil war in Cambodia. The Cambodian Khmer Rouge of dictator Pol Pot committed many attacks across the border in the Mekong Delta, where many ethnic Khmer people still live today. In 1978 more than 100,000 Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia and expelled Pol Pot. The international community punished Vietnam with a boycott and in February 1979 Vietnam was attacked by China, the Khmer Rouge ally. The fighting lasted only sixteen days, after which the Chinese withdrew.

Major Economic Reforms: Doi Moi

Ho Chi Min City thrives under Doi Moi Ho Chi Min City thrives under Doi MoiPhoto: Xuanhuy3408 CC 4.0 International no changes made

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vietnam was in a deep economic crisis and many Vietnamese fled the country, including to the United States and the Netherlands.

Only after the death of the arch-conservative Le Duan in 1986 did the economy improve. Reformer Nguyen Van Linh was appointed Secretary General and embarked on sweeping economic reforms, called Doi Moi. Characteristics of this were a return to a free market economy, privatization and attempts to attract foreign capital. In 1989, Vietnam withdrew its troops from Cambodia, which led to international rehabilitation.

In 1993, the reformer Vo Van Kiet was elected Prime Minister, the signal for the Americans to lift the trade embargo in 1994 under President Clinton. and in 1995 diplomatic relations were resumed. In 2000, President Clinton concluded an economic agreement with Hanoi and in the same year he was the first US president to pay an official visit to Vietnam since 1975.

21st century

Meeting between Putin and Tran Duc luong, Vietnam Meeting between Putin and Tran Duc luong, VietnamPhoto: CC 4.0 International no changes made

In 2001, Tran Duc Luong was elected president and Phan Van Khai became prime minister. At the Ninth Party Congress of April 22, 2001, the reformer Nong Duc Manh was elected party secretary, succeeding the communist Le Kha Phieu. Nong Duc Manh is a Tay and it was the first time that an ethnic minority member was elected to Vietnam's highest political post.

In the summer of 2002, the Vietnamese Parliament re-elected Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and President Tran Duc Luong was re-elected for a term of five years and the composition of the government was changed to a limited extent. In the run-up to the next Party Congress, in the second quarter of 2006, the struggle between conservatives and more reformists has rekindled behind the scenes. Important issues on the agenda will be: fighting corruption, admitting private entrepreneurs to the CP, and further reforms. The pressure is great and although the communistic foundation of the Vietnamese political order is not in question, the reduced authority of the CP among the population has reached the party.

Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, VietnamPhoto: Trangtranmy CC 4.0 International no changes made

The 10th National Party Congress of the CPV in April 2006 has been an important political event. Congress has seen a change of style: more openness to the population, who were able to comment for the first time on the draft political report published in the press in the run-up to the Congress, and more democracy within the party. During this five-year congress, which traditionally also reorganizes the personal balance of power, it was decided this year to replace the president and the prime minister. A number of ministers, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, were also not re-elected to the Central Committee, which meant that they would not return to their post when the government changed. Nguyen Minh Triet has now been appointed as president and Nguyen Tan Dung as prime minister. Nguyen Phu Trong has been appointed as the new chairman of the National Assembly. End of June 2006 was also appointed several new ministers.

In June 2006, President Nguyen Minh Triet visited the United States for the first time since the Vietnam War. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is reappointed in July 2007, promising to work on economic reforms. In January 2008, Vietnam is appointed a member of the United Nations Security Council. In November 2008 Vietnam says it wants to go to a forced orphan politically to combat overpopulation. In December 2008, China and Vietnam resolve a border dispute that has already caused tens of thousands of deaths. In 2009 and 2010, there are problems with human rights activists. In May 2010 "Human Right Watch" accused the Vietnamese government of intensifying repression.

Nguyen Xuan Phuc, VietnamNguyen Xuan Phuc, VietnamPhoto: CC 4.0 International no changes made

Truong Tan Sang has been the president of Vietnam since July 25, 2011. In October 2011, China and Vietnam signed an agreement to resolve their dispute over the South China Sea. There will be biennial evaluations. In June 2012, Vietnam will pass Brazil as the world's largest coffee exporter. In August 2013 prohibits the government online discussions on the Internet. Tensions with China will rise in 2014, mainly about the sea border and the possession of a number of islands. In January 2016, the communist party elects Nguyen Phu Throng as Secretary General for the second time. In May 2016, the US lifted the ban on arms sales to Vietnam and Nguyen Xuan Phuc became the new prime minister. Donald Trump visits Vietnam in November 2017, meeting Asian leaders in Danang. Pham Minh Chinh is elected in 2021 as prime minister and Nguyen Xuan Phuc was appointed to the largely ceremonial post of president by parliament in April 2021, taking over from Nguyen Phu Trong.


Krücker, F.-J. / Vietnam

Paulzen, H. / Vietnam : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur, milieu
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen

Peterse, L. / Vietnam

Te gast in Vietnam
Informatie Verre Reizen



Wulf, A. / Vietnam
Het Spectrum

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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