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Nationalist Movement in Indo-China

Indo-China gained independence in 1945, but it took three decades of fighting to form the Republic of Vietnam. Indo-China comprises the modern countries of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It was ruled by powerful Chinese empire in early times. At present, after their independence, they follow the Chinese system of governance.

The French colonized Vietnam. They tried to reshape the culture of Vietnam through economic and military domination. The French domination started from 1858; by the mid-1880s they had established a firm stronghold in the northern region.

The French occupied Tonkin and Anaam by defeating China in 1887 and French Indo-China was formed. The French started to consolidate their position in Vietnam; the Vietnamese nationalists resisted the advancement of the French. The famous blind poet Ngyuyen Dinh Chieu showed discontent about the French occupation.

The French colonized Vietnam with an interest to produce the cultivation of rice. Under their rule, Vietnam exported two-thirds of its production and by 1931 had become the third largest exporter of rice in the world. The infrastructure of Vietnam also underwent a great progress under the French dominion. The developmental work in Vietnam by the French was to profit the mother country.

The French were driven with the idea of civilising the Vietnamese. They introduced education and interfered in the local cultures, religions and traditions. School books glorified and justified the French colonial rule. The Vietnamese were represented as primitive and backward people meant only to work in the fields but not to rule. The French enrolled a few Vietnamese elite classes for education. The Vietnamese were deliberately failed to ensure that they do not qualify for the better paid jobs (white-collar jobs). The Tonkin Free School was started in 1907 to provide Western style education. The school taught modern ways of living to the Vietnamese.

Teachers and students did not blindly follow the curriculum. Students fought against the colonial government’s efforts to prevent the Vietnamese from qualifying for white-collar jobs. Schools became an important place for political and cultural battles.

Vietnam’s religious beliefs were a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism and local practices. The French missionaries introduced Christianity. The Scholar’s Revolt of 1868 opposed the missionary activities. The famous scholar Phan Boi Chau wrote his influential book, The History of the Loss of Vietnam.

The Vietnamese had many popular beliefs in local traditions that combined Buddhism. There were many religious movements against colonial rule of the French. One such movement was the ‘Hao Hao’ which was started in 1939 by Huynh Phu. Some of the Vietnamese nationalists had a close relationship with Japan and China. The Vietnamese students acquired modern education from Japan with a primary motive to drive out the French. The ‘Go East Movement’ became popular. Dr Sun Yat Sen influenced the Vietnamese with his popular movement in China in 1911. The Vietnamese students organised the Association for the Restoration of Vietnam (Viet-Nam Quan Phuc Hoi) on the principles of democratic republic.

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