China ruled the country for almost 1,000 years. Even after gaining independence in 939, the Vietnamese had to deal with the Chinese. At the same time the establishment of the Vietnamese state took place – strongly influenced by Confucian ideas – and the territorial expansion of Vietnam to the south (“move to the south”). From the middle of the 19th century, the French established their colonial rule over Vietnam, which became part of French Indochina. In 1945 the Viet Minh gained independence under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, but the French tried to restore their rule. This culminated in the first Vietnam War (1946-1954). After losing in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu In 1954 the French had to withdraw from Vietnam for good. It is a myth that this decisive battle was the “last big battle of the Waffen SS ” – an allusion to the allegedly high number of members of the former Waffen SS who found shelter with the Foreign Legion and were then deployed in Indochina.
According to the resolutions of the Geneva Conference, Vietnam was provisionally divided at the 17th parallel. This laid the seeds for the continuation of the conflict, in which the USA on the one hand and the SU and PR China on the other played an increasingly important role. The US had been bombing targets in North Vietnam since 1964, and the first American GIs came to South Vietnam in 1965 – the “American” Vietnam War was now in full swing, with women on the Vietnamese side as well were involved. The Tet Offensive in 1968 marked a turning point; the USA initiated the “Vietnamization” of the war and began to negotiate with North Vietnam. These negotiations culminated in the Paris Peace Agreement of January 1973. However, the ceasefire agreed there did not last long – after a final major final offensive, regular North Vietnamese troops took Saigon on April 30, 1975 – one of the longest conflicts of modern times had come to an end.
According to cheeroutdoor, the majority of the Vietnamese population now hoped for a quick reconstruction of the country and an end to the hardships that the long war years had brought with it. In fact, after 1975 Vietnam got into isolation in terms of foreign policy and slid into a severe economic crisis due to the failed economic policy of the Hanoi leadership (attempt to build socialism in the south as well). In addition, the new rulers in the south did not keep their promise to reconcile with the former enemy. Instead, many South Vietnamese had to go to re-education camps. These tough government and party policies eventually resulted in hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese leaving their homeland across the South China Sea. Lots of these”boat people” also found a new home in the USA, Australia, France and Germany.
The economic problems were exacerbated by the economic embargo that the US had imposed on Vietnam. In addition, relations with the People’s Republic of China, which were already tense at the end of the war, deteriorated after 1975. After Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia at the end of 1978, China started a limited “educational campaign” in February / March 1979in the northern border provinces of Vietnam. The Chinese troops soon withdrew, but devastated the areas they briefly occupied. This destruction of important industries in the north, as well as the ongoing, very costly occupation of Cambodia, exacerbated Vietnam’s economic problems. Selective reform measures at the end of the 1970’s had no lasting effect.
Overall, the period from 1975 to around the end of the 1980’s was associated with deprivation and often poverty for most Vietnamese.
It was not until 1986 that the leadership in Hanoi was able to bring itself to change the course it had taken and introduce fundamental reforms that strengthened private initiative and abolished the system of subsidies that had determined the post-war years. A new one began with the politics of renewal (Vietnamese: “đổi mới”). overall happier phase in the history of Vietnam.
Flag and other national symbols
The red background of the Vietnamese national flag stands for socialism. The five points of the star symbolize the peasants, the proletariat, the military, the intellectuals and the youth. The flag has been valid throughout Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and replaced the old flag of the sunk Republic of Vietnam in the south.
In the Vietnamese national coat of arms, the role of the workers (= cogwheel) and the peasantry (= rice) is emphasized (alliance between workers and farmers). The inscription stands for “Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam).
Vietnam had to fight for its independence in costly wars. This is also expressed in the text of the rather martial Vietnamese national anthem.