VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > H. East Asia, 1902–1945 > 6. Vietnam, 1902–1945
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1897–1902)
6. Vietnam, 1902–1945
This period began with the entirety of Vietnam under French colonial control. Resistance movements led by the van than class in the mountains had been mollified by the French colonial administration's willingness to allow van than local control and village autonomy, creating a sort of feudal system. Aside from guerrilla leaders like De Tham (d. 1913), insurgency in the Red River delta came to an end. In Cochinchina to the south, the rice plantation economy grew rapidly and produced widespread tenancy among the farming populace. Both systems were typical of colonial regimes in the 20th century.  1
Following World War I, foreign investment in Vietnam mushroomed. As a result, coal mines in the north, rubber plantations in central and south Vietnam, and the rapid increase of production for rice farmers in the south spawned a working class, as well as a landlord class, rice exporters in Saigon, and a modern intelligentsia.  2
Japan's conclusion of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, together with its victories over China (1894–95) and Russia (1904–5), was extremely impressive to many Vietnamese in that an East Asian state had successfully modernized, become technologically sophisticated, and forged equal ties with Western states.  3
A knowledge of French became a necessity for entrance into the traditional civil service in Annam and Tonkin.  4
Phan Boi Chau (1867–1940), influenced by the reformist movements of late Qing China, especially that of Kang Youwei (1858–1927), founded the Viêt Nam Duy Tan Hoi (Vietnam Restoration Party) with the aim of building a constitutional monarchy in Vietnam. The next year he traveled to Japan, where he met Liang Qichao (1873–1929), and wrote The History of the Demise of Vietnam. He began the Eastern Travel movement to get Vietnamese students to come and study in Japan, there to be trained to promote reform back home.  5
Phan Chu Trinh (1871–1926), having earlier passed the civil service examinations and awaiting bureaucratic appointment, became disaffected by the system and began traveling primarily in southern Vietnam, calling for the revival of the country. The next year (1906), he went to Japan and met Phan Boi Chau, but they differed on many things, tactics among them: Chau was readier to adopt revolutionary means, while Trinh's thinking was more in the enlightenment reformist vein. Also, Chau still wanted to use the monarchy as a symbol of the united anti-French movement, while Trinh was a republican much taken with aspects of French culture. Trinh then returned to Vietnam and proposed an educational system based on the vernacular, quôc ngu, which was effected when the Tonkin Free School opened that year. The school was shut down by the colonial authorities the same year. For his participation in an antitax movement of Vietnamese farmers (1908), Trinh was transported to a penal colony on Poulo Condore Island. He was later released (1910).  6
When Japan signed a treaty with France, Phan Boi Chau was expelled from Japan, and he took refuge in Thailand. From that point, he showed sympathy for the populist thought of Sun Zhongshan (Sun Yat-sen, 1866–1925).  7
After the success of the 1911 revolution in China, Phan Boi Chau traveled to Guangdong (China), where he met the Chinese revolutionary leader Hu Hanmin (1886–1936) and founded the Viêt Nam Quang Phuc Hoi (Vietnam Restoration Society), with the intent of creating a republic in his native land. Japan was rapidly discrediting itself as a model, after seizing Taiwan (1895) and Korea (1910) as colonies. The Chinese revolution seemed the next best hope for Vietnamese radicals. With help from the Chinese Revolutionary Alliance, Chau planned for an armed revolution in Vietnam. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1914 by the governor of Guangdong, and when released in 1917 he worked out of Shanghai and Hong Kong, still planning to rise in revolt.  8
During World War I, some 100,000 Vietnamese troops and workers were sent to France. Through contacts with Europeans and their writings, some acquired a taste for current ideas of national autonomy, revolutionary struggle, and the like.  9
By this time, all three sectors of Vietnam had daily newspapers written in the romanized quôc ngu script.  10
The University of Hanoi, founded by Vietnamese, was permitted by the French.  11
The Confucian examination system, traditionally used as the means for entrance into the civil service, was finally abolished throughout the entire country.  12
1925, June
The Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth League was secretly founded by HÔ CHI MINH (1890–1969) in Guangzhou (Canton). Through it, the basis was laid in many areas for the founding of the Indochina Communist Party (1930). The Youth League issued a propaganda organ, Thanh nien (Youth), weekly for nearly two years and had a political training institute in Guangzhou. Hô had been in France prior to World War I and had participated in the founding of the French Communist Party (1920); in 1923 he traveled to Moscow and took part in the Fifth Congress of the Communist International (Comintern, 1924) before returning to Guangzhou in 1925.  13
The young Bao Dai (b. 1914) acceded to the Nguyên throne. He “reigned” until 1945.  14
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.