Art Scene Viet Nam

Nguyen Minh Phuoc: Red Etude, 2009, Video, 5 min; © Nguyen Minh Phuoc
Nguyen Minh Phuoc: Red Etude, 2009, Video, 5 min
© Nguyen Minh Phuoc
Hoang Duong Cam
Nguyen Thu Ha
Tran Luong
Nguyen Kim Hoang
Ly Hoang Ly
Nguyen Manh Hung
Nguyen Minh Phuoc
Nguyen Quang Huy
Truong Tan
Dinh Q. Le
Ha Manh Thang

Overview – History of Vietnam

Early Dynasties (1000-1850)

10th century
Vietnam obtains independence from China.
Approx. 1000 – 1880
Various emperors from different dynasties rule Vietnam.
The country is officially called Viet Nam.

French Colonial Rule

In the 19th century the French government begins to take interest in trade and commerce in Indochina. Simultaneously, French missionaries approach the area.

18th of February, 1859
After constant fortification of the French influence in Vietnam, French troops capture Saigon on the 18th of February, 1859, claiming to protect French missionaries and Vietnamese Christians from the disposal of the Vietnamese emperor.

5th of July, 1862
With the Contract of Saigon the French colonial rule in Vietnam officially begins:
Saigon is made capital of the French colony Cochin China, which merges South Vietnam and East Cambodia.

1862 – 1883
Vietnam is forced to hand over more territories to the French. Until 1883 the French set up the three protectorates Annam, Cochin-China and Tonkin and force the Vietnamese emperor to approve of these. From now on, Vietnam is colonially ruled by France.
While a big part of the people is pauperising, intellectuals like Ho Chi Minh travel to Europe, mostly to France, and get to know new political ideas as nationalism or communism.

France joins the 3 protectorates, as well as Laos and Cambodia together, forming "Indochina".

In Annam and Tonkin parliaments are set up in addition to the French colonial rule.

Ho Chi Minh joins the existing communist parties in Annam, Cochin China and Tonkin together to create one single political party. In the aftermath of a failed revolt for Vietnamese independence, many party members are executed or sent to exile. The party is temporarily weakened.

During World War II

After the capture of the Vietnamese seaport Canton and the island Hainan by Japanese troops, France reacts with military fortification.

The simultaneous presence of Japanese and French units strains the Vietnamese people. In the middle of the 1940s the weakened country suffers from extreme famine in the aftermath of several natural disasters.
In 1941, Ho Chi Minh returns from exile and unites the approx. 40 resistance groups in Vietnam to one uniform "League for the Independence of Vietnam", also called Viet Minh. The main goals of the organisation are the defeat of Japanese imperialism and French colonialism.

Between March and September 1945, the political situation in Vietnam destabilizes even more due to different interests of the involved internal and external powers.
In the spring of 1945 the Japanese troops defeat the French colonial rule and set up emperor Bao Dai. With the secret support of the USA, Viet Minh continue fighting against the Japanese occupation.
Japan surrenders in August; Emperor Bao Dai is forced to resign on the 25th of August. After the Potsdam Conference, Vietnam is under British control but stays instable. The situation is so complex that even the defeated Japanese are asked to help the western allies with solving the unrests in South Vietnam.

After a successful communist revolution in August, Ho Chi Minh proclaims the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi on the 2nd of September. The first independent republic of South East Asia is born. The aspirations of independence refer to the US-American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the declaration of the Human and Civil Rights in the course of the French Revolution.
Despite of a peace treaty with the Viet Minh, in the end of September the French government decides to fight the Viet Minh with military actions to re-establish the former colonial state of Vietnam. This leads to the First Indochina War.

The First Indochina War

12th of December, 1946
In the South, the French set up a Vietnamese counter-government under the rule of emperor Bao Dai. The French troops prevail in the first combats.

The French underestimate the power of the Guerrilla-combatants, who are supported by China. The so-called Ho Chi Minh trail is a network of roads in the West, which connects North and South Vietnam. It secures the logistic support of the southern Vietnamese troops, not only in the First Indochina War, but also in the following Vietnam War.

Spring 1954
In the battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French troops suffer a severe defeat against the Viet Minh. In consequence, they withdraw from North Vietnam.

21st of July, 1954
The peace treaty composed on the Indochina conference in Geneva concludes the termination of the First Indochina War and the division of Vietnam at the 17th latitude.
Two states evolve: North Vietnam under the rule of Ho Chi Minh (with Hanoi made capital) and South Vietnam under the lead of former emperor Bao Dai (with Saigon made capital). Ngo Dinh Diem, a catholic leader supported by the USA, soon calls himself head of state. Long lasting struggles for power between Bao Dai and Diem begin.

In the following, the states of the Eastern Bloc support the communist government in the North, while the USA displaces the French protectorate in South Vietnam.

In fear of loss of power, Ngo Dinh Diem successfully protests against all-Vietnamese elections that were defined in the peace treaty.

Much to the discontent of the Vietnamese people, the conflict between Ngo Dinh Diem and Bao Dai drives the state into corruption and chaos. The US government feels impelled to fortify their military presence and political support in South Vietnam, to hinder the fall of the government. This can be seen as preparative acts for the following Vietnam War.

Vietnam War

The social grievances in the South of Vietnam favour the founding of the National Liberation Front, an organisation that quickly wins supporters and most importantly, combatants. The USA calls the South Vietnamese communists and partisans “Viet Cong”. Ngo Dinh Diem is overthrown by his own generals and later killed. In the following, the USA appoints several governments which proof to be instable and change quickly.

2nd of August, 1964
Trigger and legitimation for the first military acts of the USA against Vietnam in 1964, which are claimed to be acts of reprisal, is the so called Tonkin-incident: But the supposed attack of North Vietnamese speedboats on an American warship in the Gulf of Tonkin later turns out to be feigned by the US.
Under the lead of President Johnson the USA start a systematic aerial warfare against North Vietnam. Simultaneously, American ground forces fight the Viet Cong in the South. Despite of the majority of US troops, the USA do not prevail and the conflicts escalate.
According to the Domino Theory, the USA act on the assumption that as soon as one country is ruled by communists (like China in 1949), the neighbouring states fall into the influence of the populist power of communist ideology and become committed to Communism.

31st of January, 1968
In 1968 a series of Vietnamese surprise attacks known as Tet Offensive brings a politically important victory for the Viet Cong and Viet Minh, as parts of Saigon as well as other cites are temporarily captured.
At the same time a shift in the US public opinion on the war occurs when free press reports unveil some of the cruelties of the war that us-American military is responsible for, like massacres or Napalm-victims.
In total, 230.000 Vietnamese partisans and 50.000 North Vietnamese soldiers fight against 550.00 American soldiers, half a Million South Vietnamese forces, 50.000 South Korean soldiers and smaller contingents of allies (as Australians and New Zealanders).

The USA decides a "vietnamisation" of the war and the gradual withdrawal of American troops. Nevertheless, the bombings and air strikes, especially the use of defoliants, last till 1973.
Agent Orange is used for the military defoliation of trees, to take the cover from the enemy and to hinder food supply by damaging the economic plants.
The herbicide used in the Vietnam War contains impurities and a lot of Vietnamese people as well as US-soldiers fall ill after being in contact with the substance. The remainders of Agent Orange in Vietnamese soil continue damaging genotype until today and still result in severe disabilities for newborn children.

3rd of September 1969
Hoch Chi Minh dies and Le Duan becomes leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

A peace treaty is concluded in Paris, resolving the ceasefire between USA and Vietnam. Although the USA withdraws their troops from Vietnam, they promise economic and military technical support to South Vietnam. The combats between communist units and South Vietnamese governmental troops continue despite of the treaty and a civil war begins.

30th of April, 1975
After a North Vietnamese military attack, the Republic of South Vietnam capitulates and Saigon is captured.

Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Vietnam is reunited under the leadership of the Communist Party as the “Socialist Republic Vietnam”. The economic embargo of the USA impedes the rehabilitation of the country.
The majority of the political and intellectual elite from South Vietnam is tortured and killed in the course of the communist re-education programs.
Saigon is renamed “Ho Chi Minh City” after the former head of state in North Vietnam.

The terror regime of the Red Khmer in Cambodia which developed in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the increase of violent conflicts on Vietnamese territory are the reasons for the Vietnamese invasion in Cambodia in 1979. Vietnam sets up a “revolutionary parliament of the people”. China, who has been supporting the Red Khmer, then provokes armed conflicts at the border to Vietnam. The bloody conflict ends 1989 as the Vietnamese troops withdraw from Cambodia, yielding the international pressure.

Due to economic and social grievances in Vietnam, economic reforms called Doi Moi are introduced. While the reforms allow a liberal market, the Communist Party holds on to the power monopoly and disapproves of a multiple party system.

In the course of the 1990s, foreign investors are activated, private firms are set up and foreign private companies settle in Vietnam. The national debt gradually decreases while economic growth increases.

The USA end their trade embargo against Vietnam to counteract the disadvantages of US firms in the new economic conditions in Vietnam.

Vietnam becomes member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

According to Amnesty International, severe violations of human rights still exist in Vietnam, for example violent limitation of press freedom, freedom of speech or religious freedom. Furthermore, corruption is a big problem in Vietnam

Further Information