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The impact of French imperialism on Indochina to 1945 Essay

Being an imperialist country, France pursed to increase its power, wealth and influence by gaining authority over other parts in the world. South America and Africa were among the countries the French Empire had owned in addition to Indochina who lost its independence after the war against China, which lasted from 1884-1885. Indochina was a main asset to France, especially in the field of economics and social power between other countries such as China and Japan. Despite the advantage Indochina gave to France, the control of the French was not considered beneficial to the Indochinese nation.

Politically, France reduced the country’s sense of unity by separating Indochina into three administrative sections called Tonkin, Annam and Cochinchina. Political control varied, as it was direct control for the colony of Cochinchina, however indirect control for Annam and Tonkin. The difference between these areas was the fact that the Vietnamese who lived in Cochinchina were able to gain French citizenship and were enabled to hold seats in the National Assembly in Paris. This meant that authority held by the Vietnamese Emperor was strongly weakened, as his mandarins who gave him his authority worked for the French governor. Whereas, in Annam and Tonkin citizens weren’t allowed access to French citizenship and their territory were not counted as part of France. Their emperors continued authorities through the exercise of French govern. This essentially divided the united power of Indochina as power comes in the masses.

In terms of social culture, it was French policy to encourage the educated to serve in the army or civil service and to assimilate into French society. Through assimilation of French ideals, the educated Vietnamese people adopted the illusion of French revolutionary concepts of liberty, fraternity and equality. This was contradicting as they were excluded from political, administrative and managerial positions. If an educated Vietnamese were to hold such a position, they’d receive a fraction of the wages earned by their French counterparts. This was due to the theory that Indochinese people were inferior and relied on French culture to overcome their state of disorder.

As a result, the French officials who ruled the provinces undermined traditional control of village notables, which led to the conversion of several million Vietnamese people and condemned the traditional practice of ancestral worship. Due to the angered realisation of double standards of liberty and equality, open rebellion and hunger marches in 1930 led to the execution of leaders, the killing by troops of 10000 participants and the deportation of 50000 more. Protests to French authority resulted in serving a jail centre, which was more popular to find than hospital facilities.

Indochina gave many opportunities to France to increase wealth and prestige internationally. Due to Indochina’s location a trading relationship with China was made convenient. Having by 1897, gained mineral concession in three provinces there, the French built to railways accessing to China. By 1910 the railway to Yunnan was built by 80000 Vietnamese workers, in which thirty per cent being the subject of mortality.

The majority of Indochina’s 25 million people were used as cheap labour workers to work in mines, factories, rice fields and rubber plantations to produce large quantities of corn, rice, rubber, silk, tin and zinc. Exclusive possession of alcohol, opium and salt trade also significantly amplified France’s financial state. Land grants were given to French settlers and wealthy Vietnamese people who possessed eighty per cent of land. Peasants were living in poverty caused by high rent payment, high taxes and debt to moneylenders. The building of canals, roads, railway lines and port facilities as well as the administration of Indochina were funded by heavy labour of the Vietnamese resources and working-class peasants.

The response to oppression caused resistance from the Indochinese nation. Guerrillas fought to prevent forceful takeover and loss of heritage. Further violence was the response of French authority. This worsened the involvement of violence due to the fact that it stimulated further resistance. Nationalism arose from the involvement in world war one, which caused further intense resistance. Education provided by the French was beneficial to the Vietnamese, as they provided and encouraged an understanding and commitment to nationalist ideas. This caused two radical revolutionary groups to emerge and challenge French authority. The more powerful group called the Indochinese communist party (ICP) was founded by Ho Chi Minh who brought prominence in 1930. The French underestimated its motivation, resistance and ability, which resulted in their failure to destroy it.

The pacific war ended in august 1945 and by the 20th of August Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh took control of the government buildings. This was due to the fact that there was a French absence in the colony. The ‘August revolution’ spread across Vietnam and Viet Minh groups’ accessed control of all government levels. On the 19th of August the provisional government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) was announced and on the 2nd of September Ho Chi Minh declared independence in front of his nation. His ten goals included overthrowing French imperialism to make Indochina independent, establish a worker-peasant and soldier government, distribute assets of belonging and plantations to the peasants, implement an 8 hour working day, abolish unfair taxes on peasants, bring freedom to the masses and implement equality between both sexes.

French imperialism impacted Indochina Economically, Socially and Politically. In the long run, it provided the Vietnamese with advantages such as infrastructure, education and economic wealth. However, in order to achieve this the French imperialists caused destruction to the masses with burdens of unreasonable debt, high rates of death and forced cheap labour. In order to achieve independence, education on concepts of liberty, fraternity and equality ironically provided by the French gave Vietnamese communists the ability to fight French authority. Through the resistance and support of the majority of the Indochinese nation, the Viet Minh were successful to overcome oppression of their people and ultimately gained insight to political, economic and social welfare on an international scale.

Despite his efforts to gain support of the United States, Ho Chi Minh’s letters went unanswered and instead the United States agreed to support France’s demand for support of reclamation of Vietnam.

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