The 1945 Declaration of Independence of Vietnam is a key event in history, which caused and by which caused consequences that affected not only them, but other countries of the world as well. The French colonization of Vietnam was the long term cause of the 1945 Declaration of Independence because it challenged Vietnamese freedom, violating their national pride and depriving them of a cultural and national identity.
France colonized Vietnam for a variety of reasons, while there were extensive economic opportunities; control over Vietnam established them and a major colonizing power in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam had a wealth of natural resources that could be used for the French’s own national gain. Vietnamese labour was cheap, and the deep water harbours and inland waterways allowed these raw materials to be easily extracted and exported back to France, while allowing the distribution of manufactured goods from France.
The consequences of this heavy exploitation by France resulted in land alienation, heavy taxation, and high interest rates on loans, over time this resulted in an Elitist land owning society, which would later give Ho Chi Minh his platform to gain support of the peasant masses to first, expel the French, and then later, the Americans from Vietnam.
The French also imposed their own more ‘sophisticated’ European culture on the ‘inferior’ Vietnamese, this slowly took away the people’s right to their own way of life and being, historians later called it “Frenchification”, everything from Religion, Language, Education, and Values were taken away from the people of Vietnam, and replaced with the more “superior” French Culture.
Though most Vietnamese were not happy with the French rule, some did not resist the conquest; in fact they welcomed them, in hope that they would bring an end to the despotic and repressive years of the Chinese dynasty rule.
These hopes were ultimately crushed though, as they realized that the French were politically repressive; this along with the economic exploitation, created a fertile ground for the further development of nationalistic resistance against the French. An example of the strong resistance by the Vietnamese against the rule of the French was the emergence of Ho Chi Minh, as World War II broke out, the political background changed, the upheaval would encourage resistance groups within Vietnam to finally unite under the Viet Minh and the leadership of Ho Chi Minh.
The Japanese invasion of Indochina in 1940 was the medium term cause of the 1945 Declaration of Independence because the Vietnamese resented their occupation just as much as that of the French. The Japanese invasion of Vietnam was every bit as economically fuelled as that of the French; they saw an opportunity to have access to natural resources, which could be exported back to Japan avoiding restrictions on materials. There were also extensive rice and rubber plantations, which ensured that the Japanese army was adequately fed and fuelled as they marched through Southeast Asia towards the Pacific.
There were also personal reasons for the country of Japan to invade the state of Vietnam, first they wanted to cut off China from their supplies, vital war materials and food, so as to gain an upper hand on a war that they had been waging since 1937, the second was to liberate those under European colonial rule, and return Asia, to Asians. Initially the Vietnamese widely welcomed the Japanese; they were impressed that a fellow Asian country could tame a colonial power.
However this welcome was short lived as they soon realized that the Japanese were just as, if not more repressive and exploitive than the French, though they ruled Vietnam differently – allowing the French administration to run the country under their supervision, saving money and personnel – to top it off, they were cruel. They hoarded rice supplies, and exploited the land to the point where it caused a famine in Vietnam, which was also dealing with war time conditions and bad weather, as a result 1-2. million people (25% of North Vietnam’s population) had starved to death. The Vietnamese had finally had enough, so they reached out for the help of a super power that hated the Japanese as much as they did, the USA. The Americans joined forces with the Viet Minh so that they could extract the Japanese from within Vietnam, the supplied military forces, and in turn, turned to the Viet Minh to establish an intelligence network within Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh believed that through this co operation and his willingness to work with the Americans, they would then support Vietnam’s quest for independence after the defeat of the Japanese. An example of this Viet-USA alliance was the “Deer Team” where the Vietnamese provided intelligence and guides, while Patti trained them, and supplied them with vital war equipment. The Japanese surrendered soon after the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This surrender by the Japanese was the short term cause of the 1945 Declaration of Independence, which left a power vacuum in Indochina. No-one was in charge of Vietnam and there were now 3 roads which could be taken to decide the fate of Vietnam; France could reoccupy it and regain control of the country, each state could be given independence, or it could be temporarily ruled by an Allied trusteeship under the Post Dam Agreement. Vietnam had become sick of living under foreign rule; they wanted a chance at independence.
So, on 19 August 1945, when Japan officially surrendered in Hanoi, General Giap of the Viet Minh, and his army, entered Hanoi and quickly took control of the northern capital in order to prevent French attempts to form a government and Ho Chi Minh was named President of the provisional government. When, on August 25, Bao Dai, the puppet emperor of the Japanese, abdicated, Ho proclaimed independence for the new “Republic of Vietnam” and looked to America for support and to recognize his government.
He was inspired by America’s history – their revolutionary war – and because of the promises they had delivered after being made in World War II. An example of this was the way that Ho used phrases from the US Declaration of Independence in his speech on 2 September 1945, during the Vietnam Declaration of Independence in Hanoi, as a gesture, to seek the support of the Americans. In accordance with the rest of history, the incident of the 1945 Declaration of Independence had many effects.
The immediate consequence of the Declaration of Independence was the French determination to recolonize Vietnam, which led to a compromise with Ho Chi Minh. After they had declared themselves an independent state, there was a chance for the American’s to recognize the government of Vietnam, but they were more intent on rebuilding Europe. France however had more on their minds than just returning France to its full glory, it wanted to re-enter it’s lost colonies.
They wanted to reclaim what they believed was their territory to reclaim. The US, who had reviously sided with Vietnam, and supported Ho, changed sides. This could be because of two reasons; either because of in French’s determination to regain their land, they discredited Ho Chi Minh, by reminding the American’s that his party was first and foremost communist. Something the American’s had always feared. By September 1945, Vietnam had erupted with political chaos, and Ho’s provisional government could not handle it. Under the Potsdam Agreement, British troops occupied southern Vietnam to the 16th parallel, freeing the French troops.
The French then used this opportunity to gather forces and crush the Viet Minh opposition. To make matters far more complicated, Chiang Kai-shek, the anti-communist Chinese leader sent 200000 troops to the north to disarm the Japanese. Many Vietnamese were put on edge at this as they feared an invasion attempt. Ho’s willingness to accept and Allied Compromise shows that he understood that it was better to “to sniff the French’s dung for a while, than eat China’s. ” He knew that the world pressure for independence was increasing.
An example of this compromise was France would recognize Vietnam as a free state under the French Union, 15000 French troops would replace the Chinese in the North, and then France would begin withdrawing its troops in 5 annual installments. After this agreement however, there was continuing frustration between the Viet Minh and the French, when the Vietnamese realized that the French had no intention of leaving Vietnam, which led to disagreements and conflict. The medium-term consequence of the 1945 Declaration of Independence was the Viet Minh’s defeat of the French in the 1946 – 1954 war.
One of the key reason’s why the war was even possible was the cold war context in was set in. America funded the French war, while China funded their fellow communists, the Viet Minh, providing support and weapons. The countries involved in the Cold War, fought through the French, and the Viet Minh, fighting their own war through this one. One reason the French lost was because they were so set in their conventional military tactics, while the Viet Minh used guerilla tactics, more suited to their ‘home field’ in Vietnam.
Another reason the French lost of the Viet Minh was because of the blatant disapproval of this war, from both the French public, and its army’s troops – meaning a loss of morale, and no determination or drive to win. The final reason the French lost to the Viet Minh, was through the support of the peasant masses, loyal to Ho and the Viet Minh, they were untied by their years of oppression and mistreatment by those in power over them.
An example of this was the battle at Dien Bein Phu, the Viet Minh held high ground, while the French were exposed on the ground. They were isolated as the resistance took control of the streets and jungles, destroying their chances of out-doing the Viet Minh using heavy artillery or aircrafts. The victory at the battle of Dien Bien Phu meant the final end of French colonial rule in Vietnam. The long-term consequence of the Declaration of Independence was the end of French colonial rule and the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
It meant the end of Vietnam’s colonial phase, and it lead to further peace talks in Geneva in 1954. All the major super powers attended these talks – Britain, France, the USSR, the US and the DRV (Democratic Republic of Vietnam), the State of South Vietnam, China, Cambodia, and Laos. The agreement expressed that French troops would leave Vietnam within the year and a reunification election would be held throughout the nation would take place 2 years after the demilitarized partition was out into place at the 17th parallel.
France then embarked on a policy of reconciliation, by re-establishing diplomatic, cultural, and economic relations with the Northern capital, Hanoi. They did this to honor the agreement made in Geneva, and to regain their dignity after a shameful defeat in Dien Bien Phu. To regain their honor, they made efforts to be advocates of peace, and would demonstrate benevolence. The US on the other hand, were less upfront about their intentions, while signing the agreement in “principle”, they refused to sign the official, final agreement.
Their fears of communism, and how Vietnam could cause or be part of the cause of the “Domino Theory”, where communism would begin with one country, and then eventually expand to country by country, where it would eventually reach the western world. They knew that the reunification election promised would bring about the official presidency of Ho Chi Minh, something they did not want, for fears of their whole capitalist society being broken down, one country at a time.
An example of their ambivalence, is a quote from then President Eisenhower “… had elections been held, 80% of the population would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh. And that would have been very bad for the US ideals. The 1945 Declaration of Independence had many causes that lead up to its occurrence and many consequences of which it was the cause, ultimately resulting in French determined to recolonize their previous territory Vietnam, the Viet Minh defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu by the use of guerilla tactics, the final end of oppressive French rule over Vietnam, and the signing of the 1954 Geneva Agreement where the French reconciled, while the American’s plotted.