Friday, August 30, 2013

Vietnams “Enemy” has always been China, not the US

Although the war in Vietnam finished for the US nearly 40 years ago, most foreigners still associate Vietnam with its conflict with the United States. But Vietnamese have a more traditional enemy, China, with whom they have fought wars for much longer. 

Although there are many similarities between Chinese and Vietnamese culture, modern Vietnamese see China as the real threat. 

Every city features roads, statues and buildings named after heroes (real or mythical) who fought “the people from the north” (China). 

These include: Hai Ba Trung, the two Trung sisters who led a rebellion in AD40; Ngo Quyen, whom Vietnamese regard as leading them to independence in 938; Ly Thuong Kiet, who fought the Sung in 1076; Tran Hung Dao, who defeated the Mongols in 1284; Le Loi/Le Thai To, who defeated the Ming in 1428; and Nguyen Hue/Quang Trung who defeated the Qing in 1789. 

Most of these earlier conflicts were between regional rulers, rebels, warlords and upstarts who would not have understood the meanings of such terms as "Vietnam" or even "China" because these labels are modern are contemporary names. But the memories are ingrained in the culture and suspicions are as real now as they were hundreds of years ago.

Today tensions bubble away over a long-running territorial dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea, rich in oil and fish. This constant tension with China has resulted in Vietnam, once a deadly enemy of the United States, to actively court a better relationship, and even a political and military alliance with the United States. They have opened their ports to visiting US warships and even have contracts to repair ships of our 7th Fleet when needed.

Live Long and Prosper..

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