State Building in North & South Vietnam

  • iftekhar
  • Dec 21, 2014
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Geneva Agreement, divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel. As the French gets beaten up by Vietnamese in Indochina war, Soviet Union and China recognizes Viet Minh as the Legitimate Government of “Democratic Republic of Vietnam” which was based on Hanoi. Soon after, the United States and Great Britain recognizes French controlled “State of Vietnam” based in Saigon in South Vietnam.

By early 50s (1953-1956), North Vietnamese government introduced numerous reform which was mostly focused on their agriculture dependent economy. Namely, “Rent Reduction” and “Land Reform“. The original intentions of this reform was to redistribute wealth in other words to redistribute the land ownership among peasants. It was a systematic process to decentralize the land ownership rights of landlords in North Vietnam. This campaign was introduced by the Communist party against the “evil landlords” who were seemed to be counterrevolutionary.

We have learned from the declassified document that under the banner of reformation it was originally targeted to execute 1 landlord in every 1000 civilians. This rate was “fixed” even though it was controlled by the local leadership. As a result, a mass execution took place in North Vietnam, later on it was confirmed by the declassified Politburo documents.

Land Reform Related Killing in VietnamPublic Execution took place in Vietnam due to Land Reform.

Similar action was ordered to be carried out in the South initially, however, it was not quite possible to materialize such actions in the South, as General Thanh send this proposal back to Hanoi for reconsideration because of oppositions of local cadre. One such comrade from the South, Tran Bach Dang states,”Many comrades, including myself, did not agree with the policy of land reform…” However, publicly denouncing the landlords was performed in the South that puts Viet Minh’s decision at shame. Later on Central committee admitted the failure of such reform program.

In the South, United States undertook several policies to support non-communist government which is known as “Nation Building” program. However, Contrary to the North, soon Ngo Dinh Diem takes over the power in the South and pushed for his version of Nation building effort which sometimes quite the opposite of the U.S. effort. Perhaps, we can call this to be “South Vietnamese Nation Building Program”.

In 1954, when Bao Dai appoints Diem as the Prime Minister of the South Vietnam, nearly 1 million North Vietnamese, largely Catholic, migrated to the South under the cease-fire.

During 1954 to1963 period, both the South Vietnamese Government and the U.S. attempted to use “culture” or a sense of nationhood to create a viable nation in the South. These programs expanded in the late 1950’s. In this period these two different Government pursued two different approach and failed to coordinate their programs. As Southern attempts ties more with the concept of “Nationalism” when Americans introduced capitalism and democracy as the way to go. This not only undermines the effectiveness of this program but also gave South Vietnamese a contradictory views on how future South Vietnam should be.

Diem, a Catholic President of a dominant Buddhist country, unfavorable treatment towards Buddhists Monks, elimination of political opposition and growing autocratic power of Diem regime ultimately proven to be fatal and causes his assassination in 1963.

In order to build a better and militarily strong South Vietnam, the U.S. Government sent thousands of military personnel as advisers which was supported by $65 million in military equipment and $136 million as economic aid by 1961. From 1955- 1963, South Vietnam received nearly $2 billion as US aid in various purpose.

In an effort to protect South Vietnamese villages from guerrilla attacks, the U.S planned to build 11,000 secure hamlets with their own houses, schools and watchtowers. But as the implementation process was underway, the guerilla attacks intensified causing large number of deaths in South Vietnam. Poorly trained people, corruption, inadequate support by the ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) was to blame for the failure of this program.

So, it was quite clear that nation building strategies has failed both in the South and the North regardless of the nature of their policies.

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