By David Wurfel, Cornell University
in Far Eastern Survey, Vol. 26, No. 6 (Jun., 1957), pp. 81-92.

The celebrations in Saigon in October 1956 over the proclamation of the new constitution of the Repub­lic of Vietnam tended to obscure the inscription on the statute books of a law which could alter substantially the pattern of Vietnamese agrarian society.1 Though framed as the South’s bold answer to the Communist-style “land reform” in the North, this law (Ordinance No. 57) was in fact proclaimed at a time when large landowners seemed to be regaining influence in places of political power and was in many respects an inade­quate compromise measure. Emboldened by the crush­ing of Communist organizations in Southern Vietnam’s countryside and reestablishment of their control over their estates, large landed proprietors succeeded in pre­venting President Diem’s government from undertaking as drastic a program as had first been envisaged. In fact, it is conceivable that no land transfer program would have been possible if the political elite of Diem’s regime had been drawn entirely from Cochinchina.2

Vietnam has long been faced with a tenancy problem as acute as any in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately the most reliable data are even less up-to-date than elsewhere in the area. Nor does the invaluable study by Yves Henry in 19313 clearly state the number of tenants or the amount of land they cultivated. One can only estimate the figures indirectly. In Annam, out of a total population of 4.9 million, there were 658,000 landowners; less than one in every eight persons owned land. If the average family is taken to be five persons, it may be estimated that more than 35 per cent of family heads were landless. What proportion of these had non-agricultural occupations is not known, but it was certainly small. Of the total number of landowners, 93.9 per cent, or 614,000, owned less than 2.5 hectares. But many of these, even, must have rented out their land, since only 590,000 owners cultivated their own land.4

Henry’s data for Cochinchina were more detailed. Out of less than 4.5 million total population, or ap­proximately 900,000 family heads, there were only 255,000 landowners. Holdings in the South are much larger than those in Annam: about 184,000 landowners, or 71.7 per cent of the total, farmed holdings less than 5 ha. covering 12.5 per cent of the total area of rice-land. But not all these were owner-cultivators: 90,300 landowners rented out their land to tenants; only 72,200, or 28.3 per cent of the total, owned more than 5 ha. The figures for percentage of area are even more revealing. The 25.8 per cent of owners having from 5 to 50 ha. held 45 per cent of the total area.’5 The per­centage of riceland area held by owners with more than 10 ha., who can safely be assumed to be non-cultiva­tors, varied tremendously from province to province, being 50.6 per cent in Cholon and 89.5 in Baclieu. The most heavily populated and longest cultivated provinces tended to have the highest percentage of small owner-cultivators. For five provinces which Henry claimed were representative of all Cochinchina, the holdings of non-cultivators averaged 73.8 per cent of the total riceland area. This indicates a tenancy per­centage even higher than that in Central Luzon or Lower Burma during the same period. Acquisition of large holdings, either by purchase of virgin land, or by foreclosing on mortgages-the former being apparently more important in Cochinchina-continued at least un­til 1939, and perhaps even during part of the war period. Since it now seems to be government’s policy to reestablish the legal claims to land which existed before the disruption caused by the Vietminh, these figures can probably be taken as a conservative estimate of the present situation.Henry also pointed out that share-cropping is very rare in Cochinchina (where a fixed rent lease is most common) but is the predominant form of tenancy in Annam. Post-war legislation has been so written as to allow for either type of agreement.

An agrarian pattern dominated by tenancy is seldom a stable one, and it is least stable when the party at a disadvantage sees the possibility of change. The Viet­minh stood for revolutionary change which most of the peasants naturally welcomed,6 though when the Viet­minh took over a village the resident landlord tem­porarily lost many, and the absentee all, of his former advantages, the tenant did not gain correspondingly. Reductions in rent were often offset by tax and other levies. Nevertheless, the Communists often gave the poorest farmer new power and a new sense of impor­tance in helping to direct village affairs. The psycho­logical changes served to protect the economic changes. The Vietminh legacy in the South, even after its sup­pression, made it almost impossible permanently to re­establish the status quo ante.

The first rent reduction ordinance to emanate from Saigon (proclaimed by Premier Nguyen Van Tam on June 4, 1953, after many months of promises) came when the Vietminh was still very active, and the law was supposedly part of the battle against it. It pro­vided that the land rent embodied in a five-year con­tract between tenant and landlord would in no case exceed 15 per cent of the annual crop. For the tenants who had been farming land of absentees or “traitors” under the Vietminh, and were paying no rent, this was regression, not reform. Assuming for the rest that Viet­minh rent reductions were roughly equivalent to the 25-35 per cent reduction decreed by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and that the actual rent outside Vietminh areas was 40-50 per cent of the crop (as re­ported by Henry before the war), this would appear to be a clear case of undercutting Communist reforms. But Premier Van Tam’s ordinance never really had this effect because it was rarely enforced. The few land­lords who did sign contracts found that it was not ne­cessarily to their disadvantage. The 15 per cent rent ceiling was only for “la terre nue”. The “model” con­tract specifically provided for additional charges for the use of buildings, farm implements, work animals, and for seed and fishing and grazing rights, placing no limit on them. These charges could be legally increased to compensate for the decrease in land rent. Landlords also frequently made written contracts conditional on the tenants’ willingness to make certain extra-legal payments.8 Tam’s government, French-supported and land­lord-staffed, neither felt the need nor had the will for agrarian reform and thus accomplished practically nothing.

The government was essentially of the same nature when Ngo Dinh Diem was appointed premier in June 1954, but he soon brought about significant changes. The new premier was faced first with the problem of maintaining order in a small country torn, not only between Communist and non-Communist, but (of more immediate importance) by competing non-Communist armed groups. He first turned his attention to problems of internal security and disloyal army officers. U.S. officials, who began to play a much more important role in Vietnam’s affairs after the Geneva truce, were, on the other hand, concentrating their attention on the all-Vietnam plebiscite then scheduled for July 1956. They felt that the Saigon government should inaugurate positive programs that would appeal to the electorate. Land reform had high priority among such programs in U.S. circles. On October 25 President Eisenhower sent a note to Premier Diem, offering American aid di­rectly, instead of through France, and, at the same time, expressing the hope that the Vietnamese government would, in turn, carry out “indispensable reforms.”9

Agrarian reform specialist Bernard Jensen was sent to assist the U.S. aid mission (USOM) in Saigon to con­duct a study. There was some enthusiasm for land transfer at first, but it soon waned. In December 1954, working closely with French High Commission advis­ors, the U.S. mission presented detailed proposals for a rent reduction law to Diem. On January 8, 1955, the Premier signed Ordinance No. 2, which substantially amended the rent reduction law of June 4, 1953, and was in harmony with the Franco-American proposals.

The amendment to Article 13 (the most crucial one in the new law) appeared to be a gain for the land­lord over Ordinance 20. Instead of a maximum rental, 15 per cent became the minimum and 25 per cent the maximum. But the gain for the tenant came in the limitation of additional fees. The law prohibited any charge for fishing or grazing and fixed the maxi­mum rental for animals and farm implements at 12 per cent of value (“value” to be determined by the Cantonal Joint Committee) . Advances of seeds and fertilizers were to be repaid at cost plus 12 per cent. The article closed with the provision that, “in no in­stance can the farmer be obliged to make any pay­ments or provide any service in kind, cash or in labor whatever its origin or form” over and above the pay­ment of the rentals already delimited. Unwittingly no doubt, this is almost an exact copy of a phrase in Ar­ticle 5 of the Agrarian Policy Decree of April 20, 1953, of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.10 To describe this new version of Article 13 as meaning “reductions of between 50 and 75 per cent in comparison with pre­war rates”11 is to conjure up false optimism as to the program’s reception on the rural scene. Pre-war rates prevailed only in those areas which the Vietminh had never controlled-in other words, in some ricefields adjacent to large towns, and perhaps in Hoa Hao and Cao Dai enclaves. Even in those restricted areas many tenants-and their number was not inconsequential-who had heard of Tam’s “15 per cent rental” but had not seen the law and its loopholes, called the new 25 per cent maximum exorbitant.

The ordinance did not provide criteria for determin­ing at what rate, between 15 and 25 per cent, the rental should be set. The exact rate “for each homo­geneous crop area” was to be decreed by the Govern­mental Delegate for the Region12 upon the recommen­dation of first the District Joint Committee and then the Provincial Joint Committee, and with agreement of the Minister of Agriculture. Because of the delay in organizing the Joint Committees, implementation of this cumbersome procedure has been slow. The process set forth in the law ignored the fact that the chefs de province are the most powerful governmental offi­cials outside of Saigon at present. In Ben Tre the chef took matters into his own hands; he called a meeting of tenants and landlords, apparently siding with the former, and worked out with them a formula as fol­lows: 25 per cent for the landlord when production exceeded 80 _gials _per ha. (a very rare phenomenom) ; 15 per cent when production was between 40 and 80 _gia; _and no rent when the yield fell below 40 _gia, _(which is not too infrequent) .14 Whether the rental is to be 15 or 25 per cent of the crop, or something in between, is determined in the majority of cases, where there is no effective governmental intervention, by the relative bargaining power of tenant and landlord.

Tenancy Contracts

The amended version of Article 7 gave more impor­tance to the tenancy contract and provided a way to gauge the extent of implementation of the law which had not existed before. Instead of two copies of the contract (one to be kept by each party), there were to be three, the third being kept in the files of the vil­lage office. At the end of the first year of operation of the act, in January 1956, the Ministry of Agrarian Reform reported that 272,000 contracts had been signed.15 Since both American and Vietnamese experts agree on the estimate that there are slightly more than one million tenants in the country, this is about a quarter of the total. Response varied tremendously from province to province. Two important provinces in Cen­tral Vietnam did not even report. Of those provinces reporting, the number of contracts ranged from about 6 to 0.1 per cent of the total population. On a national average tenants (i.e., family heads) form 10 per cent of the population. South Vietnam, with 62 per cent of the Republic’s population, accounted for 229,562 con­tracts, or 84 per cent of the total of contracts signed. In part this merely reflected the higher tenancy rate in the South Vietnam provinces, but it was also due to different degrees of administrative enthusiasm. The highest number of contracts (36,106, equaling the high­est percentage of the population, 12 per cent) was in Soctrang province. But two other southern provinces reported contracts numbering only 0.5 per cent of their respective populations. During 1956 contracts continued to be signed, at different rates in different areas, but the national total at the end of 1956 was 537,000, less than twice that in January.

Thus, in just two years approximately half of the Republic’s tenants and almost one-fourth the adult male population signed and registered contracts. Com­pared with the administrative accomplishments of other Southeast Asian governments, this is a feat of no mean significance. Some critics of the program believe that the figures on contracts signed are inflated. Consider­ing the pressures put on local officials from above and the lack of adequate supervision, a certain amount of padding is not impossible, but if it is recalled that some provincial officials had the honesty to report nothing if there were nothing to report, and others reported ridiculously low figures, it may be assumed that the percentage of falsification was of very minor importance. No evidence has been presented to challenge this as­sumption.

If one persists, nevertheless, in focussing on the 50 per cent failure instead of the 50 per cent success, then there are certainly sufficient explanations available. In the first place, there was so much military activity, both against the Communists and the sects, and internecine conflict within the government, during the first six months of 1955 that the normal functioning of the ci­vilian administration was impossible. Secondly, even had there been peace and order, there was no admin­istrative machinery to undertake this new task. A Min­istry of Agrarian Reform existed, but it had no per­sonnel outside Saigon. It was at this point that American assistance became more than advisory. The U.S. aid mission’s budget for fiscal year 1956 allotted more than $1.5 million in dollars and piastres for the addi­tion of 180 land reform agents to existing Ministry rosters, for printing of 2,000,000 contract forms, and for office equipment and vehicles needed by the Ministry.18 Nearly half these funds were set aside for the cadastral service which is not under the Ministry of Agrarian Reform. The Ministry itself used only $267,404. In addition, Wolf Ladejinsky,17 USOM Agrarian Reform Specialist with an outstanding knowl­edge of Asian agrarian reform problems, became an adviser to the Vietnamese government at all levels of administration. When he later resigned from U.S. gov­ernment service, he was succeeded in these duties by J. Price Gittinger. Occasionally the reward for such services was a “then why don’t you do it yourself” re­tort from an inefficient Vietnamese official who re­sented American prodding. But prodding was needed.

Long after the printed contract forms had been dis­tributed, the Minister of Agrarian Reform had signed no agreement with his own numerous tenants. But in spite of such handicaps, many contracts were signed.

Six agrarian reform agents were assigned to each province, a rather inflexible arrangement for such un­equal units. The original intention had been for these agents to establish themselves in the district offices, which is the next administrative subdivision below a province. But for numerous reasons, including the pro­clivities of civil servants for urban life, they found of­fice space in the provincial capital. Because the real cost of travel was about three times the 30$18 author­ized per diem, the agents usually spent less than 20 per cent of their time out of this office; and since expense allowances were almost never paid, anyway, though vouchers were sent to Saigon, one can not really blame them. Often an already overworked official in the dis­trict office was given responsibilities for agrarian re­form. One such person admitted that he never went to villages on official business. On the provincial level agrarian reform agents were not infrequently given time-consuming duties in other departments. Thus the Joint Committees, though having their paper work done for them, received only sporadic on-the-spot supervision and advice.

Joint Committees Established

Section III of Ordinance 2 was entirely new. The Provincial Parity Commissions provided for in 1953, but existing largely only on paper, were abolished. These commissions, composed of the chef de province _or his representative, an official of the agricultural service, two landlords, and three tenants, had been charged with fixing “each year the average yield of different categories of rice lands” and empowered to act as a Provincial Conciliation Commission to hear tenant-landlord disputes and to render decisions, which could be appealed to the courts. In their place Ordin­ance 2 established Joint Committees on the provincial, district, and cantonal level. The cantonal and district committees each have two landlords’ and two tenants’ representatives with the cantonal and district chiefs, respectively, as chairmen. The provincial committee has five tenant and five landlord representatives with the _chef de province, or his delegate, as chairman. Tenant and landlord representatives are chosen for two-year terms in a complicated procedure, involving first elec­tion on the village level, then drawing by lot from those so elected. In fact, this procedure was so complex that it was frequently ignored in practice; the chef de province would simply appoint the committee mem­bers. The excuse (often valid) given for such impromp­tu and extra-legal appointments was usually “lack of internal security”, but in other cases it merely con­cealed the persistent reluctance of many tenants to have anything to do with the machinery of the new rent control law. In some areas many potential electors stayed away during balloting for tenant representatives, and there were even instances of tenants going to polling places in groups, then ostentatiously refusing to vote.

It is also worth noting that Mr. Ladejinsky, in April 1955, had said that, in contrast to experience in other countries, tenants in Southern Vietnam were more hos­tile to the land reform than the landlords.” This rever­sal of traditional roles was caused in part by the peas­ants’ continued recognition of earlier “expropriation” by the Vietminh of the land of absentees and “traitors”. Entering into lease agreements would have validated the claim to ownership by landlords who had been thus “expropriated”. Farmers would have then been forced to pay rent on land they felt was already their own. Tenant reluctance was also a tribute to the continuing influence of Communist organization and propaganda. Vietminh agents repeated incessantly in the villages that after the projected July 1956 elections the South would come under the jurisdiction of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam which would confirm earlier Com­munist expropriation of land. Village Communist cadres also warned that it would be wise to avoid any contact with the doomed regime of President Diem.

Thus six months after the ordinance was proclaimed, independent observers in the provinces were saying that “almost nothing” had been done to implement it. Two months later less than 10 per cent of the potential total of contracts had been signed. But events in the latter part of 1955 cleared away some of the obstacles. Government military action rapidly diminished the area controlled by the sects and eliminated most Vietcong20 remnants. Information media stressed the government’s intention to refuse to allow all-Vietnam elections in 1956. But this return of stability posed a new obstacle. Landlords, who had previously seen the signing of a contract as the only way to reestablish a claim to their land, now began to find friends among increasingly powerful _chefs de province _and to hope for both their reestablishment and the imposition of pre-war rents. It is in this context that in January 1956 a 25 per cent accomplishment of a goal could be counted as success.

But a large number of contracts, though indicative of a certain amount of administrative activity, does not tell what rent the tenant is actually paying. Are the con­tracts enforced? Vo Van Giao, president of the Fed­eration of Tenant Farmers’ Unions, the only national tenants’ organization in Vietnam,21 says “very few”. Judging from a petition his Federation presented the Minister of Agrarian Reform in March 1956, there are even some contracts which specify rents higher than the legal maximum (the tenants having signed such contracts out of ignorance) . Since the rental is stated as an exact amount of rice calculated as a percentage of the estimated yield of the land, the tenant, who often did not know the yield, could be persuaded to sign a contract in which rent was based on a deliberately exaggerated yield.

Other complaints in that petition, which followed a two-day tenants’ conference in Saigon called by the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, indicated different ways in which Ordinance 2 was not being properly enforced. They also gave evidence of the resurgent power of the landlords. Many complaints centered on the prob­lem of evictions. The underlying cause for a large por­tion of these was the tenants’ insistence on a 15 per cent rental before they would sign the contract. Article 28 clearly prohibited cancellation of verbal contracts which pre-dated Ordinance 2 and required that they be revised according to the provisions of the law, then reduced to writing. Any landlord who, instead of com­plying, evicted his tenants was liable to a maximum penalty of 20,000$ fine and three months in prison. The petition asked the government to restore tenants to land from which they had been illegally evicted by “oppressive landowners”. If such appeals had to be brought to authorities in Saigon, it was apparent that the District and Provincial Joint Committees22 were not functioning effectively as arbitral boards. These com­mittees had been given jurisdiction by Articles 22 and 24 over “conflicts and disputes arising out of the ap­plication of the terms of rural leases”.

The tenants’ complaint that these committees did not dispense true justice was in part the consequence of the boycott of the election for tenant representatives by some of them. When the _chef de province, _often a landlord himself, found it necessary to appoint tenant representatives to the committees, he tended to choose inarticulate, politically “safe” tenants. Thus educated landlords, accustomed to taking a dominant role, domi­nated the proceedings of the committees and more often than not won over the government member to their side. A tenant dissatisfied with the Provincial Joint Committee’s decision could appeal the dispute to a regular civil court, but filing of the appeal alone cost nearly twice the price of a _gia _of rice, and this was not the only cost of litigation. Fortunately the Tenants’ Union had the assistance of lawyers who would handle members’ cases free of charge or for a small fraction of their regular fees.

The solution that the Tenants’ Union proposed was both a reinvigoration of the present system (by hold­ing new elections for the joint committees, providing them with salaried staffs, and training them to fulfill their duties) and the establishment of a new agrarian court accessible to the tenant at no expense. Despite a verbal assurance by the Minister of Agrarian Reform in March that an agrarian court would be established, no such action has yet been taken.

The Tenants’ Union, along with the Confederation Vietnam ienne du Travail Chrétien (Vietnam’s largest labor federation) to which it is affiliated, was one of Diem’s few supporters in the early days of his regime. It then had close liaison with the Palace, but recently the most active members of the Union have been sub­ject to several instances of arbitrary arrest and kid­napping, which is invariably explained in official circles as the result of “Vietcong activity”. In October the Government Delegate for South Vietnam announced that he had “discovered” an old statute, a legacy of the colonial era, which required unions to get prior police approval for all meetings. The Tenants’ Union, and the CVTC, have refused to do so. There have, as a result, been arrests in some provinces, warnings in others. A court test of the law is expected.

The study released in June 1956 by the Michigan State University Technical Assistance Project in Viet­nam (financed by U.S. aid funds and entitled _Report on the Organization of the Department of Land Regis­tration and Agrarian Reform) _affords opportunity for a fitting comment to conclude the discussion of Ordin­ance 2. After describing the multifarious functions of the Department, the Report recommended its dissolu­tion and the distribution of its functions among three other departments, with agrarian reform programs su­pervised by a Directorate of Agrarian Reform in the Department of Agriculture. Though the cause of good administrative organization would certainly have been served thereby, apparently the President felt that de­motion of agrarian reform from a department to a di­rectorate would not accurately indicate to government officials and to the public the emphasis he wants placed on the program, for he has not so far followed this recommendation. Within the proposed Directorate the Report suggested two very practical changes: alloca­tion of agrarian reform agents to each province ac­cording to the expected work load (not six to large and small provinces alike as at present) ; and the in­crease of those agents’ travel allowance, to be paid promptly. At another point, however, the Report crossed the boundaries of a public administration survey and recommended the abolition of a program. Alongside the statement that “the success of the present phase of the Agrarian Reform Program . . . is largely de­pendent upon the work of the Agrarian Reform agents in the province”,23 it advocated the discontinuance of the use of government personnel in the implementa­tion of Ordinance 2 and their shifting to the adminis­tration of land redistribution.

Such a recommendation does not indicate that its authors appreciated the very partial character of the program’s “success”, namely that the job was less than half done at the time of the Report’s release. To sug­gest that the program “be allowed to coast on the momentum it has gathered”24 overestimates the capa­bilities of the only organizations that would remain to benefit from what little momentum actually exists, i.e., the joint committees, stripped of their secretariat. For a different reason-an understandable desire to redirect the aid program away from budget support projects-. USOM hesitated for months to allocate FY 1957 funds to the Ministry of Agrarian Reform; then, with the fiscal year nearly half over and the field staff prac­tically disbanded, support was again given. Without continued U.S. financial assistance the remainder of the task cannot be finished.

In nearly a decade of dodging bullets many Viet­namese peasants grew tired of being caught in the cross-fire between French and Vietminh, Vietminh and Hoa Hao, dissident Cao Dai and loyal Cao Dai, Nationalists and Binh Xuyen, and other factions. Though it meant abandoning their traditional means of livelihood, thousands of farmers found it healthier to go to the towns and to Saigon-Cholon to eke out a living there. Nearly one fifth of the cultivated area of South Vietnam in 1945 had been abandoned by 1955. Thus one of the three most important rice sur­plus areas in Asia before the war ceased to export any rice at all by the first quarter of 1956. The most ef­fective step toward rehabilitation of Vietnam’s economy which the Diem regime has taken so far has been its wielding of both carrot and stick in order to speed the recultivation of abandoned lands. Though the aban­doned land development program is not, strictly speak­ing, agrarian reform, it is so inter-related with several aspects of agrarian reform as to merit discussion here.

The District Joint Committee was held responsible, in Article 22 of Ordinance 2, for compiling a list of uncultivated farm lands. The results of that compila­tion showed, as of April 1956,25 that there were 77,499 has. of abandoned land in Central Vietnam and 397,537 in South Vietnam. Seven provinces reported more than 20,000 has., and three, more than 40,000. There were probably other abandoned lands not yet reported.26

Ordinance No. 7 of February 5, 1955, offered incen­tives to the tenants to cultivate this land. Type B con­tract, which was to be concluded between a tenant and the owner of uncultivated land, differed from a Type A contract, which embodied the essential pro­visions of Ordiance 2, in two important respects. In a Type B the length of the contract was for 3 years in­stead of 5, but the landlord could not refuse to renew it for another 5 years unless he could prove that he or an adult member of his family was going to farm the land. The rental was fixed at the same level in Type A and Type B contracts, except that Type B exempted the tenant from paying any rent the first year, required him to pay only half the regular rent in the second year and three quarters in the third year. Type C contract, to be used when the landlord or his personal agent was not present to sign the lease, is the same as Type B except that the Communal Council “acts on behalf” of the absent landlord in drawing up the contract. If the landlord returns within three years, he may renew the contract in person; otherwise it will be renewed by the Communal Council. Nothing is said about what is to be done with the rent the Council collects for the landlords.

Agricultural Credit Program

The Popular Agricultural Credit Program was a kind of carrot even more tasty than excused rentals for inducing tenants to cultivate abandoned lands and sign contracts. With characteristic American optimism, and naivete, USOM allotted, and hoped to distribute during FY 1955, 225$ million for loans to tenants. But there was no administrative machinery to effect the distribution, and it was months before any money reached the provincial offices. There the _chefs de pro­vince _occasionally took the opportunity to make a quick profit on short-term usury before sending the money on to the district. Thus by April 30, 1956, nearly one year after the end of FY 1955, Saigon rec­ords indicated that less than 50$ million had actually been received by farmers.27 Nevertheless, though there may not have been enough money, the way in which it was frequently distributed made it an effective in­strument in getting contracts signed. The formula was simple: no B or C contract, no loan.

Since a 50$ million carrot had achieved only 30 per cent cultivation of registered abandoned land by April 1956, the President decided to apply the stick. Ordin­ance No. 28 of April 30 provided, in Articles 14 and 16, that:

Any owner who, after having promised to do so, does not recultivate or have recultivated the registered areas and does not have a legitimate reason for his failure is liable to a fine of 5,000$ to 50,000$.

Any tenant who, without good reason, allows the agricul­tural season to pass without undertaking the work necessary to cultivate the rice fields or other agricultural land which he has leased or which have been allotted to him . . .

shall forfeit his right to be allotted other land and be subject to the same fine as the landlord. “Any per­son who, directly or indirectly . . . tries to impede the application of this ordinance . . . is liable to” two to five years imprisonment. This ordinance also estab­lished a Provincial Census Commission which took from the District Joint Committee the responsibility for com­piling the list of abandoned lands. Its membership was taken from the Provincial Joint Committee. The Census Commission was empowered to “act on be­half” of the landowner in signing a Type C contract in place of the Communal Council, and to deposit the funds collected in rent, after deduction of taxes and costs, in a special account in the provincial treasury.

The most concentrated effort to recultivate aban­doned lands has been coupled with resettlement of re­fugees from the North, in the spectacular Caisan pro­ject in the southern Mekong delta. Caisan is spectacu­lar because in October 1955 one could stand in the center of the project area and look to the horizon in any direction on an unbroken expanse of swamp, which a few years before had all been riceland. In October 1956, standing in the same spot, within the radius of human vision one saw only rice, and houses, 8,000 of them. In the intervening year 200 kilometers of canals had been dug, 16,000 ha. drained, plowed by tractors, and planted, and 43,000 refugees from Communism, mostly Catholics from the North, had been resettled.” The Minister of Agrarian Reform had considered the undertaking of such high priority that he abandoned his Saigon office and lived at the project headquarters for several months. The project was financed out of the $37 million U.S. aid funds set aside in FY 1956 for resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees. It rep­resents a much larger portion of that total than the approximately 7 per cent of total refugees affected would indicate. In addition to the huge expense of land reclamation, each family head was given 800$ for building a home and 4$ a day per person for sub­sistence until after the first harvest. The U.S. aid au­thorities have been so pleased with the economic re­sults, and the propaganda effect, of Caisan that they are planning to finance more such projects, with some modification and improvement, in the present fiscal year.29

But the impressive record of physical accomplish­ment at Caisan was not always paralleled by harmoni­ous relations between the settlers and administrators. Before the April 30, 1956 ordinance no refugee in the project was asked to sign a tenancy contract, though the land is all owned by private persons (a French company is said to own a 1000 ha. tract, and a per­sistent rumor holds that the Minister of Agrarian Re­form, Nguyen Van Thoi, and his wife have holdings of 3000 ha.). One explanation could be that there were no legally constituted Communal Councils within the project to “act on behalf” of the absent landlord. But after April 30, when the Provincial Census Commis­sions were empowered to assume this responsibility, there was no such obstacle. In the late summer of 1956 Minister Thoi’s chef de cabinet,30 who is also his nephew, was appointed Project Coordinator, permitting the Minister to return to Saigon. Mr. Hi began to insist that refugees sign Type C contracts.

At this point the dangerous policy of appearing to promise more than can be given began to bear fruit. The priests, who had led their flocks out of the North and remained their spokesmen on all occasions, in­sisted, in turn, that the land belonged to the farmers, for had not Mr. Thoi, in his speech inaugurating the project, promised to give the land to the tillers? The administration explained that this was “giving” for a price and that the procedure for sale to the tenants would be worked out later. Officials also tried to argue that a Type C contract was between the tenant and the government, but the priests knew the law better than the officials suspected and were not deceived.

Mr. Hi then cut off the daily subsistence payments to the recalcitrant refugees, and when faced with continued resistance, took even stronger measures. As re­fugee unrest neared the explosion point, the President became alarmed at these developments and removed Mr. Hi. Subsistence payments were resumed without strings, but officials assured observers that after further explanation the refugees “understood the real situation” and had “promised” to sign contracts. Both to prevent anomalies and to reduce the priests’ power, the project administrators began paying subsistence directly to re­fugees, after it was discovered that under the old sys­tem of giving the money to the priests for redistribu­tion some priests were receiving per diems for more people than actually existed within their parishes. But the only solution that could be permanent was, of course, a plan to make the refugees’ dreams of land ownership come true.

Ordinance No. 57, promulgated on October 22, was a fulfilment of these dreams for many. It had been under discussion for several months. Late in 1955 the President had received from one of his foreign advis­ors a memorandum which set forth most persuasively the two main arguments for the necessity of land re­distribution: the political (in order to meet effectively the threat of Communism the regime must be strengthened by carrying out the most urgent socio­economic reforms and by broadening the base of poli­tical power) ; and the economic (in order to improve agricultural techniques and thus increase production, the farmers must have a greater economic and emo­tional stake in the land they till).

This “outline of a land redistribution program” de­scribed the 1953 land transfer ordinances as an ex­ample of “how not to do it”. Ordinance 21 of June 4, 1953, had fixed a maximum retention limit of 45 ha. for Central Vietnam and 100 ha. for South Vietnam, any proprietor owning land in two regions being en­titled to retain the maximum for both. Furthermore, landlords were allowed a 25 per cent increase in the retention limit for the fourth and each succeeding child; and the landed elite usually had large families. Ordinance No. 19 of the same date had provided, in addition, that all land above the retention limit and all abandoned land could be purchased by the tenant at current market prices, with the assistance of govern­ment credit. The Service National du Credit Agricole et Artisanal Cooperatif began lending money under this scheme in November 1953, and stopped a year later. During this period 3,131,230$ was actually loaned to 115 cultivators to finance the purchase of 640 ha.

The loans were made for ten years at 8 per cent interest.31 Bernard Fall has commented that this procedure would “make the national land reform a mat­ter of centuries”,32 but as has been noted, it was a matter of one year; after that there was no further at­tempt to implement the legislation.

Proposals on Land Redistribution

The memorandum argued that the maximum reten­tion limit should be applied to the total land holdings of the family unit, whether rented or owner-cultivated, in whatever province, though, of course, without forc­ing anyone to sell land that he cultivated himself. It also suggested that absentee owners, as in Japan, should not be allowed to retain any land, and that land cul­tivated entirely by hired labor should not be exempt from redistribution. It warned that no tenant could pos­sibly afford to pay the market price for land in Central Vietnam, where it is sometimes more than 60,000$ per ha., or perhaps even the much lower price in South Vietnam. It then recommended that the system used in Formosa, where the land price was set as a multiple of the annual crop, be applied in Vietnam. The ob­servation was made that a workable redistribution pro­gram usually requires a price not to the liking of the landlords. If the annual cost of purchase to the tenant were to exceed 40 per cent of the income from the land, it was predicted that the economic and political aims of the entire program might be defeated. The President was advised against cash payment of more than 20 per cent even if the government should find itself in a strong financial position, because of the danger of inflation. To insure the landlord against the possibility that inflation might nevertheless develop, the memorandum recommended that the value of the bonds given in payment be stated in terms of rice and that they should not be negotiable, except for payment of taxes, buying shares in government enterprises, or as surety for loans to develop essential industry. There was also a wise suggestion that there should be no at­tempt to equalize the size of holdings but that tenants merely be assisted to purchase the land they already cultivated.

Early in August 1956 the fruits of a different kind of technical assistance appeared in the form of _Esquisse d’un Programme de Redistribution des Terres au Viet-nam _by Nguyen Manh Tu of the Ministry of Agricul­ture. Mr. Tu had just returned from a brief U.S.-financed tour of Japan and Formosa to observe agricultural administration. After reviewing some of the statistics on tenancy and land ownership in Vietnam, he launched into detailed proposals for a land reform program. Mr. Tu had one especially ingenious sugges­tion for cash payments-a regressive rate. Owners of holdings of less than 100 ha. would receive 10 per cent of the value in cash, while owners with more than 500 ha. would receive only 5 per cent, with gradations in between. Most of Tu’s proposals were in agreement with the advice the President had already received.

Soon after Mr. Tu’s “sketch” had been distributed, a draft of the law itself was circulated for comment. The special committee appointed by the President to draw up the ordinance appointed in its turn represen­tatives who did the actual research and writing. The full committee sat twice to discuss and revise what had been prepared. Then a copy of the revised draft was sent to USOM for study and finally USOM represen­tatives were invited to meet with the committee on August 21. Representing the committee were the Secre­taries of State for National Economy, Finance, and Agriculture, and Nguyen Manh Tu, among others. The Secretary of State for Agrarian Reform sent an assist­ant.

It was apparent from the draft that expert advice had not influenced the authors of certain paragraphs. In spite of warnings about the dire consequences if the cost of repayment should each year take more than 40 per cent of the cultivator’s gross income from the land, the six-year payment period in Article 13 would, based on an expected price for the land of 7,000$ per hectare, take nearly 45 per cent of that income. The Americans at the meeting raised this point and advo­cated a longer payment period. The committee mem­bers present agreed to discuss the matter further. When USOM representatives estimated that administrative costs might run as high as $5 million, the committee admitted that they had not yet considered that question.

Several questions of considerable importance were not discussed at this meeting. Expert advice had been further disregarded with the exemption from redistribu­tion of all land devoted to industrial crops, such as coffee, rubber, sugar, tobacco, or fruit trees, and land “capable of being shifted” to such production (if ac­tually shifted within six months from the date of proc­lamation of the ordinance) . All the crops mentioned have been or are being successfully grown in large quantities by small holders in Indonesia or the Philip­pines. Admittedly, however, breaking up of such es­tates would at least temporarily reduce production. The concept of the limited family as the unit of land­holding was discarded in Article 6 which would make it possible for husband and wife or minor children each to hold land up to the retention limit. At least, no land could be registered in a different name after the law’s promulgation. A very onerous provision for the tenant was found in Article 13: during the six years he is paying for the land, pending final registration of the land in his name, he would have to pay rent to the government also. Fortunately this provision was omitted in the final version.

Nor were the technical advisors’ recommendations followed entirely regarding the method of fixing the price to be paid to the landlord. Article 19 provided that the owner was entitled to receive compensation equal to “current value”. If “current value” turns out to be 7,000$ (a figure frequently mentioned in Viet­namese government circles), this amounts to only slightly more than 2.5 times the annual production, the same rate as was applied in Formosa. But deter­mination of “current value” is left up to a special com­mission, and there is no assurance that it will not be more than 7,000$. Cash compensation was to be a moderate 10 per cent according to Article 20. The bonds issued to make up the balance of the payment could be used as legal tender for mortgage debts with the government agricultural credit agency or any other privileged creditor, for paying land and inheritance taxes on the expropriated land, and for subscribing to securities of state enterprises. These bonds would bear an annual interest of 3 per cent and be amortized in twelve years.

The administrative structure, in addition to the exist­ing Ministry of Agrarian Reform provided for in Title IV, included a National Council for Agrarian Reform which was “to settle in last resort questions raised by the application of this ordinance”. But there was no explanation of the relationship between this Council and the local agrarian judges, mentioned in Article 28, who would “have jurisdiction over the litigation in the actions arising from the implementation of this ordi­nance”. Other commissions-how chosen or where lo­cated was unspecified-were to be formed with “com­petence” in several fields of administration, such as listing the lands to be expropriated, granting of titles to new owners, etc.

Title V (“Penalties”) was not lenient. Any land­owner who opposed application of the ordinance by any illegal means would have all his land immediately confiscated without compensation; one who attempted to reduce the value of his land was subject to fine or imprisonment. Article 29 was so sweeping as to be reminiscent of restrictions surrounding Communist land reform: “any person acting in a manner to discredit or impede the application of this ordinance will be liable” to fine or imprisonment. The “crime” of total insolvency on the part of the new owner-cultivator who has not completed payments was punishable, in Article 32, by eviction from his holding without reimburse­ment for the installments he had already paid.

Discussions on the draft continued. Some quarters pressed for a reduction of the retention limit to 50 hec­tares. But, surprisingly enough, the increase in area for redistribution would have been very slight with such a change. Henry reported in 1932 only 51 landlords hold­ing more than 50 ha. in all of Central Vietnam, though he did not indicate the area they owned. The detailed figures he gave for five representative southern prov­inces permit a fairly accurate projection for South Vietnam, which indicates that only 9 per cent of the cultivated area was owned by landlords with 50 to 100 ha. The number of landlords affected by a 50 ha. retention limit would have been more than doubled, however.

Inflationary Dangers

Vietnamese officials again approached USOM for $30 million in financial assistance, as they had first done in June. The cost of the 10 per cent cash pay­ment has been estimated at more than $12,000,000, a sizable sum in a total annual budget of $448,570,000 (in 1955) . But the USOM director was adamant against U.S. support for any kind of cash payment be­cause of the inflationary dangers involved. Instead he offered a suggestion to the drafting committee, which had been made also by Mr. Tu, that payment to the landlords be made in blocked foreign exchange avail­able only for the importation of approved capital goods. Under such an arrangement he was willing to profer American aid. But this suggestion was not accepted by the whole committee.

Concern for a rational payments system is com­mendable. Transformation of the landlords into indus­trial entrepreneurs is one of the important aims of agrarian reform. But the failure of the U.S. mission to give any financial assistance at all to land redis­tribution, except on its own terms, seemed to indicate that the mission had an order of priorities quite dif­ferent from that of those who have been most closely associated with the land reform program. During the fiscal years 1955 and 1956, about 85 per cent of the U.S. aid program in Vietnam was devoted to military budget support33 —a very inflationary venture. This was a calculated risk, a much greater risk than that involved in the $12 to $30 million now under discus­sion. Certainly under present conditions land redis­tribution is no less important as a protection against Communism than the armed forces. Moreover, if the Vietnamese government is determined to proceed with reform that requires a 10 per cent cash payment, then there will be a little inflation anyway.

The government does seem to be so determined: the final draft of the ordinance left Chapter III (on Com­pensation to Landlords) practically unchanged, except for additional restrictions on the bonds by addition of the modifying word “non-transferable” and omission of payments to “all other privileged creditors” from among their possible uses. In most other respects-except for the removal of the requirement that the tenant pay rent at the same time that he is buying the land by installment-the final draft was a retrogression instead of an improvement. Most serious was this addition to Article 3: “The maximum area which the landowners have the right to exploit directly for themselves is fixed at 30 ha.” It does not say whether the 30 ha. is in addition to the 100 ha. retention limit, but it would seem to have been useless to insert this sentence if it were not. Furthermore, the landlord is given one year instead of six months in which to shift from rice to industrial crops, if he so desires. A new article (No. 5) was added to allow an additional 15 ha. to landowners who have set aside certain land for ancestor worship.

Article 11 prevents cultivators “who have not signed farm lease contracts or paid either rent or land tax during the past year, and who refuse to pay them by March 31, 1957, from being beneficiaries of the re­form. Article 12, already very confusing in its attempt to name the priority of allotments, lists another cate­gory in the final draft, “those owning no land”, which would appear to allow non-cultivating landless to ac­quire lots. Though lands allotted under the reform cannot be rented, there is nothing in the law to pro­hibit them from being worked by wage laborers. The local committees or commissions, which were given “competence” in several fields in the earlier draft, were reduced to “studying and proposing solutions” on the same subjects by the final draft. In Title IV fines and imprisonment under Article 29 (Article 27 in the final draft) were raised from 20,000$ to 120,000$ and from six months to two years, respectively. Penalties in other articles were raised less sharply.

Article 33 was added in the final draft: “The mo­dalities of carrying out of this ordinance shall be de­termined by decree”. And well it might have been added, for the final draft was every bit as vague as the earlier one. It is little more than a statement of principles, or of an intention to do something. The real fate of land redistribution has not yet been de­cided. The most perplexing problems of allocation of lots—“who gets what”, and pricing—“for how much”, have been left to administrative discretion, along with other matters almost equally important. It is much too early, therefore, to judge whether the legal and ad­ministrative framework will be adequate to the task ahead.

Social legislation is enacted as the result either of effective agitation by the group to be benefited or of a determination of need by the political elite. The Tenants’ Union only sent a few petitions to the Min­istry of Agrarian Reform requesting land redistribution and these were generally disregarded. At the time of enactment of the rent reduction ordinance the Union was much younger and smaller. Vietnamese agrarian reform was initiated by the elite in the national gov­ernment.

When social legislation is thus initiated, its charac­ter is determined by the politico-economic character of that elite. The group which formulated the agrarian reform ordinances can be said to be both domestic and foreign. It was foreign in two senses. American ad­visors had some influence, and Tonkinese government officials originally from the north who, though not foreign, were not indigenous to Southern Vietnam, had much greater power. Neither had landholdings in Southern Vietnam. Within the truly domestic elite the Annamese and Cochin-chinese had divergent economic interests. These interests did not produce significantly divergent views on the rent-reduction program, but did in the discussions of land redistribution. As has already been noted, there were practically no landlords with more than 100 ha. in Central Vietnam. Thus Annamese leaders could argue for the political advan­tages to the regime of land redistribution with a 100 ha. retention limit without having to worry about the possibilities of personal economic disadvantage. The Cochin-Chinese within the national political elite, al­most all large landowners, though beginning to regain influence, were less powerful than natives of the other two regions. It may have been the desire to prevent such a political “come-back” that, in part, motivated enactment of redistribution legislation, for in an agrar­ian society such as Vietnam’s land is, in the long run, the basis of political power. The 100 ha. retention limit prevented medium-sized landlords’ support for large landlords’ opposition.

Social legislation in which the disadvantages fall dis­proportionately on an alien minority is comparatively easy to enact. This is especially true during periods of strong nationalist feeling. The easy adoption of Burma’s Land Nationalization law, in which the main casualties were the Indian Chettyars, is a case in point. So is the new land transfer ordinance in Viet­nam, though to a lesser extent. Judging by Henry’s pre-war figures, which showed that 253,000 ha. of rice-land in Cochin-china was owned in 1931 by French citizens,” it may be assumed that a sizable portion (perhaps a quarter) of the land to be redistributed under Ordinance 57 is alien-owned. This fact may soften the blow to the Vietnamese landowners.

The implementation of the agrarian legislation will also reflect changes in the economic interests of the elite. We have already noted how the gradual aboli­tion of Communist armed forces in Southern Vietnam during 1955-56, which greatly facilitated the collection of land rents, transformed the landlords’ attitude to­ward signing lease contracts from eagerness to extreme reluctance. We have also seen that the increase in landlord power in Southern Vietnam is continuing. It is thus difficult to imagine that the administrative decrees drafted, and other decisions taken, to imple­ment Ordinance 57 will be more favorable to the tenant than the Ordinance itself, unless, of course, the Ten­ants’ Union is more successful in mustering its forces and making its power felt than it has been in the past year.

In making this comment, however, it is important to remember that many expert observers predicted that Southern Vietnam would be under the Communist heel by 1957. But the dynamic leadership of President Diem has confounded the experts, and the Republic of Vietnam is now struggling with its basic economic, social and political problems, not without mistakes, yet in such a way as to give real hope that it can be­come a real stronghold against Communism in South­east Asia.


Mr. Wurfel, now in the Southeast Asia Program of Cornell University, has made detailed studies of agrarian reform in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia.

1 Research for this article was made possible by a grant from the Ford Foundation. That Foundation is not, however, to be understood as approving any of the statements made or views expressed herein. In Vietnam the assistance of Mr. J. Price Gittinger in acquiring pertinent materials was in­valuable, and is much appreciated, but he is in no way re­sponsible for the author’s interpretation.

2 Now termed “South Vietnam”. In this article “the South” or “Southern Vietnam” refers to the territory con­trolled by the non-Communist Republic of Vietnam, but “South Vietnam” always means Cochinchina.

3 _Economie Agricole de L’Indochine, _Hanoi, 1932.

4 _Ibid., _pp. 144-145.

5 _Ibid., _pp. 189-190.

6 It is interesting to note that land reform decrees of the Vietminh regime (the Democratic Republic of Vietnam) never applied to South Vietnam, though, of course, some rent reduction schemes were implemented in Vietminh-controlled areas there. See Bernard Fall, _The Viet-Minh Regime. _New York: Institute of Pacific Relations, 1956, P. 107.

7 Etat du Viet-Nam, Ordonnance No. 20, June 4, 1953.

8 Fall. loc. cit.

9 Brian Crozier, “The Diem Regime in Southern Viet­nam”, _Far Eastern Survey, _April 1955, p. 51.

10 Fall, loc. cit.

11 _Land Reform in Vietnam, _Saigon, 1956, P. 7.

12 There are two regions, South Vietnam and Central Viet­nam (Annam), headed by a Governmental Delegate appointed by the President.

13 One _gia _is about one eighth of a bushel.

14 The power of the _chef de province _is not always wielded so as to produce such good results for the tenant. In Central Vietnam one _chef _advised landlords that they had nothing to worry about and failed to distribute contract forms.

15 _Bilan des Realisations Gouvernementales, _Saigon, 1956, Pp. 134-135.

16 FOA/Saigon, PEA/EL, Project #30-12-089 (Adminis­tration, Agrarian Reform).

17 Mr. Ladejinsky is now Pres. Diem’s personal agrarian reform advisor.

18 The dollar sign to the right of the figure denotes piastres. _In early 1956 the official rate was 35 _piastres _for 1 U.S. dol­lar, while the Hong Kong free market rate was 80 to 1. U.S. aid funds are exchanged at the official rate, of course; but the Hong Kong exchange more nearly indicates the real ex­change value of the _piastre.

19 _New York Times, _April 5, 1955.

20 Denoting “Communist”, the term now officially preferred in Saigon to Vietminh, which implies “coalition”.

21 It claims a membership of about 250,000, which is equal to the total number of all other organized workers in Vietnam.

22 Cantonal Joint Committees, those closest to the tenant, were only advisory bodies and could do no more than in­vestigate disputes filed with the District Joint Committee. See Article 20.

23 _Report on the Organization of the Department … _p. 17. The Vietnamese term is translated into English both as “ministry” and “department”.

24 _Ibid., _p. 16.

25 _Ibid., _Exhibit No. 10.

26 In an interview with the Agrarian Reform Agent of Rachgia province in October 1956 the author was given a figure for abandoned lands in that province which was three times the total for Rachgia in Exhibit No. 10. This indicates not only feverish activity in the intervening six months but a lag in provincial reporting to Saigon.

27 Report on the Organization… Exhibit No. 11. Per­sonal observation in October 1956 led the author to believe that this figure was much larger by that time.

28 Leland Barrows, Director, United States Operation Mis­sion, Speech to the Vietnamese-American Association, Saigon, October 9, 1956, p. 6.

29 See Leland Barrows, Statement before Committee on Foreign Aid, Washington, June 14, 1956, pp. 19-20, Part II.

30 Roughly equivalent to private secretary.

31 John L. Cooper, “Study of Agricultural Credit Needs in Vietnam”, ICA, Saigon, January 30, 1955, p. 6.

32 “Indochina since Geneva”, Pacific Affairs, March 1955, p. 10.

33 Barrows, Statement before Committee on Foreign Aid, Part I, p. 7.

34 Henry, op. cit., p. 224. Some of these “citizens” were, of course, Cochin-chinese who had chosen to acquire French citizenship.

Categories Vietnam, The War Years

By David Wurfel. In Carlisle Thayer and Ramses Amer, eds., Vietnamese Foreign Policy in Transition (Singapore: ISEAS, 1999), 148-169.


Despite the ideological rhetoric so common in the 1970s, Vietnamese foreign policy practised the age-old strategy of allying with a distant friend against a nearby enemy — both of whom were ideological comrades. China had become that nearby enemy when it supported the aggressively anti-Vietnamese Khmer Rouge regime. When Vietnam moved to liberate Cambodia from that bloody band in December 1978, China undertook to punish Vietnam with a massive border crossing, effectively resisted at great cost.

This sequence of events, far from solving problems, resulted in a multiplication of enemies — for the first time in history Vietnam faced enemies on both the north and the south, as well as to the west. This was a low point for Vietnamese foreign policy. Nevertheless, in 1979 that policy was aimed simply at getting diplomatic recognition for the status quo, i.e. Vietnamese domination in Cambodia. In fact, the brief incursion into Thai territory by the Vietnamese army in 1980 further hardened ASEAN opposition to Vietnam, and made it easier for the Thai to move closer to China with ASEAN approval.

By the mid-1980s there began to be tectonic changes in world politics. Gorbachev was re-evaluating the Soviet role in Asia, which also required rethinking in Hanoi. This rethinking was initiated in large part by the very bright, cosmopolitan foreign minister, Nguyen Co Thach. He saw the need to make accommodations in Cambodia especially to end the embargo and speed normalization of relations with the United States. By 1988 the whole Politburo was moving in this direction, as embodied in Resolution no. 13, which “held that the SRV should establish a new balance in relations with major powers”.1 A decision was also made to try to normalize relations with China. Vietnam was forced into accommodation with neighbours when the “distant friend” showed a desire to withdraw from South East Asia. However, these new policy principles were not easy to translate into action, and in any case, there was considerable disagreement within the policy-making elite about what action should be taken.

The purpose of this chapter is to show how the method of, and justification for, rapprochement with China developed and how it was related to the slightly later initiatives towards ASEAN. A brief comparison of Vietnam’s China policy with those of its Southeast Asian neighbours notes the interaction of regime maintenance and national security goals. Finally, an evaluation is offered as to whether this combination of policies towards neighbours large and smaller might be characterized as “enmeshment” or “containment”, or some mix of the two, and what its prospects of long-term success may be. So far, Vietnam’s utilization of ASEAN may have helped to some extent to discourage Chinese expansionism, but whether an “ASEAN Ten” will be of further assistance in this regard is doubtful.

I. How to approach China

The period 1988-June 1991

After Resolution no. 13, a series of events occurred around the world which were surely cataclysmic in the view of Hanoi leaders: the Tiananmen Square massacre, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its ruling party. The international conditions for a multidirectional foreign policy had changed. Some had adopted a kind of bunker mentality and wanted to return to the eternal verities of Marxism-Leninism, which, it was thought, would help protect the regime. Others continued to put emphasis on accommodation with the West that would permit the lifting of the American embargo on trade and investment, thus facilitating economic growth under the new policy of renovation. At the ninth plenum of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Communist Party in August 1990 Foreign Minister Thach was attacked as a rightist, partly because the military withdrawal from Cambodia had not achIeved the early lifting of the embargo, which he had foreseen.(He was also involved in a larger power cum ideological struggle within the leadership, and was known as a friend of Tran Xuan Thach, who was removed from the Politburo after being accused of advocating pluralism.)2

This attack on Thach was in part the fallout from his very tough stance in informal talks with the Chinese, which began to take place in 1989. The fourth round of talks in Hanoi with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister was partlcularly stormy. Nevertheless a switch in U.S. policy in July 1990 caused the Chinese to become more accommosating, as they saw new possibilities for an Indochina settlement.

They agreed to a summit meeting in September 1990 in Chengdu attended by premiers and party heads. Thach, at the request of the Chinese, was excluded. The Chengdu summit marked the start of Sino)- Vietnamese normalization; there was substantial agreement on the outlines of a Cambodian settlement.3

Vietnamese Party leaders were also very much interested in a Chinese suggestion that they would be willing to resume economic aid to Vietnam after a settlement in Cambodia was implemented and nornlalization with Vietnam was finalized. There was a strong hint, hovwever, that aid would be linked to co-ordination of Chinese and Vietnamese foreign policies. After the Chengdu summit this approach was opposed by other Politburo members, especially Thach.4 Nevertheless at the January 1991 eleventh plenum of the Ceatral Committee there was again support for drawing closer to China, in the wake of the shocking events in the Soviet Union; the same group reiterated attacks on Thach. The imperative of regime maintenance temporarily strengthened some key elements of the old Vietnamese world-view.5 In the seventh party congress in June, Foreign Minister Thach counter-attacked with a strong speech criticizing China. This proved his undoing. He was then removed from both the Politburo and the Central Committee, and later from the foreign ministry. Too much co-operation with capitalist countries which Thach symbolized-would lead to increased pressure on Vietnam’s one-party system, it was feared. The goal of regime maintenance dominated foreign policy strategizing.

Between 1991-93, control over policy relating to Cambodia and China was handed to the defence minister, General Le Duc Anh, the second-ranking member of the Politburo, thus marking the end of the transition to a different foreign policy orientation. In July General Anh travelled to Beijing for more discussions, defining further agreement on all outstanding issues, but finding Chinese willingness to offer aid waning.6 Perhaps they were getting sufficient Vietnamese co-operation without it. In any case, contacts between party officials of the two countries multiplied at all levels. Finally in November 1991, Vietnamese leaders went to Beijing for a summit which completed the normalization process. A communique rejected hegemonism; reiterated Vietnamese commitment to one China, including Taiwan; and affirmed support for the Paris agreement of 3 October on Cambodia. Vietnamese requests for secunty guarantees from China within the framework of a military alliance indicated that a closer relationship with China was clearly still the desire of the dominant group in the VCP Politburo-but China rebuffed it. Ideological comraderie with a powerful, but very similar regime was needed by those in Hanoi fearful of international trends.

Subsequent events, however, made such a partnership more and more difficult to achieve. Those with a more pragmatic, less ideological approach to international affairs would thus be given another chance to play an important role in foreign policy making.

On the one hand, the fruits of a Cambodian settlement-which Thach had promised, somewhat prematurely — began to emerge. Prospects of membership in ASEAN and normalization with the United States improved. At the same time, economic progress under doi moi increased regime legitimacy and reduced the chances of a repeat of Eastern European events. But Chinese actions at variance with words were crucial.

In February 1992 China promulgated a law claiming as Chinese territory almost the entire South China Sea. When the matter was referred to the National Assembly in Hanoi, there was a stormy, unpublicized debate. Some delegates advocated economic, even military retaliation, but finally-with advice from the External Affairs Commission of the Party Central Committee-the Assembly adopted an appropriate response: a mild, but firm, declaration. In May Nguyen Van Linh, by then Senior Adviser to the Central Committee, again visited Beijing to hold discussions with Chinese leaders. Only hours before he was ushered into the Great Hall of the People, the Chinese, at the same spot, signed an agreement with Crestone Energy Corporation to engage in exploratory drilling on the Vietnamese continental shelf. Thus, not surprisingly, at the June 1992 third plenum of the party Central Committee, the debate on whether China constituted a long-term threat to Vietnam security was reopened. Those who continued to advocate an alliance with China advised the party to ignore small conflicts.7 Others were less patient; even Do Muoi was reported to have called China expansionist — a good indication of how the debate was going.8

However, the issue was not settled; one source from inside the party reported that as late as the latter part of 1992 the Central Committee adopted a secret resolution ranking Vietnam’s foreign relations in five different priorities, with China and other Marxist-Leninist states first, and the United States last. ASEAN neighbours who have to be won over to co-operate were in the middle.9

Efforts to deal with China at the highest level continued. In December 199x Premier Li Peng visited Hanoi, assuring his listeners that China would never become a hegemonistic and expansionist power. In a final joint communique agreed to speed up negotiations on territorial disputes, on land and in the Gulf of Tonkin, and to refrain from developmental activities in the disputed area pending a final accord. (At this point the South China Sea was excluded from the understanding.) In November 1993 President Le Duc Anh went to Beijing — the first Vietnamese president to do so in thirty-eight years. While finding consensus on the importance of expanding economic relations, he could not secure agreement on conflicting claims in the South China Sea.10

In the meantime, the Chinese had been active. For instance, in May 1993, less than six months after Li Peng agreed to the contrary, a Chinese drilling rig entered Vietnamese territorial waters, only to be withdrawn on the eve of a visit to Vietnam by China’s defence minister-following a pattern to be repeated. And while Chinese behaviour undermined the position of those favouring an alliance, new options opened up, particularly that of ASEAN. ASEAN foreign ministers, meeting in Manila in July 1992, issued a declaration on the South China Sea calling for restraint by all parties. China, while not mentioned by name, was clearly the target.11 Vietnam, which had just signed the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, quickly endorsed the declaration. In Manila during the same year, Vo Van Kiet and President Cory Aquino had jointly expressed their commit ment to the peaceful settlement of the Spratlys dispute.12 Thus the Vietnamese leadership, which in 1991 had wanted an alliance with China, became more aware of the opportunity to find allies to the south who had a common interest in opposing Chinese incursions.

Said one foreign ministry official in 1993 in an interview with Carlyle Thayer, “we tried for a full year to forge new relations with China, but we failed … They will always pressure us and try to dominate Southeast Asia”.13

Thus two or three years before Vietnam became a member of ASEAN, most Hanoi policy makers had abandoned the quest for a China alliance; this successful regional organization was beginning to play a major role in Vietnamese elite thinking. Those in Hanoi who favoured membership must have felt that the decision for ASEAN was vindicated by the results of the China-ASEAN Dialogue in Hangzhou, China, in April 1995. There, for the first time in a multilateral setting, ASEAN officials raised the Spratly issue with the Chinese. ASEAN concerns were expressed in terms that were unusually forceful, according to Philippine Foreign Affairs Under-secretary Rodolfo Severino.14

Studies were also undertaken which validated the decision to join. Fear of exploitation by other wore advanced ASEAN members was countered with the conclusion that experiences from other economic co-operation organizations have shown that new members with a lower level of economic development often get more benefits than the more developed countries.15 In the security area It was argued that “any attempt at military and security cooperation would require a certain commonality in strategic outlook and threat perception … The possibility is there”.16 As early as 1992 a Vietnamese foreign ministry official spelled out the new rationale in a Singapore publication: “Sino-Vietnamese relations will be meshed within the much larger regional network of interlocking economic and political interests. It is an arrangement whereby anybody wanting to violate Vietnam’s sovereignty would be violating the interest of other countries as well. This is the ideal strategic option for Vietnam. It is also the most practical”.17 This is a more straightforward formulation than one has heard recently.

Vietnamese China policy in comparative perspective

Fear and distrust of China must surely be the most important emotional foundation of Vietnamese foreign policy, a feeling much older than the ideological camaraderie of the 1950s and 1960s-the revival of which in 1991 was so short-lived. Yet that feeling, quite realistic in view of recent experience, is veiled when officials speak. The manifestation of growing Chinese power and self-confidence has taught them that verbal barbs are quite counterproductive.

China is probably perceived as a greater problem for Vietnam than it is for other Southeast Asian countries, but their policies towards the colossus of the north can be analysed in a common set of categories. First is regime affinity, an influence so powerful at one point in Vietnam as to change the direction of policy. This has also been a strong factor for Laos, Cambodia, and especially Burma. Second is an historical/cultural factor, the size and political/social role of ethnic Chinese minorities and their perceived link with external threats.

Indonesia has a large, unassimilated Chinese minority that in 1965 was thought to be linked to foreign intervention, and is still suspect. Desplte normalization, Indonesia’s relations with China are not warm.

In the Philippines, past suspicion of local Chinese complicity in Beijing’s aid to insurgents has waned as the reality of such linkage has faded and as local Chinese have better assimilated into Philippine society. Thus closer relations with China in the 1980s became Possible, despite memories that linger. In Thailand high levels of Chinese assimilation into both the economic and political elites facilitate good China relations. Vietnam is the only Southeast Asian country to experience repeated Chinese invasions, the most recent in 1979. Suspicion of local Chinese because of links with China are still strong.18 This was a cause as well as consequence of the 1979 confrontation with China. Third, the geopolitical/strategic factors, which seem to be most important, are the nature of historical and contemporary relations with neighbours, and with other great powers.

When immediate neighbours are seen as threats, then this creates the opportunity for China to play the role of protector, as with Cambodia. This was most obvious in the Khmer Rouge era, but may be re-emerging with Hun Sen, reinforced by regime affinity. Thailand moved closest to China when Vietnamese troops were on its border. For Vietnam, on the other hand, China itself is the threatening neighbour.

Friendship with a great power which itself has an antagonistic relationship with China should allow a Southeast Asian state to stand up to China, though the USSR was not of much assistance to Vietnam in 1979, and the United States insists that the mutual defence agreement with the Philippines does not cover the disputed Spratlys.

The United States, whatever its intentions may be, is now the only power in Asia with the military capacity to contain China, and is thus quietly courted by both the Philippines and Vietnam. Nevertheless, the realistic limitations on its likely actions cause those two states to seek a degree of accommodation with China as well. Both welcome closer economic ties with Japan, even though, besides economic, Japanese support can be, at most, diplomatic. Fourth, economic factors may influence policy towards China in more than one direction. Investment from Southeast Asia in China, very substantial in the case of Thailand and Malaysia, is appreciated; it is the kind of engagement that fosters closer relations. For those sharing land borders with China, trade-often in the form of smuggling may as well be a cause of friction as of friendship. This is the Vietnamese case. When relations with China involve major territorial disputes, economic factors are likely to be of secondary importance in determining the tone and direction of foreign relations.

Regardless of the role of local Chinese, the historical memory of frequent Chinese invasion among both elite and populace makes the Vietnamese image of China unique. Thus it is understandable for Vietnam to look to other great powers as a source of some kind of protection against a renewed China threat. Yet Vietnam’s approach to China is still moderated by the recognition of regime affinity and the potentially positive consequence this could have for regime maintenance in Hanoi. Thus there may still be debate between ideologues and disciples of realpolitik. Though Vietnamese officials will, understandably, deny the existence of factions in foreign policy making, as Brantley Womack has said, immobilism — which he describes as the character of present day elite politics in Hanoi — “is a measure of the severity of factional differences”.19 What is very new about the current era of Vietnamese foreign policy is the recognition that not only great powers, but also small and medium powers within the region, if banded together in a vigorous regional organization, may also have a role to play in dealing with China.

The China policy of Vietnam in ASEAN

There was, of course, some opposition to Vietnam’s membership in ASEAN, especially by Thailand, because of a fear that Hanoi was all too eager to use ASEAN as a club against China. One Vietnamese scholar/official recognized in 1994 that “in the short period after joining, it would be difficult for Vietnam to take the lead or put forward its own initiative on security issues as Hanoi needs to learn the mechanism of ASEAN co-operation, and for their part, some ASEAN members might not want to see Vietnam do so”.20 Thus for the first year Vietnam did indeed maintain a low profile. Staff was being trained in English, and in the structures and processes of ASEAN. At the same time, as we shall see, Vietnamese participants in ASEAN seemed to be learning a great deal as well about its political dynamics.

Meanwhile, Vietnam needed to deal with its mammoth neighbour one on one, which was the way China preferred. On the surface it appeared that relations were improving. Rail links were re-established in early 1996, while in June Premier Li Peng attended the Eighth Vietnam Communist Party Congress in Hanoi, the highestranked Chinese leader to do so in more than thirty years. Ten rounds of negotiations on border disputes were held, but without any agreements. As Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam said in an interview, “We strive to accelerate all existing ties with China. These ties have created benefits for both countries… Some issues, however, still remain unsolved …”21 In any case, trade in 1996 reached US$1 billion. Military exchanges continued with a group of Chinese officers, including the commander of the PLA Navy Air Force, visiting Vietnam-as well as Malaysia and Singapore-in late February 1997.22 In April a Vietnamese military delegation was received in Beijing by the Chinese Defence Minister, who in his welcome speech said, “The two countries share a common belief and common goals, and both are faced with the challenge of securing peace and development”.23 There seemed to be some attempt to sustain ideological ties.

Other aspects of the relationship were entirely devoid of ideological overtones. To counter a similar tactic used earlier by China, in April 1996 Vietnam awarded a contract for oil exploration in the South China Sea to Conoco-in an area also claimed by Chinawhich China protested. But no drilling has been undertaken. Less than a year later China undertook bolder steps, commencing exploratory drilling on the Vietnamese continental shelf less than sixty-five nautical miles from Vietnam’s coast, in an area not covered by claims of any other ASEAN members (and thus designed to antagonize them less). This was despite an October 1993 agreement between the two powers, which said that “while negotiating to settle the [territorial] issues, the two sides shall not conduct activities that may further complicate the disputes”.24 The oil rig began drilling, according to Vietnamese authorities, on 7 March. Vietnam unsuccessfully tried quiet diplomacy before going public with its protest nearly two weeks later. An unnamed official in Hanoi used uncharacteristically strong words: “This action has added another example that the Chinese expansionist policy has remained unchanged”.25 The diplomatic note handed to the Chinese ambassador merely said: “This act of violation runs counter to the good trend in which bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation are developing”.26 Vietnam insisted that China withdraw the rig and discuss the disputed maritime claims. On 7 April it was announced that the rig had been withdrawn; discussions on the claims began in Beijing two days later. The Vietnamese press, however, barely mentioned this apparent diplomatic victory. There was a reason for their reticence; they had boldly played the ASEAN card and wanted to avoid antagonizing China further by gloating over their success. This marked a new stage in Sino-Vietnamese, and in ASEAN-Vietnamese relations.

II. Vietnam and ASEAN

Vietnam’s remarkable diplomatic coup in March 1997 was built on the cultivation of relations with key ASEAN members for some time before that. To review those relationships is a necessary prelude to understanding the events of March.


Indonesia had long been Vietnam’s best friend among the noncommunist states in Southeast Asia. Indonesia had recognized the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam before 1975 and became the crucial liaison between Vietnam and ASEAN in preparation for a settlement of the Cambodian crisis. Indonesia shared Vietnam’s fear of China, even though it had no claims in the South China Sea that were threatened by China-until a careful reading of Beijing’s 1992 legislation. Despite some degree of regime affinity with China, Indonesia was sympathetic with Vietnam’s position.


Singapore was a major trading partner and source of investment for Vietnam. Lee Kuan Yew had even been invited several times to Hanoi as a senior adviser. Despite somewhat different views of China, Singapore still could appreciate Vietnam’s situation.


Malaysia’s foreign policy has been determined in the last decade largely by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s personal views, which have shifted. While in the early 1990s he was still talking about his concern for the long term threat of China, recently he has been saying there was nothing to fear from either Japan or China.

The Chinese have been supportive of the prime minister’s proposal for an East Asian Economic Group. Relations with Vietnam had been particularly rocky in the period of the boat people.


Thailand had traditionally been an enemy of Vietnam, particularly on matters concerning Cambodia. Until Premier Chatichai took office, Thailand led the hard-line faction in ASEAN on negotiations for a Cambodian settlement, even joining an alliance with China, receiving Chinese military assistance and allowing transport of supplies from China across Thai territory to the Khmer Rouge. After Vietnam’s withdrawal from Cambodia, the Thai began to look at economic opportunities (without abandoning military links with China, which were profitable for the Thai high command). More than US$1 billion was invested in Vietnam (much less than in China), and trade expanded greatly-some illegally transiting Cambodia.

Thai-Vietnamese relations improved further after Vietnam joined ASEAN. Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh’s March 1997 state visit to Hanoi — one of several high-level exchanges — was described by the Bangkok press “as a part of Thailand’s quest to be treated seriously by Hanoi as an economic partner”.27 That visit also had to deal with serious conflict, derived from overlapping claims to 14,000 square kilometres of the Gulf of Thailand. The Vietnamese had arrested hundreds of Thai fishermen whom they claimed were illegally in Vietnamese waters. Prospects of oil intensified the conflict. In January the Thai Cabinet, on Chavalit’s initiative, had unilaterally declared an extension of the Thai continental shelf, over the protest of neighbouring countries. (Perhaps the Thai had learned some techniques from the Chinese.) In fact, the King was so concerned about the impact of this move on relations with Thailand’s neighbours that he summoned the Premier to an audience to discuss the matter.28 The March trip by Chavalit to Hanoi could not resolve this problem, but the two sides agreed that “if agreement cannot be reached, then a joint committee will be established”.29 By April they were talking about joint naval patrols in the disputed area.30 The constructive approach to bilateral issues was especially impressive for two countries which were traditional enemies and had such different feelings about China.

When Prime Minister Chavalit visited China in early April, he was greeted by the Chinese defence minister with the plea: “China is hopeful that Thailand will help create understanding with neighbouring countries”, which probably meant help against the buildup of antipathy towards China within ASEAN. Chavalit responded with effusive praise for China’s support of the Thai military, which had just been offered additional Chinese aid. Professor Kusuma Snitwongse of Chulalongkorn University, an experienced observer of Thai foreign policy, commented: “Thailand wants a lead role in ASEAN, and Thailand can act as a bridge to China”-which was denied by foreign ministry officials wary of upsetting ASEAN partners.31


The Philippines, which had been one of only two Southeast Asian members of the South-East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) that had sent troops to help South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and which had had a virulent streak of anti-communism in domestic politics but warmed to China during the Aquino presidency, seemed an unlikely ally for Vietnam. The close relations that have, in fact, developed are a tribute to the potency of a common perception of threat.

Even before the completion of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) mission in Cambodia, Vo Van Kiet visited the Philippines in 1992. He and President Aquino “expressed their commitment to the peaceful settlement of the Spratlys dispute”.32 In 1993 the Vietnamese foreign ministry showed special favours to the Philippines as it was expanding its embassy.

There was already an awareness of common problems with China. The Philippines strongly supported Vietnam’s admission to ASEAN even before Vietnam officially applied for membership. In March 1994 President Ramos went to Hanoi, where he “sought to strengthen the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Vietnam”.33 A Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation was created.

Co-operation intensified after discovery of the Chinese occupation of Mischief Reef in 1995. The Philippines was quite explicit in stating its disappointment with the level of ASEAN support at the time of this incident, and obviously an ASEAN that included Vietnam would have a somewhat different outlook. Vietnam President Le Duc Anh visited Manila later in 1995. In April 1996 Vietnam and the Philippines signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Oceanographic and Marine Scientific Research in the South China Sea. Said Ambassador Rosalinda Tirona, “The example set by the Philippines and Vietnam through this initiative is concrete evidence that despite conflicting territorial claims, states can still cooperate”.34

Was China listening? The first research project undertaken was in the vicinity of Mischief Reef. In January 1997 the commander of the Vietnam People’s Navy visited the Philippines to meet the Secretary of National Defense and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, among others. The stage had been well set for the way in which the Philippines would react to incidents involving China in 1997.

III. Multilateral approaches

On 20 March at the same time that Vietnam went public in its protest against the Chinese oil rig, the deputy foreign minister, Vu Khoan, quietly called together the ASEAN ambassadors to explain Hanoi’s position, an event unprecedented in the history of ASEAN.35

Basically Vietnam was trying to convince other ASEAN members that “if China behaves this way to Vietnam, it could behave the same way towards [them]”.36 The restraint practised by Vietnam within ASEAN up to this point had apparently been helpful. ASEAN diplomats were swayed. A senior ASEAN official noted: “We don’t recognize any Chinese rights to Vietnam’s continental shelf, nor do we recognize the right of the Chinese to do what they did. Now we’re all in this together”.37

While the Vietnamese tactic may have been helpful in regard to the oil rig, at the same time, China was playing host to a conference on regional security under the auspices of ARF, where it mounted a strident attack on U.S. military presence in the region. And at that conference China refused a request to sign the 1992 Manila Declaration on the South China Sea, which pledged the signatories to use only peaceful means to settle their disputes. There, Beijing had not yet gotten the message from ASEAN.

If ASEAN protests in confidential diplomatic notes did indeed cause the Chinese to withdraw their oil rig shortly after this conference closed, as Vietnamese officials now suggest,38 then some notes must have been quite forceful, for it appears that only the Philippines released a critical public statement. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rodolfo Severino said that his government “is very much concerned over China’s reported oil exploration on the Vietnamese continental shelf”.39 On the other hand, when asked to comment on a Chinese oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam, Thai Premier Chavalit carefully said that “both China and Vietnam are friends of Thailand “.40

A more important indicator of the accomplishments of Vietnam’s strategy was the outcome of the annual China-ASEAN dialogue in mid-April held at the Chinese mountain resort of Huangshan. There issues in the South China Sea were raised forcefully, and for the first time China agreed to talk about the ASEAN member’s claims in a multilateral setting. Beijing also offered to negotiate a code of conduct governing ties with ASEAN.41 At the same time, to mollify China, and in their own interests, Vietnam and Indonesia praised China for fending off a vote on human rights pushed by the West in the United Nations. All agreed that “certain Western powers” were trying to drive a wedge between China and ASEAN-just as China was trying to do to U.S.-ASEAN relations.

Then soon after this somewhat conciliatory conference behaviour, the Chinese again moved assertively in the South China Sea. At the end of April, Chinese vessels appeared near an islet claimed by the Philippines, which quickly deployed air force jets in the area.42 In addition to making a diplomatic protest to China the presidential palace informed other ASEAN members of the events.43 Within a few days the vessels did withdraw. The Chinese had first said that navy ships involved were doing “marine survey measurements”, but later contended that they were fishing boats approaching the shoal as part of “youth non-government organization” activities!44 Later research revealed that the ships, belonging to the State Oceanic Administration, carried an international group of short wave radio hams, including both Americans and Japanese, who wanted to broadcast from a new and exotic call sign-which just happened to be designated as “Chinese territory”.45 To re-emphasize their position, the Philippine Navy arrested Chinese fishermen in the vicinity, part of the Philippine Economic Zone, a few weeks later-even though international experts now say that the Chinese territorial claim to the islet, far north of the Spratlys, was probably valid.

Nevertheless, this followed a pattern of inconsistency between diplomatic words and seaborne action. Filipino statements regarding what ASEAN should do have been the most open, and blunt, of any from ASEAN members. Said General Arnulfo Acedero, Armed Forces Chief of Staff, in Bangkok, “China is asserting itself too much … It is about time we put China in its proper place” through diplomatic means.46 Defense Secretary Renato de Villa put it more cautiously: ASEAN members should allot more time “to take stock of the real situation in the area, with the end in view of enhancing the strength of its defenses, if necessary”. Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon also raised the question of ASEAN involvement with Japan, and the foreign ministry in Tokyo agreed to raise the question of armed Chinese vessels in disputed water of the South China Sea at the ARF meeting in Kuala Lumpur on 27 July 1997.47

There is no prospect that ARF would discuss enhancing the strength of ASEAN defences. ASEAN is not a military alliance. Nevertheless, de Villa’s comment is interesting because it brings to the fore the question of bilateral military co-operation between ASEAN members, which is already taking place. To a degree one could hardly have expected two years ago, Vietnam itself is involved in this process. Said a leading foreign ministry official, “Integration in South East Asia is the wave of the future … [It] has both economic and political, i.e. security, aspects. Vietnam has exchanged military delegations with ASEAN countries and joined in military exercises. This helps to maintain Vietnam’s security, since Vietnam cannot fight alone”.48

Vietnam, however, has a problem with confidence building measures (CBMs), the rubric under which so much military dialogue takes place. For it requires transparency, the release of information on military budgets and weapons acquisitions. Said a leading Vietnamese diplomat, “Vietnam is not accustomed to such procedures. If it means revealing secret information, it is very difficult. But it must be done. Even Russia will report to the UN the weapons it has sold to Vietnam”.49 In fact, a Russian scholar/general has already reported that Vietnam was one of the top six purchasers of Russian arms in 1995.50 Still, among older Party leaders, and, of course, the military, greater transparency is seen as having limited feasibility. Thus Vietnam’s military co-ordination with ASEAN will also be limited. This would seem to imply a fairly low priority for such activity.51

China and ASEAN: balance or enmeshment?

How then is the role of ASEAN, ARF, and individual ASEAN members, in Vietnamese foreign policy to be evaluated? What is the underlying strategy? Let us first look at Vietnamese views and then at those of observers and analysts from other countries. One senior Party foreign affairs analyst,52 who revealed himself as being rather conservative on other issues, said that too much cannot be expected of ASEAN. Each country has its own interests and would not join with Vietnam if real action is required. Yet this view was expressed at the same time that he was confident that the Chinese oil rig was withdrawn as a result of protests by most ASEAN members. A younger, U .S. trained foreign ministry official was both more cautious and more positive about ASEAN’s role. Said he: “ASEAN protest probably helped in removal of the Chinese oil rig. Some other ASEAN members had a common interest with Vietnam to challenge Chinese territorial claims. ASEAN membership has given Vietnam some comfort in dealing with China, even though ASEAN can never balance China.53

In a lecture at the Institute of International Relations in Hanoi, the head of the policy planning staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was even more straightforward in rejecting the concept of ASEAN as balance: “ASEAN does not have the purpose of balancing China. In fact, it cannot, since China is becoming a superpower. But tighter ASEAN integration can strengthen the region’s bargaining position with all great powers.” He went on to say, “after more than one year it is clear that Vietnam’s decision to join ASEAN was correct. Now big powers must deal with Vietnam as a member of ASEAN”.

A Japanese scholar has a similar view of Vietnam’s stance: “Convinced that the China threat is real, but anxious to avoid hostilities, Vietnam is … trying to draw closer to ASEAN, which shares Vietnam’s concerns about ambitions in the Spratly Islands. China, it is argued would hesitate to attack the islands of an ASEAN-related Vietnam since such an attack would antagonize the other countries of ASEAN, which China looks on … as potential allies in its struggle with the big countries in the Asia-Pacific region.”54

Donald Zagoria sees this approach as typical of Southeast Asia generally: “The South East Asian states are aware that their power resources are limited and that they will not be able to deal to their satisfaction with an aggressive China at any time soon. The best strategy is to engage China as a participant in regional affairs and to increase the incentives for China to play a peaceful and constructive role”55 An Australian-based scholar advocates such an approach to China for all states in the Asia-Pacific: “A mild form of enmeshment [or engagement], with emphasis on rewards rather than punishments, would seem the most, and really the only satisfactory option. The objective would be to convince Beijing that conciliation pays and heavy-handed unilateralism does not”.56

Vietnam, and Southeast Asia, are thus taking the liberal view that by involving a potential opponent in an international regime, that power may be persuaded to respect the values of the regime and thus modify its behavior accordingly. David Shambaugh is also supportive of this approach: “Engagement … is a … vehicle to the ultimate goal of integrating China into the existing rule-based, institutionalized, and normative international system”.57 While entering a realistic caveat, which he explains at some length: “For numerous reasons, China will be reluctant to respond positively to the policy of engagement”, he concludes, “yet this remains the best option available to the international community at present”. (ASEAN, while following the same rationale, avoids the term “engagement”, which the Chinese sometimes characterize as an American plot.)

While ASEAN diplomats and most Western scholars share a consensus that an old-fashioned balance of power approach for dealing with China today would be a great mistake — at best, ineffective power-based, realistic strategies have not disappeared from the policy horizon. As Allen Whiting puts it, “ASEAN members vary widely in their degrees of apprehension over China’s intention, but they concur on the absence of imminent threat. This provides time for a balance of politics [or enmeshment] to reduce Chinese assertiveness so that exercising the balance of power may be unnecessary”.58 This suggests that the relationship between enmeshment and power .balancing may be sequential-if the first fails, the second comes into play.

Some Chinese scholars, however, see the two as co-existing today. In an article that is generally balanced, and takes ASEAN quite seriously, Shi Yongming recognizes that “ASEAN defence capability cannot be considered strong”,59 and notes that it is precisely the weak and decentralized defence forces that have motivated ASEAN to use political means to pursue security through strengthened regional multilateral co-operation and negotiation. He adds that “on the other hand, the weak defense forces have also forced ASEAN countries to adopt the military policy of balancing superpowers, namely allowing the U.S. to exercise military functions … in South East Asia”. Even while pointing out that both United States and Japan are attempting to persuade ASEAN to become allies, Shi concludes that “maintaining a balanced relationship with various larger nations is conducive to ASEAN’s own security and regional stability” and that of the whole Asia-Pacific. If this were indeed Chinese policy then Vietnam would feel no reluctance to strengthen strategic, as well as economic, links with Japan and the United States-which is, in fact, being done.

When Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto toured Southeast Asia in January 1997, he put more emphasis on security matters than had any previous Japanese premier. While he was in Hanoi, it was reported that throughout the meeting with Premier Vo Van Kiet there were indications of both countries’ concern that China may become a common threat for Japan and ASEAN.60 In the final communique Kiet and Hashimoto agreed to promote security dialogue between their countries, at first through vice-ministerial consultations, which have, in fact, proceeded.61 During a courtesy call on Do Muoi, the Party leader told Hashimoto that it is important that Japan, the United States and China co-operate to maintain stability in the Asia-Pacific. The desire persists for a concert of powers-which plays well in Beijing, but discussions are ongoing to plan for other contingencies.

One concrete result of Hashimoto’s tour was the positive, though qualified, ASEAN response to his proposal for a regular summit meeting between ASEAN leaders and Japan.62 Some members of ASEAN were wary of agreeing to an exclusive ASEAN-JAPAN summit. An earlier proposal to include China and South Korea along with Japan in a high-level meeting was revived and later approved.

In December 1998, the first meeting of “ASEAN + 3” (China, Japan and South Korea) was held in H&noi following the conclusion of the informal ASEAN summit. This meeting represented the de facto achievement of Mahathir’s dream of an East Asian Economic Group (EAEG) which Japan had initially opposed.

Vietnam’s attentions to security relations with the United States were highlighted by the fortuitous presence in Hanoi of Admiral Joseph Prueher, U .S. Pacific Fleet Commander, at the time of the Vietnamese protest about the presence of a Chinese oil rig on their continental shelf. On the occasion of this visit, Deputy Prime Minister Tran Duc Luong praised the contribution of improved Vietnam-U.S. relations to “stability and development in the region”.63

The contribution of the relationship to “security and peace of the Asia Pacific” was reiterated in Hanoi at the time of the Senate confirmation of the new U .S. ambassador to Vietnam. Vietnamese military officers have also had a chance to visit the United States.

All states are aware, therefore, that Vietnam’s aspiration is for a concert of powers, consultation, trade, the sharing of goals and the avoidance of overt conflict among the members of ARF. Vietnam will use ASEAN and ARF to raise concerns and seek consensus. When consensus within or beyond ASEAN is not possible, Vietnam will nevertheless use this channel to make protests about violations of its security. At the same time bilateral security dialogue will help prepare for eventualities that Vietnam-along with all ASEAN members-hope to avoid. Constructive dialogues with China and close consultation with ASEAN are the preferred tools by which Vietnam hopes to insure its security. Nevertheless, other courses of action are not ignored.


In July 1997 the “ASEAN Seven” became “ASEAN Nine”, with the inclusion of Laos and Myanmar. Cambodia was admitted as ASEAN’s tenth member on 30 April 1990. How will that affect the utility of Vietnam’s policy? Will ASEAN still be as likely to react towards China in a manner basically sympathetic to Vietnam’s position? Bilson Kurus, writing in 1995, took an optimistic view: “The inclusion of Vietnam and the other Indochinese states as well as Myanmar would further bolster the ability of ASEAN to deal with extra-regional actors over troublesome issues such as the conflicting claims over the Spratly Islands.”64 A Vietnamese scholar was more cautious: “even though from the prevailing ASEAN viewpoint [China] can pose a direct threat to regional security, … dealing with China in bilateral and multilateral terms will be a challenge to ASEAN solidarity in the years ahead”.65 In a more recent comment, Lee Poh Ping of the University of Malaya had similar concerns: “It will be more difficult to maintain the cohesion of ten disparate countries”.66 Vietnam itself has been quite enthusiastic about the expansion of ASEAN membership. Though unstated, it seems rather clear that this is because of regime affinity; Vietnam will be more comfortable in ASEAN with a greater preponderance of authoritarian regimes.

The special enthusiasm for Myanmar’s entry is also a reaction to U .S. opposition to that move. Vietnam wants to reinforce the principle that human rights are a matter of domestic jurisdiction. Said Foreign Minister Cam of the announcement of U.S. sanctions against Myanmar, “Vietnam shares the view of many countries that economic sanctions are imposed with the aim of interfering in the internal affairs of a nation”.67 In late May, a few weeks after the sanctions were announced, Do Muoi, with a large delegation, made a visit to Yangon.68 The Burmese were very appreciative of Vietnamese support.

Even Philippine Foreign Minister Domingo Siazon, who was under a lot of pressure at home to oppose Burma’s entry into ASEAN, supported the move, arguing that Burma’s relations with ASEAN had strategic implications, and could not exist only on one dimension, human rights.69 This furthered the argument, which had been used elsewhere, that bringing Burma into ASEAN would end its dependency on China-which is, at least, a possibility. Yet why was China itself supporting the expansion of ASEAN so vigorously? Partly, of course, to drive a wedge between ASEAN and the United States. But perhaps it was a more long term strategy. Chinese scholars recognize the fragility of ASEAN unity: “When larger nations have sharp confrontations, it is still unknown whether ASEAN as a whole can insist on neutrality”. They noted the economic dimension as well: “If Laos, Burma and Kampuchea are accepted in the ASEAN, problems caused by differences in the economic development of different nations within ASEAN will further worsen”.70

In fact, it seems unlikely that China would have supported Burma’s entry into ASEAN if it had thought that in the process it would be losing a close ally. China has also been wooing Hun Sen, Cambodia’s most powerful leader, in recent years. Even Laos is trying to end its dependence on Vietnam by building closer ties to both China and Thailand. Thailand under Chavalit has been open both about its close links to China and its desire for leadership in ASEAN.71 Therefore, in the future a smaller percentage of ASEAN members are likely to come to the support of Vietnam if it has a problem with China in the South China Sea. Cambodia has no territorial conflict with China and regards Vietnam as its traditional enemy. The two members which joined in 1997 do not have coastlines to the disputed Sea. It may be that Vietnam’s eagerness to oppose the United States on human rights and intervention in internal affairs will backfire. It may have helped create a new power structure, a new set of orientations toward China within ASEAN that will be fundamentally inimical to Vietnam’s interests.

Vietnam’s success in utilizing ASEAN engagement, or enmeshment, with China as a political defence against Chinese incursions may not be a policy with long-term viability. The reluctance of the Vietnamese military to allow greater transparency may also frustrate Vietnam’s efforts to establish closer military relations with ASEAN states. As many have said, the shifting shoals of multilateral diplomacy in a multi-polar world pose considerable risk. Putting high priority on protecting a relatively closed political system complicates an already complex diplomatic task.

The less prominent, but emerging, theme in Vietnam’s foreign policy strategy, that of seeking a more traditional form of balancing by increasing military links with Japan and the United States, is also fraught with danger. Quite aside from the question of whether either Japan or the United States has the political will to act in the defence of Vietnam, there is the problem of psychological impact on China. Any hint that neighbours may be involved in a scheme to “contain” China seems to make its government even more militant. So far the level of military contact with those two major powers is lower than that of their interaction with China itself. It is far from the overt strategic alliance with the USSR that caused so many problems for Vietnam in the 1970s. It will be a delicate maneuver indeed to maintain significant military exchanges with two great powers that have their own conflicts with China, at the same time preserving a constructive dialogue with Beijing. In any case, Vietnamese policymakers seem to be well aware of the dangers of the past, and thus may also be sensitive to the pitfalls of the future.


1 Gareth Porter, The Politics of Bureaucratic Socialism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 19931, p. 208.

2 Bui Tin, Following Ho Chi Minh (London: Hurst and Co., 1995), p.160.

3 Carlyle A. Thayer, “Sino-Vietnamese Relations: The Interplay of Ideology and National Interest”, Asian Survey 34, no. 6 (June 1994): 516-17.

4 Ibid., p. 518.

5 Porter, The Politics of Bureaucratic Socialism, op. cit., p. 193.

6 Bui Tin, Following Ho Chi Minh, p. 188.

7 Murray Hiebert, Far Eastern Economic Review, 16 July 1992, p. 21.

8 Thayer, “Sino-Vietnamese Relations”, op. cit., p. 525.

9 Bui Tin, Following Ho Chi Minh, op. cit., p. 191.

10 Thayer, “Sino-Vietnamese Relations”, op. cit., p. 527.

11 Mark Valencia, “The Spratly Embroglio in the Post-Cold War Era”, in David Wurfel and Bruce Burton, eds., Southeast Asia in the New World Order (London: Macmillan, 19961, pp. 248-49.

12 Donald Zagoria, “Joining ASEAN”, in James W. Morley and Masashi Nishihara, eds., Vietnam Joins the World INew York: M.E. Sharpe, 1997), p. 167.

13 Thayer, “Sino-Vietnamese Relations”, p. 528.

14 Quoted in Zagoria, “Joining ASEAN”, op. cit., p. 158.

15 Hoang Anh Than, “Vietnam’s Membership in ASEAN: Economic, Political and Security Implications”, Contemporary Southeast Asia 16, no. 3 (December 1994): 263.

16 Ibid., p. 266.

17 Nguyen Hong Thach, quoted in Thayer, “Sino-Vietnamese Relations”, op. cit., p. 528.

18 Interview by the author with a party official in Hanoi, 28 March 1997.

19 Brantley Womack, “Vietnam 1996: Reform Immobilism”, Asian Survey 37, no. 1 (January 1997): 86.

20 Hoang Anh Than, “Vietnam’s Membership in ASEAN”, op. cit., p.267.

21 Saigon Giai Phong, 5 April 1997 in FBIS-EAS-97-105.

22 Xinhua, Beijing, 27 February 1997 in FBIS-CHI-97-039.

23 Xinhua, Beijing, 9 April 1997.

24 Agence France-Presse (AFP), 31 March 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-090.

25 Vietnam Investment Review, 31 March 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-093.

26 Michael Vatikiotis, Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 April 1997, p. 15.

27 The Nation (Bangkok), 26 March 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-058.

28 Naeo Na, 31 January 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-026.

29 Bangkok Business Day, 1 April 1997.

30 Bangkok Post, 26 April 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-116.

31 Michael Vatikiotis, Far Eastern Economic Review, 17 April 1997, p. 20.

32 Quoted in Zagoria, “Joining ASEAN”, op. cit., p. 167.

33 Statement by the Philippines Embassy, Hanoi, 12 July 1996.

34 Vietnam-Southeast Asia Today (Hanoi), July 1996, p. 10.

35 Bangkok Post, 21 March 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-079.

36 Michael Vatikiotis, Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 April 1997, p. 14.

37 Ibid.

38 Interviews with the author, Hanoi, April 1997.

39 Business World, 31 March 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-090.

40 Quoted in Far Eastern Economic Review, 17 April 1997, p. 20.

41 Michael Vatikiotis, Far Eastern Economic Review, 8 May 1997, p. 15.

42 AFP, 30 April, 3 May 1997 in FBIS-EAS-97-120, FBIS-CHI-97-123.

43 International Herald Tribune, 30 April 1997.

44 AFP, 10 May 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-130.

45 Andrew Sherry and Rogoberto Tiglao, Far Eastern Economic Review, 12 June 1997, pp. 17-21

46 Business World, 21 May 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-141.

47 Kyodo, 16 May 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-136.

48 Interview with the author, Hanoi, 9 April 1997.

49 Ibid.

50 A. Kotelkin, “Russia and the World Arms Market”, International Affairs (1996): 34.

51 Interview with the author, Hanoi, 10 April 1997.

52 Interview with the author, Hanoi, 10 April 1997.

53 Interview with the author, Hanoi, 11 April 1997.

54 Tatsumi Okabe, “Coping with China” in Morley and Nishihara, eds., Vietnam Joins the World, op. cit., p. 129.

55 Zagoria, “Joining ASEAN”, op. cit., p. 157.

56 Denny Roy, “The China Threat Issue: Major Arguments”, Asian Survey 36, no. 8 (August 1966): 770.

57 David Shambaugh, “Containment or Engagement of China?”, International Security 21, no. 2 (Fall 1996!: 181.

58 Quoted in Far Eastern Economic Review, 24 April 1997, p. 28.

59 Shi Yongming, “The Elevated Status and Influence of the ASEAN after the Cold War”, Guoji Wenti Yanjiu [International Studies]. 13 January 1997, 29-33, in FBIS-CHI-97-077.

60 Mainichi Shimbun, 13 January 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-008.

61 Kyodo, 11 January 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-008.

62 Kyodo, 26 March 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-085.

63 Quan Doi Nhan Dan, 28 March 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-087.

64 Bilson Kurus, “ASEAN-izing Southeast Asia”, in Derek da Cunha, ed., The Evolving Pacific Power Structure (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 19961, p. 75.

65 Hoang Anh Than, “ASEAN Dispute Management: Implications for Vietnam and an Expanded ASEAN”, Asian Survey 18, no. 1 (June 1996): 77.

66 Quoted in Far Eastern Economic Review, 12 June 1997, p. 15.

67 New Light of Myanmar, 17 May 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-140.

68 Rangoon Radio, 22 May 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-143.

69 The Nation (Bangkok), 30 April 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-120.

70 Shi Yongming, “The Elevated Status and Influence of the ASEAN after the Cold War”, in FBIS-CHI-97-077.

71 See Thailand Times, 16 March 1997, in FBIS-EAS-97-075.

Categories Vietnam, Postwar Vietnam

By David Wurfel. In Peace Magazine Vol.14, No.1 (1998).

OUR MEMORIES ARE of a heroic Vietnamese people fighting for independence against French, then American, imperialism, trying to collectivize land (in the North) and build an egalitarian society in the midst of war. We remember the South Vietnamese revolutionaries, seeking Hanoi’s help. They had been promised autonomy once the Americans were driven out.

That was the dominant reality at that time, but now our images need updating. Vietnam’s leaders have turned their attention from revolution to managing economic growth, but their undoubted skills in one realm are not necessarily transferable to the other. The expectations of the revolutionaries have not been realized; in fact, many of the evils of pre-revolutionary capitalist society are returning, despite continued Vietnamese Communist Party rule.

In 1975 when the Americans finally left and Hanoi’s troops marched into Saigon, South Vietnamese wishes for autonomy were quickly forgotten and the South was integrated into a highly centralized state. Party policy decreed that southern farms also be collectivized (though it was never possible to fully implement this) and that factories, businesses and church schools be handed over to the state. At the same time public health and education were rapidly expanded — but above all, peace had returned. Yet only four years later Vietnamese troops were again being sent to the front — into Cambodia and to defend the border with China. In the meantime peace had not brought prosperity; only shared poverty. The economy survived primarily with Soviet aid. Corruption grew. Many Vietnamese — even patriots and revolutionaries — wondered what it had meant to “win” the war, and at such terrible human cost. (Only later, in a brief period of literary freedom in the late 1980s, were these feelings put in print.)

By the mid-1980s both domestic and international conditions conspired to force major changes. Agricultural production, which largely determined government revenues (derived overwhelmingly from state marketing) was dropping, and peasants were pressing forcefully for greater autonomy for farm families, whether in planting or in marketing. Gorbachev was also quietly indicating that massive Soviet aid could not continue, while providing a model for reform. The cost of the occupation of Cambodia was unsustainable, and the economy required a policy shift that would lead to a lifting of the American-led trade and investment embargo.

After some intense, but muted, conflict within the leadership, at the Sixth Communist Party Congress in 1986 a new policy of doi moi, or “renovation,” was proclaimed. The dirty word “capitalism” was never uttered — this was a “socialist market economy” — but to the lay observer who saw long-term “contracts” on family farms which gradually became the equivalent to private ownership, the wooing of foreign capital, the blossoming of private Vietnamese entrepreneurs – first in small business, then in large – and the consequent enrichment of some and impoverishment of others, all looked very capitalistic indeed. Despite the term “renovation” this was a change nearly as great as that in the North in the 1950s or in the South in the ’70s, but this time away from state control of the economy: some would call it “counter-revolution.”

But the political fundamentals have not changed – yet. The Communist Party is still very much in control. In 1988 there were small signs of political liberalization, such as more non-Party candidates for the National Assembly, the opportunity; occasionally, for real debate in that Assembly (though behind closed doors), and somewhat greater freedom for the press. But by late 1989, after the Tiananmen massacre, there was a tightening of Party control. The Vietnamese leadership was deathly afraid of a repeat of the Chinese experience. To be sure, most discouragements to religious worship and other traditional practices have been removed – the general secretary of the Party was televised this year paying his respects at a pagoda during the New Year celebration – but the only religious leaders who have steadfastly resisted Party control of their organization, the Buddhists of Hue (those who started the successful opposition to Ngo Dinh Diem in the 1960s) have ended up in jail or exiled to their home villages, despite some remarkable public protests by their followers earlier in 1997. Jail is also the fate for those outside the Party who advocate a multi-party system; high ranting Party members who have taken the same position have usually suffered only expulsion and unemployment.

Doi moi is thus economic liberalization without loosening Party dictatorship. In the short run it has been remarkably successful. Increasing personal incentives for productivity does provide a spurt, at least for a few years. In 1997 Vietnam – at around 8 percent – may have one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. This tells us nothing about the distribution of benefits, which, though unequal, is still not as bad as that in most other Asian countries. Most farmers have increased their incomes, and many in the middle class have raised their standard of living. Poor peasants and workers in the growing number of non-functioning state enterprises have suffered most. Not only have they lost livelihood, but government services as well. “Public education” is no longer free (teachers, too, must eat) and medical treatment is usually available only after small payments over the table, and much larger ones under. Nevertheless, economic growth has engendered among large segments of the population an acceptance of the legitimacy of the regime.

But how long can this last? Vietnam has not yet experienced a financial or economic crisis as intense as that of Thailand. But it has a weak banking structure with many bad loans; some major debtors have already failed to repay private foreign loans on time; the flow of foreign investment has diminished sharply over the year, while corruption and excessive bureaucratic controls have slowed domestic investment as well. So economic crisis may be on the horizon for Vietnam too. And already even those who have benefited from growth are increasingly discontented politically with massive corruption, which seems to grow proportionate to the GNP The Party is aware of the threat which corruption, sometimes at the highest levels, constitutes to it’ but, in spite of increasing severity on some, seems unable to reverse the trend.

However, discontent, to have political consequences, must be fed with information. Vietnamese get precious little information through the press in Vietnam about what is happening locally. But the middle class, despite controls, has increasing exposure to foreign news; and rumor mills are working overtime. The government delayed until this year before allowing an invasion by the Internet, perhaps believing that it had now mastered a technological defense. But informed foreign observers doubt that the Ministry of the Interior can entirely prevent the entry by computer of “subversive” information. Even within the country, e-mail, soon to involve all universities, is generating a flow of communication too great to be censored.

On the positive side, the Party has recently made great efforts to rejuvenate its leadership, which could contribute to greater flexibility and openness. But the “conservatives” — Communist hard-liners on both economic and political questions who have opposed many of the reforms already undertaken, are still an impressive force — strong enough on some occasions to delay important decisions by months, even years. Whereas the reformers have frequently cited the Thai economy as a “model,” the hard-liners may see the current Thai economic crisis as a vindication of their views. Yet any effort to reverse economic reforms already undertaken could lead to both economic and political turmoil. The loss of the major source of regime legitimacy, economic growth (driving out the imperialists is an accomplishment that is now slipping into history, and Marxism-Leninism is passé outside the Party elite and sometimes questioned even within it) would pose a dire threat to political stability. More beggars and more millionaires driving Mercedes would not be tolerated without an expanding economic pie. The effects of years of Party indoctrination about the virtues of egalitarianism have not entirely dissipated.

The Party, and the nation, are faced by a clutch of dilemmas. Should, as in China, millions be made unemployed for the sake of economic efficiency? Can billions of dong be drained monthly from the state treasury by grossly inefficient state firms, thus denying funding to health, education and social services? Can Vietnam’s innate nationalism tolerate the growing role of multinational corporations and the concessions being made to them? Can the political domination of the North, despite the economic dominance of the South, survive an outburst of southern opposition sentiment, which is only inert as long as the economy grows rapidly?

Undergirding all these dilemmas is the long term one: can corrupt, authoritarian one-party rule survive growing international contacts, greater economic freedom for an expanding bourgeoisie, and the gradual disaffection of the intelligentsia in a society which is still affected by Confucian concepts of value and hierarchy? Yet that expanding bourgeoisie is the direct and intended consequence of present policy, and could provide essential backing for disaffected intellectuals.

Vietnam is a country dotted with spectacular natural beauty possessing a rich cultural heritage. UNESCO is helping to restore the old imperial palace in Hue so badly damaged in the 1968 Tet Offensive. The impressive, but crumbling French opera house in Hanoi was restored for the November 1998 Francophonie summit. But heritage and the environment are both threatened. Scholars and officials have tried to devise regulations to preserve the 16th century town of Hoi An from the ravages of rampant commercialism, but the outcome is in doubt. In Hanoi rules to protect the old city from high rise development have been breached by corrupt deals between Party officials and foreign developers, though Vietnamese architects and historians continue the preservation battle. The common use of the bicycle, which has made Hanoi until now the only walkable capital city in southeast Asia, is fast changing, displaced by the noisy, smoky motorbike. And five different foreign manufacturers are soon to begin making automobiles. So in a decade Vietnam’s cities may duplicate the traffic gridlock of Thailand. It seems very hard for any society to learn from the mistakes of others.

Finally it must be added that the Vietnamese are a very friendly and forgiving people. While in the streets of Hanoi or Saigon a decade ago it was important for a Canadian to establish that he or she was not an American (or a Russian), today all Westerners are welcome, including French and American veterans of the Vietnam war. The wounds of the past are healing, even though the mistakes of other nations are being repeated. What is abundantly clear is that from the conflicts of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s there were no “winners.” It is only to be hoped that rich losers may help the poorer ones not only with capital, but with friendship, understanding, and compassion. Those few NGOs which have maintained their programs in Vietnam consistently over the last thirty years like the Quakers, the Mennonites and Fraternité Vietnam – adapting to tremendous changes in the meantime, are evidence of such sentiments. They and their Vietnamese cooperants are the only ones really “winning the peace.” The Vietnamese nouveau riche may also regard themselves as winners, but for some, at least, their gains will not last.

David Wurfel is Senior Research Associate, Joint Centre for Asia Pacific Studies, University of Toronto/York University, and Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Windsor He has studied Vietnam for more than 40 years, making over 15 visits. He spent three months in early 1997 as visiting lecturer in Hanoi.

Categories Vietnam, Postwar Vietnam

by David Wurfel, Professor of Political Science, University of Windsor

Travelling at the request of Bonnie Green, Secretary of the Committee on Church and International Affairs and Rhea Whitehead, Area Secretary for Asia & the Pacific, I went to Vietnam with a group of seven Canadian church representatives: Elizabeth Pabst of Edmonton, representing Lutheran World Relief, Nancy Pocock of Toronto, representing the Canadian Friends Service Committee, Kathleen Ptolemy of Toronto, representing the Anglican Church, and Reg Reimer, executive director of World Relief, Canada.

Murray Hiebert, a Canadian Mennonite now with the Indochina Project of the Center for International Policy in Washington, made most of the arrangements, following the extended efforts of Bert Lobe of MCC, Winnipeg to get confirmation from Vietnam for a date for the visit. For Bill Janzen, Elizabeth Pabst and Kathleen Ptolemy it was their first visit to Vietnam. For me it was the first visit to the North (I had made several research trips to the South until as late as 1970), while the others had visited one or more times since 1975. Murray Hiebert, who spoke some Vietnamese, had worked with the MCC for more than a year in the South before 1975, while Reg Reimer had been a Christian Missionary Alliance missionary in the South for several years and spoke fluent Vietnamese.

Originally the trip had been planned to include ten days in Vietnam and four days in Kampuchea, but a last minute change in air schedules to Phnom Penh, which would have required us to stay a total of three weeks in Indochina in order to get to Kampuchea, made it impossible for most of us to see that country. This clearly detracted from my ability to achieve one of my intended goals.

The objectives of the trip to Vietnam, as spelled out in a proposal of Bert Lobe of January 15, 1985, were to visit with representatives of Christian churches and to better understand their situation, to talk with AidRecep about expectations of NGO aid from Canada and to visit ongoing projects, to better understand the realities of the political/economic/social situation in Vietnam, and to build bridges of friendship between Canada and Vietnam. More particularly I was instructed by Bonnie Green and Rhea Whitehead to survey the need for expanded humanitarian assistance from Canada and the prospects of its effective utilization, and to study the tangled complex of problems surrounding Kampuchea, seeking a variety of views on the subject in order to try to determine whether there was a positive contribution which Canada and/or Canadians could make to a solution of the current impasse. Canadian immigration policy and the policies of Vietnam toward emigration were also a matter of interest to the group, but since Kathleen Ptolemy has by far the greatest expertise in this area and gathered the most information on the subject—and since I did not perceive any significant difference between her general views on the subject and my own — I would recommend that those wanting information on that topic should obtain a copy of her report.

After first reporting some general impressions, I would like to discuss my findings first in the area of political/economic conditions in Vietnam, and then move to the more particular topics of the status of the churches, the international conflict surrounding Kampuchea, and finally, the need for Canadian aid.

General Impressions

First, I should say that insofar as we were ignorant of the current Vietnamese and Kampuchean scene, it was to a considerable degree our own fault. Murray Hiebert sent each of us more than 100 pages of reading material which in the view of a leading Indochina specialist to whom I showed it was “an impressive collection of the best academic and journalistic coverage of contemporary Indochina in the last two or three years”. Even though I had been covering the Vietnamese revolution in a course last term, I found important new insights in the material Murray sent. It stood us in good stead in developing lines of questioning during the trip.

The readings provided, of course, an important counterpoint to the information that could be gathered on a tour guided by Vietnamese government officials. We were the guests of the Committee for Peace and Solidarity with Peoples of All Nations, not technically a government organ, but, of course, under Party control. In addition to our interpreter there were always two other representatives of the Committee traveling with us. Our itinerary was a combination of Murray Hiebert’s requests and Committee suggestions. It did include some places on the “tourist circuit”, like the Revolutionary Museum in Hanoi or the Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Ho Chi Minh City (which were in any case quite interesting), but did not include a normal “circuit” stop, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. In only one case were we prevented from talking with someone we all wanted to see, someone to whom we had been officially introduced. But perhaps we did not arrange that as skill fully as we might have. There were no restrictions on our movements outside the group schedule—except those inherent in limited transport options and, except for two, lack of language skills. Occasionally in the South we found the owner of a shop who could speak some English and was eager to talk. The natural hospitality and friendship of Vietnamese was inhibited, however, by the government’s prohibition on the receiving of foreign visitors in private homes.

For me one of the strongest impressions was the contrast between North and South. (It was a matter of some disappointment that we were not able to visit the Center, apparently for reasons of inconvenient air schedules.) I was certainly aware of the demographic, cultural and historical differences between the two regions. But I had assumed that more than a decade under a common regime would substantially narrow the differences, and to some degree it had. But the differences of costume, manner, and especially of level of economic activity were still great. The two hotels we stayed in epitomized the differences we observed elsewhere: both were French hotels built in the 1920s now run by the government. Both served primarily foreign guests and tourists. In Hanoi when the original French elevator gave out, it was removed, and not replaced. The mattresses seemed to have survived several wars (while foam mattresses, unused, were stacked in the halls) and the plumbing, after more than half a century, was only intermittently functional. In Saigon the original elevator had just been replaced with three new Japanese models; many plumbing fixtures were also recent Japanese replacements, and the beds were first class. As of 1975 the new management in the South had certainly inherited a much more modern and commodious building than existed in Hanoi at the same point in time. But government managers in the two cities had also exhibited very different styles since then. The investigation of all the basic causes for these differences would challenge a Ph.D. candidate—and at the moment the data is probably not available.

The unavailability of the simplest and most basic statistical data (the kind normally published in international compendiums), or causal explanations, was frustrating for someone accustomed to being provided such data for research in other Asian countries. When speaking to a very well-informed unofficial observer, I asked whether this failure to provide data was because it simply did not exist or because I was regarded as an inappropriate recipient of important information. His short answer was “both”. And in each case the explanation can be traced back to long years of war. The bureaucracy has not been well trained in gathering the kind of data essential for any modern government, especially a centrally planned economy.

And they lack such basic equipment as filing drawers and calculators. But the withholding of data often persists even when it is available, and not only to foreign requests. The decentralization required by guerrilla warfare, or by the prolonged bombing of the North, gave considerable autonomy to primary politico-bureaucratic units. For them, quite understandably, information was power, so that denial of information was a means of restricting the power of a rival, or possibly untrustworthy, political or bureaucratic group. Thus other bureaus or ministries sometimes face the same frustrations in the request for data as foreign visitors. This is a legacy of the war with severe consequences.

The legacies of war which we observed often seemed to be more cultural or psychological than obviously physical — though economic difficulties are certainly explained in part by long years of armed conflict.

The physical evidence of war damage seemed to me to be rather slight only eleven years after the end of fighting, though it is likely to be more visible in southern Tonkin or the Center, where we could not visit. The few bomb craters which remain in farmers’ fields are skill fully disguised as water storage tanks or buffalo wallows. There appears to be no remaining rubble in the cities or towns we visited. But the delayed effects of Agent Orange are still very real. The rows of bottles containing horribly deformed fetuses in a Saigon maternity hospital are only a partial indicator of that legacy.

In comparing notes with friends who had visited Vietnam even a few years ago, however, it seems that as physical reminders of war have disappeared, the mood has changed also. There is little discussion of the war’s consequences in various policy areas. That there may now be a desire to forget is revealed in the nature of Vietnamese attendance at the Revolutionary Museum in Hanoi, which displays the politically correct version of the struggle in intricate detail. On a Sunday afternoon, within visiting hours, we saw no Vietnamese there. It was explained that they come in organized groups from schools and factories.

In concluding this introduction, I should make clear an awareness of my own limitations. No foreign visitor can in two weeks accurately assess from his own observations the political/economic/socio-cultural situation in a large and complex nation such as Vietnam. A foreign visitor, for one thing, almost always enjoys a different life style from that of the ordinary citizen. Regional variations, language barriers, the psychological blinders of pre-conceived notions—all limit the accuracy of particular observations.

In a society without the freedom of speech or press, where certain facts and attitudes are deliberately concealed from the foreign observer, the task is even more difficult. I will try to make allowance for the consequences of these limitations whenever relevant.

However, a visitor who has over the years internalized considerable information from a great variety of sources on the history, culture, politics and economics of a country is able to put his observations into that larger context. My comments will often be an integration of recent observations with the cumulation of prior study. Even so, they will probably not coincide with the perceptions of reality held by recent refugees from Vietnam. This is not only for the reasons stated in the paragraph above but also because they have had experiences and observed events which were unique, which I could not share, and because the intensity of their experiences and the values derived from them tend to create images of reality which exclude some of the phenomena which I have observed. In any case, I would hope to have more chance to dialog with refugees to try to reconcile the different spheres of reality that we have perceived.

The Domestic Political Economy

There were several meetings from which we derived important information about the politico-economic situation. In Hanoi we talked to the Director of the International Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture, to a vice-chairperson of the Hanoi People’s Committee (like the City Council), to Mr. Phan Hien, the Minister of Justice, to Mr. Hoang Tung, the Secretary of the Party Central Committee, and unofficially to French and Indian businessmen, and to the First Secretary of the Australian Embassy. Northwest of Hanoi in Vinh Phu province we talked to provincial, district and cooperative officials, as well as to individual farmers. In Ho Chi Minh City we talked to a vice-chairman of the People’s Committee, to officials of Dong Nai Rubber Co. (the country’s largest rubber plantation), to the Chamber of Commerce, and unoffically to a Japanese businessman, to a woman lawyer and member of the National Assembly, Ngo Ba Tanh, and to a pre-1975 Deputy Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Oanh, now a businessman and member of the government-sponsored Fatherland Front. In Dong Thap province in the Mekong Delta we talked to provincial officials about agriculture and to a manager of a soy bean processing plant.

Our introduction to Vietnam was from the charming and knowledgeable chairman of our host Committee, Mr. 00 Xuan Oanh, who gave us a remarkable overview. He caught our attention with an unusual phrase, “Now everything is irregular”, which I put down at the time to excessive Asian self-deprecation. But as our visit proceeded we understood that this was simply one way of saying that Vietnam is a society very much in flux. The political leadership is firmly in control, so that “flux” does not include the prospect of political instability. Nor does the image of transition refer simply to the inconclusive interaction between the different cultural and economic outlooks of North and South, though that is certainly part of the pattern. What it does mean is that traditional (including capitalist), revolutionary, bureaucratic, and recently reformed ways of doing things (modes of problem solving, styles of work) exist side by side. And one can never be sure which mode, which style is going to govern a particular situation. Sometimes they compete. It is this flux which makes Vietnam so interesting today. And it is also a source of hope, since the traditional, revolutionary and bureaucratic modes are clearly inadequate approaches to present problems, and it is the reformist mode which is of growing importance. Hopefully the Sixth Party Congress, which is now scheduled for the end of this year, will confirm the ascendancy of reformism. Comments by Hoang Tung led us to believe that this is the dominant mood, though other officials, in bursts of frankness, warned us of the malevolent staying power of bureaucratism.

Bureaucratism was decried, in fact, by a cabinet minister as Vietnam’s most serious “illness”. It is, in part, a natural aftermath of war. The revolutionary fervor has waned; long years of sacrifice, after the goal is won, have now produced a self-centered reaction. Self-protecting and self-aggrandizing activities by bureaucrats are on the increase, while the only pressure for high quality performance is ideological exhortation, now of declining potentcy. Material incentives are almost all of an extra-legal nature. Rumors of corruption were reported at great length by unofficial observers.

There seems to be considerable hope that these problems can be overcome with new leadership. In any case, they are apparently being examined by the criticism and self-criticism meetings which form a part of the preparation for the Sixth Party Congress. The need for leadership change is obvious when one realizes that most of the Party Politburo members (the real center of power) are over 70, and party Chairman Le Duan is ailing. Inherent in the muffled debate over leadership choices is the controversy — which in China in the 1960s was raised to the level of an open ideological debate — between “Red vs. expert”, or political experience vs. technical expertise, especially in economics. This debate itself has overtones of generational difference since “technocrats” are usually younger than “politicians”. Some observers characterize the debate as between dogmatists and pragmatists, essentially the same dichotomy.

Whatever leadership changes take place, the process will be smoother because the revered memory of Ho Chi Minh is much more powerful than the personality of any present official. It is his picture alone which appears in schools, offices, hospitals, and every other public place. It is his name alone which is spoken with unqualified affection and awe. Only Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, who was also Ho’s premier, has the kind of popular respect that, despite his age, might make his replacement some kind of problem. Many other top figures are tainted with tales of high living, bureaucratism and even corruption.

The outcome of the leadership struggle will be most important for its impact on economic policy. (We were assured by top officials that differences over foreign policy were few. But there may be implications for foreign policy change in certain economic policy shifts which even some officials do not recognize.) Generational differences and debate over political versus technical qualifications are entangled in the discussions of economic liberalization, which apparently focus not on “whether”, but on “how far”.

There are hints, for instance, that some of the old war horses who guided the revolution for 35 years are wary of economic reformers whose proposals reek of capitalism, even though couched in Communist jargon. Nevertheless, the push for liberalizing reforms seems quite strong, and certainly has the support of Le Duan. Much has already been accomplished in the last few years.

As early as 1981 experiments began in agriculture with the “contract system”, first at the cooperative, and then at the farm family level. Now this system seems to apply to most farmers in basic crops. At the same time the cooperative farm has ceased cultivating most of its acreage by communal effort. Whereas previously farmers only went to the fields on orders from cooperative officials—and were paid wages for their efforts, now families in most coops are assigned plots “on the basis of available family labor” in which they are fully responsible for re-planting, weeding and harvesting.

Communal work brigades are now limited to maintenance and construction of irrigation systems, planting of seedlings, and, in some cases, plowing. These generalizations are based primarily on northern experience. In the South best indications are that most cooperatives never instituted communal farm work, so that adoption of the contract system was not a radical shift, as it was in the North.

There are production contracts accepted by the cooperative which fix its delivery of rice to the state at a price determined by the State Price Commission, and contracts by the individual farmer, who delivers to the cooperative at a price determined by what the cooperative received from the government, with the amount said to be determined by the average of the previous three year’s harvest on the land. Farmers who produce more than the contracted amount may sell it on the free market, at prices far above the contract price. (Officials would not tell us, however, what the ratio between these two prices actually was.) There are apparently a number of crops which are not bound by contract, thus allowing the farmer to sell his entire production on the free market. In that case, however, the farmer must pay a tax to the cooperative to cover its provision of health, education and other social services. The coop also sells the farmer tools, insecticides and other agricultural inputs at below-market prices.

Food production in Vietnam rose by more than 20% from 1981 to 1985 and it is officially admitted that this change in the structure of incentives was a major cause for the increase. (In some coops rice production doubled after the first year of individual contracts.) Urban workers on wages and salaries are very quick to point out the contrast between the peasant’s prosperity and their own economic squeeze. We saw many new brick farm houses—several in each village it would seem—in both North and South, which gives evidence that some, at least, do indeed enjoy that prosperity. (Conveniently, farmers often put the year of construction on the front of the house.)

The economic reforms impinging on urban areas have not been as beneficial to the consumer on fixed income. Reforms have generally been of two types: one affecting the autonomy of the state-owned firm and the other affecting the character of salaries and wages. “Socialist accounting” is now a buzz word which essentially means nothing more revolutionary than that the firm must keep records to show whether or not it made a “profit” and is encouraged to do so, without government subsidy. Decision-making autonomy is a necessary corollary. But judging from the attention focused on the issue, this has involved a major change. Whether the accounting is accurate, or whether unprofitable firms will be “punished” remains to be seen. Some firms are seeking even greater autonomy. In the South the spirit of enterprise is so much alive that corporations owned by provincial governments have been spurred by possibilities of profit to get directly involved in foreign trade, even sometimes illegally. The benefits of this type of reform have been primarily in allowing reductions in the state budget and in stimulating exports.

Reforms affecting the character of salaries and wages came in mid-1985. At the same time that coupons for a family ration of subsidized commodities were discontinued, cash salaries were very substantially increased. A link to productivity was also introduced into the salary wage scale. The stimulus to production in the second reform was obvious; the first was supposed to raise production by increasing demand. In September the economic situation was complicated by a currency reform which was designed to penalize those with large caches of dong. It could not be effective, of course, without complete secrecy and surprise, but the secret leaked. Wealthy merchants quickly transformed their cash into commodity stocks, so prices were driven up overnight. And while the stimulus to productivity in the new wage scale took time to have an effect, the increase in the amount of salaries and wages was immediate. Well-informed unofficial observers estimated that inflation in the last year has been over 300% (But officials refused to divulge any statistics which might make possible such a calculation.) Even though it had been announced that the new salary/wage system would include built-in inflation protection, the government could not afford to implement this provision. Thus wage and salary workers were worse off than ever before. Commodity coupons as supplement to salary were “temporarily” re-introduced, and on the day we left Vietnam, May 15th, a national price freeze was decreed; teams of youths were mobilized in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to tour the markets to insure enforcement.

What was most significant was that in the aftermath of such a major policy bungle: 1) there was no overt evidence of unrest; 2) top officials pUblicly admitted that the timing and manner of implementation of the currency reform was a mistake; but 3) there seemed to be a determination to proceed with wage and salary reforms that emphasized individual incentives for productivity and moved to full cash reimbursement. (The coupon system had produced its own black market.) In the face of considerable grumbling — especially among the hard-hit low level party cadre and bureaucrats, the leadership did not flinch from its course of expanding the market economy and introducing capitalists incentives into industry, all in the name of strengthening “socialist production”. Vietnamese policy-makers have much to learn (especially from their under-utilized Western-trained economists), but their course for the near future appears to be clear. It is well to remember that ever since Ho Chi Minh came to power, while there have been policy changes, Vietnam has never lurched from one extreme to another to the degree China has. In recent years the Chinese have been praised by the West for their pragmatism, but it has taken them longer to reach that stage than it has the Vietnamese. Thus it is reasonable to assume that the

Vietnamese are capable of the same rate of economic growth in the coming decade that the Chinese have achieved in the last, especially if a peaceable solution to the Kampuchean problem is found. It is undoubtedly on the basis of some such calculation as this that the major Japanese trading companies have made such an important commitment of personnel, in Hanoi and especially in Ho Chi Minh City.

In agriculture the most crucial steps towards improving individual incentives—without, of course, completely abandoning “socialist concepts”—have already been taken. Thus both economists and party leaders are realistic in suggesting that the next great boost in productivity must come from improved technology, e.g. the expansion of high yielding varieties of rice (which are already planted in nearly half of the country’s rice acreage), the application of more fertilizer and insecticides, as well as the expansion of irrigation. But unlike the increase of individual incentives these measures require either foreign exchange or domestic investment. The promotion of small gravity irrigation projects, of composting and the use of manure are, of course, low cost ways of expanding production. But they will not suffice. Thus one can understand the drive to find new sources of foreign credits and to make the domestic economy more efficient.

The moves toward more autonomy for firms and coops and greater individual incentives, which imply a more important role for market forces, would seem to be consistent with trends in Eastern Europe, China or even more recently in the Soviet Union itself. But we found Vietnamese officials loath to admit foreign models, least of all Chinese, of course. Both critics and spokesmen of the regime did recognize, however, the importance of experience in the South as a stimulus to change in national policy. Whereas in the late 1970s the great task was seen as the need to “socialize” the South, in the last few years there has been greater recognition that the South has outproduced the North. (Despite the direct exports from several Southern provinces, Ho Chi Minh City alone provides more than half of the nation’s export income). Thus the stimulus of domestic examples may have been even greater than the allure of economic success in other countries under Communist Party rule. Still foreign Communist models are undoubtedly essential for providing ideological legitimacy for change, since it is not long ago that “capitalist remnants” in the South were being bitterly condemned.

The Status of Religion in Vietnam

Because we were a delegation representing Canadian churches, we requested meetings with Vietnamese religious groups and pursued questions of religious freedom with officials. For the delegation as a whole it was probably a more important priority than understanding the politico-economic situation. In Hanoi we spoke with the head of the State Committee on Religious Affairs, with the head abbot of Quan Su Pagoda, the headquarters of Vietnamese Buddhism, and with Pastor Bui Hoanh Thu, leader of the northern Protestants. Some of us attended both Catholic and Protestant services. In the South we had a fruitful session with Archbishop Binh and a talk with the lone Protestant pastor to join the government’s Fatherland Front. Again we attended both Protestant and Catholic services. Our greatest disappointment was our inability to have a longer session with Thich Minh Chau, the Southern Buddhist leader — after our initial brief encounter with him in an official meeting on our first day in Ho Chi Minh City — despite the fact that he had invited us to call on him. Thich Minh Chau had been prominent before 1975 and speaks fluent English, but has played a skillful mediating role between government and his fellow Buddhists, who make up more than half of the population. He is also a member of the National Assembly. We suspect that the decision to block our scheduled meeting with him was made at a fairly low level, but we did not appeal it. In a chance encounter with clergy of the Southern syncretic Cao Dai sect — the offshoot of an officially approved photo opportunity in Oong Thap province — we were also invited in for a discussion, but our guides vigorously insisted that there was no time. Our firm request for a meeting with the Protestant pastor in Dong Thap finally led to the arrangement of an awkward and pathetic ten-minute encounter during which the Pastor’s daughter played American hymn tunes on the organ and a local Party cadre answered some of the questions directed to the Pastor.

The barriers to communication placed by our guides, the four long sessions in which we listened ad nauseum to the official, often quite unfactual, version of the religious situation, concluding with a rather tense interchange at the final dinner on May 14th, need to be explained in context. On the one hand, it appears—after checking with participants in American religious delegations —that we asked more detailed and critical questions in the area of religious freedom than have most similar delegations in the past. On the other hand, the political role of religious groups in Vietnam is an historical fact. While the limitations now placed on the activities of religious organizations may be wrong from the standpoint of our values, and perhaps counter-productive even in terms of Communist Party goals, the Party has had to deal with some highly politicized and hostile religious entities.

French imperialism conquered Indochina with the cooperation of and by coming to the assistance of the Catholic Church. Then in the South after 1954 Catholicism became the primary political base of President Diem. It is a tribute to the diplomatic skills of Archbishop Binh and the moderation of the Vietnamese Party leadership that ties with the Vatican were not entirely cut, as happened in China earlier. While Catholic schools, orphanages and hospitals were confiscated by the State, and at least a few churches were closed, we saw many well-kept churches, and in Hanoi and Saigon found the Cathedrals full to overflowing for multiple services on Sunday, including a large contingent of young people.

The Protestant Church in Vietnam, Tinh Lanh, is primarily the result of missionary work by the Christian Missionary Alliance. Under the French they suffered from a number of restrictions, but after 1954 in the South they entered into a symbiotic relationship with the American-backed regime. The Church was, in fact, an enthusiastic supporter of the anti-Communist war. Many Tinh Lanh pastors, as well as Catholic priests, were chaplains in the South Vietnamese Army.

The political character of the two peculiarly Southern sects, the Cao Dai and the Hoa Hao, a Buddhist offshoot, was even more pronounced. Both had their own armed forces, enjoying financial support first from the Japanese and later from the French. In fact, Cao Dai and Hoa Hao strongholds in the Delta supported the war against the Communists right down to the end. Many imposing Cao Dai church buildings still dot the Delta, though a few appear to have been put to non-religious purposes. (The Hoa Hao usually meets in private homes.)

Buddhism is not only the largest, but the oldest religious community in Vietnam. Despite its Chinese origins, over the centuries Buddhists have not only blended with Vietnamese culture, but in some periods were its champion against a heavily Sinicized Confucian imperial regime. Thus the Buddhist emergence as the leading symbol of nationalist opposition to Pres. Diem in 1963 was not an historically unique role. After the death of Diem, however, succeeding regimes in Saigon had the sense to be more accommodating to BUddhists, despite occasional crackdowns. At the same time efforts of the Communists to incorporate Buddhists into their political movement in the late 19605 encountered the fierce independence of some bonzes. Thus by the early 1970s some Buddhist leaders were using an anti-Communist idiom. The irony now is that some of the Buddhists monks and nuns who were most opposed to American policy in the 1960s and 70s are among those who have been arrested in recent years. Government claims of foreign links are less credible against the Buddhists than against other religious groups, but they do constitute an autonomous sub-culture and in a state which wants to dictate values as well as policies, that is sufficient threat.

While atheism is still official State policy and the Communist leadership have good historical reasons to be wary of the political potential of religious groups, their policy has been as much an effort at cooptation as it has been repression and restriction. The negative dimension is still sufficiently strong, however, to be most disconcerting to Christian visitors.

Best indications are that about 125 Christian pastors and priests are still in “re-education camps”, but we were unable to learn the comparable figures for Buddhist clergy. We were frequently told by officials that these were all former South Vietnamese military chaplains detained in 1975, but we have information from reliable sources both inside and outside Vietnam that this is not true. While some priests and pastors have been released from detention since 1975, others have been arrested for activities perceived to be “political” or “criminal”. It is very difficult for a foreign observer who does not devote a great deal of time to the project to sort out the claims and counterclaims about what really happened. But at the very least the government misunderstood the significance of some of the activities of the clergy detained. On the other hand, it is easy to imagine that some of them harbor a considerable hostility against the government. When one top official clearly implied that the preeminent sin of the Vietnamese Protestants was that they criticized the government, we reminded him that if that had been a cause of imprisonment in Canada our entire delegation would be in Canadian jails—for our efforts to assist the Vietnamese people. Though a very articulate gentleman, to this he had no response.

At the same time we heard of one fascinating incident that indicated that officials were not entirely insensitive to religious feelings and did want to avoid unnecessary confrontation with the Church. Apparently the Ministry of Interior, the most feared of all government agencies, had produced a film that was a scurilous attack on Catholicism; it was to be released in Saigon for the Lunar New Year holidays. A small group of priests made a private protest to the government about this plan, warning of its long term consequences. Apparently this triggered wider concern both within the Church and the government, the voice of reason prevailed; the film was withdrawn.

The area of concern on which I would like to concentrate, however, is that of theological education. This is because I believe it to be most crucial to the survival of organized religion and because the basic facts are not in dispute between government and churches. It is a topic on which I would hope that the United Church could send an official communication to Vietnam. It is certainly an area in which government policy does not coincide with guarantees of religious freedom in the Vietnamese constitution.

In spite of the official approval for six Catholic theological seminaries in the South, the first is to be opened in Ho Chi Minh City later this year. Only one seminary, with 25 students is now operating, in Hanoi.

Ten parishes in the South are already without priests. But not only is there a severe restriction of numbers; the government, now acting through the recently formed State Commission on Religious Affairs, wants to undertake political screening of students who enter the seminary, and again over graduates. Government approval for ordination is required and a number of seminary graduates have not yet received that approval. (At the same time, we heard several reports that students who declared themselves “Christian” on their identity cards found it very difficult to get entrance to universities, which are, of course, all government operated.)

In proportion to their share of the population the Buddhists are even worse off. The largest training center for priests and nuns is Van Hanh Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, with only 60 students, half female. This is to be seen against a total of 16,000 priests (or monks) in the entire country, a decline from 1975. The Protestants, on the other hand, have no seminary at all. Existing ones were closed after 1975 and no approval has been given since for one to open. The State Religion Commission explained that the Protestants “had enough pastors.”

These tight controls on the education of future religious leadership may be in the minds of some government officials part of a long term strategy to smother religion—which, in the light of the church’s history seems a most unlikely prospect. Ironically the consequence of this policy has been to insure the continued dominance of the pre-1975 church leaders. Hopefully a recognition of that fact alone will lead to a relaxation of policy in this area.

In any case, even if the United Church is able to play a more prominent role than it has in the past in providing humanitarian assistance to Vietnam and in advising the Canadian government to strengthen ties with that country, as I would hope that it will, this does not lessen the need to support Christian brothers abroad by dialoging with a government which is placing improper restrictions on religious activity. In fact, it is only when at the same time we are being of positive assistance to Vietnam that such a dialog could ever hope to have a fruitful outcome. It is also important that while we urge the Canadian government to accentuate the positive in expanding links with Vietnam, we as a Church do not ignore the negative, or fail to deal with it.

The Kampuchean Question

My ability to comment on this issue is, of course, limited by collapse at the last minute of the planned visit to Kampuchea. But in addition to considerable reading on the issue, we did meet people in both Vietnam and Bangkok who broadened our understanding of the question. In Hanoi we talked with Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien, who had accompanied Foreign Minister Thach on his most recent visit to Bangkok; with the First Secretary of the Australian Embassy; and with Hoang Tung, spokesman for the Party Central Committee; with Bill Janzen I also talked to Mr. Phan Binh, director of the Institute of International Affairs attached to the Foreign Ministry. In Saigon we got some historical perspective in talking with Pham Van Ba, former Vietnamese ambassador to Pol Pot’s Kampuchea. In Bangkok we visited the Canadian Embassy; the whole delegation met Tatsuro Kunugi the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Kampuchea before going to Vietnam, and I had a lengthy conversation with him on return as well. (We were good friends at Cornell.) We also had a very useful conversation on Thai policy with a high ranking official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thanks to the efforts of Luise Buhler of the MCC I had a chance to meet personally with two leaders of the anti-Phnom Penh coalition: Boun Say, Minister of the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea (representing Son Sann’s Khmer People’s National Liberation Front) and Prince Ranarith, son of Prince Sihanouk and now the day-to-day leader of Sihanouk’s group, the second non-Communist faction in the tripartite CGDK. (I made no attempt to meet a representative of Pol Pot.)

The Kampuchean question has undoubtedly been the most crucial element in Canada-Vietnam relations since the Vietnamese invasion in 1978-79. Canada stopped bilateral aid, cut out matching grants to NGOs, and allowed trade to nearly sputter to a stop. This brought Canadian policy in line with the announced positions of the US, Japan and ASEAN countries, who all believed it was necessary to punish Vietnam for her gross violation of the Kampuchean right of self-determination, hoping that this punishment would also bring leverage for policy change. At the same time Canada joined ASEAN in supporting at the UN the claims of a fragile and improbable coalition of the Khmer Rouge butchers and anti-Communist groups under Sihanouk and Son Sann.

But the Khmer Rouge remains as the only major armed force fighting the Vietnamese and their Khmer allies, because of substantial Chinese military aid which comes by way of Thailand. Due to Pol Pot’s unprecedented bloodthirstiness, he is still intensely feared by most Khmer. Thus the continuation of a credible armed threat by the Khmer Rouge is the main—perhaps the only—source of legitimacy among the Khmer for a continued Vietnamese military presence in their country.

Without getting into a long treatise on the complexities of the Kampuchean tragedy, there are nevertheless some essential points that need to be highlighted. Most ASEAN spokesmen claim to believe time is on their side, that eventually Vietnam will find present policy too costly, and agree to withdraw-though privately some are not at all confident of this assessment. Well-informed observers have nevertheless pointed out that Thailand has a number of reasons for accepting the status quo, showing no eagerness for negotiated settlement. One thing is sure, the non-Communist members of the CGDK, even though caught by great power politics in their present awkward alliance, do not believe that time is on their side. They have an exaggerated notion, in fact, of the degree to which Vietnam has already accomplished economic and cultural integration of Kampuchea. But even if their reports are only partly true, they are probably accurate in assuming that Vietnamese military withdrawal, if completed by 1990 as promised, will still permit dominant political influence, or perhaps even control, from Hanoi. A few hundred thousand Vietnamese do seem to have settled in Kampuchea since 1979 and are playing an increasingly important economic role—in some sense a replay of conditions under the French protectorate at the turn of the century. In fact, the only realistic prognosis would seem to be that Vietnam will exercise dominant influence, or perhaps control, for the forseeable future. No other power has both the capability and determination to exert such influence, not even China, if one judges by the events of the last two years. The only way that Kampuchean autonomy could increase would be a result of the ferment of Khmer nationalism, but, in turn, this could turn against the Vietnamese only if other foreign threats subside.

In any case, a concerted policy of Western & ASEAN economic pressure on Vietnam is not working, partly because it is not consistently practiced.

Japan, which diplomatically backs ASEAN all the way, now enjoys more than half of Vietnamese trade with non-Communist countries. And Singapore, the most hawkish of ASEAN states, is since last year the fastest growing trading partner of Vietnam! Only the US adheres officially to a trade embargo, and even some US companies—whose spare parts are so desperately needed in Vietnam—appear to be selling through intermediaries. Anyway, in the last few years the Vietnamese economy has been growing, albeit at a slower rate than it might have with greater links to the West. But any growth would appear to be a failure for a Western policy of economic strangulation. The cost for Vietnam, of course, has been increasing reliance on Soviet aid. Vietnam has shown its eagerness for closer economic ties with the West in a number of ways, most recently in the preparation of a draft law on foreign investment!

I share the view of other members of our delegation that Canada could play a much more constructive peacemaking role—most consistent with our own diplomatic tradition — if we were to follow the Australian lead and temper our ‘stick’ with some ‘carrots’. Although in deference to ASEAN Australia has not resumed bilateral economic aid, it has in the last two years provided matching grants for NGOs working in Vietnam, increased funds for international agencies with Vietnam projects and actively promoted trade. Some funds have also been allocated to facilitate cultural exchanges. I believe that Australia has correctly concluded that in the long run Vietnamese policy in Kampuchea, and elsewhere, will soften only insofar as relations with the West are seen as beneficial and Western policy is not viewed as a threat. Those who have labeled Australia’s modest efforts at reconciliation a “failure” are clearly premature; Britain herself sent a parliamentary delegation to Vietnam last month with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and may be ready to follow the Australian path. India, of course, already has close ties with Vietnam. A wider Commonwealth effort would certainly be most likely to have an impact. Canada, rather than continuing a moderately negative and quite ineffectual stance, should capitalize on the most positive Vietnamese statement of the last year, the promise to withdraw troops from Kampuchea by 1990. With the cooperation of Commonwealth partners, Canada should seek to initiate an international conference that would establish the mechanisms to monitor such a withdrawal, and at the same time mobilize pressure on China to scale down its military aid to Pol Pot, with a commitment to phase it out when the Vietnamese completed their withdrawal. Neither act of disengagement can take place without being linked to the other. And if Canada’s primary concern is for the welfare of the Khmer people and the peace and stability of the region, emphasis on this parallel disengagement must be primary.

Canadian Aid and Exchanges

The estimates of Vietnam’s per capita GNP, making her one of the poorest countries in Asia, is evidence enough of the human need for assistance. I would not at this point, however, suggest that Canada go farther than Australia in reinstituting bilateral government to government aid. Let that remain a carrot to reward completion of the announced withdrawal from Kampuchea. But that leaves ample room, without straining the overall aid budget, for several million dollars next year in NGO matching funds and aid to the Vietnam projects of international agencies, generosity which might well extend to Kampuchea itself.

The very worthy and, on the whole, very well administered projects of the Mennonite Central Committee and the Canadian Friends Service Committee provide appropriate models for expanded Canadian effort. For instance, we visited a village in Vinh Phu province which was benefitting from an MCC drainage project. By providing the relatively small foreign exchange requirements for the construction of a large pumping station, nearly 700 hectares in three villages would be protected from the frequent flooding that they experienced in the past and enabled to grow two or even three crops on land that had never before yielded more than one. As indication of the recognition of benefit by the farmers in the three villages, nearly 3000 persons gave unpaid labor to help build the dikes and canals that were necessary to make the pumping station operate as planned.

Though understaffed and underequipped (with filing cabinets, for instance), AidRecep, the government agency through which all Western aid is channeled appears to be making a sincere effort to supervise the effective implementation of projects. We did not hear specific reports of corruption in NGO aid implementation—though the possibility cannot be ruled out. Furthermore, in suggesting possible future projects AidRecep seemed to be guided by the principle of maximum benefit for local communities with the smallest possible foreign exchange contribution. AidRecep’s attention also to the criteria of “appropriate technology” was well-received by our delegation, but we learned later that this was, at least in part, the consequence of an “education program” over the past few years by Louise Buhler, MCC. Among the projects suggested were apiculture, which takes little space and adds an important nutritional supplement; equipping a workshop to make agricultural hand tools; pilot project on pig feeding; providing of equipment and basic medicines for a primary health care unit, with emphasis on health education; providing equipment to allow relatively large scale processing of native herbs for proven medicinal purposes; as well as other projects in agriculture and nutrition, health care, social welfare and education. The expenditure of less than $10,000 by a Canadian church could have a major impact on the health and welfare of thousands of Vietnamese villagers.

Given the intensity of Vietnamese needs, especially in the areas of health and nutrition, expanded Canadian aid is a necessary part of strengthening ties with Vietnam. However, the initiation of other kinds of exchanges, to which the United Church should at least lend moral support, are also important. Both Australia, and more recently Britain, have sent Parliamentary delegations to better acquaint themselves with the Vietnamese situation. In 1985 the Australians sent three major trade delegations to Vietnam, with government support. Though the base was small, Australian-Vietnamese trade has doubled in the last six months. Clearly Japanese traders regard Vietnam as the country in Asia with the most rapid growth potential in the next decade.

Scholarly exchange is also an area in which Australia is ahead. More than one delegation to Vietnam has already been sent. When I visited the Saigon University of General Studies (read “liberal arts”), I found the Rector, deans and associate deans whom he assembled eager to talk about the possibility of exchanges. That university now has only one exchange program with a Western counterpart, in France, and they appear to be quite pleased with its progress. (Though there seems to be at least as many faculty educated in North America as in France.) Updating of Western-language library collections is a high priority. The possibility of a CIDA-supported institutional linkage arrangement should be explored. Vietnamese intellectuals clearly yearn for greater contact with their counterparts in the West; even government officials note that such contact could be useful for Vietnam in the field of science and technology. A rather modest Canadian effort in this area could be of tremendous benefit to both countries.

Probably the sending of an academic delegation to Vietnam should precede the negotiation of an institutional linkage.


Even though it is only 11 years since Vietnam won its protracted armed struggle for independence and reunification, the moves toward economic liberalization and expanding Western contacts are much more substantial than was true of China at a comparable point in her history. Vietnam, as a much smaller country, has always been more aware of the fact that autarchy is not possible and that the proliferation of international contacts and exchanges brings national benefits.

Nevertheless, the important steps toward individual incentives and the introduction of market forces into economic decision-making may have longer term political consequences that even the leadership does not fully appreciate. The economic pressures for reform are so great that some may underestimate the political side-effects; opponents of the reforms, on the other hand, undoubtedly exaggerate the dangers of political liberalization. Communist Party control will not be lost any more than it has been in China. If domestic reform takes place in the context of greater positive interaction with the West, there is, in any case, a solid basis for hope that both in the areas of human rights and foreign policy there will be steps toward the moderation Canadians believe to be desirable.

Our delegation found Vietnamese in all walks of life very open to greater contact with Canadians. It is in that atmosphere that we should assess future prospects. It seems to me that the United Church of Canada has now both the moral obligation to meet human need and the opportunity for positive influence in areas of our concern. Only through greater involvement of many kinds could it be possible far us to have an impact on human rights policies or on the peaceful settlement of the Kampuchean question.

And, at the same time it acts as a responsible Christian body, the United Church has the potential to provide leadership toward a more constructive national policy in Indochina. I sincerely hope that this is an opportunity that will not be missed. There are, of course, more urgent crises that attract our active concern in other parts of the world, but moments of opportunity are not necessarily associated with intense, headline-grabbing crisis.

Categories Vietnam, Postwar Vietnam

By David Wurfel. SEADAG Vietnam Task Force Meeting, Belmont Elkridge, Maryland October 15-17, 1970

Chester Ronning expressed the views of many Americans, as well as of Canadians, when he called Nixon’s latest proposals for negotiated peace in Vietnam “a great disappointment”. He had hoped for the declaration of a ceasefire, not just a proposal. Hugh Scott, Republican leader in the Senate, was, of course, merely indulging in hyperbole when he claimed that Nixon had “opened a new chapter in United States diplomatic history”. And the prediction by Washington’s Under-Secretary of Defense that Hanoi would accept the Nixon plan within a week was nothing but high-flown campaign oratory.

Mr. Nixon put a stand-still cease fire in Indo-China chronologically before either agreement on the character of an interim South Vietnamese government or announcement of a timetable for total United States withdrawal. Though the Cambodian situation makes this arrangement somewhat more attractive to the Communists than when it might have applied to Vietnam alone, Vietnam is still the main arena and thus this timing is totally unacceptable to them, as Hanoi’s authoritative Nhan Dan was quick to point out. A standstill cease-fire as the first step would appear to admit, the newspaper said, that the U.S. had a right to be in Vietnam. It would also deny to the Communists some bargaining levers they now have with the continuation of armed combat. Thus this crucial element in the Nixon proposal could be the most important stumbling block to negotiated settlement if the U.S. delegation should stick by its guns. One can be confident that the “Nixon plan” will not in itself provide the outlines for a future peace.

Understandably, therefore, many long-time opponents of the war have been surprised at the alacrity with which dovish Senators, as well as such presitgious critics as the two former Paris negotiators, Cyrus Vance and Averell Harriman, have endorsed President Nixon’s initiatives. Perhaps they have been promised more than has yet been revealed. In any case, it should be understood that most of these endorsements of the new proposals have been only as a basis for further discussions in Paris. In the land of Richard Nixon one must be thankful for small blessings, admitting, as Chester Ronning did, that this is a “move in the right direction”. But for the Vietnamese and all who have suffered, the urgent question remains, “How far away is peace?” Let us then examine each of Mr. Nixon’s proposals with this question in mind.

1. A cease-fire in place has been advocated by many in and out of the Johnson and Nixon administrations for years.

At first it was regarded as the position of a daring dove, but more recently has emerged in tactical debates among U.S. policy planners. At last it has been endorsed by the White House.

There is no question that a war can only be stopped with a cease-fire, of one kind or another, But in the long run a cease-fire which is un-accompanied by fundamental political compromise does not bring peace. So it was in Korea in 1953 and in Indo-China in 1954. The Communists have not forgotten, nor should others. The Nixon proposals of October 1970 are identical in their sequence to the agreements surrounding the 1953 and 1954 cease-fires. In neither case were the provisions regarding procedures for subsequent political settlement ever implemented. It is particularly inconceivable that Hanoi’s leaders will be tricked twice in the same manner and on the same battlefield within a single generation. Their sense of history is keener than that.

Nevertheless, a cease-fire in October 1970 is more attractive to Hanoi than it was in March. Since then “American forces” have cleared out Communist sanctuaries in Cambodia”, were subsequently withdrawn, and the Communists have rebuilt their bases) as well as moving on to control over half the Cambodian countryside. A standstill cease-fire would partition the country and force Lon Nol to negotiate with Sihanouk’s exile government. Even so, Hanoi and the NLF do not appear to be on the verge of abandoning political goals in Vietnam for a risky Indo-China cease-fire.

A cease-fire has been called “risky”, and this it would certainly be. Unlike Korea, or Laos, or even Cambodia, in Vietnam there could be no “cease fire line”. President Thieu has aptly called a standstill truce in South Vietnam, a “leopard skin formula”. The only place in Asia where a cease-fire was called in the midst of a guerrilla war, prior to a political settlement, was in Indonesia in 1947/48.

Despite repeated U.N. resolutions and an active observer team, it could not be maintained. Two cease-fires by international agreement have not stopped the war in Laos even when there was an approximate “line”. The experience of both Laos and the Middle East has taught us that once a cease-fire has broken down, mutual distrust is even greater than before, so that it is very difficult to halt the fighting again. In fact, the difficulties in obtaining, maintaining or renewing a standstill cease-fire in South Vietnam are so great that one wonders whether Mr. Nixon’s proposals were made with a serious expectation of success — or with confidence that a truce will not come about, thus assuring propaganda gain at no cost. Certainly the military would have been easier to persuade in the latter course.

Presidential advisor Henry Kissinger, writing in Foreign Affairs just before he was appointed by Mr. Nixon, appeared to be fully aware of Communist fears. Said he, “A formal cease-fire is likely to predetermine the ultimate settlement and tend toward partition. Cease-fire is thus not so much a step toward a final settlement as a form of it.”

If so, Hanoi and the NLF can hardly be expected to accept a cease-fire as offered. Agreed regroupment of forces following a cease-fire would be even more unlikely—Saigon officials being as fearful of a new partition of South Vietnam as are the Communists.

Nevertheless, Kissinger’s assessment appears to have been made in the context of two opposing parties which were each stable political units, in a stable relationship with each other.

In South Vietnam today these conditions do not obtain. The cease-fire itself would probably produce changes on each side and in their relative positions. A cease-fire under international supervision is more easily violated by guerrillas than by conventional forces, partly because foreign observers can more readily see what regular units do. It is extremely difficult either to detect or to establish responsibility for resupply, infiltration of new personnel or terrorist attacks by guerrillas. Though both the NLF and the Saigon regime would have severe morale problems, the Communists have consistently shown their superiority in indoctrination.

A prolonged cease-fire,whether or not accompanied by demobilization and reduction in military expenditures would produce a severe crisis in Saigon-held territory, both economic and psychological in origin. Only a massive increase in U.S. economic aid could head it off, and this does not seem likely.

Full scale resumption of hostilities by the U.S. would be strongly discouraged by domestic political considerations, whereas Communist leadership might well see such a resumption as a solution to some of their morale problems. In case of resumption, the Communist base in Cambodia would be wider and more secure than in 1969 and communication links with the North through Laos better developed. Should calculations in Hanoi and the NLF proceed in this fashion, then what is now inconceivable that they would accept might well be conceived. But let there be no mistake , a cease-fire proposal is a complex political maneuver, not simply a humanitarian gesture. To fully understand its significance we must go on to Mr. Nixon’s other points.

2. Wider Peace Talks.

This is clearly premature, though all parties have indicated that the security and neutrality of the Indo-China states is properly the subject of wider international agreement. The Vietnamese Communist leadership insists on the making of certain crucial decisions in essentially bi-Iateral talks before bringing in their larger “friends”, who sold them down the river in 195~—or so they believe. Mr. Nixon did not specify which powers outside Indo-China should be included, but China and the USSR were certainly implied. The New Reasonableness in Peking and the trend toward Sino-Soviet rapprochment, confirmed by the sending of the first Russian ambassador to China in over three years only last week, apparently make the prospect of Sino-Soviet participation more palatable to the Nixon Administration. As usual, Nixon is putting too much emphasis on the moderating role of the Soviets, who undoubtedly have less influence in Hanoi today than before the bombing halt. Nor will China and Russia more nearly in tandem be less formidable than when they were more quarrelsome. In any case, China would probably participate only if Sihanouk were invited, thus constituting a great gain for pro-Communists forces in Cambodia. For the moment Hanoi and Washington have come full circle from the mid-1960s in the priority they place on a new Geneva Conference. Eventually they will probably agree.

3. Withdrawals.

This is close to the heart of the matter.

There will be no negotiated settlement that does not assure complete U.S. withdrawal. This latest proposal is notable for its lack of emphasis on North Vietnamese responsibilities. Madame Birih’s first remark was that she found this portion of Nixon’s speech “unclear”, a hopeful term at the bargaining table. The White House quickly clarified the term “withdrawal.§.”, pointing out that it was intended to apply to the North Vietnamese as well. But that this point was left to low level “clarification”, and not included in a presidential speech, gives cause to. hope that the U.S. will not demand a public pledge-which Hanoi has adamantly refused to give—but will accept a private assurance. In the new NLF proposal announced last month, Madam Birih moved farther than ever away from her initial demand for “immediate, total, and unconditional” U.S. withdrawal. She offered release of U.S. prisoners in return for a commitment to withdraw completely by July 1971. Nor would Communists forces fire on retreating U.S. forces, she said. This did not constitute promise of a cease-fire with GVN troops, however, which presumably would still have to be tied to creation of coalition government in Saigon. Thus, while the two sides are closer together than ever before on the question of withdrawals, the political composition of the Saigon regime—itself the origin of the entire conflict—remains very much at issue.

4. Political Settlement.

In Mr. Nixon’s reference to “a political solution” it is not clear whether it is to be sought in the present talks at Paris or in the proposed “Indochina peace conference”. If the latter, Mr. Kissinger’s earlier dictum that composition of the Saigon regime should be left to discussions among Vietnamese has certainly been ignored.

Since U.S. officials had forced President Thieu to eat his July words about a cease-fire, it is understandable should that Nixon was, emotional defending the general’s tenure as president. He vehemently condemned the attempt by “the other side” to “exclude through negotiation whomever they wish from government” in Saigon. Nowhere did he renounce the American right to do so, however. And he did suggest that changes could come about through the electoral process—which includes nomination. The way is therefore left open for the U.S. to accede to NLF demands without appearing to do so, i.e. by persuading Thieu and Ky not to file nomination papers next spring.

In fact, the American stand on the issue of Theiu’s re-election will be the acid test of whether or not Nixon really wants peace. To put it simply, Thieu is against it.

Despite Nixon’s mention of elections, he gave them less emphasis than in his first pronouncements as president. This is encouraging, since there is no chance that elections alone will bring about a coalition government. According to the South Vietnamese constitution the president has the sole responsibility for appointing the cabinet. A three-quarters majority in the National Assembly can remove a cabinet, but the Assembly has no part in appointing the successors of those removed. Thus even if the NLF could elect a majority of legislators, which is unlikely to say the least, they could not form a government. Nor does there seem to be much prospect of an avowed NLF candidate winning the presidency under the election law now in force. A secret NLF supporter would be remarkable indeed if he could hide his identity in an election campaign.

Thieu’s steadfast rejection of any means other than elections for NLF supporters to enter the political arena is thus really designed to deny to any Communist or pro-Communist any role in government whatsoever. Many NLF legislators could be elected, but watch powerless as their backers were imprisoned and tortured, if Nguyen Van Thieu were to remain as president. It is not just honesty and freedom in the electoral process that must be guaranteed by means of political settlement, but something about the government that is to ‘follow. There are already legislators in South Vietnam who were freely elected but are now Unconstitutionally imprisoned. One can hardly blame the NLF for wanting to avoid repetition of this practice. Thousands more are behind bars, suffering from torture, disease and starvation, whose only crime was to advocate peace, or speak against the regime—or to have a relative who did so.

5. Prisoners.

Prisoners are a timely subject. “Prisoners of war” in the supra—or sub—legal never-never land of Vietnam tend to be the people the U.S. wants to draw to public attention. Much publicity has been focused by Washington and the media influenced thereform on U.S. fliers imprisoned in North Vietnam. North Vietnamese soldiers captured in South Vietnam must also, in Mr. Nixon’s negotiation strategy, be given the spotlight to try to prove what Hanoi will not officially admit, that their troops have gone South. But just as truly “prisoners of” this very political war are the 30,000 to 100,000 men and women whose beliefs or purely political acts, or misrepresentation thereof, have caused their imprisonment.

No settlement in Vietnam will be just which does not very quickly give them the same benefits as those who have knowiagly, and perhaps willingly, engaged in violent, destructive acts against the land and people of Vietnam. Most of the hapless political prisoners are in the South, but if there be any in the North they are just as worthy of release. Anyone whose concern for Vietnam is humanitarian as well as political must give the most urgent attention to the plight of the “prisoners of political war”.

In combination, Mr. Nixon’s proposals are a significant contribution to the negotiation process, if he is willing to regard them simply as a bargaining position.

Some concessions have been made since 1968; more are necessary.

It may well be that a rather conservative Republican in the White House is a political prerequisite to U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. Perhaps only a master of media management, a speaker accomplished in the art of inuendo—and whose right flank is covered—can persuade the American people that their retreat is glorious. It is indeed ironic that the man whose Cambodia folly has handed half that country to Communist control would claim that the “successful campaign in Cambodia” now justifies offering to negotiate the timetable of American withdrawal from Vietnam. Nor can the bitter humor be hidden in the military’s boast that lower U.S. casualty figures give proof that the Viet Cong has been brought to its knees. For the welcome decline in the number of Americans killed and wounded is primarily the result of command policy to minimize losses, low morale of the “grunts” which greatly improves on this particular command, and a VC strategy to avoid placing obstacles to U.S. withdrawal, especially when military action in Cambodia is now so much more rewarding politically.

Some years ago Senator Aiken of Vermont proposed-perhaps facetioulsy at first—that the only way to end the war in Vietnam was for the U. S. to declare it had won and get out. One man’s jest may have become another man’s policy.

There is little chance that Hanoi and the NLF will give Mr. Nixon his “election gift certificate” that an immediate cease-fire would entail. But if the Nixon plan is an indication of his true desire to withdraw completely, and if the Communists have decided that, on balance, they have more to gain from a negotiated settlement than from a continuation of the war, then the likely outlines of a settlement may now be dimly viewed. The prospect of events and their approximate timetable might be somewhat as follows:

  1. Sometime between January and March, 1971: (a) Agreement on complete U.S. troop withdrawal by July 1972, with tacit assurance from the North Vietnamese that all “ their organized units would be pulled out by the time the U.S. reached the 25,OOO-man level. (b) Release of U.S. war prisoners in North Vietnam, of North Vietnamese military prisoners in the South, and—Iess well publicized—of several thousand of the more innocuous political prisoners by the Saigon regime. © Announcement by Thieu and Ky that they would under no circumstances be candidates for re-election, and appearance on the scene of one or more prominent peace candidates, e.g. Tran Van Don, “Big Minh”, or Au Truong Thanh. (d) A cease-fire in place throughout Indo-China. (The assumption underlying the suggested timing for the following is that a cease-fire of this type could not be maintained unless there was frequently visible progress toward a political settlement.)
  2. Sometime in May or June, 1971: Accelerated implementation of the Constitutional provision for the popular election of province chiefs, supervised by a commission composed of Saigon, NLF and international representatives, permitting election of a number of candidates sympathetic to the NLF.
  3. During August and September, 1971: Election of a “peace candidate” to the presidency, along with 25-30% of the House of Representatives supporting or friendly to the NLF. Beginning of secret negotiations between the new president and the Front on a coalition cabinet and mutual demobilization.
  4. During October or November, 1971: (a) Announcement of a coalition cabinet, and formal merger of the Government of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam into the Provisional Government of Vietnam under a slight modification of the GVN constitution pending fundamental constitutional reform. (b) Announcement of a schedule of partial demobilization of all armed forces in South Vietnam and their merger into a single organization, and completion of release of political prisoners.
  5. In January, February and March, 1972: Calling of two international conferences, (a) one to organize a consortium of donors for Vietnam’s economic rehabilitation and development; (b) and one to agree to neutralization and partial demilitarization of all Vietnam, as well as to political settlement in Cambodia and Laos.
  6. July 1972: Completion of U.S. troop withdrawal after announcement from Washington that all organized North Vietnamese military units had left the South.
  7. August 1972: Richard Nixon is nominated for re-election.
  8. November 1972: Nixon is elected.
  9. 1975: Reunification of Vietnam through confederation, with capital in Hanoi.

This is a sequence of events which would probably make Richard Nixon something of a hero, temporarily, to a majority of Americans. But peace is often costly.

Categories Vietnam, The War Years

Review by David Wurfel in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 1968.
The United States in Vietnam. By George McTurnan Kahin and John W. Lewis. New York: Dial Press, 1967. pp. 342. $5.95.

Ever since the spring of 1965 George Kahin, director of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University, has been the leading scholarly critic of the Administration’s Vietnam policy. Though he gained his reputation primarily as an Indonesian specialist, Kahin — together with a Cornell “China hand,” John Lewis — has now provided the serious student of Vietnam with the most carefully documented analysis of American involvement in that unfortunate land. Nor is this just a summary of previous published sources; it includes the results of some new research into primary materials. The dilemmas of United States policy are placed in the contexts of Vietnam history, of Asian attitudes, and of global conflict, though there is no attempt to delve into the American policymaking process.

The United States in Vietnam certainly has a point of view, but even unorthodox interpretations are well buttressed. The authors make the strongest case yet for the thesis that the insurgency was originally indigenous to the South. Using records of radio broadcasts, presumably those compiled by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a U.S. government agency, they establish that a “South Vietnam National Liberation Front” (NLF) had its own clandestine transmitter as early as mid-1958, more than two years before the formation of the NLF was announced in Hanoi. General Nguyen Chanh Thi is quoted as reporting that he captured the NLF flag from guerrilla units in 1959. Curiously, this early NLF was denounced by Radio Hanoi for “distorting Marxist-Leninist theories,” for putting too much emphasis on class struggle and “socialist” (communist) goals. The authors suggest that an end to these broadcasts may have been a major purpose of Le Duan’s secret trip South in late 1958. The broadcasts could have been, in fact, the work of Trotskyist remnants which were strong in the South before 1947 and always hostile to Northern communist orthodoxy.

In May 1959 a resolution of the Lao Dong Party Central Committee in Hanoi defined the “goal of the revolution” as “consolidating” the North, while it offered “the compatriots of the South” only a “heartfelt salute” for their sufferings. While this might be marked off to misleading propaganda, designed to shield a militant thrust into the South, it is more difficult to so dismiss the substantial reduction of Hanoi’s defense budget in September 1960, the same time that the Lao Dong Party decided to support the NLF verbally.

No one can today provide conclusive proof of the combination of factors which produced the “second Indochina war”; this is a task for future historians. But Professors Kahin and Lewis have demonstrated that the evidence so far available, contrary to the conclusions of official Washington, contributes substantially to the presumption of primarily Southern origins. The authors certainly do not deny that Hanoi wanted reunification, but believe that the timing of armed struggle was determined essentially by events in the South.

The tone in which Kahin and Lewis assess communist leaders and communist policy is so devoid of “free world” jargon that some readers have mistakenly associated the authors’ approach with that of naive China-watchers of the 1940s who saw in Mao and his associates only “high-minded agrarian reformers.” This volume makes no bones about the role of Marxism-Leninism and the Lao Dong, or Workers (communist) Party, in the affairs of Vietnam for more than two decades. Nor does it gainsay the repressiveness which is often characteristic of a communist regime. What it does make clear, however, is that repression is not a communist monopoly, and, even more importantly, that communist ideology in no sense displaces nationalist sentiment. Unless these points are well understood, the unrealistic expectations of U .S. policy will persist.

Kahin and Lewis have already been criticized for not including a lengthy exposition of Administration views in their dissection of the “domino theory.” Chapter XII would probably have been more convincing as a result. However, both the simplistic argument and its more sophisticated variations are widely known. The authors here elaborate on the most potent rebuttal: “Throughout Asia … communism has been obliged to come to terms with indigenous nationalism or else remain politically impotent. … Where communism takes root in Asia its strength arises, not through subversion directed from China or Russia, but because of locally generated social, economic, and political factors.”

Kahin and Lewis have written straightforwardly, usually in a style appropriate for lay readership. However, in an attempt to appeal to both schol. ar and layman the book’s format has fallen between two stools. Pages of text are cluttered with asterisks and corresponding footnotes, which sometimes contain the volume’s juiciest morsels and thus should not be ignored. Numbers lead the reader to additional footnotes at the end of each chapter, which usually constitute only reference to sources. However, substantive material is also included in numbered footnotes, and basic documents — a few not easily available elsewhere — fill a hundred pages of appendix. The index is also very useful. Thus, the conscientious reader becomes an accomplished page flipper. Having jumped such hurdles, however, he will eventually feel that he has delved into the most authoritative single volume on the Vietnam crisis, with the most exhaustive bibliography. This volume will be widely used in college classrooms.

The treatment of China’s role, presumably Lewis’s major contribution, is concise and persuasive. We are reminded that China’s moves have “accorded with its capabilities and not with its more strident pronouncements.” For instance, in January 1961, several months before the United States greatly increased our “advisory” force in South Vietnam, Peking cut her assistance to North Vietnam in half.

Lewis’s assessment of Lin Piao is not novel, but as an antidote to the ranting of the Secretary of State it certainly needs repetition. The 1965 “Long Live the Victory of the People’s War,” cited in Washington to bolster the image of “aggressive Asian Communism,” is explained as a moderation, not a hardening, of the Chinese position. Lin argues, says Lewis, that popular insurrections can not succeed if they rely too heavily on foreign assistance — Chinese included. Though written before the Great Cultural Revolution, Chapter XI is not dated.

One chapter is devoted to internal South Vietnamese politics since the ascendancy of Ky, with special reference to the weight of the American hand. Since neither of the authors has spent an extended period on the ground in Vietnam, one is not surprised that they had to rely so heavily on the New York Times. Those who lived through the crisis of 1966 might therefore be moved to add or subtract details of the account. What is remarkable, however, is the high degree of consensus that Kahin and Lewis would evoke among unofficial observers in Saigon today. The chapter concludes: “The United States [has] planted itself … firmly behind the army leadership. … But if this could be considered stability, it was an artificial one and in all probability would collapse as soon as American power had withdrawn. For that power was being applied in a way that obstructed internal evolution toward a government capable of winning popular support.”

The authors’ assessment of the 1966 Constituent Assembly election could have been written yesterday-about the elections of 1967: “However . . . viewed in the United States, for the cynical and apathetic Vietnamese public, dragooned into going through the motions of participating in them [the elections], evoked no enthusiasm and were seen as a politically irrelevant gesture made in compliance with the demands of local officials acting for Saigon.” And it might have been added that Saigon was likewise viewed as acting for Washington.

The elections were criticized primarily from the standpoint of the inadequacies of the election law and the severity of candidate screening. With the advantage of field research a year later this reviewer can report that there was also widespread use of an ingenious variant of proxy voting. Local officials regaled the peasant with the danger of going out on election day because of “VC terror.’‘’ The peasant was then delighted to follow the officials’ suggestion that he deposit his voting card for “safe-keeping” at the village or hamlet office and leave the onerous task of voting-for what or whom he was entirely unawareto the obliging officials. And the fraud was so sophisticated that in most cases hamlet and village chiefs returned only modest majorities for the government candidate. Schoolteachers who served at polling places were willing to talk about such shenanigans only a year after the fact.

On the role of the Buddhists, Kahin and Lewis need to be updated. After extensive interviewing with Buddhist spokesmen in the United States, in addition to a review of documentation, the authors stress the ambiguous relationship between the Buddhists and the United States Embassy ever since Ambassador Lodge offered sanctuary to Thich Tri Quang in 1963. While “long-run Buddhist-nationalist objectives contradict American policies; … the exigencies of their shortrun survival often lead them calculatedly to obscure this contradiction in order to appease Washington and the military leaders in Saigon.”

But this pattern is changing. While some monks may continue to play this game, by late 1967 their support among the youth had fallen away. Buddhist students, the hard core of demonstrators, seem to have become so embittered against the United States that they have lost interest in demonstrating for short-run demands and risking arrest. The more determined seem to have shifted to clandestine activity directed toward fundamental change. Most are now willing to accept any alternative to war and “American puppets.” As in America, the growing intensity of frustration over the war leads the Vietnamese to more radical positions. An elderly official in a delta town told this reviewer: “If the war continues for another two years with the destruction and inconclusiveness of the last two, many people who today would never dream of such a thing will be in the NLF.” The comment had an autobiographical ring.

In the final chapter, “Limits of Power,” Professors Kahin and Lewis have emphasized the consistent failure of the American government to assess accurately the strength of nationalism in Vietnam and the staying power of a communist movement which appeals increasingly to this sentiment. A recent very detailed account of the structure and strategy of the Vietcong by Douglas Pike, whose expertise is highly regarded in Washington, is renewed evidence of this fatal gap in American understanding.

In conclusion, the authors insist that any negotiated settlement that is to become reality must admit the participation of all Southern political forces in the institutions which will function after the war, a statement of probabilities with which no well-informed person could quarrel. But the communists are the most dynamic and well-organized of those political forces. Thus it requires a strong dash of euphemism to observe that: “It is improbable that such a settlement would mirror the pattern most congenial to the United States or that it would be attuned to the exigencies of American domestic politics.” Those exigencies are certainly less hostile to such a settlement today than when this book was written, but they are not yet, on balance, favorable.

Are we to conclude, therefore, that what is politically possible in Vietnam is not so in the United States, and vice versa? Not necessarily, I should think. One more year of frustrating “stalemate” — another euphemism, which tends to ignore declining non-communist morale — will open the eyes of millions of Americans to Vietnamese realities. Furthermore, it should be possible to justify American withdrawal from South Vietnam and ultimate communist takeover there to a larger segment of opinion if the overall settlement included provisions for the protection of Laos and Cambodia from subsequent Vietnamese infiltration, as it certainly could. For it is only as part of a negotiated settlement for Indochina that the preservation of a non-communist Laos and Cambodia can be assured. The 1954 Geneva Accords recognized this, while U.S. policy has attempted ever since, without success, to deny it. Communist activity in both countries in the last five years has been primarily a consequence of expanding conflict in South Vietnam.

It is now most unlikely that Hanoi will withdraw its thousands of troops from northern Laos for any reason other than to provide a quid pro quo for complete and guaranteed U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam. Nor are the Vietnamese communists likely to agree to a border settlement with Cambodia unless the United States offers them a sizable enticement, such as withdrawal. Both Hanoi and the NLF are increasingly resistant to compromise on any point which might prevent the eventual unification of their homeland. But they have much less reason to be adamant on questions touching their neighbors. The gratifyingly large number of American statesmen who are now genuinely committed to peace—of whom Senator McCarthy is the most courageous-might well expand their appeal if they backed a policy which not only faced up to reality in Vietnam but also offered a good prospect of containing Vietnamese communism within its own borders.

David Wurfel is associate prolessor of political science, University of Missouri; he has spent several years living in Asia and has visited Vietnam a number of times, including a trip in September 1967 as an observer of the Vietnamese elections.

Categories Vietnam, The War Years

By David Wurfel, University of Missouri
in Asian Survey, August 1967

The character of the present political elite in South Vietnam is crucial for the success of American policy there and will be a major determinant of the way in which the new constitution is implemented. A study of this elite is, therefore, timely. It is also consistent with a growing interest among political scientists in such research as a means to better understand the development process.

The makeup of the Saigon elite will be examined here with special reference to four cabinets, those led by President Diem and by Premiers Tho, Huong, and Ky. Some data on members of other cabinets in the 1962-65 period will also be included. It will be the theme of this paper that, in so far as top civilian office-holders are representative of the group, this elite has not substantially changed its character in the last few years. It is true that since 1962 at least two important new groups have entered the elite of power: the military and the Buddhists. Political parties and Southern sects that were active in the mid-1950’s have also reappeared and have been given an institutional base in the 1966 election of the Constituent Assembly. But most indications point to the conclusion that their leaders come from educational and social backgrounds very similar to those of cabinet members. The extent to which this is also true of the Buddhists and military men needs further research. In any case, there can be no claim here that the cabinet provides a cross-section of the entire political elite.

The Saigon elite has been the product of colonialism, war and revolution. It is composed of factions warring on the basis of region, religion and other less obvious considerations. But these factions also have qualities in common. The predominance of French education, either in Vietnam or in France, is noticeable. Separation from rural life is a consequence of the most frequent career patterns. Robert Shaplen has emphasized the psychological isolation of the elite from the peasantry.1

Its emergence from a Confucian tradition has given the Vietnamese elite some common as well as distinct characteristics.2Vietnam is alone in Southeast Asia in having been ruled by a mandarin bureaucracy before the coming of the West. This pattern of government, borrowed from China, seems to have been adequate for the needs of a traditional society. Independence and a modicum of internal order were maintained for centuriesuntil the intrusion of the modern West. Nor were Confucian ideas and institutions immediately set aside upon the arrival of the French. Mandarinal examinations were not abolished until 1922; the traditional bureaucracy was only gradually displaced by the French administrative system. In the 1950’s Ngo Dinh Diem tried to revive public obeisance to The Sage.

Indications are strong that in Ching China there was a high degree of self-perpetuation within the mandarinate. About 80% of those who obtained mandarinal degrees in the last Chinese dynasty were offspring of degree holders, despite the ideal of open access to the examinations.3Though no comparable research has been done for Vietnam, preference elsewhere in elite recruitment for sons of mandarins has also been noted.4It would be natural to assume that status and educational opportunity correlated highly throughout the French period also.

Educational facilities under colonialism were not extensive. In the early 1930’s, less than 1,000 attended universities. Nearly two-thirds of this number were in the single Indochinese university at Hanoi, and most of the rest were in France.5 As late as 1939, only about 6,000 Vietnamese were in secondary schools of all types, i.e., beyond the 10th grade. In the population as a whole, literacy was variously estimated at between 5 and 20 percent, thus differentiating a well-educated elite even more sharply from the ordinary citizen. Robequain has pointed out that in the 1930’s some young men of modest means gained access to the intellectual elite through higher education, but emphasized that it was the exception rather than the rule.7 Nearly twenty years later, Scigliano reiterated: “Secondary and higher education has been the preserve of the well-off.”8

In more recent years, of course, the educational gap between elite and mass has narrowed. Literacy is now attributed to nearly two-thirds of the population. By 1964, secondary school (10th to 12th grade) enrollment in South Vietnam had reached 62,000 and there were more than 20,000 in universities and higher technical schools.9Thus, with only slightly less population than all of Vietnam in the 1930’s, educational opportunity in South Vietnam beyond the 10th grade was available to about 10 times more people than in the previous generation.

The political elite which attracts our attention is, as in most late-developing countries, a part of a very small upper class. No reliable survey of the structure of South Vietnamese society as a whole is available today, though we are fortunate in having some data from a recent sample drawn by the Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton.10 This sample is admittedly skewed toward an over-representation of urban areas, but only 1% of the population is classified as “professionals” and only 8% as “white-collar workers,” a category which undoubtedly includes a large percentage that would, on income criteria, not even qualify as middle-class. The economic elite has been, at least until recently, dominated by the French and the Chinese, while the political elite has been confined to ethnic Vietnamese. Formerly, only among the great landlords were there those who held significant amounts of both political and economic power; grandiose corruption may have allowed others to attain that distinction in recent years.

With this very inadequate introduction to Vietnamese society and the place of the political elite within it, let us focus more directly on the cabinet. Since this is an interim report on a long-term study, the data are still quite incomplete and the figures can only be suggestive of characteristics. The decision to concentrate on the four cabinets is itself a result of data limitations. The author has had to rely primarily on a collation of published data: books, newspapers and Viet Nam Press. Some information has also been obtained from interviews.

The cabinet has not in recent history been the exclusiveor even primary locus of power within the Vietnamese political system. The Diem cabinet without Nhu, the Huong cabinet without General Khanh, and the Quat cabinet without General Ky are merely three of the most patent instances of supreme political power lying outside the cabinet. Nguyen Thai has described how President Diem often treated his cabinet members as errand boys. Professor Fishel chose words which seem to best describe the situation when he said that the Quat cabinet was “in charge of the civil administration.”11 Yet while the cabinet was subordinate to the Ngo family until 1963 and under military direction since then, not to mention growing American influence, it is still the most significant civilian political institution within the South Vietnamese government and thus deserves our close attention. No policy decision can be implemented without the full cooperation of its members.

The first of the four cabinets on which we will focus is that of Ngo Dinh Diem, as constituted in 1962. This was after Diem had weathered two unsuccessful coups, the second of which resulted in the bombing of the palace, and the defection of some of the outstanding young men in his administration, most notably Vu Van Thai, Director of the Budget and Foreign Aid. The second cabinet was headed by Nguyen Ngoc Tho, formerly Diem’s vice-president, who was appointed to do the bidding of the junta headed by Gen. Duong Van Minh from November 1963 to January 1964. General Khanh’s cabinet followed. Incomplete data prevents its inclusion in the detailed tables; however, four members of Khanh’s government help to make up the total of some fifty cabinet members about whom there is sufficient information to make certain generalizations. The Tran Van Huong cabinet, formed in November 1964, marked an unsuccessful attempt to restore civilian government while ignoring the Buddhists. It was followed in February 1965 by the Phan Huy Quat cabinet, which, while more sensitive to religious currents, was weakened by factional quarrels and toppled in June by pressures from the military. (Again, data on this cabinet are very incomplete.) The cabinet then formed was headed by General Nguyen Cao Ky, still premier today after at least three governmental reshuffles.

Since only the transition from the Quat to the Ky cabinet was not marked by a fundamentaland sometimes violentchange in the top elite of power, one might have expected important differences among the various ministerial line-ups. In regard to educational background, however, there was very little change. Since the Diem regime, all civilians on which we have data have attended university and nearly one-fourth in each cabinet have had a doctor’s degree of some kind (Table I) . This is in contrast to only 1.5% of the civil bureaucracy having university education as of 1961.12

Nor has there been a change in the locale of higher education. The two cabinets on which data are most comparable, the first and the last, seem to be very similar in make-up, with approximately the same ratio of U.S. to European to Vietnamese schools (Table II). An analysis of forty ministers in six cabinets since 1962 indicates that little more than one-third had all their advanced training in Vietnam, whereas 40% took all or part of their university work in France and a full 60% were included in a broader category of those educated in Europe and America.

The relative impact of foreign and domestic university training is a significant influence on the pattern of political development and is receiving increasing attention among scholars.13It has been correctly pointed out that under a colonial regime a modern university tends to be an alien institution, even if located within the colony. Certainly Hanoi University, staffed largely by Frenchmen, was patterned closely on the Gallic model. Nevertheless, thecultural experiences that accompany extended residence abroad while attending university cannot help but affect one’s values more greatly than attendance at an almost identical institution within one’s own cultural milieu. The plurality of cabinet members who attended French universities in France are likely to be more westernized than their colleagues who did not. (They are also likely to be more disdainful of American culture.)

Vietnamese cabinets, in fact, appear to be among the most westernized in Asia. Comparison with Korea in this regard is noteworthy: a study of political leadership there revealed that only about 25% of university graduates had attended Korean schools, while 35% had gone to Japan and 20% to Europe and America.14 But Japanese universities, while alien, were not Western. In Nehru’s 1956 cabinet, only 7 out of 26 had European degrees.15 A much smaller proportion of Philippine cabinet members have studied abroad.

The National Liberation Front constitutes a counter-elite to Saigon’s leadership. Though data are neither complete nor entirely trustworthy, it is clear that a French education in Europe is rare among NLF Central Committee members; only 3 out of 27 report studying in France.16 In contrast, in a comparable setting, a higher percentage of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1930’s had educational experience in Europe and America than did the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang.17 It appears that foreign education in itself is neither a decisive help nor hindrance to leaders attempting to build a mass political base. Other kinds of experience must be more crucial.

The average age of Saigon cabinet members stabilized from 1962 to 1964 at around 47; then, following a slight upswing in the Quat cabinet, it dropped to nearly 41 with Ky, whose own youth was certainly a factor in bringing down the average (Table III). In Korea, a similar pattern was evident: the average age of civilian cabinet members was over 50; in General Park’s government which followed, it was under 42. In both South Korea and South Vietnam, then, the ages were well below the average of 57.7 years which obtained in Nehru’s India and which probably reflects the long history of the pre-independence nationalist movement there. In the even greater stability of Japanese society and politics, cabinet members have averaged nearly 60 years of age.18

While a concentration on average age shows considerable stability from Diem until the appearance of Ky, the spread of ages within each cabinet is also important. All of the four cabinets studied included one or more members born before 1909 and one or more born in the 1930’s. This constitutes a spread of approximately 25 years, or the difference of a generation. The spread from the oldest to the youngest in the 3-year period is 35 years. This is comparable to the spread for Japanese cabinets from 1954 to 1961, reported by Ward19 to be 39 years, but considerably more than that in the Indian cabinet of 1956, only 23 years.20 In any case, given the traditional respect for age in Vietnamese society and the great difference in life experiences between those born during the Russo-Japanese War and those born following the Great Depression, this age spread must be an important barrier to easy communicationlet alone true consensuswithin the cabinet. And certainly lack of cohesion within the Vietnamese decision-making elite is an important phenomenon to explain.

With data on less than forty persons, the link between age group and place of higher education is not decisively established, but the trend is clear. The percentage of foreign trained increases in the younger age brackets. Given the conditions existing in Vietnam since 1941, there were obviously many advantages to studying abroad. And as might be expected, foreign study other than in France is a recent phenomenon. These distinctions reinforce generational gaps.

The lower age of the Ky cabinet might be significant in terms of basic attitudes to national problems. But we cannot be confident that youth creates a more revolutionary spirit. The Ky government seems no closer to stamping out corruption or to giving land to the landless than were its more elderly predecessors. The NLF Central Committee members, on the other hand, had an average age of 49 in 1965; 59% of them were born before 1920, compared to 13% of Ky’s first cabinet.

Regional affiliation in Vietnam is an important level of identity which has been overlayedbut not replaced by nationalism. One’s regional origins are immediately evident in the type of Vietnamese spoken. Reference to regional differences is part of everday conversation; each region stereotypes the others.21Regionalism was a problem even for the 19th Nguyen dynasty, the period of greatest Vietnamese national unity. Regional differences were further sharpened by the varying impact of French colonialism in each of the three ky. The competition among the elites from all three regions in Saigon politics today makes the problem more intense than ever.

Since 1966, regional differences in Vietnamese politics have come to the attention of the press and of many American government officials, especially with the cabinet crisis that preceded the 1966 Manila conference and the subsequent assassination of Tran Van Van. Scholars have been aware of the potency of regional sentiments for some time.22 Scigliano’s check of 186 higher civil servants in 1961 revealed the combined dominance of Northerners (57) and those from the Center (62) over Southerners (67) , though about two-thirds of the population were in the South, i.e., the former Cochin-China. At the cabinet level, Diem first included no Southerners, but 40% were from the South by 1962. Subsequent cabinets did vary somewhat in the matter of regional composition (Table IV). No successor to Diem gave as many cabinet posts to those from the Center, Diem’s own region, as he did. Premier Tho’s cabinet was overwhelmingly Southern in its composition, a reaction to Diem. And Ky, himself a Northerner, gave greater representation to the North than was true in any other cabinet. Northerners also dominated top military leadership. If resentment against Northerners was so intense that it helped bring down the Diem government in 1963, it was unlikely that it had disappeared in 1965, for the South continues to be under-represented at the highest decision-making levels. That three-quarters of the NLF Central Committee is made up of Southerners seems well-designed to exploit the discontent, even though the Central Committee may be no more powerful in its camp than the cabinet is in Saigon.

Regional differences within a cabinet are important especially insofar as they coincide with the pattern of other cleavages. Much has been written about religious antagonisms. Precise religious breakdown of cabinets in this study is not possible without further data. (Religious affiliation is not usually part of published biographies.) Our study does show, however, some correlation between regional and educational backgrounds (Table V) . Over half the Southerners on whom we have data studied in France, while less than 15% of the Northerners did so. In fact, less than half of the Northerners had any foreign study, and two out of four of those who did go abroad went to the U.S. No Southern cabinet member reports an American educational background. This begins to give some substance to the Northern image of the Southerner as being too gallicized and the Southern complaint that Northerners are too closely identified with the Americans.

A study of career backgrounds is, of course, one of the most significant approaches to the analysis of elite composition. The career histories of over fifty ministers reveal some clear patterns. Government servicecivilian and military, career and politicalwas the main occupation of 47.1% of the population in the 1949-54 period and 52.9% during the Diem regime (Table VI) . What is particularly interesting is that despite the net return of over 20% of future cabinet members from abroad, mostly in 1954 and 1955.only one-fourth of this number was added to those in government service after 1955. This confirms the impression that many Vietnamese returned from overseas when Diem came to power, often with the intention of serving their nation in government, but then were wary and did not join the Ngo family regime. It is the professions of education, law and medicine that seem to have gained most from those returning from abroad. Pre-cabinet careers in all business and professional categories jumped from 25.5% before 1954 to 43.4% afterwards. Within that grouping, education made the largest absolute gain from one period to the next. While most educators were in government institutions, receiving government salaries, their political values and attitudes were probably closer to the free professions than to those of the bureaucrat. One measure of the degree to which Vietnamese teachers identify with the Saigon government may be found in the fact that their profession is better represented in the membership of the NLF Central Committee than is any other occupation.

In Nehru’s India, recruitment to the cabinet was along different channels; party and legislative careers were more important than either the civil service, business, or the professions. In the Philippines, business and the professions, along with professional politics, are the main avenues to the cabinet. In both countries political leadership is chosen through elections. However, despite the fact that Japan also has elected governments, Japanese cabinets have been somewhat more like those in Vietnam. In 1954, 35% of cabinet members in Tokyo had risen through the bureaucracy and only 34% through business and the professions, the rest coming through political parties.

It is not surprising that the greatest similarity to South Vietnam is to be found in the country most like it in terms of ancient history and culture, colonial experience, and recent political developments, South Korea. The military role in Vietnamese cabinets has been somewhat less than in South Korea in the 1952-1962 period, since the Vietnamese military has preferred usually to rule from outside the cabinet. More than one-fourth of 119 Korean cabinet members had military careers, compared with less than 15% of 53 in Saigon.23The career civil servant, on the other hand, was less dominant in Korea; only 18.6% of Korean cabinet members studied were career civil servants, compared to one-third in South Vietnam. However, an almost identical proportion (65%) of Korean and post-1965 Saigon cabinet members came up from military, civil service and educational careers.

It is important to note that the military men in post-Diem cabinets all served under French command before 1954. Although General Park and other Korean officers served in Japanese forces, that service ended nearly ten years earlier than for comparable Vietnamese, nor was it primarily directed to the suppression of Korean nationalists. Neither can the Vietnamese officer corps be compared with that in Indonesia, which won its medals fighting against European colonialism.

When one compares the career histories of different cabinets, the presence (under Tho, Quat or Ky) or absence (under Diem or Huong) of the military is the only important contrastand in the case of Huong even this difference is more apparent than real (Table VII). What is more impressive is that four or more members of each cabinet served under Bao Dai and the French in a civil or military capacity. In the Tho cabinet, more than two-thirds of the members were in that category. Biographical data on only one person lists service with the Viet Minh, though there are probably more. At least two persons in all the cabinets except Tho’s spent all or part of the Bao Dai period abroad. It is easy to understand, therefore, how an ardent Vietnamese nationalist could view many recent cabinet members as ex-collaborationists or, at least, as ex-attentistes.

One of the most important findings which we may derive from these data is the degree of similarity among the four cabinets. This is partly the result of overlapping membership, which involves only two persons from the Diem to Tho cabinets, but five each from Tho’s to Khanh’s and from Quat’s to Ky’s. (The Oanh “caretaker cabinet” of 1964 was excluded from consideration precisely because it largely duplicated the previous Khanh ministry and lasted such a short time.) Carry-overs in the Khanh, Huong and Ky cabinets involved more than 25% of all posts (Table VIII).

Overlapping membership does not extend much beyond adjacent cabinets, however. No member of the Diem or Tho cabinets appears under either Quat or Ky. Nor did the first Ky cabinet include anyone from Khanh’s, and only one from Huong’s. Characteristic similarities which extend from 1962 to 1965 need to be explained by the continuing presence in the cabinets of an elite with common traits rather than simply by continuity of membership.

The important segment of the South Vietnamese elite of power which the cabinet constitutes is clearly made up of intellectuals. They are the highly westernized intelligentsia classified as “the new intellectuals” by Professor Benda.24 But this does not mean, despite the tendency that Benda notes, that the Saigon elite is composed of social revolutionaries. In fact, these latter-day mandarins have combined the status of bureaucrat and intelligentsia in a conservative style unique in Southeast Asia. It is true that some of the revolutionary leadership in Vietnam came out of this elite, but that very defection seems to have hardened the attachment of the remainder to the status quo. Though in part the military leadership comes from different social strata, it seems despite some verbal innovation to accommodate quickly to much of the value system of the older elite, hoping perhaps to overcome the resentment against the nouveau arrive.

Benda explains the radicalism of the intelligentsia in the new states in terms of the unemployed or underemployed graduate. This is certainly an important part of the historical picture in many places. It was undoubtedly one of the factors spurring a revolutionary nationalist movement in Vietnam in the 1930’s.25World War II and the Indo-China War which followed changed the situation in two important respects, however. In the first place, the educational output in Vietnam was held down, at least at the university level. Secondly, though the number of Vietnamese students in France and the U.S. grew rapidly in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, this did not mean an increase in the supply of graduates in Vietnam. Conditions were so bad that almost everyone who could stayed abroad. The ardent nationalist who would not work for the French was often averse to guerrilla warfare as well. Thus, despite the snail’s pace at which the French nationalized the bureaucracy, the number of Vietnamese applicants did not grow very much faster. And those who felt most comfortable about entering the civil service were those whose families were already part of the bureaucratic-intellectual elite. By the early 1950’s they saw radicalism, in the form of the Viet Minh, as a threat to their own position. The present political elite is the legacy of those developments. (The great expansion of university education within South Vietnam in the last decadewithout a corresponding increase in appropriate jobscould change the pattern in the near future, however.)

In sum, the South Vietnamese cabinets and perhaps most of the rest of the political elite have been constituted by a highly westernized intelligentsia. Though the people of South Vietnam seem to be in a revolutionary mood, this elite is hardly revolutionary. Whereas the Indonesian government suffered for years from an excess of “agitators” and “symbol manipulators” in its elite,26Saigon today is witnessing the disadvantages inherent in rule by post-Confucian administrators. It seems unlikely that the solution to Vietnam’s ills is simply, as one cabinet member put it, “better administration.”

TABLE I: Level of Education of Cabinet Members

CABINET Diem Tho Huong Ky All Cabinets==*== %
Highest Level of Education
Vietnamese Classical Studies 1 0 0 0 1 1.9%
Technical School 7 5 9 10 30 56.6
M.D., Ph.D. or LL.D. 4 3 4 4 17 32.1
Total 12 11 13 16 53 100.1%==**==
Data Not Available 3 4 2 1 26
TOTAL Persons in Cabinet 15 15 15 17 79

* This column is not the sum of the four preceding columns, since a few persons from the Khanh and Quat cabinets are included and there is some overlap of personnel among the four cabinets covered above.

** Total may be more than 100%, due to rounding.

TABLE II: Place of Higher Education of Cabinet Members

Place of Higher Education Diem Tho Huong Ky All Cabinets==*==
Vietnam 3 3 3 3 15 37.5%
France, or Vietnam and France 4 5 5 4 16 40.0
Part in USA 2 2 1 2 7 .17.5
Japan, Britain 0 0 1 1 2 5.0
Total 9 10 10 10 40 100%
Data Not Available 6 5 5 7 39
TOTAL Persons in Cabinet 15 15 15 17 79

* Those in the Diem, Tho, Khanh, Huong, Quat or First Ky cabinets.

TABLE III: Age Distribution of Cabinet Members and Average Ageby Cabinet

Age Diem Tho Huong Ky All Cabinets==*==
1900-1904 2 0 1 0 3
1905-1909 1 1 2 1 4
1910-1914 3 5 3 1 13
1915-1919 4 4 3 0 8
1920-1924 1 0 3 6 12
1925-1929 0 3 1 5 10
1930-1934 1 1 1 1 3
1935-1940 0 0 0 1 1
TOTAL 12 14 14 15 54
Data Not Available 3 1 1 2 25
Number of Persons in Cabinet 15 15 15 17 79
Average Age on Taking Office 47.9 45.2 47.6 41.4

* Those in the Diem, Tho, Khanh, Huong, Quat or First Ky cabinets.

TABLE IV: Place of Birth of Cabinet Members

Region Diem Tho Huong Ky All Cabinets==*== %
South 6 11 8 6 28 50%
Central/South 3 2 1 2 9 16.0
Central/North 1 0 0 0 2 3.6
North 3 1 4 6 16 28.6
Elsewhere (Loas) 0 0 0 1 1 1.8
Total 13 14 13 15 56 100%
Data Not Available 2 1 2 2 23
Total Persons in Cabinet 15 15 15 17 79

* Persons in the Diem, Tho, Huong, Khanh, Quat and First Ky cabinets.

TABLE V: Correlation Between Place of Education and Place of Birth

Place of Birth
Place of Higher Education South (28) North (16) Total
Vietnam 4 7 11
All or Part Foreign 15 4 19
Total 19 11 28
Data Not Available 9 5

TABLE VI: Career Histories of Cabinet Members[a]

nbsp; 1949-1954 Diem Period
Cabinet Member 3 0
National Assembly 0 2
Sub-total: Political Office 3 (5.9%) 2 (3.8%)
Educator 4 8
Judge, lawyer 3 6
Sub-total:Professionals (including government employees) 7 (13.7%) 14 (26.4%)
Journalist 1 0
Doctor and dentist 2 5
Banker and businessman 3 4
Sub-total: Business and Free Professions 6 (11.8%) 9 (17.0%)
Exile, or study abroad 13 (25.5%) 2 (3.8%)
With the Viet Minh 1 (2.0%) 0 (0.0%)
TOTAL 51 (100%) 53 (100.1%)==*==
Data Not Available 28 26

fna. For Diem cabinet members, this indicates pre-1960 position.
* Total may be more than 100%, due to rounding.

TABLE VII: Pre-Diem Career History of Cabinet Members, by Cabinet

\2.Secretary-General, Director-General, etc. 1 3 1 1
\2.Lower rank civil servant 3 3 3 1
\2.Military officer 0 3 0 3
\2.Educator 1 0 2 1
\2.Judge, lawyer 0 1 1 1
\2.Journalist 1 0 0 0
\2.Doctor, dentist, pharmacist 0 1 0 1
\2.Banker, businessman 0 1 1 1
\2.Exile, study abroad 4 2 2 2
\2.With Viet Minh 0 0 1 0
\2.TOTAL in cabinet 15 15 15 17
\2.Data not available 5 1 4 6

TABLE VIII: Members of Five Cabinets From Previous Cabinets

  Diem Tho Khanh Huong Quat Ky
DIEM * 2 0 0 0 0
THO * 5 2 0 0
KHANH * 2 1 0
HUONG * 1 1
QUAT * 5
KY *
Total Positions 15 15 18 15 19 17 99
Total Carry-overs - 2 5 4 2 6
Percent of Carry-overs 13.3 27.8 26.7 10.5 35.3

DAVID WURFEL is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri.


I wish to thank the Research Center of the School of Business and Public Administration, University of Missouri, and the Center for South and Southeast Asia, University of Michigan, for assistance which helped make this study possible.

1 Robert Shaplen, The Lost Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 253ff.

2 Nguyen Thai, Is South Vietnam Viable? (Manila: Carmelo and Bauermann, 1962), 31ff.

3 See Robert Marsh, The Mandarins (Glencoe: Free Press, 1961), 82ff.

4 See Roy Jumper and Nguyen Thi Hue, Notes on the Political and Administrative History of Vietnam (Saigon: Michigan State University, 1962, mimeo).

5 See Vu Tam Ich, “A Historical Survey of Educational Developments in Vietnam,” Bulletin of the Bureau of School Service (Lexington, Kentucky), XXXII (Dec. 1959), 69ff.; also Virginia Thompson, French Indo-China (New York: Macmillan, 1937), pp. 284-307.

6 Great Britain, Naval Intelligence Division, Indo-China (London: HMSO, 1943), 250ff. It must be remembered that French lycees in Vietnam, though here included in the category “secondary” schools, provided up to the equivalent of American junior college education.

7 Charles Robequain, The Economic Development of French Indo-China (London: Oxford University Press, 1944) , p. 87.

8 Robert Scigliano, South Vietnam: Nation Under Stress (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1963), p. 50.

9 Republique du Viet-Nam, Secretariat d’Etat a L’Education Nationale, Annuaire Statistique de L’Enseignment (Saigon, 1965) , pp. 80-81.

10 Opinion Research Corporation, The People of South Vietnam: How They Feel About the War (Princeton: Opinion Research Corporation, March 1967), p. 46.

11 Wesley R. Fishel, “Vietnam: The Broadening War,” Asian Survey (Jan. 1966), p. 51.

12 Scigliano, op. cit., p. 48.

13 See M. Brewster Smith, “Foreign vs. Indigenous Education,” in Post-Primary Education and Political and Economic Development, Piper and Cole, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1964), pp. 48-74.

14 Bae-ho Hahn and Kyo-taik Kim, “Korean Political Leaders (1952-1962) : Their Social Origins and Skills,” Asian Survey (July 1963), pp. 305-323. In this sample, which covered many leaders in addition to cabinet members, only 74% had college or university education; 14% attended military academy.

15 Robert North, “The Indian Council of Ministers: A Study of Origins,” in Leadership and Political Institutions in India, Richard Park and Irene Tinker, eds. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959), p. 110. Among the pro-Western elite of Nigeria, only one-third had been educated in Europe or America and only half had attended university at all. See Hugh H. Smythe and Mabel M. Smythe, The New Nigerian Elite (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960) , p. 76.

16 See Douglas Pike, Viet Cong (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1966), pp. 422-435. “Harold Lasswell and Daniel Lerner, World Revolutionary Elites (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1965) , p. 382.

17 Robert Ward, “Japan,” in Modern Political Systems: Asia, Ward and Macridis, eds. (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1963), P. 85.

18 Ibid.

19 North, op. cit., p. 113.

20 See George Tanham, “Nationalism and Revolution,” in Asia, No. 4 (Winter 1966), pp. 35-36.

21 Scigliano, op. cit., 51ff.

22 Harry Benda, “Non-Western Intelligentsias as Political Elites,” in John Kautsky, Political Change in Underdeveloped Countries (New York: Wiley, 1962), 234ff.


24 Joseph Buttinger, Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled (New York: Praeger, 1967) , pp. 198-99.

25 See Herbert Feith, The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1962) .

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