Spoiled guests or dedicated patriots : the Chinese in North Vietnam, 1954-1978

Xiaorong HAN, Butler University

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009.

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This article examines the triangular relationship among the Chinese community of northern Vietnam, the North Vietnamese government, and China, focusing in particular on how the relationship affected the ethnic and national identities of Chinese residents in North Vietnam between 1954 and 1978. Scrutiny of the two important issues of citizenship and the Chinese school system reveals that North Vietnamese leaders adopted lenient policies toward Chinese residents mainly because they saw the relationship between the Vietnamese state and the Chinese community as part and parcel of North Vietnam's relationship with China. These policies ultimately contributed to a delay in the assimilation of Chinese residents, and by the end of the 1970s they still had not completed the transformation from well-treated sojourners into citizens of Vietnam. Though many Chinese residents embraced a status of privileged outsider, others willingly participated on Vietnam's behalf in the war against America. After reunification, the desire to clarify loyalty, i.e. to “purify” the nation-state, led the Vietnamese government to initiate an aggressive process of forced assimilation. This policy, and the deterioration of relations between Vietnam and China in the late 1970s, triggered an exodus of Chinese residents.