Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why do the Vietnamese dislike China?


I have just got back from a two week trip to Vietnam. I had already visited the country for a few days in 2009, but this time my stay was longer and I feel that I got a deeper impression of the place. One thing that I came to realize about Vietnam during my recent stay there is the extent to which China and the Chinese are unpopular in the country.

On my first day in Hanoi, the receptionist at my hotel noticed that my phone had Chinese writing on it, and I told her that I live in Beijing. After asking me to write my Chinese name down, and showing me how she could write 你好 (ni hao) in a 5 year old's handwriting, the woman asked me why on earth I chose to live in China. She told me that Chinese people are "not good", that China occupies Vietnam's Spratly Islands, and that many of the Chinese tourists she has met are rude and speak too loudly.

During the following two weeks in the country, I had various other such experiences. Once I was in the lobby of one of Hanoi's fanciest hotels, and I was fooling about with a Vietnamese girl I know who speaks a bit of Chinese, trying to have a basic conversation with her in Mandarin. A smartly dressed young man sitting next to us interrupted, asking why we were speaking Chinese, since the Chinese are "bad people who think they can conquer everything".

My good Vietnamese friend Hien, who used to be my roommate when I studied in Beijing, confirmed that his fellow countrymen tend to dislike the Chinese on principle. In fact, he claimed that despite the wars with the Americans and the French, the only foreigners the Vietnamese dislike nowadays are the Chinese (he himself doesn't share these feelings, having had mostly good experiences in Beijing).

                       
        Above: Ho Chi Min's Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi's own little Tiananmen Square

This widespread animosity towards China might seem puzzling at first, since Vietnam is clearly the most similar country to China on the face of the earth. Just like Korea and Japan, Vietnam has always belonged to the Chinese cultural sphere. As the Vietnamese like to remind people, they were ruled by China for a thousand years. As a result, they adopted the same mix of Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism and Daoism as the Chinese, and took to writing their language in Chinese characters. Within South East Asia Vietnam represents an outpost of Chinese civilization, as opposed to its neighbours Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, whose culture is influenced mainly by India.

Vietnam's current political and social system is also very similar to China's, with a "Communist Party" presiding over a "Socialist-oriented market economy" in which the government does not exercise control over people's daily lives, but keeps a lid on political dissent. Vietnam's own "Reform and Opening Up", the "Doi Moi" Policy, was started in 1986. Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi even looks a bit like a small scale Tiananmen Square.

The lifestyle, food and mentality of the Vietnamese all bear a clear resemblance to China as well. Although Hanoi looks very different from a Chinese city, with narrow streets and old colonial buildings everywhere, the restaurants and shops look decidedly similar to the ones you might find in China. The people have a South-East Asian gentleness in their way which is unknown in China, and they thankfully don't share some of the Chinese bad habits which I referred to in my previous post, but otherwise their similarity to the Chinese is obvious. Even the Vietnamese language has borrowed about half its vocabulary from Chinese.

Why then this hostility towards China on the part of ordinary Vietnamese? The main reasons seem to lie in history and in the current dispute over the Spratly islands. The way the Vietnamese see it, their history has been one long struggle to rid themselves of Chinese domination. Most of Vietnam's national heroes are people who fought off the Chinese successfully. Then there was the 1979 war between China and Vietnam, started by China in retaliation for Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia, and ending with the war-hardend Vietnamese giving their Northern neighbours a good bashing.

The ancient Chinese were apparently baffled by these Southerners who enjoyed the benefits of Chinese civilization but held on to their separate identity so stubbornly, rather than just become Chinese themselves. I have never heard of modern Chinese laying any claim to Vietnam, unlike Mongolia, which most Chinese see as rightly belonging to China. I suppose China's domination of Vietnam came to an end too long ago for it to remain in the Chinese collectively memory. Even the war in 1979 is rarely remembered or discussed in China. The Vietnamese have forgotten nothing however, and there is currently a dispute between the two countries which serves to keep the old resentment burning.

The Spratly Islands are an archipelago of islands in the South China Sea (known as the "East Sea" in Vietnam) whose sovereignty is contended by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. All of these countries except Brunei currently occupy some of the islands. The islands are uninhabited, but the real prize is the oil and gas reserves which the area contains. Although the islands are geographically closer to Vietnam and the Philippines, China claims that they have been part of Chinese territory for two thousand years, and that they are clearly marked as such on ancient Chinese maps. Archaeological findings of ancient Chinese pottery and coins on the islands is supposed to back this claim. Vietnam on the other hand contends that the islands were never part of China's territory, and that they have ruled over them since the 17th century, when they were not under the sovereignty of any state.

The dispute over the Spratly Islands is obviously very deeply felt in Vietnam, and contributes to the general ill will towards China. A British girl I met who lives in Saigon told me that in her opinion the Vietnamese media is also to blame, because it gives a distorted coverage of China. She said that various Vietnamese friends had told her that the Chinese eat babies after seeing stories to this effect in the media. She also pointed out that the Vietnamese have a rather selective memory, forgetting that Ho Chi Min received much help from the Chinese Communist Party. "Uncle Ho" actually spent years in China, married a Chinese woman and spoke fluent Chinese.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

What, there's no mention of Chinese soldiers opening fires on unarmed Vietnamese fishermen and killing them. On many occassions, they also arrest Vietnamese fishermen and demand ransoms. On many other occassions, they use their big steel-hulled boats to ram smaller wooden boats operated by Vietnamese fishermen, killing them.
Those are not the actions of soldiers of a civilized nation.

FOARP said...

"I have never heard of modern Chinese laying any claim to Vietnam, unlike Mongolia, which most Chinese see as rightly belonging to China."

I don't know if most Chinese do see Mongolia as Chinese territory. I'd say most Chinese, if they're being serious, don't say that. they might, however, find Mongolia a bit hard to take seriously as an independent country, as some British feel about the Republic of Ireland, and some Americans do of Canada. this isn't the same as laying claim to those territories, but Mongolians/Irish/Canadians might feel that it is.

However, if it's just a case of what university-age people say on the internet and in the class room, I've heard most of the countries in East Asia referred to as basically being Chinese provinces, including Vietnam. I don't think this is meant seriously though.

"Just like Korea and Japan, Vietnam has always belonged to the Chinese cultural sphere. As the Vietnamese like to remind people, they were ruled by China for a thousand years. As a result, they adopted the same mix of Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism and Daoism as the Chinese, and took to writing their language in Chinese characters. Within South East Asia Vietnam represents an outpost of the Chinese civilization, as opposed to its neighbours Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, whose culture is influenced mainly by Indian civilization."

Whoa! Over-simplifications ahoy! First off, and so obviously that I can't believe I have to say this, but Vietnam has not 'always' been anything. Actually it has over the millenia experienced a whole range of influences, including long periods under so-called 'Indianised' rule (look up the Chams and the Funanese). Chinese influence is strong there, but lets not make out that this has always been the case, or is exclusively the case now. I am far from an expert on South-East Asian society, but the people who are say that there is still a degree of Indian influence in Vietnam (just as there is Chinese influence in Lao/Cambodia/Thailand/Malaysia/Burma etc.), and that the name 'Indochina' still has significant meaning.

Ji Xiang said...

Although I don't think that most Chinese would seriously support an armed reconquest of Mongolia, it is a fact that many of them see it as a place which should really belong to China, in a way they don't for Korea or Japan. The fact that it was part of China during the Qing dynasty makes a big difference.

The Taiwanese seem to be the ones who take the issue most seriously. Until recently maps of the world produced in Taiwan still showed Mongolia as being part of China, and the ROC officially considered the country to be part of China. See an example of this here:

http://www.business-mongolia.com/mongolia/2008/09/03/taiwan-made-world-map-shows-mongolia-as-a-part-of-china/


As for your second point, yes Vietnam hasn't always been an outpost of Chinese culture. There were once hunter gatherers there who couldn't even write in any language, let alone in Chinese characters. Earlier still there were no people there, only dinosaurs.

The word "always" is thus obviously not to be taken literally. Still, if calling Vietnam an outpost of Chinese civilization in South-East Asia is a simplification, then it's one which you will find repeated in numerous books and articles on Vietnam. There has been some Indian influence there too, but I must say that I struggled to see it while there. I only visited the north of the country though, the most "Chinese" part.

FOARP said...

@Ji Xiang - Actually people in Taiwan take the old claim to Mongolia only marginally less seriously than they take the R.O.C's claim to the rest of China - that would be not at all then. This was the case back in '01 when I lived in Taiwan, and is even more the case today. Formally abandoning the claim, though, would call Taiwan's status into question, and that might cause trouble.

As for Vietnam, well, I too am not an expert, but the experts who I read put it on a contiuum between India and China (whilst not ignoring local culture, of course) along with the rest of South-East Asia.

FOARP said...

PS this map from Michael Turton's blog does a good job of rounding up the ROC's claims -

http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/2011/06/roc-claims-map.html

As far as I know this map is still the one hung in Taiwanese classrooms and used in Taiwanese school books.

Anonymous said...

@FOARP Indochina is merely a modern term used to refer to the location of Mainland Southeast Asia; East of India and South of China. Many books I have read have stated that Vietnam was, by far, the most heavily sinicized country in Southeast Asia. Influences by India were very minor and were largely via the Champa kingdom that was destroyed by Dai Viet more then 600 years ago. If you go to Vietnam yourself, you will realize that there is little Indian influence.

Anonymous said...

@Ji Xiang The Vietnamese haven't always been a part of Chinese culture. The Vietnamese people were the first Asians according to the Sunderland theory and had developed a culture based around sea faring, wet rice cultivation, and bronze casting known today as the Dong Son period. The Chinese had occupied Vietnam ruthlessly for 1000 years assimilating all the other Viet tribes of the Bach Viet (Bai Yue) except for the Vietnamese themselves. Most of the culture that China has is not exclusively Chinese. In fact a large portion of Chinese culture is absorbed by those it took over. For instance, the I-Ching (Kinh Dich) and the Yin Yang (Am Duong), the basis of Taoism originates within Vietnamese philosophy. Sure Vietnamese might have taken some stuff from CHina, but don't say China invented or cultivated it.

You want to understand the resentment Vietnamese people have over Chinese people? The answer is very simple, China just doesn't know how to learn from history. The Mongols, French and Americans knew that war with Vietnamese people was going to not end well for them, but 1000 years after our independence from China, there has been a total of 17 wars started by China onto Vietnam, not counting 1979 and the dispute over the Spratley and Paracel Islands. Of course the resentment in this day and age is over those islands that belonged to Vietnam. But don't forget it is the attitude and barbarous activities of the Chinese in the past that has generated this much hatred by the Vietnamese.

Put this into perspective: Out of the 5000 year history of Vietnamese history, starting from 2879 BCE to now, Vietnam has only had about 200 years of peace altogether. 2/5th of the 5000 years of chaos was caused by the threat and fear of Chinese invasion. Luckily we were strong enough that today there is still a country called Vietnam.

Ji Xiang said...

Hi anonymous Vietnamese.

I do understand the historical roots of Vietnam's resentment of China. Having said that, many of the claims you make sound to me like overblown nationalist nonsense.

The Vietnamese were the "first Asians"? What does that mean? Was Vietnam populated before the rest of Asia? I doubt it.Vietnam invented the Yin/Yang concepts and the I Ching? I can find no support for such claims, and they don't ring true to me.

Although I sympathize with Vietnam if and when it is bullied by its larger neighbour, I think that the Vietnamese regime also encourages anti-Chinese resentment as a way of focusing the people's anger on a foreign target. A bit like the Chinese government does with Japan.

Ngo The Vinh said...

We don't hate the American and French as much because of what happened after the war. The independence of Vietnam was eventually recognized by these countries and afterwards serious efforts were made to heal the pain of war. Meanwhile, the Chinese has always been the "permanent" aggressor throughout the history of Vietnam. The American and the French have gone, but the Chinese are still occupying the islands that we regard as our territory (by the way, they killed our people in achieving this back in the Vietnam war era). How can one believe in the Chinese's good intention (if there's any) if they continuously threaten our country and open fire on our people? It is an almost universal belief in Vietnam that the Chinese are never as good as their word. In other words, it is believed that they are hiding their true intention behind friendly gestures. In addition, the French and American made no efforts to erase the Vietnamese culture like what the Chinese did. China simply does not have the respect for its neighboring countries (India, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines just to name a few). The Chinese always hold a resentment for Japan due to what the Japanese did in WW2. I am not trying to justify Japanese's atrocities China, however, I want to illustrate the point that we feel the same towards the Chinese. The only difference is that more of our people died in the hand of the Chinese than the number of Chinese died under brief Japanese partial occupation of China, and the whole country was put under Chinese rule/influence for thousands of years.

It is usually mistaken that we love and hate China in certain periods throughout our history. In fact, it is simply change in diplomatic relations status, not general public opinion. As you can see above, regardless of what happens "on the face" (as we usually say in Vietnamese), deep down there is always suspicion against the Chinese that tells us to treat them with utmost caution. Given the current situation between the two countries, I don't see we have any reasons to believe otherwise.Now I don't think it is "love" in the true sense of the word.

On another aspect, China has always dominated the economy of Vietnam through various unethical ways. The imported goods from China into Vietnam are mostly of horrible quality. Meanwhile, by purchasing harmful insects/animals from Vietnam, Chinese merchants encouraged the raising of them in the country thus in the process destroyed our agriculture.

We don't have to use China as a diversion of public attention. Rather the Chinese is one of the root cause for many problems we're facing. Please note that I am not defending the regime in Vietnam, rather I want to defend the country against oppression.

Ji Xiang said...

I can totally understand that having China as a neighbour must be unpleasant at times, especially with them throwing their weight around in the South Sea like they are doing. Like you say, China has little respect for its neighbours, and the way it behaves invites suspicion. The current Chinese government is unfortunately impossible to be reasoned with when it comes to border disputes. As long as nationalism remains the mainstay of their legitimacy this will not change.

The Vietnamese should probably count themselves lucky that China does not regard the whole of Vietnam as their own "lost" territory.

On the other hand, some of your claims seem to me to be excessive, especially when it comes to China controlling Vietnam's economy.

Imported goods from China are often bad quality, this is well known all over the world. But it's not like the Vietnamese are being forced to buy them, any more than anyone else. Nor are they being forced to raise harmful insects of animals to sell to the Chinese. If Vietnamese people raise them, it is purely out of their own greed. So I think talking about China dominating Vietnam's economy for these reasons is unfair and unreasonable.

My point remains. Although China's behaviour in the South Sea is indeed absurd, in the end you cannot blame China for Vietnam's "root problems", since China actually doesn't control Vietnam and has little influence on Vietnam's internal affairs. Nor is it reasonable to hate modern China for how it ruled Vietnam centuries ago. But I imagine that the Vietnamese regime is happy for its people to go on blaming China for half their problems.

So the point is, blame China when it really is the time to do so, but do not let emotions and historical grievances cloud your judgement.

Anonymous said...

..The Chams and Funanese weren't even Vietnamese, they were conquered by the Vietnamese and whatever influence they later had on Vietnamese society was extremely minor. And the term and concept of Indochina is purely a western (and colonial) one, which also has a geographic connotation, not just a cultural one. Even if we were to take it culturally, Cambodia/Laos would cover the Indo part while Vietnam would cover the China part. The term Indochina has never meant that they all practiced an equal mix of Indian and Chinese culture.

Anonymous said...

Thank you and everyone who's commented for shedding light on this issue. I live in China and hear a lot of anti-Japanese sentiment against Japan that stemmed from their atrocities during WWII. I see that China the victim is acting with a lot of hate, so I wondered how sentiments about China the aggressor is among regions that they dominated.

Anonymous Chinese said...

Ji Xiang, I appreciate reading your comments to calm or even refute some of those over-blown nationalistic anti-Chinese sentiments a good number of Vietnamese harbor in their minds and hearts. Hating Chinese aka Vietnamese nationalism seems to me to be a foundation of Viet identity, had been there for hundreds of years and sadly will be there. Tribalism like racism are very craved by many people, and may even justify wars and murders.

Not saying Chinese are angels, Chinese are not.
But certainly there is not that much intense emotions for Chinese towards Viets than the other way around.
The simple explanation of course is that Vietnam is not regarded as a significant issue by Chinese, and this in itself is a superiority attitude that irate those nationalistic Viets.

Want to point out a human factor: as you may know there are ethnic Chinese born and raised and resided in Vietnam.
They are the Hoa people, and the ugly Viet slang for them are "ba tàu" (figuratively meaning boat people, not referring to the event a few decades ago, but to the Chinese refugees arrived at Mekong delta at the end of the Ming dynasty a few hundred years back).
They would suffer psychological and physical attacks whenever Viet regime want people to hate Chinese, forever their greatest enemy, for whatever political reasons.

So three to four decades ago many Hoa were driven away from Vietnam, their valuables confiscated for a passage to the pirates-infested sea; many lost their lives.

Now the tension of the sea islands territory dispute is easily spreading to destruction and even killing sprees against all ethnic Chinese, both recently arrived business people, workers, or those Hoa who had been there for generations.
The Hoa people are helpless, and some have to abundant their ancestral identity, change their surnames to Nguyen say, for life preservation.

Ji Xiang said...

@anonymous Chinese:

yes, clearly hating China has become part of the Vietnamese identity, and that won't change easily, especially if the authorities see it as a useful sentiment to foster.

The Chinese don't seem to hate Vietnam in return, I do agree. But then again most of them are barely even aware of Vietnam's existence, like you say. To be fair many Chinese are also unaware of the Sino-Vietnamese war of 1979 (partly because the government no longer appreciates people mentioning it), and in my observation most Chinese are quite unaware of the fact that the Vietnamese think they have fought against China for their freedom for a thousand years. So ignorance goes both ways. In the case of the Chinese, it's the ignorance of the big power which doesn't know how it has affected the little countries around it.

I have heard about the plight of the Chinese of Vietnam, and it's terrible. Like you say, tribalism and racism are alive and kicking in the world, and in East Asia specifically they are potent forces. It will be hard to eradicate them, but every little bit helps...


Anonymous Chinese said...

A reason I'm writing my sentiment here is to point out the hypocrisy embedded in the psychs of many nationalistic Vietnamese when they make remarks like: "Vietnamese are a friendly and forgiving people, we forgave the French and the Americans, we welcome them, let bygone be bygone, ... etc"
Clearly the hostile memory of and attitude toward China nourished so deeply in the Vietnamese culture and tradition has been selectively veiled in those flowery words.

I believe that the more such Vietnam-hating-China or China-belittling-Vietnam issue is brought out, uncomfortable it may be to some people, the better chance there may be for mutual reflection and even healing.

Despite some deep seated resentment, there are ironies in the ways Vietnamese may feel towards Chinese.
One irony is that a Chinese (Hoa) person man or woman is almost always considered a good marriage partner.
I'm not referring to some stories of bride kidnapping or trafficking of women to some poor villages in China or Taiwan, I mean in Saigon or elsewhere in the interface between Viet-China diaspora.
A stereotypical Chinese family is well-to-do or even wealthy, so a desirable feature for marriage.
Also many good parts of the Chinese culture are quietly acknowledged and respected.

Ji Xiang said...

Anonymous Chinese,

to be honest everything you say reminds me of the Chinese resentment towards Japan. The Chinese also quietly acknowledge and admire the good in Japanese culture, and many Chinese want to buy Japanese products and go there on holiday or even to study (I'm not so sure about marriage though). Many Chinese will also claim that "the Chinese are peaceful and friendly with foreigners", and then the very same people may suddenly blurt out nationalistic and aggressively anti-Japanese feelings which will make your bones chill.

The truth is that Chinese and Vietnamese cultures are really very similar, as are their political systems. It's thus not surprising that you get the same sort of phenomena in both countries. As you say, the more these issues are discussed, the more chance for reflection and healing there will be. Part of the problem is that these things are never really discussed.

Anonymous Chinese said...

There are differences in the dynamics between Chinese/Japanese vs Vietnamese/Chinese.

Chinese resentment for Japanese was, I believe, mostly due to the relatively recent events in the Second world war.
Japanese executed extreme cruelty and were intensely murderous towards Chinese.

I myself have been puzzled at the psychological background of such intense cruelty.
Some comments made were about how Chinese, once had a glorious esteemed past, had badly fallen from grace and caused Asians like Japanese to lose face, and thus fueling a perverted desire to destroy China.
What may be your understanding?

Anyway, the anti-Japanese feelings in China may often be intense, as the cause was only a few generations old.
Nevertheless, I don't believe there is a systematic teaching in China to "hate Japan" or "hate almost all things about Japan".

Chinese nationalism is not built on pushing back the Japanese or defending against Japanese or resisting the influence by the Japanese.

So this is the biggest contrast with Vietnamese/Chinese.
As we know, Vietnamese nationalism is built on (substituting the above with C => V and J => C).
Thus the Vietnamese government can count on in a very short notice to direct or divert the attention of Viet nationals to negative things about China.

By the way, I think many Chinese do admire the economic and social developments made by Japan.
Many Chinese may even view Japanese as embodiment of some of the best classical east asian cultural heritage.
It still makes me wonder, in this internet age, why many Chinese still can not learn about cleaniness and social politeness from Japanese.
Tourists from China are an embarrassment to other peoples and particularly to ethnic Chinese overseas.
May be need to wait another 1.5 or 2.5 generations for enlightenment to sink in ... let's hope so.




Ji Xiang said...

I do agree that Chinese nationalism is not based on resisting Japan in the same way that Vietnamese nationalism is based on resisting China. On the other hand, I think it can be said that modern Chinese nationalism is very much based on the memories of the "century of humiliation", so there is a resentment directed not only against Japan but against much of the outside world in general. The Chinese government also sometimes tries to divert its people's attention towards perceived foreign threats towards China, with varying degrees of success. The threat of "Japanese militarism" is certainly played up in the media from time to time.

I am aware that the roots of the hatred of Japan lie in the Second World War, and that the Japanese did a lot to deserve hatred at the time. I don't know what the roots of their cruel behaviour was, but I would guess it was to do with some form of brainwashing in schools in the previous years. That, and a martial culture in which people were repressed and brought up to obey orders without question. Germany at the time had a similar sort of culture, although it's completely changed in the mean time. These repressed people were then encouraged to turn the people of the countries they conquered into the targets of their frustration. It's dreadful what human beings will do, given the proper conditioning.

About why the Chinese can't learn cleanliness and politeness from Japan "in this internet age", it's complicated. You might wonder why they can't learn that certain habits (like spitting on the ground) are unacceptable from foreigners in general. Such habits are not considered acceptable anywhere in the world except China. I guess the fact is that some people have learnt, since younger and more sophisticated Chinese would never do things like spit on the ground even in China, let alone when traveling abroad. But the Chinese are many, a lot of them have very little contact with foreign cultures throughout their lives, the ones who know that such behaviour isn't right still don't do much to educate the others.... It seems to be incredibly difficult to change certain ingrained habits, and the country's size and isolation don't help. Let's also remember that in China the internet means only "the Chinese internet" for most people.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous Chinese
Are you a Hoa person? You said Hoa people were persecuted but actually they were not. The vietnamese government just confiscated all private businesses like what happened in China. So many people fled vietnam that time not only the chinese people. The chinese people were allowed to leave at first but then the government banned everyone from leaving

The term Ba Tàu is not offensive, it's just a colloquial term, like you said it refers to chinese people coming to vietnam on boats. I actually never hear Vietnamese discriminate against Hoa people. They blend quite well with vietnamese society and even if there are people who hate or insult chinese, they never insult Hoa people. Hoa people are recognised by the majority of Vietnamese as a positive contribution towards Vietnam. Do you know many parts of South Vietnam was built by Hoa people? We never hate or have ill feeling towards them. Actually they are doing quite well now and most vietnamese love their food

I see you referring to the 2014 riot when factories were burnt. It was actually promoted by anti-communism faction called the Việt Tân. They always try to topple the government by creating instability. The riot happened in industrial zones and involved mostly poor workers who were easily manipulated.

Vietnamese nationalism is actually quite fair. We never hate any country that doesn't harm us. Historical grievances are generally forgiven as with the French and the Americans. The reason why we can't forgive China is because it is continuing to show aggression towards us. If China stops threatening Vietnam then I believe Vietnamese people will stop hating China like what happened with the U.S and France. Also it has nothing to do with how Chinese people view us. Most Vietnamese people would not care less how we are viewed by Chinese. Vietnam is actually a very insular country, we don't care much about other countries at all. We only care about how other countries treat us, if they have good policies towards us or not.

On a positive note, Vietnamese people do like and admire Ancient Chinese culture and history. Actually we know a lot about Chinese history and all the names of your emperors, poets, famous people etc There is a lot of interest for chinese literature especially poetry. Even many people know more about Chinese history than vietnamese history. It is too bad that China can not be nicer to Vietnam as there is just so much potential for a positive relationship between the two countries

To tell you a little secret, Vietnamese people find it hard to hate China. I would say the feeling of Vietnamese towards China is that it is impossible to love but at the same time impossible to hate. I think the reason is that it is like a forbidden love, vietnamese cannot love China as it goes against what vietnam has fought for much of our history, we cannot hate China either as it has so much influence on our culture

Anonymous said...

The relationship between China and Vietnam is different to China and Japan. Japan was for most of history quite irrelevant to China while China has always been the main character in Vietnamese history. It is quite easy to see where their hatred towards China come from if you take into account that China has always been the dominant power over Vietnam for much of its history. If I'm not wrong Vietnam started off as a Chinese province, it then broke away but still had to be a vassal state, then got annexed into a province again, then broke away but still was a vassal state. When the French came China basically signed over Vietnam to the French. And now China is so important to Vietnamese politics that its government is split between pro China and antiChina factions. Basically if you read Vietnamese history, it's basically China China, Chiiiinnnnaaa and more China. It's understandable that the Vietnamese are quite fed up and want to get rid of China if possible. And the fact that they know its impossible to run away from China's grip probably make them hate China even more

Anonymous Chinese said...

|Almost amusing to read "China China, Chiiiinnnnaaa and more China" if not for the fact that really have been arousing so much negative emotions and tribal behavior in some people.

Among countries within the realm of the "chopstick civilization", Vietnam has certainly tried the hardest to eradicate itself of China influence.
They (both the Viet commoners and progressive thinkers) were so happy and eager to adopt the Latin alphabets as writing language.

Ethnic Chinese ought to know better such intense emotion its smaller neighbor has toward China; so much complex emotion and behavior.

lOlLipOP xoxo said...

Hi I'm a vietnamese girl and I have to say that it's not true that Hoa people are discriminated in Vietnam. Actually the riot was because of politics not racial hate. The anti communist faction planned it to cause chaos. It only target foreign factories not Hoa people. Also in 1975 when the communist government take over they had anti capitalist policy so that's why many Hoa people fled, it's because many Hoa people were business owners who got target by anticapitalism policy. There are still so many Hoa people in Vietnam and they do not get any discrimination at all. My family and I have a lot of Hoa friends and as I know other Vietnamese people do too. They get on very well with the rest of us, their culture is not that different and we love their food. There is a reason why district 5 where Hoa people live is considered food heaven in Ho Chi Minh City, we have a saying live in district 2 play in district 3 and eat in district 5 :) Not to mention a lot of their food became part of our culture

Not many people know this but Hoa people were one of the first settlers in South vietnam when it was conquered. So Their culture has a lot of influence on south vietnamese culture. You can see it in South Vietnam food, traditional music, folk opera and language. Many south vietnamese slangs came from chinese.
About China i would say we have complicated feeling towards this country . It had so much influence on our culture that it's really hard to completely hate it. Actually to tell you a little secret vietnamese know a lot about chinese history, sometimes even more than our own. Classical Chinese culture like literature, art, painting are always well received in Vietnam, even with people who hate China with a passion. We want to like China ,but it's so hard when China is being aggressive and pushy towards vietnam all the time .

Getting rid of Chinese characters was not really antiChina but for more practical reasons. Vietnamese don't speak chinese we have our own language that is different to chinese, so chinese characters don't suit us. Even though the upper class knew chinese most commoners did not. Keeping chinese characters mean vietnamese would have to learn Chinese before we can write. Unlike in Korea or Japan our elite class was totally obsessed with Classical Chinese and wrote exclusively in it only, so they felt no motivation to invent more convenient script for the lower class to use. They did invent Chu Nom for vietnamese words with no chinese equivalent but this script only became official for a few years

its so hard to get rid of chinese influence on our culture, actually we did try but it failed, every time we tried to get rid of chinese influence we ended up taking in more chinese influence than before lol

If you have any questions just ask me. Actually I find this topic very interesting

Ji Xiang said...

Thanks for your comment "Vietnamese girl",

you come across as really reasonable, and your explanations were quite enlightening.

I don't think it has crossed anyone's mind that Vietnam switching to the Latin alphabet was done because of "anti-Chinese" feeling. It was just common sense, like Koreans switching to Hangul.

Anonymous Chinese said...

'Vietnamese girl' must be quite a peace maker, offered a more benign view of the complex relationship between Viets and Chinese.

A key word here is "complex".
As I commented above Vietnamese tend to be very welcoming to marriage relationship with Chinese, both within Vietnam and in the international diaspora.
That to me is a strong reflection of the latent non-negative feelings toward things related to China, that at least a good many aspects of the Chinese culture and attributes are quietly and intrinsically respected or admired.

Unfortunately though during times of strong raw emotions the Hoa people become siting ducks.
Never minimize the suffering the Hoa felt in times of turmoil.

I know many of those Hoa who fled as boat people in the 1970's and 80's.
They were first harassed badly, their wealth confiscated for a risky trip out of Vietnam on leaky boats.

In the days of South Vietnam the Hoa as a group inherited the dominance in commerce, as a consequence of the French colonial strategy to divide and conquer: let Viets be clerks and administrators, Khmers be laborers, and Hoa be business middle-men.
So each group developed more and mroe mistrust or even resentment toward other groups, that played to the benefits of the French overlords.

Anyway in the South Vietnam days the wealthiest Vietnamese made their money in collaboration with the Hoa, they corrupted each other.
In times of difficulties then, the Hoa would be the prime target and charged with corruption against the country.

In the recent anti-China protests, all factories with Chinese characters in the logo were attacked, be they from Taiwan or Singapore, or even some from South Korea.
The Hoa of course felt threatened.
For every peace maker like 'Vietnamese girl', there will also be a Viet "patriot" who is ready to attack all things Chinese, as seen in some of the posts above.

Anonymous Chinese said...


I generally agree with the comments by 'Vietnamese girl'.
At a down-to-earth relational level the Hoa and Viets can be and often are good friends.
Marriage relationship is not uncommon.

Hoa people are the ethnic Chinese in Vietnam.
There has to be a very long history of migration of peoples in modern day south China and north Vietnam.
In very ancient times the border ought to be quite porous, so Viets, Yuets and other tribes must had moved about various regions.

When Vietnam gained independence from China and then began to expand southward, Viets conquered and vanquished the Khmers, and Mekong delta became an unstable area with remnants of Khmer resistance.
What I read was that about 400 years ago the ethnic Ming-Chinese fleeing from the Qing empire were allowed to settle in the modern day Saigon area so they could be a buffer against the Khmers, and that was how the city of Saigon was established.

The last major ethnic Chinese migration to Vietnam was around world war II time.
And hardly many newer migrants since then.
Thus the current Hoa people have their presence in Vietnam for several generations.
So naturally there is substantial assimilation.

Politically the Vietnam government would still use the historical anti-China memory to play the people, say to divert attention to current problems.
Others such as American strategists also know about this hot spot and know how to game the situation.

I think Vietnamese resent most about Chinese is the perceived sense of Chinese arrogant.
Most Chinese don't know much or care much about Vietnam, and this of course is reasonable to be construed as an arrogant attitude, very much like most Americans don't know or care much about a 'lesser' country such as Canada.

About China being aggressive and pushy toward Vietnam, my take is that since the last attempt to conquer in the Ming dynasty time, Chinese had accepted Vietnam has a strong will to be independent and had given up of absorbing it.
I would hesitate to comment on the current events over the south china sea.
From the China point of view its ancient seafarers were the first to map out the rocks over the region, but I am to stop here.

Abandoning a Chinese-based writing language just because it's more practical to use the phonetic Latin alphabets?
I myself tend to view things as neither black or white but a whole range of grey.
There are elements of practicality, but there must also be strong emotion somewhere.
At the turn of 1900's activists in the whole chopstick civilization (yes, including China) made suggestions to change the writing language to Latin alphabets, in view of the technological and military prowess of Europeans.
But only Vietnam would be very gladly made the change.
Why was that? To abandon the old feudal system, to be practical in using phonetic alphabets were all part of the reason, but to escape Chinese cultural dominance was an equal part.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Chinese (sorry for identifying you as such!) I'm less impressed with your analysis but more impressed with your knowledge of Vietnam, South Vietnam and Hoa, etc. If you're the second or 1.5 generation of Hoa people, who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon, you and I would share similar experience. If you are not, your reading is well versed. Though I'm not a Hoa, my family endured a few years of hostility by the Vietnamese new regime. They confiscated my family business and took over my parents' house, eventually it, but took almost everything else. We dislike the Vietnamese government much more than the Chinese government. Living in the States for nearly four decades, the gradually become the past. Being victims of discrimination and biases taught us not be ones giving it.

lOlLipOP xoxo said...

It's true the Hoa suffered a lot under the new government , I would never intend to minimise their suffering. But just want to make a point that they were not racially targeted. The government only target the rich people that mean all rich people not just the Hoa. You would know it's because communism doesn't allow private ownership. Of course the government is wrong , all vietnamese people think so , so I'm not defending the government. I think they do owe apologies to all these people including the boat refugees.

For people interaction I would say Vietnamese do not discriminate Hoa people. We do have extremists who are usually the more uneducated , vulgar , brute people who are violent and don't think before they act. They hate everyone for example they really hate northern Vietnamese people and harass them , they bash people up for just staring at them wrong. We vietnamese hate and look down on them too but luckily they are just a small population. For the riot, these people infiltrate the peaceful riot and it became violent. They used the excuse to rob factories actually even european factories were robbed.

For people interaction I think most vietnamese in saigon and I think in other places in the south have Hoa friends or know someone who is Hoa. We get on with each other fine and there is no problem at all. I haven't heard anyone direct our hate at Hoa people when we are angry at China. Because we consider Hoa people to be vietnamese like us. I find it sad that the Hoa people you talked to think the way the government treat them is what the normal vietnamese citizen treat them . Im not saying vietnam is so perfect and vietnamese are so good but we have always been kind to Hoa people that migrated to vietnam. For example we took in thousands of chinese migrants everytime there is a war in China , we gave them land , food and treat them well. In the last time we took in minh Huong people that came from ming dynasty, they were given government positions and land . They settled a huge part of the country. You can still see their statues in some cities. So it's not fair when you say we feel threaten by the Hoa so we tried to persecute them. If that is true we would not give them so much power. I think if Vietnam was hostile to chinese then chinese would not continuously migrate to vietnam .

I think I know why many people think vietnamese discriminate against Hoa people. Hoa people lived a very comfortable life before the North government took over Saigon. They were rich , they had businesses , their sons don't have to go to war , lived in comfortable house with servants (of course not all Hoa people) And then suddenly everything is over. I understand this is so tragic , it's natural they would hold grudges. But keep in mind the new government was bad to everyone, not just Hoa people and everyone suffered the same

Anonymous Chinese said...


lOlLipOP xoxo , I appreciate your efforts as a peace maker, a very honorable character trait indeed.

However you are sugar coating things a bit much, some of your words are too sweet.

From what I read, when the Ming refugees arrived in present day Saigon, well that was a newly conquered Mekong river delta taken from the Khmers.
Yes those Chinese refugees were given land, but their presence was used as a buffer between the newly conquered Khmers and Viet Kinhs.
And as you know that was how the Saigon city was established.

The wealth of some Hoa certainly aroused both admiration but also jealousy.
As I said marriage relationship was very welcome by a Viet family, marrying into wealth has always been a move-up thing.
But then when social atmosphere turned sour, ethnic Chinese (in Vietnam and elsewhere in SE Asia) would be charged as agent of corruption against the country.

No doubt at a down-to-earth human level the majority of people are not so blinded to negative aspects of patriotic sentiment.
But Vietnam culture IS very steep at resisting against Chinese, an intense love-hate relationship, and it's just a thin line between wanting to hate the "foreign" Chinese versus the assimilated Hoa.
Those 5% extremists say can easily incite big trouble.

Anonymous Chinese said...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

March 27, 2016 at 5:51 PM

--------------------

Finally decided to give a reply.
No I am not Hoa, but know many Hoa, their lives and their thoughts.
I'm likely plenty older than you suspect, if that matter.

I know Hoa who are very assimilated, mingled and married with Viet families; they would speak Vietnamese with full nasal accents as an example.
Then there are some who, for whatever reasons good or bad, prefer to keep their chinese-ness. They intentionally avoid the nasal accent when speaking Vietnamese as an example.

Have to admit what I'm writing is intending to stroke a sensitive and taboo-ish part of the Vietnamese psyche.
Glad you felt impressed with my knowledge, but also said less impressed with my analysis, how so? Was it because what written made you felt uncomfortable?

To my mind Vietnamese patriotism and Viet nationalism is separated by a very fine line, very easy to across over from patriotism to nationlism.
And then Viet nationalism is fundamentally and intrinsically quite (or very) anti-China.
Within the Vietnam nation of course a Viet person would not feel much to know about or even practice this nationalistic feeling.
But in the overseas diaspora such a nationalistic feeling will become very touchy and possibly embarassing, as you are part of a multi-cultural mosaic, and your social circle may include many ethnic Chinese individuals.

At the end of your comment you wrote "Living in the States for nearly four decades, the gradually become the past. Being victims of discrimination and biases taught us not be ones giving it.".
Well that's a nice high road you mentioned, and may be you do walk on that high road yourself.
But let me remind you of some reported comments in the news, about how Viet-Americans would discriminate against ethnic Chinese businesses just because of their ancestry.
See the following in LA Times by Anh Do:
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ff-island-dispute-20141220-story.html

Or read this comment blog:
http://www.eastbound88.com/archive/index.php/t-35052.html

Some excerpts:

Anna Le stepped out of the Westminster Boulevard seafood restaurant, clutching a menu, and quickly phoned her fiancee to tell him her choices for the traditional eight-course wedding banquet. ...
"Before you order," Eric Huynh responded quickly, "check the ownership."
"I don't have a strong opinion, but I don't want to offend any of my guests," Le said of her wedding plans. "When we live among expats, we always have to watch what's going on in our native countries. The news impacts our actions."

Anonymous said...

Vietnamese Girl,

do you guys resist learning Mandarin?

lOlLipOP xoxo said...

As you may or may not knkw, recently the Vietnamese government proposed that Mandarin should be a compulsory subject like English and should be taught in all schools. There are some nationalist who think imposing Mandarin as a compulsory language is too extremist and they are againat that. However most agree that it is an important language and we should learn it

Unknown said...

I don't think Vietnamese people hate Chinese because Vietnamese have assimilated into the Chinese culture through many many generations since occupation by China. Some of these are interacial mixed speaking both language appreciated both cultures. Even if you're not mixed, you still grow up being influence through your ancestors or friends that you happened to come across that speak both languages. Politically it might be different feeling but individually as people they appreciated both cultures. How can they not? They grew up learning things about Chinese...so they are like Chinese.

Anonymous Chinese said...


Instead of 'hate' a better description is 'resent'.
Also 'inter-racial' is not accurate in my opinion, the two peoples Viets and Southern Chinese are similar enough genetically, DNA testing often shows great ancestral common-ness.

However Vietnamese 'nationalism' IS very anti-Chinese.

So during times of political or economic strife in Vietnam, nationalistic sentiment will often be called upon to unify the people against a common enemy, which often is China or ethnic Chinese.
Then resentment becomes hate, in those times.

Anonymous said...

We don't hate Hoa people or Chinese people in general, or China. What we hate is the Chinese government and their aggressive bullying policies towards us. I myself and many Vietnamese have great respect for the Hoa and the Chinese in general, for they are very clever in business and making money. If there is discrimination, it should be from the Hoa to native Viets. Many Hoa people hold condescending attitude towards Vietnamese and discriminate against us on our own land. From us though, there is no discrimination towards them. Many of us even look up to and admire them. Hoa people are fully accepted into Vietnamese society. For those that don't assimilate, it is their choice and not because we don't want to accept them. When China abuses Vietnam, Hoa are never targeted, only the ones who still hold Chinese citizenship are held in suspicion. But Vietnamese are very non confrontational and wouldn't hurt the Hoa on the street like what happened in Indonesia. The riot was the result of politics and was provoked by external party, no Hoa was hurt

Anonymous Chinese said...


RE Anonymous January 24, 2017 at 1:58 PM

Mr/Ms Anonymous, you sugar coated the Viet attitude towards Hoa way too much.

It's not wise to say things in general term, how can one say "From us though, there is no discrimination towards them" ? What is 'us', 50%, 70% or 95% of all the Kinh?
I know many Hoa who have experienced plenty of jealous attacks because of perceived wealthier households.

And what about this "When China abuses Vietnam, Hoa are never targeted" ?
You need someone to quote you history of Hoa expulsion in the last few decades last century?

Saying what you said diminish your credentials, and only showed you wanted to sweeten the image of Vietnamese at the expense of Truth.

I've shared all I know in my writings above, so not much more to add.
Quora.com also has many balanced comments about this topic of Vietnam resentment towards China or Chinese.

Hoa's are not angels, Kinhs are not angels.
Bad wars were fought, bad things were done and bad behavior had displayed.
Vietnam had been victims of China conquer and domination, but Vietnam is also very much an aggressor toward Khmer.

This whole discussion thread started from the posting of our host here, who likely was rather perturbed by the anti-China sentiment he felt when visited Vietnam.

It may be fair to blame me for dwelling so much on the negatives.
But a driving principle I have is that if the negatives are not exposed then there would be no or at least less hope of proper healing.
Sugar coating facts is not healing, it has to come from something very deep down.

The anti-China sentiment is very real and is being taught at Vietnam schools now.
It's easy to push that into harms towards Hoa during bad times, maybe with words like 'if you don't conform you will be in trouble' etc.

Yes exposing negatives is very embarrassing, particularly for those overseas Vietnamese who may be socializing with ethnic Chinese and identify collectively as Asians.
But no pain, no gain.

Anonymous said...

While I empathized why Viets hate Chinese due to their constant skirmished, but one cannot neglect the inconvenient truth that, deep down many Viets are also kinda jealous of Chinese.

Case in point:

There's a poster or two claimed that China tried to eradicate Vietnamese culture, but don't tell me you are so meek you can't preserved and blossomed your own culture espe when you claimed you've took down the French, American etc in your wars. Why don't just be frank, that it is ALSO part of your own that you CHOSE to adopt and emulate Chinese culture into your own instead everything blame Chinese / China. Israel has been like the tiniest in Mid East surrounded by bloodthirsty Islamists who are several times bigger than it, you don't see them embracing or emulating Islam or Arabic culture? And it has been for thousands of years their feud been going on...longer than yours!!

Secondly IF you really hate Chinese / China so much then answer these:
1) Why you still accept Chinese investments or do business with China / Chinese?
2) Why still like to use and buy Chinese products & services of ALL ranges , esp. your women like skin care, cosmetics, whitening bleaching stuff? Sure you guys prefer non-china-made esp. with your growing wealth but BE honest , how many regular folks of average joes and janes can afford ALL korean made , japan made US, EU made stuff, and this is only C2C. How about B2B, huh?
3) Why still watch loads of Chinese film (HK (of which has been decades majority of them are co-produced with China), China, Taiwan ...they are still of Chinese ethnic and root (only deferring in nationality),OK)

All I can say, is while the hate is real due to China can be a bit of a bitch at times, but hidden deep down, one can't deny there's also jealousy involved, thus breed envy and wanting to emulate & embrace. It's a complex feeling of love-hate feeling but wrap under self-righteousness. And this hate + hypocrisy, makes some of you guys hate Chinese even more.