The Making of the Western Version of Being Vietnamese
For American observers of the Vietnam War, many are quite drawn to the question of how a third world country defeated the most technologically advanced country in the world. Some explanations focused on the communist North Vietnam’s coercion and terrorist tactics against the non-communist South Vietnam in which the former was encouraged on and supported by the Soviet Union and Communist China.
Others argue that the non-communist South Vietnam was plagued by polarization and smoldering rivalries and that its main ally, the United States, began to negotiate itself out of the war in order to save its honor, discounting the non-communist South Vietnam’s interests.
In another opinion, U.S. policies in Vietnam totally disregarding the realities of Vietnam doomed the U.S. intervention from the start. According to Joseph Buttinger, it was bad enough that US policymakers did not consider the two thousand year Vietnamese struggle against being absorbed by China and that:
Much worse still was not to know, or knowingly to disregard, the fact that as a result of French colonial policies in Indochina the whole Vietnam had become Communist by the end of the of War World II. I say the whole of Vietnam, not only the North…something which, in spite of thirty years of French and American propaganda, remains an undeniable fact. 
Yet, it is probably more accurate that French form of colonialism had greatly impeded and ridiculed the non-communist, nationalist road to power, while its exploitative colonial policy resulting in the “‘loss of the country,’ ‘economic exploitation,’ and ‘cultural and racial genocide’ indirectly made the communist party into an awesome and formidable revolutionary organization.” 
French colonial policy never seriously sought to grant national independence to non-communist, nationalist Vietnamese until French power was confronted with widespread nationalist opposition and the possibility of a communist takeover.  Even more so, the proposals to make Vietnam an independent state under a non-communist government “were watered down with so many compromises, mental reservations, and double entendres.” As a result, such proposals were easily ridiculed by and could not rival the communist North Vietnam’s “simple creed of total independence even at the price of long and bloody war.” 
Nevertheless, non-communist Vietnamese were fully aware of the failures of the French colonists to give their country full benefits of a modern civilization on the one hand, but also recognized their dependency on the West to revitalize the country’s traditions and institutions on the other. That is, non-communist Vietnamese found a refuge through western culture where a balance between the individual’s ambitions and that of state authority was possible, and where it was possible to create a cultural hybrid between the East and West.
In essence, a modern Vietnamese integration tradition emerged in which individuals could adopt and adapt foreign values and ideas, blending them with indigenous beliefs without viewing them as contradictory. In contrast, the communist nationalist movement wanted to neutralize, recast or destroy western cultural elements that “reproduced” the old order and replace them with new ideas and values to produce a new socialist culture for Vietnam. 
According to Vu Ngu Chieu, during the first Indochina war (1945-1954), the cultural synthesis between the East and West “was wishful thinking, too vague for any purpose at the time.”  What was proven to win the day was “charismatic leadership and powerful theories as well as administrative and military strength,” which the non-communist movement did not possess or lacked. 
In reaction to the expansion of communist rule, vast non-communist refugee movements took flight — first toward southern Vietnam after the 1954 Geneva Accord partitioned the country into two zones and later, the mass exodus to the western world after the fall of Saigon regime in 1975.
Migrating and emigrating from communist expansion appeared to have solidified a western version of being Vietnamese.
The partition of the country in 1954 provided the conditions in which westernization in Vietnamese society could continue to develop in southern Vietnam. Southern Vietnam’s urban centers — which were being subsidized by American ambition’s to “win the hearts and minds of the people” from 1954 to 1975 — provided millions of migrants from the north as well as from the rural areas of the south the opportunity to synthesize Vietnamese culture and western culture.
As a result, southern Vietnamese urbanites were far more likely than anyone else in the country to have attended or had children attending newly built schools with trained teachers and printed textbooks on mathematics, chemistry and engineering. They were also far more likely to be affected by the information and communication explosion, such as owning a television set, a radio, a telephone, and a car. They were more likely to have seen English TV programs such as “Dragnet,” “Batman,” “I Love Lucy,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Gunsmoke,” “Mission Impossible,” and “Combat.” Moreover, Vietnamese urbanites were far more likely to have been an “entrepreneur” by way of the “American consumer economy” in southern Vietnam.
With the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, these southern Vietnamese urbanites disproportionately made up the numbers of refugees who evacuated and escaped Vietnam.
According to one opinion, it was thought that the initial waves of Vietnamese refugees (1975-1978) were likely to achieve a more rapid process of assimilation than the pre-1965 Chinese and Japanese immigrants.  This was very possible given South Vietnam’s unique socio-historical familiarity with Western language, employment, customs, and traditions which were more likely to be the case among Vietnamese who participated in the emigration.  From this perspective, Vietnamese refugees had a distinct kind of “anticipatory socialization” to American society, giving them a distinct advantage over earlier Asian immigrants (pre-1965) to the U.S.
In fact, refugee studies have, in part, contributed to the relatively robust social mobility of the first generation of Vietnamese refugees to this cohort’s ability to retain aspects of Vietnamese culture. These include cultural ideals of the family such as “hieu” (filial piety) and “on” (moral debt to parents) and of the community such as welfare mechanisms of “giap” (organization with mutual aid functions) and “nghia” (the obligation to participate rather than withdraw from in societal affairs), which have been powerful forces of virtue, solidarity, self-correction, and achievement.  Importantly, these culture ideals could exist “with views that the American way of life was more modern, scientific, and progressive, and that many Vietnamese customs and traditions were no longer appropriate.” 
Ironically, such ability to negotiate and integrate a new culture both in the Vietnamese context and Western context has caught the attention of the current Vietnamese communist-led government, who once referred the Vietnamese refugees as “traitors” or those who left “illegally” (and, thus, when they return to the homeland are no longer entitled to the “privileges” of Vietnamese citizens). As noted by Nguyen Ngoc Bich:
the overseas Vietnamese can now take a certain ironic comfort if not pride in the fact that the Hanoi rulers had to revise their opinion, twist their tongue and call them in recent years “the extension of Vietnam’s innards thousands of miles away” (“khuc ruot xa ngan dam” as the expression goes in Vietnamese). But the overseas Vietnamese are not dupe, they are not about to fall into the trap because they are mindful of the The Red Riding Hood story when the wolf, imitating the grandmother, pipes lavish praise into the ears of Little Red Riding Hood as to how wonderful she is or looks. 
Facing fierce local opposition, French hegemony in Vietnam was not ensured until the turn of the twentieth century when “the cornerstone of French colonial policy was to dismantle pre-colonial form that potentially threatened French rule.”  This included the division of the country into three regions in which each region had different policies.
The southern region (Cochinchina) was declared a colony of France and, thus, placed under the direct and sole authority of the French. The central region (Annam) was initially to be subjected to the direct rule of the Nguyen dynasty with a French special envoy, although by the early 1900s the Nguyen dynasty was forced to sign an ordinance recognizing the right of French citizens to own land as well as the right of the colonial government to collect taxes.  Meanwhile, Tonkin was a protectorate and was to be fully dependent upon the monarchy of Hue, but the French removed it from imperial control to a Vietnamese viceroy that conferred its prerogatives on the French resident superior of Tonkin. 
In essence, French colonial policy had served to exacerbate or create regional and class tensions, undermining the Nguyen dynasty’s attempts to create both horizontal and vertical national unity.
For instance, according to Gail Kelly, Franco-Vietnamese educational institutions were created to serve different social strata of whom the French depended to aid in extending colonial hegemony.  Moreover, under such policy, all pretence of meritocracy was dropped as well as the pretence that schooling as a route social mobility. 
In Cochinchina, the education system was responsive to the demands of the monied and urban strata, who most wanted to gain access to French education but did not prevent the expansion of Franco-Vietnamese education.  Meanwhile in Annam, the schooling system was designed to bolster a new class of aspiring salaried workers and the low echelons of the traditional elite in order to discrediting the monarch and its retainers.  This class, however, did want to limit access to other groups who threatened their status. In Tonkin, the elite also wanted access to metropolitan schooling. However, French administrators in Tonkin restricted the opportunity for schooling because they feared that educated Vietnamese might qualify for their jobs or that Vietnamese elites were either revolutionaries or malcontents. 
The “strategy of divide and rule” was to safeguard French colonial rule in Vietnam. However, at the same time, such strategy created a fragmented Vietnamese political community in which each faction had different local responses to French colonial power, such as those who favored an “evolutionary change in society by combining a ‘modern’ mind with ‘traditional’ virtue, expressing cultural hybrid between the East and the West.”  Meanwhile, others saw the virtue of overthrowing French colonization of which they equated with slavery; thus there was an urgent need to dismantle and “reeducate” those who were associated with the ‘old order’ and replace that order with new ideas and values as to create a new socialist order.  By extension, the differentiated local responses resulted in an ideological struggle that eventually divided the country into “two Viet-Nams” that of communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam.
By contrast, American colonial policy in the Philippines differed sharply from French approaches to colonialism or French mission civilisatrice. That is, American form of colonial rule, which embraced the idea of an efficient transfer of sovereignty to the Philippines, had prepared and transferred sovereignty to the Philippines. This was done via new political institutions modeled on the American constitutional system and, because central issue was about the timing of national independence the Philippine, nationalist movement was never suppressed. In fact, the passage of Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934 provided a timetable for Philippine independence.
American “association” policy was also to maintain ‘native individuality’ and ‘native development.’ As a result, American social policy consisted of a dual purpose program of secular education to promote democratic norms and values to a mass electorate and to train indigenous elite to maintain a democratic society. In particular, the more than one million Filipino students who attended public school by 1922 were unprecedented by any Western colonial standard.  While the Philippine economy was largely dependent on the U.S. (American economy consumed 75 percent of the Philippine exports and providing 85 percent of its imports), American economic policy did not uproot the Philippine agrarian economy. 
A qualitative study by Frank Darling strongly suggests a correlation between association policy and the high-transferable political and administrative structures to transfer sovereignty back to Asian colonized societies. In other words, Darling’s study found that association models as used in the Philippines, Thailand, the Dutch East Indies, and British Malaya did provide, to a considerable degree, protection and the strengthening of the native society as well as the preparation for self-colonization. 
Meanwhile, assimilation models such as those used by France in Vietnam, and Cambodia were means to draw the colonized to the modern world in which they could become Frenchmen and claim at their integration into the homogeneous society of a single Great France revolving around Paris. Outside observers thought that French policies, without any major modifications for local conditions, would result in ‘a clean sweep of all native traditions’ and bring into ‘existence a group of social half-breeds’ who had ‘lost the feeling of kinship to their old past yet [were] not completely at home in their new present. In the framework of French mission civilisatrice, the colonized country was the student whose role is to study hard and follow the instructions of his French teacher, so that one day he would be ready for graduation.
While French social policy promoting French culture in Vietnam was relatively higher compared to its social policy in Cambodia and Laos, its colonial school system was designed to detach the Vietnamese from the Chinese influences in order for Vietnamese to readily accept the idea that French was unique and indispensable to Vietnam.  In addition, French education policy was closely interlinked with the Roman Catholic Church and was politicized to discourage the spread of nationalist movements. Compared to the U.S. in the Philippines or the British colonies, the French educational system in Vietnam was meager in size with only 14 secondary schools and one university, which were overly sympathetic to French colonial rule, located largely in urban centers, and whose admission was largely based on high proficiency in the French language. 
Regarding economics, French policy was relatively high in terms of industrialization. However, French economic policy was not “liberal” by comparison to other colonial powers in Asia at the time, exploiting Vietnam’s raw materials and markets more or less exclusively for France domestic economic development. For example, French Tariff Law of 1891 and the Doumer program of 1895 had the effect of “producing a kind of specialization in which farming along traditional lines was reserved to the Vietnamese, while industry, trade, transport, banking, and modern farming were all in French hands.”  As such, the French controlled commercial monopolies which enhanced the wealth of public and private groups in France as well as for a large number of permanent French residents in Vietnam.  For Vietnamese laborers in these French commercial monopolies, if they:
could have left, for example, after their contracts, which were usually for three to five years, had expired they would have saved enough to return to their native village decently loaded with some ‘capital,’ they may have accepted this situation. But as it was, the owners of the plantations had designed their economics in such a way that workers could never accumulate savings. 
Although the idea of association and cooperation within Indochina predated World War II which was espoused by some noted governors-general such as Alber Sarraut (1911-13 and 1917-1919) and Pierre Pasquier (1928-1934), Vietnam was ruled from Paris where the tenure of the governors-general was relatively short. During 1900-1930, eleven governors — not counting the interim ones — shared the responsibility of managing the affairs of the colony. It wasn’t until France was under the Vichy regime in 1940 that assimilation policy was rejected, though France never believed in full assimilation to begin with since it was too expensive. The Vichy government opted to promote a multi-tiered patriotism which included:
the love of a people for its colonial country, for the colonial federation of Indochina (the colonies and protectorates of Tonkin, Annam, Cochinchina, Laos, and Cambodia), and for the French empire and the metropole — without stimulating an indigenous nationalist political program that pursued independence from external control. 
On the one hand, the French concepts of association and cooperation embraced the “blooming of sovereignties and local personalities” but such evolution had to operate within the French imperial community with proper guidance on the other. In practice, France’s solution to grant the non-communist nationalist’s call for an independent state as an alternative to the communist North Vietnam was, perhaps, best formulated by Francois Mitterand:
We have granted Viet-Nam ‘full independence’ eighteen times since 1949. Isn’t it about time we did it just once, but for good? 
Thus, the non-communist Vietnamese alliance with France appeared to be more of “a matter of sheer accident than design.”  This reality played into the communist nationalist leaders’ call for national liberation against France or any other foreigner rulers at any cost, since it was evident that negotiations with colonizers resulted only in myths of independence which “did not change the situation in the slightest.” 
The fact that Vietnam’s national spirit and action of the past had disappeared and national sovereignty was never effectively or efficiently transferred back to the Vietnamese strengthened the communist road to power.
According to Bernard Fall, “the French had no one but themselves to blame, and most thoughtful Frenchmen recognize this.” 
French scholar Paul Isoart also argued that the Indochina War was made into a type of French internal political football, and that “having inherited from our Gallic ancestors their taste for anarchy and from our Latin culture for drawn-out palavers, we found [in Viet-Nam] the occasion to wallow in both” where “the fate of France or Viet-Nam had long been lost in all this.” 
The “lost in all this” includes the attempt of Vietnamese to create and develop a western version of being “a good Vietnamese,” while, at the same time having to play the foreign “political football” that stopped short of allowing them to actually regain complete national independence.
Perhaps, no other person than Bao Dai best represented this version and peculiar predicament.
Because Bao Dai presided during “the lost decade” from 1945 to 1954, the focus has been on his failures, such as his penchant to perfect a lavish western style, “mandarinal mentality,” or willingness to be a “prop” for the Western world’s anti-communist policies.
To be sure, Bao Dai was very astute of the country’s traditional nationalist past as well as the contemporary intellectual and evolutionary nationalists, such as Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chau Trinh. In undated proclamation to Governor-General Jean Decoux during the Japanese occupation of Vietnam (1941-1945), Bao Dai issued:
Ten and a half centuries under the yoke of China could not stifle the conscience of our race, which, after many travails, crystallized to such a point that a signal by Ngo Quyen, avenging his father, sufficed to rally an entire people and to liberate the homeland…Our people can claim proudly before their neighbors that they are the descendants of those who stopped the Mongol invasion. 
As for the governor-general, he may have welcomed Bao Dai’s nationalist conscience in order to possibly resist a Japanese annexation of Vietnam, but the French had apparently missed the point that Bao Dai saw himself as the “keeper of [Vietnam's] greatness.” In fact, when he ascended the throne in 1932 at the age of nineteen, he dropped the name Vinh-Thuy and assumed the dynastic name Bao Dai, meaning “keeper of greatness.”
Well aware that his father, Emperor Khai Dinh, was ridiculed by Vietnamese nationalists as the worse of Nguyen emperor-puppets, Bao Dai “tried zealously to reform Vietnam along modern lines, away from the sterile intrigues of a decadent court.”  The reforms included transforming the judicial and educational systems as well as ending the practice mandarin custom requiring aides to touch their foreheads to the ground when addressing their emperor;  and in defiance of court ceremonial, he married a southern Catholic girl of humble origin, Nam Phuong (southern beauty).
The principle that had run through his various government posts was the principle of “dan vi qui” (the most precious thing is the people), and he always attempted to recruit “men of virtue” in rebuilding the country. For example, he selected Ngo Dinh Diem as the Minister of the Interior in 1933, who as a young governor of Phan Thiet Province was known for his honesty and energy;  and just before the 1954 partition, Bao Dai had chosen Ngo Dinh Diem again to head the South Vietnamese government, independently of the United States. 
His commitment to the nationalist interest was evident in his impassioned appeal to General Charles de Gaulle (the then President of the French Provisional Government) about France’s reassertion of its colonial rights of Vietnam after being “liberated” from the Japanese in September 1945. Bao Dai forewarned that:
Even if you come to reestablish a French administration here, it will no longer be obeyed: each village will be a nest of resistance, each former collaborator an enemy, and your officials and colonist will themselves ask to leave this atmosphere which they will be unable to breathe…I beg you to understand that the only way to safeguard French interests and the spiritual influence of French in Indochina is to recognize frankly the independence of Vietnam and to renounce all thoughts of re-establishing French sovereignty or administration under any form of whatsoever. We could easily be able to understand each other and become friends if you would cease to pretend that you want to again to become our masters. 
In late August of 1945, recognizing both that the international scene was changing and that the increased pressure to abdicate from the growing power of Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, Bao Dai declared that: “I would prefer to be a citizen of an independent country rather than Emperor of an enslaved one.” 
In abdicating to the Viet Minh, Bao Dai’s government had achieved territory unification of Vietnam, sustained administrative capabilities, and reclaimed the country’s name, flag, and language. His government saw the need of political unity, since the enemy was looking for divisions in which “union means life and division means death.”  When Bao Dai was offered the protection against a possible Viet Minh coup by the Allied force, he dismissed the protection reaffirming “I do not wish a foreign army to spill the blood of my people.” 
In one opinion, Bao Dai, who had “collaborated” with both the French and the Japanese and who should have exited history after the August Revolution, was still perceived as a psychological value to the Viet Minh.  In fact, Ho Chi Minh had immediately made Bao Dai the “Supreme Adviser of the Republican Government” under the title and name of “Citizen Prince Nguyen Vinh-Thuy.” Such a tactic may have been to add “prestige with both the Vietnamese and foreigners” and because “the ex-emperor’s presence seemed to guarantee that the Viet-Minh were not communists.” 
Yet, in his imperial abdication on August 25, 1945, Bao Dai directly requested the need for Vietnamese political unity with key prerequisites:
We request the new Government to deal fraternally with all the parties and groups [including non-communist, nationalist groups] which have fought for the independence of our country even though they have not closely followed the popular movement [Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh]; to do this in order to give the opportunity to participate in the reconstruction of the country and to demonstrate the new regime is built upon the absolute union of the entire population…we shall allow no one to abuse our name [Vietnam] or the name of the royal family [the Nguyen dynasty] in order to sow dissent among our compatriots. 
The importance of Bao Dai’s imperial abdication is the request that ‘all parties and groups’ should be recognized as a part of a Vietnamese fraternal order and should be given the opportunity to participate in the rebuilding of the country. Both of these conditions would test whether Ho Chi Minh’s new regime “is built upon the union of the entire population.”
Inexplicitly, if these prerequisites were not fulfilled by Ho Chi Minh’s government, then it would be within the rights of those who had earlier abdicated their power to the new regime to retract their abdication.
In other words, Bao Dai’s imperial abdication allowed for him and others to “break” with Ho Chi Minh’s new regime, if Ho Chi Minh’s nationalism:
were to free the people from the former mother country only to place them at the mercy of a handful of their own fellow-countrymen…[and who may] champion the rights of peoples while neglecting to protect the rights of man. 
Because the new government never shared power with non-communist groups and began to assassinate key members of non-communist Viet Minh, Bao Dai left Hanoi on March 18, 1946 and, instead of going on a mission to China to obtain economic and military aid for the government of Ho Chi Minh, he went to Hong Kong. 
His departure coincided with that of the non-communist groups within the Viet Minh who fled to China and later regrouped with other non-communist groups in southern Vietnam, forming the National Union Front.
Meanwhile, in March 1946, Ho Chi Minh signed an agreement that allowed a limited number of French troops to return to northern Vietnam and to replace the Chinese non-communist troops. In exchange, the French would recognize Ho Chi Minh’s government as a “free state having its own government, its own parliament and its own finances, and forming part of the Indochinese Federation and the French Union.” 
However, having no desire to give up its colonial rights’ perhaps due, in part, to its reluctance to eventually relinquish power to Ho Chi Minh’s communist government — France reneged on the agreement and demanded that Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh lay down their arms. By December 1946, military conflicts broke out between the Viet Minh and the French, signaling the First Indochina War (1946-1954). In confronting a formidable adversary on a number of fronts, the French opportunely and immediately started to negotiate with Bao Dai as the figure head, along with the National Union Front, to create an alternative to Ho Chi Minh’s government in the north, which became known as the “Bao Dai solution.”  In response, in December 1947, a Ho Chi Minh’s court allegedly sentenced Bao Dai to death and stripped him of Vietnamese citizenship. 
To be sure, the “Bao Dai solution” could equally be called the Bao Dai’s solution, since any French solution was equally dependent on Bao Dai’s agreement which took more than two years before both sides authorized it.
Regardless, this solution led to the creation of the Associated State of Viet-Nam in April of 1949 in which “France solemnly recognizes the independence of Viet-Nam…[Viet-Nam now proclaimed] its adherence to the French Union as a state associated with France.” 
France, of course, was not about to grant full independence. However, according to one opinion, “the essential point had been gained” in which “Bao Dai had obtained from the French in two years of negotiating what Ho had not been able to obtain in two years of fighting: the word ‘independence.’”
Importantly, in Bao Dai’s going west or allied again with the French, the right of the Vietnamese non-communist, nationalists to speak for itself was born.
For many, however, Bao Dai’s road to a non-communist identity was tainted. For example, Francois Mitterrand charged that:
In 1932, [Bao Dai] ascends to the throne…and France pays him…On March 11, 1945 Bao Dai collaborates with the Japanese. Japan pays and Bao Dai obeys. On August 25, 1945 he abdicates…Ho Chi Minh appears the stronger [and] Bao Dai hopes that, on that side, too, pay will be forthcoming…But what can such a young republic offer?…This does not suit Bao Dai…[and now] we find him in Hong Kong, surrounded by emissaries of the United States and of the Bank of Indochina, and by the Reverend Father Vicondelet, Procurator General of the Missions Strangeres. 
But the depiction of Bao Dai as a ‘willing servant’ for the right price cannot explain all his actions and policies. In fact, Bao Dai never went back on his imperial abdication or any previous agreements that the he had signed. His new government styled itself as a “quoc gia” (state) embraced the principle of “dan vi qui” (the most precious thing is the people). As such, his new government deliberately left the character of the regime in doubt until the Vietnamese people were in a position “to freely decide upon their own institutions.”
When the Vietnamese had an opportunity to vote on October of 1955, they voted against Bao Dai and for a republican regime under Ngo Dinh Diem by a “reported” 63,017 votes to 5.7 million, respectively. 
In comparison to Bao Dai, Ngo Dinh Diem, at the time, had the “right” persona to lead a new republican government that could counter against Ho Chi Minh. Ngo Dinh Diem’s record as anti-communist and as anti-French nationalist was unquestionable and unrivaled. In fact, in his memoir, Le Dragon d’Annam, he admits that during the 1954 Geneva Accord, he was worried that France would hand Vietnam to Ho Chi Minh. As a result, he sought to counter this by replacing his current premier Buu Loc with Ngo Dinh Diem who showed the ability to govern a new and a free Vietnam against the communist government in the north.
Perhaps not unlike Nguyen Hoang’s going south in 1600 (who was the founding father of the Nguyen state in the 17th and 18th century and a forebearer of the Nguyen dynasty), a possible reading of Bao Dai’s going west or breaking away from Ho Chi Minh’s government in 1946 could be that of a metaphor for all the decisions that going west would make possible. That is, the creation of a non-communist state which was no longer possible to ignore the differences between communist and non-communist.
To be sure, the birth of a free Vietnam was “not in a flurry of lowering French flags and rising Vietnamese flags, but in an endless shuffle of transfer agreements, protocols, and registers that excited the imagination of no one and frittered away the psychological impact of the achievement.”  Moreover, Bao Dai’s proneness to serve colonial powers made it difficult for him to persuade Vietnamese to accept the terms of a free Vietnam under the French Union as a state associated with France, particularly among the non-communist and anti-French nationalists.
One the one hand, Bao Dai represented the young and westernized while retaining the “mandarinal mentality” (such as rigidity, unresponsiveness, aloofness, arrogance, and pomposity) as well as perfecting a western ego (as an adventurer who single-handedly bagged a large percentage of country’s tigers, and as a playboy that had many mistresses at his hunting lodge in the cool highlands of central Vietnam).
However, at the same time, Bao Dai had been a bridge for a number of nationalist governments to emerge and to attain the right to speak for itself, at least to some degree, including the Tran Trong Kim government, the Ho Chi Minh government, the Associated State of Vietnam, and the Republic of Vietnam.
Perhaps the most importance bridge was one that allowed for a western version of being Vietnamese to emerge and to develop. Any shortcomings of Bao Dai’s independent government of Vietnam (1949-1954) have to be balanced with the fact that it was strong enough that the decision of the Geneva Accord of 1954 led to a kind of partition that allowed for a non-communist state to exist.
Unlike Ho Chi Minh, during his transformation from being the last Nguyen’s Emperor to being a westernized Vietnamese statesman, Bao Dai’s life was always under a public microscope and who was accountable to the dissatisfactions of his national constituency. Nevertheless, he was committed and attempted to integrate and personify the Vietnamese concept of “dan vi qui” (the most precious thing is the people) and the democratic principle that national independence should be “a step in the direction of the liberation of man.”
This bridge, in many ways than not, fell in April of 1975, but such a bridge maybe the “right” one to be reconstructed as Vietnam, under a one-party communist government, is opening up and integrating with the global community.
- For a concise analysis of the impact of losing a million in-country refugees in northern Vietnam, see Louis Wiesner, “Chapter 12: North Vietnam,” in his Victims and Survivors: Displaced Persons and Other War Victims in Vietnam (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988).
- For a concise analysis of the 1954 in-country refugee movement, see Louis Wiesner, “Vietnam: Exodus from the North and movement to the North,” The Vietnam Forum, Vol.11 (1988), p.214-243.
Scott McConnell, “Chapter 4: The Heyday of the Vietnamese Student Migration, 1925-1930,” in his Leftward Journey: The Education of Vietnamese Students in France in 1919-1939 (News Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1989).
- Describe the background of the new wave of students and explain why the students already had “clear anti-French attitudes.”
- What were the perils of loving France?
- What was the spirit of separateness?
Bui Van Luong, “The Role of Friendly Nations” and Bernard Fall, “Commentary on Bui Van Luong,” in Richard Linhdhol, ed., Viet-Nam: The First Five Years (Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1959).
- Why was the migration of one million in-country refugees in 1954 considered something “unnatural”?
- How successful was the settlement of in-country refugees in southern Vietnam?
- According to Bernard Fall, why was the Viet-Minh return to the north in 1954 not considered a movement of in-country refugees?
Joseph Buttinger, Vietnam: The Unforgettable Tragedy (New York: Horizon Press, 1977), p.17.
 Frank Darling, The Westernization of Asia: A Comparative Political Analysis (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1979), p.336.
 Ibid., p.124.
 Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams: A Political and Military Analysis (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1967), p.210-211.
 Shaun Kingsley Malarney, Culture, Ritual and Revolution in Vietnam (Honolulu, HA: University of Hawaii Press, 2002), p.52.
 Loc Buu, “Aspects of the Vietnamese Problem,” Pacific Affairs 25:3 (September 1952), p.305.
 Ibid., p.304.
 Darrell Montero, “Vietnamese Refugees in America: Toward a Theory of Spontaneous International Migration.” International Migration Review 13:4 (1979).
 Ibid, p.641.
 Zhou and Carl Bankston, Straddling Two Social Worlds, pp.40-51; Nathan Caplan, John Whitmore, and Marcella Choy, The Boat People and Achievement in America: A Study of Family Life, Hard Work, and Cultural Values (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1989);  Steven Gold, Refugee Communities: A Comparative Field Study (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1992); Rutledge, The Vietnamese in America; James Rutledge, The Vietnamese American in America (Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 1992), pp.143-144; Nazli Kibria, Family Tightrope: The Changing Lives of Vietnamese Americans (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993)
 Dunning, â€œVietnamese in America: The Adaptation of the 1975-1979 Arrivals,â€ p.79.
 Nguyen Ngoc Bich, â€œImmigration and Integration: The Vietnamese Experience.â€ The paper was presented at the University of Metropolitan London on March 22, 2006. Available at: http://www.ncvaonline.org/archive/analysis_ImmigrationIntegration_032206.shtml.
 Gail Kelley, â€œSchooling and National Integration: The Case of Interwar Vietnam,â€ Comparative Education, Vol.18(2), 1982, p.178.
 Truong Buu Lam, Colonialism Experienced: Vietnamese Writings on Colonialism, 1900-1931 (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2003),p.16-17.
 Ibid., p.16.
 Gail Kelley, â€œSchooling and National Integration, p.179.
 Ibid., p.178.
 Ibid., p.189.
 Ibid., p.189.
 Ibid., p.190.
 Vu Ngu Chieu, â€œThe Other side of the 1945 Vietnamese Revolution,â€ p.305.
 Shaun Kingsley Malarney, Culture, Ritual and Revolution in Vietnam (Honolulu: University of Hawaiâ€™I Press, 2002), p.52.
 Frank Darling, The Westernization of Asia, p.134.
 Ibid., p.138.
 Ibid., Chapter 5.
 Rupert Emerson, From Empire to Nation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), p.69-70
 Mark Bradley, Imagining Vietnam & America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2000), p.64.
 Truong Buu Lam, Colonialism Experienced, p.179.
 Frank Darling, The Westernization of Asia, p.141.
 Ton That Thien, â€œA Vietnamese Looks at His Countryâ€ in Richard Linhdhol, ed., Viet-Nam: The First Five Years (Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1959), p.34.
 Frank Darling, The Westernization of Asia, p.137.
 Truong Buu Lam, Colonialism Experienced, p.42.
 Ibid., p.10.
 Anne Raffin, â€œThe Integration of Difference in French Indochina during World War II,â€ Theory and Society, Vol.31(3), 2002, p.378.
 Cited in Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams, p.
 Ibid., p.212.
 Nguyen Khac Vien, Viet Nam: A Long History (Ha Noi: The Gioi Publishers, 2004), p.345.
 Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams, p.211.
 Cited in Ibid., p.211.
 Cited in Erica Jennings, â€œConservative Confluences, â€˜Nativistâ€™ Synergy: Reinscribing Vichyâ€™s National Revolution in Indochina, 1940-1945,â€ French Historical Studies, Vol.27(3), 2004, p.622.
 Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams, p.206.
 Philip Shenon, â€œBao Dai, 83, of Vietnam; Emperor and Bon Vivant,â€ New York Times, August, 2, 1997.
 Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams, p.206.
 D.R. SarDesai, Vietnam: Past and Present (Cambridge: Westview Press, 2005), p.70.
 Cited in Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams, p.207.
 Cited in David Marr, Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p.439.
 Ibid., p.439.
 Cited in Ibid, p.444.
 Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams, p.207.
 Ibid., p.207.
 Cited in Marvin Gettleman and et al., Vietnam and America, (New York: Grove Press, 1995), p.25.
 Loc Buu, â€œAspects of the Vietnamese Problem,â€ p.245-246.
 Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams, p.208.
 D.R. SarDesai, Vietnam: Past and Present, p.60.
 Bernard Ball, The Two Viet-Nams, p.209.
 Ibid., p.209.
 Ibid., p.212.
 Cited in Ibid., p.208.
 Ibid., p.209.
 Ibid., p.216.