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Anti-Vietnamese sentiment, known on the lesser version as Vietnamophobia and Anti-Vietnamism, has a strong and deep historical root for more than thousand years since the establishment of Đại Việt. There are several features behind this anti-Vietnamese hatred:
- Organized persecution of the Vietnamese as a nation or as an ethnic group, often based on the belief that Vietnamese interests are a threat to one's own national aspirations;
- Racist anti-Vietnamese sentiment, a variety of xenophobia;
- Cultural anti-Vietnamese sentiment: a prejudice against Vietnamese and Vietnamese-speaking persons – their customs, language and education; and
- Stereotypes about Vietnam and Vietnamese people in the media and popular culture.
Anti-Vietnamese acts had been long organized by various countries opposing the existence of Vietnam as a country and the fear over Vietnamese people's takeover, both direct and indirect forms. Chinese Empire's dynasties used to extend its level of anti-Vietnamese persecutions from imprisoning, hanging to even massacres in large scales, notably under the Ming dynasty which the Chinese organized massacring methods from burning to beheading with no mercy; or the famine of 1945 in which the Empire of Japan was believed to attempt on a brutal extermination of possible Vietnamese resistance against Japanese rule. Smaller states like Cambodia also organized massacres on Vietnamese, in which notably under Lon Nol and Khmer Rouge, justifying that Vietnam wanted to takeover Cambodia and making it a province. Historic actions inspired by anti-Vietnamism ranged from felonious acts motivated by hatred, to physical extermination of the Vietnamese nation, the goal of which was to eradicate the Vietnamese state.
Historical anti-Vietnamese sentiment
While anti-Vietnamese sentiment has long stretched by history, the first record of anti-Vietnamese feeling started at the 11th century, after the Vietnamese invasion of Southern China. Ravaged by the defeat of the Chinese army to the hand of Vietnamese force, the Song dynasty launched an invasion in vengeance, but failed, further deepened anti-Vietnamese sentiment in China, since there had been no anti-Vietnamese sentiment recorded prior to 938, the year Vietnam became independent from China; and even previous conflicts between Vietnamese and Chinese were not considered as a war but just rebellions over loyalty. The Ming dynasty was believed to have used a number of brutal methods as they reconquered Vietnam at 15th century, from massacres to murder, considering Vietnamese as an inferior people, and burning Vietnamese historical documents in order to erase the memoir of a Vietnamese state.
Toward Vietnamese history of later conquests and military confrontations, anti-Vietnamese sentiment started to rise by various nations that suffered from Vietnamese military conquests. In Cambodia during its decline, the Cambodians often clashed and fought against Vietnamese settlers, accused Vietnam for behind the massive deportation, expulsion and ethnic cleansing in Cambodia and modern-day Southern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta. Being a Vietnamese in Cambodia was almost entirely brought Vietnamese under watch of Cambodian population with distrust. Moreover, due to Vietnam being a Sinosphere country in contrast to the rest of Southeast Asia and a different political approach than majority of Asian nations, the Vietnamese are seen with fears and hostilities by Chinese, Thais, Malays, and other foreigners like French, Dutch and Portuguese.
The Siamese, and later Thais, following the Vietnamese expansions and occupation at 15th century, became extremely frightened and hostile toward Vietnam. The Siamese had waged a number of wars against Vietnam since 18th century, but they had not won another war after the successful first ransack in 1712. This facilitated Vietnamophobia against Vietnam and anything Vietnamese among Siamese. Similar to Cambodians, Thais also referred Vietnamese as "Youn", a derogatory term about Vietnamese in general as "black-skinned".
With French military occupation of Vietnam later as for the consequences of Vietnam's persecution on Catholic population by the Nguyễn dynasty after Gia Long, French colonial rulers considered Vietnamese as an inferior race, calling them "Annamites", even toward Vietnamese elites. Though originally referred to northern Vietnamese, it became widespread discrimination and a symbol of anti-Vietnamism. Mass uprisings against French colonial overlords increased and tightened French grips on Vietnamese with a more brutal and infamous records, including deportation to New Caledonia. French colonial rule would be soon disrupted by the Japanese, but the attitude remained the same even after the World War II until the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ.
Japanese occupation of Vietnam at 1940 was a fresh event of growing anti-Vietnamese sentiment, with Vietnam under chains of two empires. Although Japan tried to initiate pan-Asian alliance, Japanese colonizers distrusted Vietnamese because of its unlimited opposition to Japanese imperialism even when Japan had also had Vietnamese allies. In response, Japanese colonizers started a brutal campaign of forced labors and massive farming loots, resulted with the famine of 1945 that killed nearly more than 1 to 2 million Vietnamese, an act that contributed to the distrust of Japanese administrations toward Vietnamese.
Following event of French Indochina War was the Vietnam War and American intervention. However, although the American intervention on behalf of their South Vietnam ally was mixed, American troops brought numbers of anti-Vietnamese acts and discrimination, with the most infamous being the My Lai Massacre, Agent Orange and mass executions of Vietnamese civilians suspected to be communist agents/bases. Unlike China, France, Japan, Thailand, Laos or Cambodia however, anti-Vietnamese sentiment in the U.S. and U.S. troops were scarse, limited and divided between military and Governments, and not the entire American population with some American groups sympathized with Vietnamese people. Meanwhile, despite North Vietnam allied with Soviet Union, Soviet officials were believed to have smeared Vietnamese and considered them unworthy to match with the Russian techniques, often refused or delayed aids to North Vietnamese against American-backed South Vietnam.
The end of the Vietnam War in an unwanted consequence made Vietnamophobia grow rapidly both in Asian communists and non-communists alike, such like China, Thailand, Singapore, North Korea, Malaysia and Cambodia, as for the fear of a Vietnamese Intermarium—based on the idea of Poland's Józef Piłsudski that sought to turn Southeast Asia into a communist/anti-Chinese base increased. The previous Lon Nol and even Khmer Rouge encouraged anti-Vietnamese massacres, blaming them for trying to colonize Cambodia, such as Ba Chúc massacre. In Thailand, possibility of Vietnamese invasions prompted hostility against anything Vietnam and Vietnamese in Thailand, to wide range support for Khmer Rouge. In China, they issued war against Vietnamese imperialism and aggression on neighbors including China. Singapore and Malaysia also called for sanctions against Vietnam with the same reason accusing for Vietnamese imperialism in Cambodia. North Korea, meanwhile, accused Vietnam for the same reason and supported anti-Vietnamese movement, hosting Norodom Sihanouk and broadcast anti-Vietnamese propaganda in North Korea. The wide range anti-Vietnamese sentiment widespread that attacking against Vietnamese boat people became common by the pirates in the region, followed the effect of Vietnamophobia.
This trend of anti-Vietnamese sentiment only started to slow down after Đổi mới, which Vietnam started economic liberalization and reforms, opening Vietnam to the world which gave them a rising profile of political and economic successes with normalization of the U.S. and China's relations; however due to historical traumas, attitude towards Vietnam and Vietnamese remain questionable in a number of countries due to its previous past, particularly in Cambodia, Laos and China.
Media reference to Vietnam War
Although in general, the view on Vietnam and Vietnamese in majority is positive as for the result of Vietnamese economic reforms; the memoirs of Vietnam War proved to be a greater consequence and sometimes downplayed the positive image of Vietnam.
The most notable is the use of Việt Cộng, while it was used to distinguish the Vietnamese Communists, North Vietnamese war crimes to other Vietnamese, it went to become a part of insulting on Vietnamese people, or provoking response of Vietnamese people as an unfriendly and harassment of their unwanted past, mostly on former South Vietnamese refugees, Vietnamese in Western Europe and Vietnamese Americans, particularly due to trauma of the war associated to the North Vietnamese massacres on Vietnamese suspected to be American/South Vietnamese agents.
In the other part, the use of "Việt Cộng" also provoked angers among Vietnamese in the native country and diaspora in Eastern Europe, due to this reference also to previous American war crimes as well, since American troops could not distinguish Việt Cộng to normal Vietnamese citizens and often massacred them.
Incidents by country
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Thailand has been the direct result of Vietnamese expansionism in the past, with indication of fears about Vietnamese conquest in the history. Since the war between two started at 18th century, Siam had only won one direct conflict, with the others were all indecisive or Siamese defeats to Vietnam, manifested the theory of Vietnamese aggression and imperialism on Thai people. Thailand also later participated in the Vietnam War, and took prides for its participation.
When the Khmer Rouge was overthrown in Cambodia, Thailand was one of the main countries that harbored Khmer Rouge's leader and provided them ammunition against Vietnamese forces, owning by the old historical fear against Vietnamese invasion, and accusation over Vietnamese plan to invade Thailand inflamed anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Thailand.
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in North Korea was the direct consequence of the previous Vietnamese actions on the Vietnam War.
Initially, North Korea provided support for North Vietnam against South Vietnam, but with the result of North Vietnam's peace talk with the Americans at 1968, this disgusted North Korea and soon following the future Cambodian–Vietnamese War, North Korea, where Pol Pot paid his only foreign trip, immediately proclaimed support to Khmer Rouge and broadcast anti-Vietnamese propaganda throughout 1980s to 1990s.
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodia dates back to the Khmer Empire, Because Cambodia was constantly being invaded by the Vietnamese Nguyễn lords. The Khmers who inhabited the Mekong Delta started to become inundated by Vietnamese and in response the Vietnamese were subjected to Cambodian retaliation. After the Vietnamese successfully conquered Champa and added it to Vietnam's territory, they then moved to conquer the Khmers on the Mekong Delta. Following the beginning of French Cochinchina with the arrival of European troops and missionaries, the Cambodians told Catholic European envoys that the Vietnamese government's persecution of Catholics justified the launching of retaliatory attacks against the Vietnamese colonists in Cambodia.
In 1978, under the administration of Democratic Kampuchea, especially when Cambodian socialists began to rebel in the eastern zone of Cambodia, Pol Pot ordered his armies to exterminate 1.5 million eastern Cambodians which he branded as "Cambodian with Vietnamese minds" along with the 50 million Vietnamese in the area. This led to a war with the Vietnamese when they began to retaliate for the inhumane genocide and subsequently overthrow the Khmer Rouge. Norodom Sihanouk, the King of Cambodia at the time, asked United States President Lyndon B. Johnson to send American forces to Cambodia in order to liberate it from the Viet Cong but his request was to no avail.
Until modern times, anti-Vietnamese sentiment continues to flare up in Cambodia due to the Cambodian people's fear that Vietnam will take over their land one day and some Cambodian opposition politicians continue to exploit this issue in order to justify their hatred of the Vietnamese. That fear was illustrated by attacks against Vietnamese which resulted in the rape and murder of several Vietnamese in the country. Anti-Vietnamese anger is too difficult to counter in Cambodia, even for an activist against racism who is himself a member of the Cambodian ethnicity because he was threatened with death if he tried to interfere.
On 16 February 2014, an ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia, Tran Van Chien, was beaten to death by Cambodian mobs after a minor accident with the Cambodians. In March 2015, an 8-year-old Vietnamese girl, Ngo Ngoc Phut, was kidnapped and killed in Vietnam before her body was thrown over the side of the Cambodian border near a casino because her mother who worked in the Cambodian casino could not come up with a US$300 ransom. On 3 December, an ethnic Vietnamese fisherman was hacked to death by a pair of Cambodian assailants, armed with a machete and a pistol, but the suspects did not steal any property from the victim. On 29 March 2016, a 15-year-old Vietnamese girl in Phnom Penh who was selling flowers in the capital was abducted, raped and murdered by a Cambodian man who had just finished a drinking session.
As Mainland China has dominated Vietnam for a very indefinite of time, there has been a long unease sentiment towards China among Vietnamese community with more anti-Chinese sentiment is evident than anti-Vietnamese sentiment in China. Nonetheless, anti-Vietnamese expressions have been dated back longer in Chinese history, especially following the Lý–Song War, which the Vietnamese army under Lý Thường Kiệt invaded Southern China, the first ever invasion from a single Vietnamese dynasty and a medieval country against China, looted and murdered Chinese citizens, with more from 58.000 in Yongzhou and nearly more than 100.000 other Chinese lost their lives. Yongzhou became Song China's national wound, causing the anger and demand for a complete eradication of Southern "barbarians" by Chinese officials after the Vietnamese invasion.
The Ming dynasty was accused for their brutal treatments against Vietnamese civilians during its Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam and when Vietnam regained its independence, Vietnam attacked a number of China's allies in the region, fueling anti-Vietnamese hostilities among Chinese rulers.
At the Sino-Vietnamese War, Vietnam was accused for raids and an invasion on China, in which it is still being taught in China as a "war of resistance against Vietnamese invasion", as a seed of anti-Vietnamese sentiment, in spite of modern researches accused China for planning invasion on Vietnam.
In modern era, many Vietnamese girls who lived in northern Vietnam have been trafficked to China and sold into marriage for Chinese men. Recent tensions in the South China Sea have caused more hatred towards Chinese among the Vietnamese community. As a retaliation, a Chinese restaurant in Beijing refused to serve foods to Vietnamese, Filipino and Japanese customers, the three countries being among China's loudest opponents in its territorial disputes.
Hatred towards foreigners especially to non-white people began to rise in Russia as they were blamed for the country's 10 years of failed reforms in which living standards plummeted. Prior to the Chechen–Russian conflict, especially when Russian authorities blamed the Chechen Muslims Jihadist as responsible in the Russian apartment bombings, this has fuelled more hatred towards immigrants in the country. Prior to this, Russian skinheads began to be formed with some of the group members joining to take revenge for their family members that had been killed during the bomb attacks, though some other Russians joined the group because they are just "bored" and want to bully people. Following the attack against Vietnamese in Russia as they also been included on Russian skinhead target list on immigrants, a protest was held by Vietnamese community in the country especially after the murder of 20-year old Vietnamese student, Vu Anh Tuan on 13 October 2004 with the protestor said:
We came to study in this country, which we thought was a friend of Vietnam. We do not have drunken fights, we do not steal, we do not sell drugs and we have the right to protection from bandits.
Despite the protest for protection from Russian authorities, Vietnamese people continue to be attacked as on 25 December 2004, two Vietnamese students at the Moscow Energy Institute, Nguyen Tuan Anh and Nguyen Hoang Anh suffered severe injuries and were subsequently hospitalised after they had been assaulted by a group of strangers with knives and clubs on the way back to their dormitory. On 13 March 2005, three Russians stabbed a 45-year-old Vietnamese man named Quan to death in front of his home in Moscow. On 22 March 2008, a 35-year old Vietnamese woman who worked at a Moscow market stabbed to death in an apparent race-hate killing. On 9 January 2009, a group of strangers in Moscow stabbed a 21-year-old Vietnamese student named Tang Quoc Binh resulting to his death on the next day.
Amid continuous attacks against Vietnamese students and workers, around 600 Vietnamese were rounded up in August 2013 in the city of Moscow and placed in poor conditions tents while waiting to be deported from Russia.
There is a strong sense of anti-Vietnamese sentiment among Laotian population, although not as large as neighbors, mainly due to Vietnamese exploitation and economic investments, which are seen as looting Laos' national resources; and Vietnam was also accused for standing behind the communist regime in Laos, seen as a stooge of Vietnam.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2018)
Unlike countries have long tensions with Vietnam, anti-Vietnamese sentiment in the U.S. are scarse, limited and divided between group of Americans, or even marginalized. Some cases, however, have witnessed anti-Vietnamese sentiment within the country.
Tension and hatred between Vietnamese immigrants and white fishermen rose up in Galveston Bay, Texas in 1981, and was intensified by the Ku Klux Klan following an invitation from the American fishermen to threatening and intimidating the Vietnamese to leave, which resulted in attacks on Vietnamese boats.
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