The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations - Vol. 2

By Cathal J. Nolan | Go to book overview
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Suggested Reading:
Michael Oakeshott’s introduction to Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1946).
Chí Minh, Nguyên Tât Thành (1890–1969).Communist president of North Vietnam (DRV), 1945–1969. An early nationalist (his early adoptive name—one of more than 50 he took in the course of his life—was Nguyen Ai Quoc, or “Nguyen the Patriot”), he traveled to Europe in 1911 as a ship’s cook. He then studied and worked as a cook in London and Paris. He became a Communist Party organizer during his student days in Paris and, later, in Moscow, where his exposure to Leninist ideas converted him into a committed revolutionary. He tried unsuccessfully to place Indochina on the agenda of the Great Powers at the Paris Peace Conference (1919). He joined in postwar founding of the French Communist Party and joined the Comintern. In 1930 he founded the Indochinese Communist Party, while continuing to reside in the Soviet Union and making frequent trips to China. He was once jailed in Hong Kong by the British. He was fortunate to survive Stalin’s purge of the Comintern. He was not permitted to leave the Soviet Union until the party line on nationalism changed in 1938, and he was sent to China to assess the war with Japan. In 1940 he returned permanently to Vietnam, which he had not visited for 30 years. After 1941 he led a guerrilla resistance to the Japanese occupation. In fact, he sought and received assistance for his resistance efforts from the American Office of Strategic Services. In 1943 he changed his name to Chí Minh (“he who brings/seeks enlightenment”).

In 1945, upon Japan’s surrender, proclaimed the DRV’s independence from France and sought recognition for his Viét Minh government. It quickly received recognition from the Soviet Union. That led to the bitter French-Indochina War (1946–1954), which ended in a decisive Communist victory at Dien Bien Phu but also Great Power diplomatic intervention and pressure on all sides to settle. Also, the war had split the country. Two Vietnams, the DRV and the RVN, emerged from the Geneva Accords when an agreement on unification by 1956 was rejected by Diem for the RVN. “Uncle Ho”—as he liked to be called—continued to meld his Communist ideology with Confucian principles and style and to work for unification of all Vietnam under his regime. He maintained close relations with both China and the Soviet Union despite the Sino-Soviet split, while defying the United States during the 1950s and the war of attrition it waged in Indochina during the 1960s. In power in the 1950s, encouraged a Mao-like cult of personality and engaged in the usual Stalinist practices of forced collectivization, purge trials, and liquidation of class and political enemies. The failures and costs of these policies forced him to cede considerable power to Le Duan and others during the early 1960s, as the Vietnam War entered its American phase. inspired and embodied, though he did not live to see triumphant, a Tonkin-Vietnamese nationalism that was closely wedded to a modified, peasant-based

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The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations - Vol. 2
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