"Vietnamese people were ignorant."
Profilers: Zhehao Cai, Tuan Kieu, Derek Lin
About Vietnam: for decades, Vietnam has been stuck between two sides of great powers. The South Vietnamese used M-16 rifles while the North Vietnamese used AK-47s, and both sides received a lot of supplies from the US, the USSR, and China in order for Vietnamese brothers to fight each other. However, the treatment after the victory was very cruel. To compare it with the US’s civil war in 1865, when General Grant of the North won over General Lee of the South, the way they treated each other showed that this (the U.S.) is a great nation. When Lee surrendered, Grant had all the North American soldiers line up and salute General Lee. All the Southern civilians were free to go back home and bring their own assets (donkeys, horses, etc). No one was imprisoned, and both sides’ soldiers were heroes.
Vietnamese people were ignorant. Even though the leaders were intelligent, they acted very ignorantly. Before 1975, I didn’t know a lot about the North, but in the South, our generations were illiterate. We joined the army before going to college. Actually, we didn’t know what or who we were fighting for. We just followed the rules.
During wartime, everyone wanted the war to end, because a lot of people had died. From 1945 to 1975, 5 million people died, including both soldiers and civilians—a huge number. We only desired that the war would end no matter which side would win. Surprisingly when the war ended in April 30th 1975, everything changed. Looking back to Vietnam’s history of 5000 years, there had never been any enemy that treated Vietnamese people as cruelly as the North Vietnamese people treated the South. From China who ruled us for 1000 years, to France’s colonialism, their crime couldn’t be compared to the Northern winners’ sins toward the South. First, all South Vietnamese soldiers and officials were imprisoned. Second, all of those peoples’ families were forced to go to the “New Economic Zones”.
The North plundered by exchanging currencies three times. First of all, in September 1975, the Liberation Front for South Vietnam’s currency was used. 500 South Vietnamese Republic Dong could be exchanged for only 1 Dong of the new currency. Every family was allowed to keep a maximum of 200 Dong (enough for an average family for 1 or 2 months). Everything was exploited, so every family had to go to the New Economic Zones when they spent all of their 200 Dong. Secondly, in 1978, the Liberation Front for South Vietnam’s currency was exchanged to the new Unification currency. One South Vietnam Dong could be exchanged for only 80 cents of the North. Each person was allowed to keep a maximum of 50 Dong. No matter how many family members you had, you were allowed to keep a maximum of 300 Dong. Lastly, in 1985, there was another currency exchange. Ten Dong of the old currency could be exchanged for one Dong of the new currency. After three exploitations, officials came to every house to search for any asset left to confiscate. That was the economical aspect. Academically, all of the South Vietnamese Republic books were burned. All artists were imprisoned. Thousands of years ago, Qin Shi Huang was not that sinister. South Vietnamese people’s enmity didn’t exist before 1975. It only started after 1975. From Japanese Fascists, American imperialists, French colonialists, to the Chinese, there had never been anyone who treated Vietnamese people that cruelly.
Comparing the North and the South regimes at that time, the South was more heavily corrupt, but the reason was that there was no ownership in the North. To say that the South regime was America’s “puppets” was also correct, but only if we also say that the North was the USSR and China’s puppets. One side used M-16s, another side used AK-47s. You didn’t produce them. Everything in the South was paid for by America, while the North received every little thing from China. Thus, to be equal, if we say that the South was America’s puppets, then the North was also China and the USSR’s puppets. It had been a proxy war, and both sides were other countries’ puppets. At the beginning of the war in 1945, it was a national liberation war. When Ho Chi Minh called for the national liberation, all parties and intellectuals joined under his flag. For instance: Nguyen Manh Tuong, Tran Vinh Khao, etc (some famous intellectuals at that time). In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was born and it set up the relationship with Ho Chi Minh’s regime. Immediately, America established the relationship with Bao Dai’s regime in the South. The war was transformed into the ideological war. Each side of Vietnam fought for its ally, so the war became a proxy war. Two sides (America versus the USSR and China) wanted to test its ideologies, its strategies of guerrilla warfare and local war, as well as its weapons and ammunition, and Vietnam was the land they used. Wholly, it was still a civil war between Vietnamese people. This civil element was essential and ran throughout the war, along with other aspects. However, the civil war had been ended very unwisely. Had the winners been more tolerant and generous to reconcile and reunify, Vietnam would have been very different.