Last year I wrote a post (here) in which I tried to refute the idea that Hò Chí Minh said in the late 1940s that “I prefer to sniff French shit for five years than eat Chinese shit for the rest of my life (or some versions have ‘for a thousand years’).”
This statement was allegedly made in reference to Hồ Chí Minh’s agreement in 1946 to let French troops return to Tonkin, which had been occupied by Nationalist Chinese troops in 1945 that had arrived to disarm the Japanese.
At the end of World War II, the southern half of Vietnam was occupied by British forces which were also responsible for disarming the Japanese there.
Today I came across a cable (telegram) that was sent from the British (in Saigon, but via London) to the Australians in late December 1945. It states the following:
“The Political Adviser to the Allied Force Commander in Saigon reports that French authorities there have been advised by the French Ambassador at Changking [should be “Chungking” (i.e., Chongqing)] that Generalissimo Chian[g] Kai Shek has decided to withdraw Chinese forces in the near future though the date has not yet been fixed from that part of French Indo-China north of 16 degrees.”
So as early as December 1945, Chiang Kai-shek apparently already made it known that he would pull his troops out of Tonkin.
This report also states the following:
“Adviser learns that the Chinese government are still insisting vis-à-vis French authorities that Chinese Nationals should have the same rights in French Indo-China as the French Nationals. The French are particularly anxious to withhold the right of ownership of land and are reporting that they are unable to agree to Chinese demand since it is not possible to lay down in advance future policy of the Federation of French Indo-China.”
This is further proof that this alleged statement by Hồ Chí Minh that “I prefer to sniff French shit for five years than eat Chinese shit for the rest of my life” is a myth.
Chiang Kai-shek didn’t care about Vietnam. He had no desire to control that country, and there was no possibility that Hồ Chí Minh or anyone else in Vietnam was ever going to have to “eat Chinese shit” for the rest of their lives.
What Chiang Kai-shek did care about was the Chinese people and how the French treated them. He was angry that Chinese had been treated as second-class citizens by Westerners since the Opium Wars of the nineteenth century. He hated the extraterritoriality laws that Westerners had forced the Chinese agree to. And he wanted to make sure that nothing like this continued in the post-war era.
He knew that the French wanted to create some kind of Federation of French Indo-China in the future, and he was ok with that. He just wanted Chinese to have equal rights to reside and do business in that federation that French nationals did.
In other words, Chiang Kai-shek wanted Chinese to be treated as the equals of Westerners. As for Vietnam and the Vietnamese, my guess would be that he couldn’t have cared less.
So there is no “history of Chinese aggression” in anything Chiang Kai-shek said or did, nor did he reveal any “eternal Chinese desire” to assimilate Vietnam.
In the 1940s there was no chance that Hồ Chí Minh or anyone else in Vietnam was going to have to deal with the Chinese for the rest of their lives. The people that Chiang Kai-shek and Hồ Chí Minh were concerned with at that time were the French, and they both dealt with the French in their own ways.
[See NAA: A1838, 494/14 PART 1, China – Relations with Indo-China, 1945-1964, page 200.]