In looking around in the Online Public Access page of the US National Archives, I came across a declassified CIA report from 1950 that was speculating about whether or not the Communist Chinese might invade French Indochina.
The person who wrote this report saw this as a possibility. He wrote that, “Communist China at present possesses the capability for a successful invasion of Indochina. If Communist China, as a participant in the world Communist movement, were called upon to invade Indochina, it could probably be persuaded to initiate such an operation.”
If the Communist Chinese did invade, how would the Vietnamese react? This is what the CIA agent who wrote this report predicted:
“Among all classes of the Vietnamese population, the local Chinese, who compose the majority of the small merchant group, are generally disliked. The memory of previous wars of liberation against Chinese overlords and the Chinese occupation of Tonkin during 1945-46 is painful. To the Vietnamese, the Chinese are unpopular, regardless of their ideology.”
“In all probability, a Chinese Communist seizure of Tonkin would be rapidly accomplished. As a result, the Tonkinese intelligentsia, most of whom would be basically opposed to the entry of Chinese troops, would have little opportunity to manifest opposition in an organized and effective manner. Those now in Ho’s camp probably would continue [to be] loyal to him; the rest could be expected to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible while awaiting developments.”
“In contrast to the intelligentsia, the mass of the Vietnamese people – in the absence of effective and popular anti-Communist leadership – probably would accept the burden of Chinese occupation much as they have accepted it in the past.”
American intelligence can be pretty unintelligent at times, but I find this assessment to be logical in that it is assumes that some extremely prevalent human traits would be present in Indochina – apathy and the desire to save one’s skin.
Intelligence officers working for the CIA have made other kinds of predictions about what would happen during an invasion – such as that people would welcome the invaders/liberators with open arms, etc.
But such predictions haven’t always turned out to be true. I think that this is in part because such predictions assume that people won’t be apathetic and won’t just think of themselves.
In the end, it takes a lot of hard work to get people to not be apathetic and to think of something larger than themselves, and in 1950 that work was still in its early stages in Indochina.
I’m attaching a copy of the report below.