I recently found out that the National Library of Vietnam has digitized some newspapers. They’ve done a very good job, and it is wonderful to be able to read these sources.
In randomly looking at one paper, a newspaper called Cứu Quốc (National Salvation) that was published after the 1945 August Revolution, I quickly noticed a couple items about overseas Chinese (Hoa kiều).
In the September 7, 1945 issue, for instance, there is a letter from an overseas Chinese who calls on other overseas Chinese to support Vietnamese independence.
I then randomly looked at another day – November 12, 1945 – and found a statement there from Hồ Chí Minh on “Sino-Vietnamese friendship.”
I haven’t looked at the issues in between those two dates, so I’m not sure if there is more there about overseas Chinese, but it is interesting to see what Hồ Chí Minh said. Here is a translation of the text:
On the occasion of the commemoration of master [đạo sư] Sun Yat-sen’s revolution, I would like to remind people of the policy of the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam towards overseas Chinese [anh em Hoa kiều].
China and Vietnam are two sibling nations [hai nước anh em]. Our relations are extremely close. [Whether it be in the realm of] culture, history, politics or economics, our two peoples [dân tộc] have had relations for thousands of years.
There are close to 50,000 overseas Chinese; some who were born and raised in Vietnam, and some who came to make a living. They are no different from the relatives of a single family who all experience joy and suffering together.
In the words and actions of Vietnamese compatriots [đồng bào Việt Nam] towards overseas Chinese siblings [anh em Hoa kiều] and of overseas Chinese siblings towards Vietnamese compatriots, everyone must cherish and help each other, like siblings of the same flesh and bone [anh em cốt nhục].
It is a shame that the treacherous poison of Imperialism in the past has left some scars that have led overseas Chinese and Việt [dân Việt] in some places and at some times to engage in petty quarrels [xích mích]. That is unfortunate. We must do our utmost to resolve this.
Therefore, from this point onward, Vietnamese compatriots must be kind to, and definitely must make an effort to protect the life and property of, overseas Chinese siblings. Anyone who contravenes that order will be severely punished.
At the same time, we urge Overseas Chinese siblings to also demonstrate kindness and a spirit of cooperation with their Vietnamese siblings, and to not do anything illegal.
Overseas Chinese siblings and Vietnamese compatriots must unite closely to bring about SINO-VIETNAMESE FRIENDSHIP [HOA VIỆT THÂN THIỆN]. Only then will we be worthy [to be called] the disciples [tín đồ] of Mr. Sun Yat-sen.
There are many things about this short document that are interesting. First of all, it looks like something was going a bit wrong. In mentioning “petty quarrels” [xích mích], the definite need for Vietnamese to protect the life and property of overseas Chinese, and the need for overseas Chinese to obey the law, it is evident that problems between Vietnamese and overseas Chinese must have been occurring. What exactly were those problems?
Second, the terminology that Hồ Chí Minh used was also very interesting. Vietnamese were “Vietnamese compatriots” and overseas Chinese were “overseas Chinese siblings.” In other words, the overseas Chinese were not being viewed as members of the nation. So what were they?
This short document offers us an interesting glimpse at a fascinating time and place. For people who want to know more about this time and place, a good place to start is with David Marr’s new book – Vietnam: State, War, and Revolution (1945–1946).
I still haven’t read it (but it’s on my list), but in looking through the preview of it on Google Books I see that Marr makes use of sources like Cứu Quốc. Now thanks to the National Library of Vietnam’s digitization of some newspapers, readers can easily follow up what he says by going right to the source. That’s wonderful.