Earlier this year as part of the “Vietnam ‘67” series of essays that appeared in the New York Times, historian Olga Dror published a piece about schools for Vietnamese that were set up in southern China during the Vietnam War called “How China Used Schools to Win Over Hanoi.”
This article briefly discussed a group of schools collectively known in Chinese as the “Nine Two schools” “九二”学校 (meaning “9/2” or “September 2nd,” the day in 1945 that Hồ Chí Minh declared Vietnam to be independent from French colonial rule). In passing, Dror also states that “This was not the first time that China had hosted North Vietnamese schools. In the 1950s, during and after the war with France, Vietnamese schools had been set up in southern China, with Chinese permission and aid.”
I found this essay fascinating as I did not know anything about the topic. In looking around on the Internet, I saw that this is a topic that has appeared in the Chinese media and can be found on Baike, a Chinese equivalent to Wikipedia, however I could not find any scholarly studies of this issue.
I was therefore excited to recently find in looking through a database of Chinese PhD Dissertations and MA theses that there are two MA theses that have been written on this topic, one in 2006 and one in 2008.
These theses are particularly valuable for their use of archival sources in Guangxi, where the schools were located, as the details that those sources provide are fascinating.
In July of 1951, two schools for Vietnamese students were set up in Guangxi Province, the Nanning Rearing Talents School (Nanning Yucai Xuexiao 南宁育才学校) and the Guilin Rearing Talents School (Guilin Yucai Xuexiao 桂林育才学校). While there were some Chinese who worked at these schools, they were primarily run and directed by cadres and teachers from North Vietnam. What is more, these two schools contained elementary schools, middle schools, teacher training schools, etc. that expanded in number over time.
A fascinating detail in these MA theses is that apparently around 2,000 new students arrived in 1956. One of the theses states that these students were selected during summer vacation in the South and were the children of soldiers and cadres (i.e., presumably soldiers and cadres who were originally from the South but who had joined and fought with the Việt Minh against the French).
What seems clear is that these schools were not for “ordinary” children. Instead, they were schools for the children of people in the government and the military and their purpose was to create a group of young people who would keep the country on the revolutionary path.
In the early 1950s, the school children came from the North, where the main fighting of the First Indochina War was taking place, and where it was therefore difficult for the political and military elite to educate their children. Then after that war ended it looks like the focus turned to training children from the South, children who were obviously not going to get a revolutionary education in the South Vietnamese educational system.
Then in 1957, these two schools closed. The main reason seems to have been financial. Prior to 1956, the PRC government paid for everything for these schools. Starting in 1956, however, the PRC agreed to pay for the structures, etc., but the North Vietnamese were asked to pay for virtually everything else (salaries, food, etc.), and those costs were to be deducted from a general account for “aiding Vietnam” that the PRC had established.
In other words, the PRC government agreed to give a lump sum of money to North Vietnam as aid, and the cost of the schools was to be deducted from that lump sum. Instead of maintaining the schools, the North Vietnamese government decided to close them.
That said, one of these MA theses shows that hundreds of Vietnamese students who went to these schools (and a Chinese language school in Guangxi as well) stayed in China and went on to get advanced degrees at universities and technical colleges across the country.
Then in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War, another group of schools were established in Guangxi (the Nine Two Schools). These lasted until 1975. These two theses contain fascinating details about these schools, including the names of the students who were there in 1975, etc.
One detail that is particularly fascinating, however, is the amount of money that the PRC spent on these schools.
From January 1967 to June 1965, the PRC government spent 1,285,060,704 Yuan on the Nine Two Schools. It is difficult to know how exactly that would convert to another currency, but I think the size of that number makes it very clear – that’s A LOT of money!!!
As I said in the previous post, it’s clear that scholarship on Vietnam that is coming out of China today deserves everyone’s attention. In the previous post, I noted the large quantity of scholarship that is getting produced in China. What we can see here is that there is quality amidst that quantity as well.
What I have discussed here are two relative short MA theses, but they make a definite contribution to our understanding of the past, particularly given that they examine an issue that has not been examined in detail before, and do so by using sources that other scholars have not examined before.
They also open the door to a deeper examination of this issue, which hopefully someone will examine soon.