Assess why the French lost Indochina by 1954 // The reasons for French defeat and Vietminh victory in Indochina, by 1954
France was one the world’s great powers during the late nineteenth century, and benefited from imperialism and the exploitation of its colonies. France controlled land in Africa, South America and Indochina – Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam – with Indochina becoming one of Frances most lucrative colonial possessions. However, the short-lived control from the late 1850’s was diminished by 1954. This was due to oppressive French nationalism, rise of Vietnamese nationalism and communism, and military solutions to political problems. The convergence of these factors resultantly contributed to one of the most infamous and controversial military defeats of the 20th Century.
To justify their imperialism, the French developed their own principle called ‘mission civilisatrice’ (civilizing mission), as like most colonists, they believed that the natives were inferior and in need of French contact to relieve them of their ‘backwardness’. French imperialists claimed it was their responsibility to intervene and introduce modern political ideas, social reforms, industrialization and new technology. As historian, Melvin E. page states “The French ‘mission civilisatrice’ was the transformation of subject peoples into loyal French men and women.” However, this ‘mission civilisatrice’ was a façade, as profit and economic exploitation were the main motives behind the French colonization of Indochina. French industries transformed Vietnam’s thriving subsistence economy into a capitalist system, based on land ownership, increased output, exporting resources and low wages. The needs of the French colonists outweighed the priority over the development of Indochina, resulting, with the French using most of the 25 million people as cheap labour forces in mines, factories, rice fields and mainly rubber plantations. Workers on plantations were known as ‘coolies’ – derogatory term for Asian laborers – and worked 15 hour days in debilitating conditions for pitiful wages, that were sometimes paid in rice instead of money. Resulting with anticolonial movements in Vietnam that started with the establishment of French rule.
In Vietnam, Guerrillas fought to prevent forceful takeover of their land, with the French responding with violence and attempts to suppress radical thoughts. A new national movement arose in the early 20th century. As by 1930, a new figure became a prominent leader in the national movement, Ho Chi Minh. Unlike the dispersed and disorientated Vietnamese National Party, Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Minh, relied on cadres whom were trained with pro-national and communist ideologies from the Soviet Union and China. From the beginning, the Vietminh knew that to succeed with guerilla warfare,...