The Cold War was a prolonged period of political and military tension between countries on the side of democracy and those on the side of communism, the major players being the United States belonging to the former and the Soviet Union belonging to the latter (Westad). While the Cold War was known as such because there were no direct wars between the two major powers, there was large scale fighting in Vietnam. The Vietnam War (1954-75) is thought of as a historical consequence of the Cold War and hence a proxy war between the socialist and capitalist blocs, although many historians provide a second perspective, which is that the war was simply a nationalist struggle for national independence and reunification. While the latter argument acknowledges that external factors played a part, it states that the deciding factor that led to the Vietnamese people fighting for their independence was their nationalism and patriotism (Marr). However, it is clear that from the moment after the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was recognized by communist powers China and Soviet Union and America’s subsequent direct intervention in the war in Vietnam that the Vietnam War was no longer a nationalist fight against the French colonialists’ re-conquest, but had become a part of the Cold War.
The Vietnam War started off as a nationalist struggle before turning into a class struggle as foreign powers became involved in the war. However, it is the view of many Vietnamese scholars that see the conflict as mainly a nationalist struggle for national independence and reunification (Marr). Although the role of exogenous factors is acknowledged, it is, according to this view, the force of Vietnamese nationalism and patriotism that motivated and encouraged the participation of the Vietnamese people in their struggle for independence.
In this respect, the nationalist struggles in Vietnam in the early years of the twentieth century were different in nature from the movements of the previous period. The leaders of the new struggles were the radical Confucian intellectuals who were heavily influenced by the Western theories and particularly by the reformist movements in Japan and China. They belonged to ‘the Generation of the Lasts and the Firsts’ as David G. Marr calls them: the generation of the last Confucian leaders and of the first Vietnamese who accepted Western theories (Marr). The defeat of the anti-French movements in the late nineteenth century prompted these patriotic Confucian intellectuals to analyze the reasons for their failure and to find new strategies to wage the nationalist struggle. The development of the reform movement in China, and particularly the successes of the Meiji reform movement in Japan, strongly influenced these Vietnamese intellectuals (Lawrence).
The Second World War (1939–45) radically changed the world order. It also changed the destiny of Vietnam. As war broke out in Europe, Ho Chi Minh left the USSR and quickly moved to south China....