See also: Indo-China (homonymy)

The French Indo-China is old a French colony , creation of the colonial administration, gathering:

Often, one calls it simply “Indo-China”, which creates a confusion with the geographical concept of Indo-China - or Indochinese peninsula - which indicates the countries located between the India and the China, that is to say the countries caused as well as the Burma, the Thailand and part of the Malaysia.

Siam, become Thailand in 1939 by posting its hegemonic desire on the Thai settlement of Laos and with the Western North of Vietnam, was a Buffer state between:

  • French Indo-China which went from Siam to the southernmost China Sea
  • and British Indo-China which went from Siam to India.

In 1939, Siam was the ally of Japan whose railroad of Burma (of Siam in India) was planned for the logistics of the Japanese troops in their walk towards India during the Second world war. The “bridge of the Kwaï river” is always in Thailand.


The creation of French Indo-China, more precisely Indochinese Union , goes up with 1887 (the first forwarding of missionaries in 1663). Inside this entity, Laos (mixed mode) and Kampuchea (Protectorate, monarchy under French supervision) keep their name, but Vietnam did not exist as tel. Three States occupied her territory:
  • the Tonkin (of the Vietnamese Đông Kinh , “capital of the East”), mixed mode;
  • the Annam (“Southern quiet”, one of the names of Vietnam under Chinese occupation), protectorate (monarchy under French supervision);
  • the Cochinchine (deformation of Giao Chi , one of names of Vietnam under Chinese domination), colony.


In this entity, the people Vietnamese soldier, Khmer and Lao are majority. The minorities (Muong, Tay, Cham, Rhade, Jarai, etc) are mainly present in the mountainous areas. The Chinese, quite present in the cities, are very active tradesmen. The unit counts approximately 12 million inhabitants at the end of the 19th century, then 16,4 million in 1913. More than 95% of the population is rural, which returns the difficult calculations and censuses.

The dominant religion is Buddhism, strongly influenced by the Confucianisme Chinese. For the colonial period, the catholic missions, very active, obtained many conversions especially in Tonkin. In first half of the XXe century appeared new religions like the Caodaïsme, syncretisms of beliefs Western and Asian.

The French colonial population, in 1940 (maximum presence), is only of 34  000 individuals. Contrary to the French Algeria (1 million Europeans compared with 9 million Algerians in 1954), French Indo-China was only one colony of settlement at the beginning of French colonization, but it will be transformed quickly into an economic colony of exploitation because of the presence of several natural resources which went to enrich France during the years by its control on Laos, Kampuchea, Tonkin, Annam and Cochinchine.



Indo-China was a colony of exploitation. The Pasquier general affirmed as follows: “It is necessary that the profits of Indo-China return to the French”. One takes taxes there (tax on land, capitation, local taxes), but especially, the French administration has the monopoly of the trade of the Opium, the rice salt and alcohol. This monopoly counts for 44% in the re-entries of the budget in 1920, and 20% in 1930. Financial side, the Bank of Indo-China, founded in 1875, French private banking, controls the whole of the economy Vietnamese. She has the monopoly of the striking of the Indochinese Piastre. Indo-China is, behind Algeria, the colony which receives the most French investments (6,7 billion gold franc in 1940). During years 1930, the French exploited various natural resources in the countries forming French Indo-China. For example, one found in Kampuchea of rice and pepper. The Vietnam (who was trained of Cochinchine, Annam and Tonkin), as for him, allowed the French to put the hand on the, rice, coal, coffee, pepper, Hévéa, zinc and tin. Laos was the only country of Indo-China not to have any economic potential with the eyes of France.

Market of rubber

At the beginning of the 20th century, the needs for the Auto industry supported the rise of the rubber Indochinese. An activity which profited from the surge of capital attracted by the advertisement of fabulous benefit. In the history of the French presence in Indo-China, the exploitation of the Hévéa, the “wood which cries”, occupies a particular place. Indeed, the rubber has the appearance of a symbol of the colonial success, since it will guarantee a source of revenue for the France. The importance of the planted surfaces, the take-off of exports, progress of the agronomic research, the brought back dividends testify to the successes obtained by the culture of the hévéa in the Indochinese peninsula. This company is lived, at least in the first times, as a true adventure by the growers, proud to see moving back a nature considered to be hostile with the profit of a well ordered culture and serving industrial progress. However, it is as important to know as rubber is also the symbol of the rejection of the French domination, expressed by the workmen of the plantations in the years 1930.

The first large plantations appear at the beginning of the 20th century. The right trunks with the gray bark spring along monotonous lines in the southernmost grounds of the peninsula, initially in the “gray grounds” located near the great inhabited centers, then in the “red grounds”, more rich person but also more remote, less populated, requiring more labor, more capitals and posing the problem of the recruitment of labor. The army of the slaughterers advances at dawn, incises the bark and collects the sap of several hundreds of trees. The latex thus collected is brought to the factory, installed in the middle of the plantation, where it is mingled with acid. Coagulation carried out, the invaluable substance passed in the rolling mills then dried and packed. They are the increasing requirements out of rubber for the manufacturers for bicycles then for auto industry, but especially, the advertisement of the 100  000 francs of benefit which in 1906 Belland carried out, the central police chief of the Safety of Saigon, which had made plant Hévéa S since 1898, which gave birth to from the vocations. Important companies are born then, the such Société of the plantations of the red grounds or the Société of the plantations of hévéas. However, a company of the scale of Michelin invests only in 1925 in Indo-China.

This being said, they are only years 1920, or in other words the Mad years, which date the true rise of Indochinese rubber: it is indeed necessary to count six to seven years between the moment when the ground is cleared and that where the trees produce. Rubber exports of the peninsula become substantial then, more especially as the growers benefit from world rates in rise in 1925 and 1926. In same time, one attends the massive arrival of metropolitan capital in Indo-China, attracted by high rates of profit. Being given remunerative prices and increasing capital, the growers multiply the surfaces devoted to the culture of the Hévéa. However, the worldwide market knows brutal fluctuations with the beginnings of the crisis and the collapse of the request of the world large-scale consumers, the United States in particular. As from 1930, the course of rubber goes down in lower part from that from 1922, and the general government of Indo-China is called for the aid. The authorities grant premiums, loans, take care that the international regulation implemented as from 1934 does not injure the interests of the French companies. The Bank of Indo-China intervenes, it, by granting advances and while being made sometimes main of the plantations.

Finally, last the course of turbulences of the crisis of the stock exchange crash of 1929 which had started in the United States, the culture of the Hévéa in Indo-China takes a new rise, at the price of an increased concentration of the companies. The growers do not misent so much any more on exceptional courses only on one massive production, permitted by the setting in bleeding of the surfaces planted before the crisis but also by the improvement of the outputs. In 1939, Indo-China exports eight times more rubber than about fifteen years before; that represents more of the quarter of the value of total exports of the peninsula, against less than 5% in 1924. As from 1941, the disorders pulled by the Japanese invasion (1940) then the war of Indo-China disturb production and export. However, it is not put a term at the activity of the plantations. This one is maintained until in the years 1970. Meanwhile, the future of the natural rubber seems compromised by a recourse increasing to the rubber “regenerated” manufactured either starting from articles of recovery, or in a synthetic way. These processes are employed by the United States at the time of the world war then wars of independence in Asia. However, the Americans take care, period of the Cold war obliges, not to upset the economies of the South-East Asia and thus continue to supply themselves out of rubber of plantation. Since 1962, the synthetic rubber joined the natural rubber in worldwide consumption. Today the two types seem products more complementary than competing.

Living condition of the workers of the culture of hévéa

During the colonization of the Indo-China, the French especially went there for the exploitation of the hévéa which made it possible to produce rubbers. Obviously, the French colonizers always called upon Vietnamese workers, since the hévéa was in Vietnam, or rather in Cochinchine if colonial divisions are taken into account. In 1932, Andree Viollis (1879-1950), a feminist journalist Frenchwoman working with the daily newspaper Parisian Petit accompanied Paul Reynaud, Minister for the Colonies, in Indo-China. On its return, it published Some notes on Indo-China in the review Esprit , then, at the publisher Gallimard, in 1935, its book Indo-China S.O.S . She denounces the methods of French colonization there:

“You can believe me, says it. I lived, me like employee of the plantations. In Kratié, over there, in Kampuchea, in Thudaumot, Phu-Quoc… I saw these unhappy peasants of Tonkin, if sober, if valiant, to arrive merry under the control of their gangsters of cais , with the hope to eat with their hunger, to pay some under in their villages. At the end of three or four years, they are nothing any more but wrecks: the malaria, beriberi! They try to go on their swollen of oedemas, corroded legs, crossed by a species of dirty insect, the san-quang ; does the output decrease with their forces or protest against too much misery? The cais attach them to tree trunks, piloris, where they remain all the day with jeun, after having become acquainted with canes of the cadouilles, which make bleed the flask skin the their poor carcasses.

“The morning, at dawn, when tiredness holds them stuck to their beat-side, where they tried to sleep in spite of the mosquitos which kill, one comes to drive out them dens where they are piled up, as one does not drive out herds of the cattle shed.

“At midday as at the evening, when one distributes their ration of rice to them often reduced of a hundred grams, they must initially prepare the meal of the cais and, the last swallowed mouthful, go back to the drudgery, even covered with wounds with flies, even grelottants of fever. All that for 1 FR. 20 to 2 francs per day that they never touch entirely because of reserves, the fines, the purchases. Their correspondence is read, translated and often removed. Little news of their families. The majority never re-examine it or, if they regain their village, they are true wrecks, without money and forces, which return to die; but before, they sow around them germs of disease, revolt, hatred… It is as that which one prepares the revolutions. ”

(Andree Viollis, Indo-China S.O.S , new edition, brought together French editors, 1949, p. 115-116)


The first catholic missionaries of nationalities Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French reflect the foot in Indo-China at the 17th century. They are mainly Jésuites, like Alexandre of Rhodos, which set up the base of the transcriptions in Latin alphabet of the writing Vietnamese (see Quôc ngu). However, as opposed to what we can think, they are not the French colonizers who forced the Vietnameses to adopt the Latin alphabet with the detriment of the old alphabetical system which was derived from the Han alphabet. Indeed, during very a long time, of the Vietnamese intellectuals perceived the Latin alphabet as being the tool of the Westerners, i.e. the enemies, but, later, they realized that, contrary to the alphabet in pictograms which took years with being controlled, the Latin alphabet, took only months with being to him controlled; because of the introduction of the use of the Latin alphabet, the rate of alphabetism will surely rise slowly and in Vietnam. At the 19th century, the day before the French intervention, Vietnam is a Empire, directed by the dynasty of the Nguyễn and its empire extended along the coast from North in the South from the Indochinese peninsula, of the delta of the Rouge river until that of Mekong. Laos, which is located at the West of Vietnam is a parcelling out of principalities lao. More to the South, the Khmer kingdom, hindouized, had entered during one time of decline.


The first French interventions go up with 1858, at the time of the Second Empire (1852-1871) with as pretexts the protection of the missionaries (Christian communities had been founded there as of the 17th century), but it should not be forgotten that in the troop of invasion were a very great number of Spanish soldiers. The first intervention is the catch of Tourane (Danang) and that of Saigon. However, the French economic interests (the, coffee, coal, rubber) were in the center of the conquest of Indo-China, because the members of the Chamber of commerce of Marseilles had affirmed their intention of " to make of Saigon a Singapore " , a city which was a British colony at that time. In the mediums of businesses, related to the opportunist republicans, of Leon Gambetta to Jules Ferry, for which colonization was to make it possible to solve the crisis of the industrial outlets, Tonkin seemed to be a springboard towards the immense Chinese market. Indeed, of the traders like Jean Dupuis, of silky of Lyon as Ulysses Crushed, of great industry groups and financial (Fives-Lille, company of Batignolles, national Comptoir of discount, General society, LCL, Paribas) wished to cut a sphere of influence in China. Little by little, the French Army gradually took possession of the countries of the Indochinese peninsula which they baptized in 1887, under the IIIe République (1875 - 1940), " Union indochinoise". This union included/understood five countries, partly colonial creations: Kampuchea, Laos (as from 1893), Cochinchine, Annam and Tonkin. Whereas it was a colony of settlement as of the beginning, the colonization of Indo-China by France very quickly became a colony of exploitation of an economic nature. From September 1881 at June 1885 takes place the Franco-Chinese Guerre.

Because of certain difficulties, the French troops carried out an evacuation in March 1885 in Lang Son. In an article of the periodical the History appeared in October 1996 (No 203), Jean-Michel Strapping man, aggregate of history, writes that, during this time in Paris, in middle of the night, on March 28th, 1885, Jules Ferry, which is president of the Council since the February 21st 1883 and Foreign Minister since the November 20th 1883, receives a call of Gabriel Hanotaux, right-hand man of Ferry and member of its cabinet in load of the external files, which gives him the content of a dispatch coming from Hanoï. Strapping man as adds in his chronicle as it was possible to read in this dispatch, which was signed by the general ordering the French forces in Indo-China Brière of Isle, this message: " I announce to you with pain that the general of Slave trader, seriously wounded, was constrained to evacuate Lang Son. The Chinese, leading by great masses to three columns, tackled with impetuosity our positions in front of Ki Lua. Colonel Herbinger, in front of this great numerical superiority and having exhausted his ammunition, informs me that it is obliged to retrogress on Dong Song and Than Me. the enemy always grows bigger on Song Koï Rouge. No matter what it arrives, I hope to be able to defend all the delta. I ask the government to be sent new renforts." as soon as possible;

While going at once to the Quay of Orsay, the place of residence of Jules Ferry, it penetrates in the apartments of this one and the contents of the dispatch deliver to him. For Jules Ferry, this event announced the fall of the cabinet, because it indicated to Gabriel Hanotaux which they did not have any more but to carry the resignation to the President of the French Republic. March 29th in the morning, any Paris noise of the " disaster of Lang Son". One speaks about 1800 killed, wounded or captive French soldiers. One says the French Army in rout. One evokes Chinese hordes breaking on Tonkin. For much, it is Sedan overseas. The humiliation which such a defeat would constitute is with the measurement of the stake which the Tonkin represents (Northern Vietnam) and way in which the Ferry cabinet managed the conquest of it. For one decade, strong of its positions in Cochinchine (Southern of the Vietnam) and with the Kampuchea, the France had made a point of putting the hand on Tonkin, because this zone of the delta of the Rouge river ordered the access to the Yunnan and the China of the South. Moreover, the agricultural and mining richnesses of Tonkin try the mediums of businesses. The access to the Chinese market, that the British want to reach by connecting Burma to Yunnan, becomes a priority. Obviously, for the catholic missionaries, the conquest of Tonkin represented for them a means to protect the Christian minorities from the Vietnam who was persecuted. Any growth thus to invade Tonkin, as Leon Gambetta (1838-1882) there invited already in 1880 in its newspaper, the French Republic : " It will be necessary that France is established in Tonkin in order to put the hand on Annam, the kingdom of Siam and Burma, and to have thus bars on the Indies and to help European civilization against the race jaune."

Consequently, the appropriations of the Room will not miss to conclude the operation. France, exit of the meditation which followed the defeat of 1870, is already launched, like the other European nations, in an great adventure Outre-mer, to Africa and Asia. When Jules Ferry returns to the capacity in February 1883, the decision to sit the control of France on Tonkin is made, with the risk of a confrontation with China. In fact, of November 1883 in May 1884, French and Chinese fight. May 11th, 1884, the Traité of Tianjin ratifies the French victory: China withdraws its troops, recognizes French protectorate and opens its borders with the trade. Ferry made of Tonkin its deal. It led the conquest to blows of secret diplomacy, military raids, parliamentary debates to tear off the appropriations necessary. For him, it is a triumph which will be of short duration. China balks to follow the treaty of Tianjin and to withdraw its troops. Consequently, that will oblige Jules Ferry to continue the war, the secret negotiation, sending always more soldiers, consuming always more money. With the beginning of the year 1885, the press worries and the majority is questioned, one and the other not knowing what really occurs on the ground.

Ferry decides to lead its policy as a recluse. It decides to conquer Lang Its (key position located close to the Chinese border, which orders the access to the delta of the Rouge river and thus the safety of the Tonkin against the Chinese incursions which always came from there) and to approach the Chinese borders to force the China to yield finally. It is thing made at the end of February 1885. Extremely of its military successes, Ferry negotiates in secrecy with the Chinese, with Berlin, then with London and Paris. The concessions of China go beyond the treaty of Tianjin. France puts the hand on the Annam; roads, channels, railways of Tonkin will be prolonged in China: the dream of the " Tonkinois" is carried out. The secret agreement of armistice is concluded on March 25th. The Chinese government signs officially the 30. All this is ignored by the Room, the press, the public opinion which did not have idea from what had occurred in slides, as Jean-Michel Gaillard in a chronicle published in the magazine said it the History entitled the disaster of Lang Its .

When the news of the " disaster of Lang Son" fact the turn of Paris, Ferry plays its political survival. Hanotaux presses it to say the truth. But the president of the Council fears, if he announces the signature of the treaty before his ratification envisaged on March 30th, to see " China to take again its operations dilatoires". March 29th at the evening, the cabinet holds council: one will request new military appropriations from the Room. The day of March 30th will be thus decisive. Jules Ferry must intervene in front of the deputies at 3 p.m. He knows already that the dispatch of March 28th was exaggerated. Reassuring news arrived of Hanoï: the military situation in Tonkin is far from being as bad as it had been believed. However, the town of Paris was very agitated. People tore off the newspapers, crowd thunders, of the trams are stopped, the posters placarded on the walls: " Died in Ferry! With low Ferry, the coward! " Three thousand people gather at the beginning of afternoon with the accesses of the Palate-Bourbon and with the Quai of Orsay. With the Stock Exchange, the values fall. It is 3 p.m. Ferry climbs the steps which lead it to the platform of the hemicycle. As soon as it starts to speaking, the clamors cease. It reassures on the military situation, asks for a new credit of two hundred million for " the war of Chine" and announces: " Not to mingle with a debate, which must remain exclusively patriotic and national no consideration of a secondary nature to join together in an joint effort all those which, on some bench that they sit and at some opinion that they belong, make first of all pass the size of the country and the honor of the flag, we state you that we by no means regard the vote of the appropriations as a vote of confidence and that, if the energetic policy to which we invite you is approved by you, in theory, you will be able to determine freely by a later vote with which hands you intend to entrust the exécution." of it;

When the speech of Jules Ferry touched at his end, the hootings redoubled. Georges Clémenceau (1841-1929), an irreducible political enemy of Jules Ferry, leaps of his bench of deputy and begins an indictment against Ferry: " I do not come to answer Mr. president of the Council. I estimate that per hour no debate presents cannot begin between the ministry with the head of which it is placed and a republican member of this Room. Yes, any debate is finished between us. We cannot any more discuss with you of the great interests the fatherland. We do not know you any more. We do not want any more to know you. It is not a minister whom I have in front of me, they are defendants. They are defendants of high treason on which, if there remains in France a principle of responsibility and justice, the hand of the law will not delay with abattre."

The Room will thus grant the military appropriations only after the departure of the Ferry ministry. By 306 votes against 149, it is put in minority. The majority which has supported Jules Ferry for more than two years it gave up. Ferry briefly speaks, announces that it will give its resignation. Taken with part by the deputies, while with the outside crowd thunders, it crosses the garden of the Palate-Bourbon to escape vindication, penetrates in the court of the Quay of Orsay, gets into its car and gains the Elysium by the Pont Alexandre-III. The president of the French Republic, Jules Grévy (1807 - 1891), accepts the resignation of Jules Ferry.

With the news of the resignation of Jules Ferry, the Parisian ones ignite joy. For example, crowd howls: “With low Ferry! Live France! With dead Ferry! ” When Georges Clémenceau leaves the Palate-Bourbon, it is lengthily acclaimed. The shortly after this day, the daily newspaper Le Figaro written: “It is under the hootings, with kicks with behind, with the contempt of its own majority that Mr. Jules Ferry crumbled piteously, misérablement, without fight, debate, as a bladder which deflates. ” However, at the time when these lines appear, the truth bursts: a diplomatic telegram from Beijing confirms the agreement of China on the treaty of armistice concluded on March 25th, 1885; another of Hanoï reduces the “defeat of Lang Its” to righter proportions: “Lang Evacuation Its and especially precipitation reprocess due to weakness of command, all that after success counter-attacks without significant losses; all in all not compromised situation” (with 1200 died, the Chinese had folded up themselves on the border, and the French 5 had died and 37 wounded in spite of the violence of the engagements). Curious irony of the history. Ferry was victim of its secret diplomacy (succeeded, but one day too late), and of the incurie of the military chiefs who badly have operation on the ground and inflated the account of the Chinese attack to explain their withdrawal.

Introduction of French administrative divisions on Indo-China

April 6th, 1885 settles a new republican ministry directed by Henri Brisson (April-December 1885), appointed radical since 1876. In few days, the calm one returned to Paris. French protectorate on all the Indo-China is acquired, the preliminaries of peace with the China having been concluded on April 4th from this year. June 9th, the new treaty of Tianjin is signed, the France ends up putting the hand on the Tonkin. In spite of the bad memory of these ides of march which caused its political death, Jules Ferry, which wanted this conquest, always asserted paternity of it. Five years later, alleviated passions, it is become again “Tonkinois”, but in very an other direction that which prevailed in 1885. It has just been selected by the French of the Tonkin like their delegate at the Superior council of the colonies (Consultative Assembly of the colonial interests which groups representatives designated by the French of overseas). At the same time, it prefaces the book of Leon Sentupery, Tonkin and the motherland , and finishes its text while affirming to proudly carry “the title of Tonkinois whose malicious ones and the stupid ones believe to make insult”.

Two years later, Indo-China became a subject of consensus. January 20th, 1892, he writes to the colonists of which he is the representative, after the vote of the appropriations by the Room: “It is not need to insist, I imagine, on the political scope and financial of these firm resolutions. But it is necessary to note, like the revelation of an undoubtedly new frame of mind, the unexpected facility with which these necessary measures were carried out. It was formed in the House of Commons a majority of " coloniaux" undeniable and uncontested; the newcomers, the young deputies, to him all are almost acquired. It is one of the new elected officials, a young person, Mr. Delcassé - keep this name - which defended your cause in front of the Room. It did it without weakness and reserve, not only with talent, but with authority: authority of a new man, who judges with frankness, courage and good sense, the quarrels and the errors of his elder. There is no risk, I you attest it that these republican new generations ignore, like made too often their devancières, the sizes and the hopes of the colonial policy. ” Indo-China will end up becoming one of the florets of the French Empire and broad and constant political majority will support the colonial ambitions of the French Republic. In short, on the military level, the conquest of Indo-China, which progressed of the South towards the West and the north of the peninsula, was officially completed in 1896, but the pacification of the area was real only at the end of the First World War. For as much, the actors of the conquest, such as the general Joseph Gallieni (in Indo-China of 1893 to 1895) and Penequin, did not have any illusion on the future of the colonial possessions which, for them, had to take again their independence one day.

After years of hesitation between the direct administration (the statute of colony) or indirect (the mode of protectorate), the French chose “protectorate” for Kampuchea and Annam. This mode of indirect control of a colonized company recognized the validity of the existing institutions and the need for using them. At the same time, it made it possible to reduce the expenditure of France, but protectorate was moulted quickly in direct administration. Only Cochinchine was with properly with speaking a colony. Tonkin and Laos had a mixed mode. But Indochinese monarchies were reduced to emptied forms of their substance: a colonial administration directed in fact the country, under the responsibility for the general governor and the ministry for the Colonies. In their Memories, the emperor of Annam, Bao Daï (established by the French in 1932) and the king of Kampuchea Norodom Sihanouk (established in 1941) evoked with humor their role purely symbolic system, which enabled them to both to carry out “lives of playboy” during a few years.

The last peaceful territorial conquests of France in Indo-China were the provinces of Mélou Prei and Tonlé Repou in 1904, of Battambang and Siem Reap in 1907, all attached to Kampuchea.

It is it should be noted that a treaty concluded in 1896 by the France and the United Kingdom, envisaged the territorial extension their respective colonies and protectorates. This treaty envisaged the meeting with the profit of Burma of the North-West of Siam, and with the profit of British Malaysia, the provinces of the South recently annexed by the Siam. France on its side, was to extend its influence to all North-East of Siam (Isaan). Siam thus would have constituted according to modalitées of this treaty, a state-plug between the possession British and Frenchwoman in Indo-China. Finally, only some territories were attached to Burma, and the provinces of Mélou Prei and Tonlé Repou were attached to Kampuchea in 1904, and the provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap in 1907.

This being said, in 1897, the general governor Paul Doumer created the administrative structures of Indo-China: a true colonial State, with general services and their appendices in the five “countries”, equipped with a general budget so that the colony does not weigh any more on finances of the metropolis, which is in this case France. For this purpose, Doumer organized a heavy and unpopular tax sampling system. In front of the insufficiency of the re-entries of the tax on land and capitation, and in spite of a crowd of local taxes, the administration assumed the monopoly of the trade of opium, the rice salt and alcohol - the two last being essential for the indigenous population. This one provides 20% of the re-entries of the budget until 1930, with tops of 36,5% in 1913 and 44% in 1920. Indo-China was a colony of exploitation and not of settlement: the development of the resources of the country began as of the end from the conquest. Traders like Jean Dupuis, of silky of Lyon as Ulysses Crushed, of great industry groups and financial (Fives-Lille, company of Batignolles, national Comptoir of discount, General society, LCL) were established in Indo-China to have an access to the internal market of China and the completion of the railroad of Yunnan connecting Haiphong to Yunnansen concretized their strategy. Albert Sarraut, general governor of 1911 to 1914, then of 1916 to 1919, Minister for the Colonies as from 1919, was made the herald of it. He created the economic Agency of Indo-China for propaganda in direction of the mediums of businesses. He worked out the industrial development programme of the peninsula, known as plane Sarraut, in 1921. The First World War, by the importance of the contribution of the colonial Empire to the effort of war of the French metropolis, confirmed its economic interest.

Economic life and development of the infrastructures

The capitalist State French and companies played of the complementary roles in this work of colonization the purpose of which was to start an economic exploitation. The Bank of Indo-China (BIRO) founded in 1875 became the obliged interlocutress of the general government; she controlled in fact the Indochinese economy. Profiting from a single statute among the French private banking, because equipped with the privilege of emission of the Indochinese piastre, the Banque of Indo-China was at the same time a bank of businesses and a finance company. Its field of action extended in whole Asia and beyond. In 1937, it was recipient in almost all the economic enterprises. Large financial and industrial firms metropolitan, Group Rivaud, specialized in the businesses caoutchières, at the company Michelin, also invested in Indo-China. Of all the colonies, setting with share the Algeria, it was it which accepted the most investments, evaluated to 6,7 billion gold franc in 1940.

The flow of the metropolitan investments converged mainly towards the mines, the plantations of hévéas, and coffee, like worms certain processing industries: textiles, breweries, cigarettes, distillings and cement. The transportation transport and routes, essential with the expansion of the colonial economy, profited from an special attention on behalf of the France. Saigon became soon a large port of the Far East which took seat with the sixth rank of the French ports in 1937; the railroad connected Hanoï to Saigon as from 1936. In 1939, Saigon was not any more but at thirty days of boat of Marseilles, and at five days of plane of Paris. The Télégraphe without wire, more rapid that telecommunication by underwater cables, functioned as from 1921. An effort was also related to the road infrastructure and the systems canal.

Educational and social life

Teaching was the other essential instrument of the “conquest of the hearts and the spirits”. In this field, the first years were dominated by the temptation of the assimilation (to make children of Indo-China of small French. However, in the years 1920 and especially 1930, because of resistance met near people of old cultures, and also of pushed in Europe of certain subversive ideas, of the modifications were brought to the programs of teaching. In 1930, the Pasquier general governor expressed his doubts: “Since thousands of years, Asia has its personal ethics, its art, its metaphysics, its dreams. Will it never assimilate our Greek and Roman thought? Is this possible? Is this desirable? We, Gallic, we were barbarians. And, in the absence of clean lights, we lit, after some resistances, to those which came from Rome. The binder of Christianity completed fusion. But in Asia, without speaking about the distances of race, we find hearts and spirits kneaded by the oldest age of the sphere. ”

The predecessor of Pasquier, Alexandre Varenne, made even these recommendations with the teachers: “Do not teach to them that the France is their fatherland. Take care that they have an Asian teaching which is useful for them in their country. ” It resulted a compromise from them: “teaching free-native”, equipped with three degrees, primary education, secondary and superior whose manpower did not cease progressing, without counting that the public schools were doubled denominational or laic private establishments. The number of pupils of public education to the Vietnam in the primary education rose of one hundred twenty-six thousand in 1920 with more than seven hundred and thousand in 1943-1944. In the secondary, of one hundred blackjack in 1919, their number reached six thousand five hundred and fifty in 1943 - 1944. With the Kampuchea, fifteen thousand seven hundred children were provided education for in the public primary education in 1930; they were thirty-two thousand in 1945. Moreover, it is also with the Kampuchea that the French teacher Louis Manipoud successfully reformed the schools of pagodas (Buddhist) by introducing matters into the traditional course. These renovated schools accommodated thirty-eight thousand pupils in 1939 and fifty-three thousand in 1945. However, except in Cochinchine, the campaigns were not equipped with a tightened school network and, in 1942, seven hundred thirty-one thousand children were provided education for on a total population of 24,6 million.

With the Vietnam, the teaching of the Quoc ngu, the language Vietnamese transcribed in Latin characters, and of French was generalized. The suppression in 1919 of the traditional contests of recruitment of the mandarins contributed in a determining way to separate the new well-read men from the intellectual universe and moral sino-Vietnamese impresses values confucéennes. The Vietnameses could integrate in their thought the contributions of France - a plurality of references intellectual and political -, and as opposed to what we can think, they were the proper creators of their modern culture. Thus, a local elite, as a majority of the Vietnameses and townsmen, emerged. In 1940, the group of the graduates of higher education or specialized was evaluated with 5000 people. The Indochinese university knew it also an increase in manpower (of four hundred fifty-seven in 1938-1939, the number of students reached 1575 in 1943 - 1944). One can add the civils servant to it (twenty-six one thousand and nine hundred and forty - and-a in 1941 - 1942), the teachers (sixteen thousand in 1941 - 1942), all resulting from higher or secondary primary school education, or the Indochinese university. Although minority, they formed this “third-state” to which the general governor Alexandre Varenne recommended that one made a place, considering that, so rights were not granted to them, they would claim them themselves. But the children of French civilizing work, equivalent formation or with identical diplomas, saw themselves refusing the equality of statute and treatment with the French, because in this colonial company, the European minority occupied the top of the hierarchy. More than fortune, the racial membership was an indicator of the social status of a person living in Indo-China. Although a mode of apartheid did not exist under a political and legal prospect, an invisible border separated people and put them at their place in the social hierarchy. For example, the love affair that Marguerite Duras puts in scene in the novel the Lover is a transgression of the code of the colonial company. Indeed, that appeared rather normal that a French took an Indochinese woman for concubine, often in a temporary way, but on the other hand, an even legitimate alliance between a Frenchwoman and an Indochinese was very badly perceived. A French being in Indo-China generally lived as a single person. Under these conditions, it was inevitable that couples are formed. More than the feelings, in fact the circumstances governed their birth.

At the time of the colonization of the Indo-China, the French, who made the decision to be established in this Asian area, formed a minority: their number never exceeded the threshold of 34.000 people (in 1940) on a total population of 22.655.000 inhabitants. Obviously, these French were in majority of the executives of the public office or the private sector, and more rarely of the colonists. Indeed, in 1929, 6000 civils servant were present in Indo-China and their principal privilege was the colonial supplement which doubled balances it metropolitan. If the despotism were not practiced daily by the French and if a certain number of them had the regard and the affection of inhabitants the Indochinese of ancestral descent (Vietnameses, Laotians and Kampuchean), it did not remain about it less than one guilty French of a murder on the person of an Indochinese was struck of a relatively light sorrow under the terms of a “verdict of race” against which the general governor Albert Sarraut had warned the judges besides. If we leave side the factors of the economic situation, the French colonial policy takes a heavy responsibility insofar as she opposed an end not-to receive with the Indochineses moderated as with the radicals. Fault of seeing succeeding claims of equality and freedom, expressed as of 1906 - 1908 by one naturalized French of the name of Gilbert Chieu, publicity agent and contractor, the movement developed in the years 1920 when part of intelligentsia was allured by the Marxisme-léninisme. In the range of the Western doctrines, this last had the advantage of offering the answers to the problems arising from the colonial dependence; it found an echo within the farming community and of the working world, but also a support in the metropolis itself.

Living condition of the peasants and economic situation in the years 1930

During the period when the French reigned, under a colonial prospect, in Indo-China, the situation of the peasants was degraded. The exportable surpluses from now on were subjected to the fluctuations in prices on the regional and world markets. The debt and the absence of documents of title supported the monopolization of the grounds by the richest owners and the merchants, and the number of the peasants without ground was growing. In parallel, the colonial economy ruined the traditional structures of organization and mutual aid of the country community: the institution multiséculaire of the communal rice plantations knew a strong erosion at the point to have practically disappeared in Cochinchine at the end from the Second world war. The farming community expressed its frustrations in a noisy way, even violent, as of 1930 - 1931 in Cochinchine and in the North of the Annam, then again between 1936 and 1938. During this time, the peasants were joined by the workmen. Fault of attacking the root of the evils from which the rural ones suffered, the colonial administration was captive of apparently insoluble contradictions, which expressed the general governor Jules Brévié in connection with the occupation of concessions by peasants without ground in 1938: “When we protect the rights of the ones, we make an injustice and undermine equity with regard to the others. When we neglect these laws, us violins the law and let us condemn our methods. ”

The labor of the plantations, the factories and the mines formed a composite proletariat with, often, a foot in the rice plantation and the other in the colonial company. It was subjected to a mode of severe work: retained on wages and corporal punishments were rather frequent. If employers' oppression did not differ from that of other countries, in Indo-China, it was identified with the foreign presence and fed the nationalist movement and Communist. In the years 1930, this one knew two great pushes under the effect of the world economic crisis caused by the stock exchange Crash in 1929, of the extension of the activities of IIIe Internationale and of the strategy “classifies against class” of the French Communist party (PCF). In same time, a radical wing of the intelligentsia which organized the communist bunches emerged. In 1930, Nguyen Have Quoc, the Ho Chi Minh future, unified them under the name of Indochinese Communist party (PCI), initially section of the PCF then, as from May 1931, recognized like section of the International one. As from 1936, the triumph of the Popular front in France and the orientation of the face antifascist, whereas the threat of a Japanese invasion took shape in the Far East, gave again strength with the opposition. Just as the great economic depression which touched Indo-China between 1930 and 1934, and illustrated the crisis of the capitalist mode while showing the power of the Bank of Indo-China to which the French government entrusted the cleansing of the economy and which was principal the recipient of the bankruptcies, expropriations and the concentration of the companies.

Second world war (1939-1945)

See also: Japanese Invasion of Indo-China

The Second world war will be determining for the future of French Indo-China. The Japan, in war against China since 1934, benefits from the French defeat in Europe (June 1940) to address an ultimatum to the French. He intends to occupy the northern border of Indo-China and to cut the railway of Haïphong to the Yunnan, one of the ways of supply of Tchang Kaï-chek. The governor Catroux accepts, for lack of means to be opposed to it. Dislocated its functions on June 26th, 1940, it will join the Free France. The admiral Decoux, who succeeds on July 20th, 1940 to him, is charged to apply starting from September 22nd the last agreement on August 30th with the imperial District-general. This agreement authorizes the presence of 6000 Japanese soldiers to the Tonkin as well as the use of aerodromes. In exchange, Japan recognizes the territorial integrity and the French sovereignty of principle in Indo-China. This agreement cannot however prevent forces it occupation of Lang Its and the bombardment of Haiphong. Indo-China remains under the nominal authority of Vichy until 1945.

Ho Chi Minh, nationalist Vietnamese strongly sought by the French colonial authorities at the time, creates in 1941 the Vietnamese soldier-Minh by the fusion of the Indochinese Communist party (founded in 1930) and of nationalist elements. It provides the foundations of one resistance at the same time antivichyste and antijaponaise. Its movement will develop especially starting from the beginning of 1945, thanks to the material aid of the Americans.

At the end of 1940, the Guerre free-inhabitant of Thailand is started by Thailand which, vis-a-vis the French weakness, thought of recovering the territories lost at the 19th century. The flotilla of the National marine in Indo-China ran the fleet thaïe at the time of the Bataille of Koh Chang the January 17th 1941. But under the " médiation" Japanese, on May 9th, 1941, France signs a peace treaty, by which it gives up in Thailand the provinces of Battambang and Siem Réap, removed in Kampuchea, and those of Champasak and Sayaburi, taken in Laos. These provinces will be restored with the Indochinese Union in 1945.

July 29th, 1941, Japan impose the parking of 75000 men in the south of Indo-China, the use of several ports and airports, as well as an economic cooperation, conditions to which the admiral Decoux yields. This last will in addition apply without state of heart to Indo-China the principles of the National Revolution of the Pétain marshal. The laws of Vichy against the Jews, the freemasons, the gaullists are applied.

The March 9th 1945, the French garrison is attacked by surprised by the Japanese imperial army. On: 40000 metropolitan French in the area of which: 18000 soldiers, more: 3000 were killed in less than 48 hours. The six months of captivity cost the life more: 1500 missings. This operation destroys the colonial administration. Japan encourages the formation of nominally independent modes, within the framework of its Sphère of Co-prosperity of large Eastern Asia, with in particular the emperor of Annam Bao-Daï. Truman, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill meets in the Conférence of Potsdam in 1945. Truman and Stalin, unfavourable with French colonialism, decide that the Vietnam will be divided into two parts: at the time of the capitulation of Japan, the Chinese (directed by the généralissime Tchang Kaï-chek) will settle in North the September 9th 1945 and the British (directed by the general Douglas David Gracey) in the South September 6th 1945.

The French decide to take again the control of Indo-China after the Second world war at one time when other colonial powers regain a footing in their Asian colonies (Burma and Malaysia for England, Indonesia for the Netherlands). In 1946, on January 28th, the British troops agree to leave the Vietnam and the Chinese leave the North of the Vietnam. In exchange, the French restore with the China their rights on the French concessions of China, they so evacuated by the Japanese, the March 6th 1946.

War of Indo-China (1945-1954)

See also: War of Indo-China

Introduction and historical context

The shortly after the Japanese evacuation, the Laos and the Kampuchea manage to make recognize their sovereignty carefully. It does not go from there in the same way to Vietnam, strategic issue and economic of very an other importance. Vietminh and other independence groups seek to establish their authority on the country. The general Leclerc and the second dB are sent by the Charles de Gaulle general, chief of the provisional government, to restore the authority of France. Negotiations are opened and lead to the agreements of March 6th, 1946 under the terms of which Vietnam is free (but not independent, because it belongs to the French Union). These agreements, signed by Ho Chi Minh and Jean Sainteny, do not last. Leclerc reconquers Cochinchine, but estimates that in the long term, independence Vietnamese will become inevitable. Its death leaves Vietminh without interlocutor. This one tries to prohibit to the French the port Haïphong. The bombardment of Haïphong by the French fleet makes the conflict inevitable. Follows the Guerre of Indo-China, at the conclusion which France leaves the peninsula in 1954 after the rout of Dien Bien-Phu. The Accords of Geneva temporarily separate the Vietnam in two States, but the failure of the behavior of the elections of reunification in 1956 leads to the Guerre of Vietnam in 1964.

Configuration of the involved forces

The war opposes two principal antagonists: France, remote metropolis, weakened by the 2nd World war and which takes a long time to deploy its forces; and the Vietnamese soldier-Minh, political organization having average tiny rooms at the origin, but which will manage to turn over the situation in its favor. Ho Chi Minh, her political leader, and the young general Vô Nguyen Giap, chief of the military branches, can count on a disciplined and effective framing. Their militants are in the population Vietnamese " like fish in the eau".

French side, the chiefs of the provisional government (the general De Gaulle, then Leon Blum), then the chiefs of the successive governments of the IVe Republic, delegate military chiefs of value: the general Leclerc, replaced with its death by the admiral D' Argenlieu, then the generals De Lattre de Tassigny and Navarre. Their forces, very heterogeneous, will reach 450.000 men: French of metropolis and legionaries, soldiers of the French Union, troops of the States associated with Indo-China (Kampuchea, Laos and forces of the emperor Bao-Daï returned in thanks after an exile to Hongkong), back-up troops raised in the mountain tribes and financed by the culture of opium. The United States, initially reticent, will end up mainly financing the effort of French war in the name of the fight anticommunist.

From 1949, the victory of Mao Zedong in China makes it possible to the Vietnamese soldier-Minh to receive important equipment from China, Soviet Union and other countries of the communist bloc. It receives also a considerable moral support of the communist movements and anticolonialists of the whole world, including France, where the PCF (more than 20% of the electorate at the time) made countryside against the " salt guerre".

The French public opinion does not feel really committed in this war, which does not interest, thinks one, that some large private interests. On the contrary, the Vietnamese soldier-Minh is able to marginalize and eliminate the rival independence forces and to widen his influence on the population, which it can mobilize in the information, the supply and the logistical support of the combatants. It is the key of its victory against the French, and later against the Americans.

Analyzes stakes

France did not colonize solely to obtain prestige on the scene of the international policy, although this dimension had its importance. The cultural imperialism, by the action of the catholic missions and of the colleges and colleges French, was also a powerful motivation. But there is no doubt that the economic interests, in the case of Indo-China, were exceptionally important.

Thus, as Pierre Brocheux in the collective file wrote it Indo-China at the time of the French published in the French periodical Histoire, “' Indo-China was a colony of exploitation and not of settlement”, which wants to say that France saw there an economic potential in this colony, at the time of colonization. Moreover, Brocheux adds that except for Algeria, from all the colonies, Indo-China accepted the most investments which were evaluated to 6,7 billion gold franc in 1940

The flow of the metropolitan investments converged mainly towards the mines, the plantations of Hévéa S, The and Café, like worms certain processing industries: Textile S, the Brewery S, the Cigarette S, the Distilling S, the Cement.

In the rather broad repertory of the stories of colonization caused by the European domination of the 20th century, French Indo-China was not an exception, because French rich person are behind investments of scale in Indo-China. Thus, as the French historian Hugues Tertrais in the collective work wrote it Of the conflict of Indo-China to the Indochinese conflicts placed under the direction of Pierre Brocheux, 43% of the industrial and mining investments are mainly located at the North of Vietnam: Coal mining of the Tonkin, which extracts a good Anthracite in edge from bay of Long ha, Cimenterie of Hai Phong, which had taken part in work of fortification of the Tonkin, Cotonnière of Nam Dinh, carrying on with difficulty its activity in the south (sic) of Hanoï… The investments in Indo-China are also important - 34% of the unit - in the plantations of Hévéa, which cover 100.000 hectares in Southern Vietnam and the Kampuchea.

Moreover, the Indochinese culture of Hévéa fed not only French industries of the rubber (especially for the company Michelin which started to invest in 1925), but it also developed since the beginning of the 20th century, though the Second world war (1939 - 1945) struck hard the industry of the Hévéa. These remarks on the economic situation of the French investments carry to think that the France was very given to keep its colonies in Indo-China, because the control of the political, economic and cultural levers of the Indo-China which the France exerted made it possible him to put the hand on the natural resources of the three countries which formed the Indo-China, i.e. the Vietnam, the Kampuchea and the Laos. Being in an economic position of domination, the colonizing European one can take a lead in the market of the rubber by its exports and also of the flow of rubber in France which almost enabled him to grow rich with known countries colonized at one time when the car enormously occupied the life of the Westerners who lived in an market economy of the capitalist type.

While always speaking about the rubber and the culture of Hévéa, Marianne Boucheret writes that “rubber had the appearance of a symbol of the colonial success”, because not only exports were very large, but the culture of the hévéa brought back many dividends which “testify to the successes obtained by hévéaculture in the peninsula”. Mrs. Boucheret also adds that the success of the culture of hévéa contributes to “the massive arrival of metropolitan capital in Indo-China, attracted by rates of profit high”. What results in a fulgurating growth. In 1939, rubber exports of Indo-China were eight times higher than they were to it about fifteen years before. Consequently, she, “that add represents more of the quarter of the value of total exports of the peninsula, against less than 5% in 1924”.

According to Internet site Spartacus, a British Internet site specialized in History, the Vietnam was a colony which brought back many dividends to the French, because Vietnam concealed zinc, coal and also of the tin which were sent in France. One can as read on Internet site Spartacus as Vietnam, because of her population, provided to the very cheap French one for the sale of the manufacturing products of the metropolis. Indeed, as from 1938, at least 57% of exports Vietnameses were controlled by French companies.

Let us add that Indo-China, in addition to its internal resources, was a very promising access road towards the markets of China of the South. The railroad of the Yunnan was the privileged way of this penetration.

The war of Indo-China marks for France a double defeat, at the same time like colonial power seeking to safeguard its Empire and like member of the capitalist Western block trying to dam up the expansion of Communism. This “bitter taste of failure”, as Franchini wrote it, represents the weakening of the international statute of France in the world according to 1945. This concern vis-a-vis Communism is very well expressed by Jean Chauvel, representing France with United Nations (UNO).

And one then affects to regard Ho Chi Minh as the chief of a communist guerilla residual. Into private, the tone is more anxious. In testify the remarks made by Jean Chauvel, representative of France with UNO, an American personality: “The time should come where the United States and Great Britain would have to share the load of France to bar the road of the South to Communism, or France would be obliged to liquidate its Indochinese engagements and to give up Indo-China in Moscow (capital of the Union of the Soviet socialist republics). ”

The fight against Communism seemed a legitimate stake for the governments of IVe République, engaged in the context of the Cold war. Moreover, for the same period, of the communist insurrections are choked by the Americans with the Filipino and by the British in Malaysia. But, in these two countries, the communist guerilla did not have that an insufficient popular base and did not lay out, like the Vietnamese soldier-Minh by the Chinese border, of a way of regular supply. Moreover, in these two cases, the metropolises knew to prepare with independence by an agreement of long time with the local elites.

Strategies and tactics deployed by the protagonists

Any armed confrontation resembles dramatically a set of failures and only the intelligence, which generates strategies and tactics, makes it possible to the future winner to proudly shout failure and chechmate by holding up its flag. Thus conceived, the War of Indo-China gave the opportunity as well to the French as with the Vietnamese soldier-Minh to deploy a panoply of strategies and tactics which reflected their desire to gain.

First of all, let us start by exposing the strategies and the tactics deployed by the Vietnamese soldier-Minh. When the War of Indo-China bursts in 1946, the inequality of the forces between the French Task force in the Far East (CEFEO) and the Vietnamese soldier-Minh is very obvious, because the CEFEO had at its disposal of the modern military material whereas the nationalist group that he faced necessarily did not profit from great ways. Though a ditch, as regards military forces, can be seen between the Vietnamese soldier-Minh and the French troops, that nevertheless at all did not prevent France from being subdued at the time of the revolutionary war by the general Vo Nguyen Giap. Being technically handicapped, the Vietnamese soldier-Minh could not offer the luxury to face the French in a traditional way in any time.

This is why, the Vietnamese soldier-Minh played the strategy of space - while extending to disperse the effort of the adversary -, but more still that of time. In 1947, Truong Chinh, one of the chiefs of Vietnamese Communism, conceive the theory of the revolutionary war which is the War of Indo-China in an opuscule entitled " We will overcome certainly this manner into three points" :

  1. the fight, primarily defensive, rests on the guérilla.
  2. the mobile warfare comes to be added to the guérilla.
  3. This one continues, but the body of battle, which had time to be constituted gradually, is enough powerful to pass to the general counter-offensive, and to gain the victory over the colonialists and their “fantoches”.

Of course, to make the war as a guerilla for the Vietnamese soldier-Minh wanted to say that one did not have to attack the French troops of face, because, in a confrontation with discovered against the French Task force in the Far East, the members of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh were fully conscious that they could be made crush with punt seams. Until 1949, Vietminh thus takes actions of guerilla, whose general Vo Nguyen Giap defines the principles thus: “To avoid the enemy when it is strong, to attack it when it is weak. To attack the enemy everywhere so that, everywhere, it is submerged by a sea of hostile men armed in order to undermine his moral and to use his forces. It is necessary to take the destruction of the lifeblood of the enemy like principal goal of the combat, and never, for the defense or the occupation of a territory, to use ours. ”

In order to organize itself well, from a military point of view, of course, the leading heads of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh, such as Ho Chi Minh and Truong Chinh, were ensured that a military structure was quickly installation in order to ensure the good progress of the activities of guerilla undertaken by this group which asserted the total independence of Vietnam. The military structures of Vietminh were quickly installation. They rest on three levels: the popular militia (on the level of the village) whose elite is versed in the regional troops; then those, whose best elements pass in the regular troops; dedicated to the great operations, these last are the starter of the popular army of Vietnam. Of all the levels, a political police chief takes care of the respect of the line defined by Vietminh.

For the Vietnamese soldier-Minh, the covered mountain of tropical forests offered a framework particularly adapted to the guerilla. However, as opposed to what we can think on Vietnam (and Asia in general), this country is not at all a homogeneous country. Indeed, in the covered mountain of tropical forests ethnic minorities are which did not support the combat of independence of the Vietnamese people.

To obtain their collaboration, the members of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh could sometimes use persuasion, and even sometimes terror, to control the villages inhabited by the ethnic minorities of Vietnam. Towards the end of the Indochinese conflict, the Vietnamese soldier-Minh held in his hands more than 5000 villages out of 7000. Moreover, even in the cities which seemed to be controlled well by the French, the presence of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh gave gold opportunities to him to take the revolutionary tax. In short, to summarize the strategy and the tactics of combat of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh, we can say that their goal consisted in being everywhere and nowhere, to melt ourselves in the population, to disappear suddenly in nature, even in the ground. Obviously, to make sure that the members of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh were not close to them, the French raise back-up troops, install stations here or there to frame the population and to prevent it from falling under the influence vietminh. In spite of that, the French presence is rather soft and during the night, the members of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh make feel their presence.

The members of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh are with the current of the movements of the French troops even before those decide to pass to the action. The members of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh could envisage without any difficulty the movements of the task force, dependant on its heavy logistics, because he was spy by a whole population (that of Vietnam). In short, to know the general terms of the progression of the conflict which opposed the French to the Vietnamese soldier-Minh, it was enough to read the newspapers. That will push a leader of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh to say that the French task force is “blind” (he does not see the adversary), “deaf person” (he is not indicated) and “lame” (its communications are difficult). In his memories on the War of Indo-China, the general Vo Nguyen Giap describes this duel between the French and the Vietnamese soldier-Minh as being “a war without fixed face nor objective, with unforeseen waves of attack, coming from directions judged without risk by the enemy” and it also adds that “the guerilla of movement in our resistance differed from many the mobile warfare scale modern times. ”

we had gained brilliant successes at the conclusion of engagements night in the mountainous areas and timbered. Indeed, these last offered favorable conditions to the progression of our troops which encircled the enemy (French troops) before this one does not locate them and does not use its weapons. During several years on the discovered grounds, our men engaged only of small combat on the condition of taking the enemy by quickly surprised for folding up itself at once. It was necessary to await Diên Biên Phu to attend the deployment of great combat units, lasting of the days and the nights, based on points of attack and surrounding, a system of shelters and bowels.

During the War of Indo-China, even if China were not on the chess-board of the Indochinese conflict on which the French troops and the Vietnamese soldier-Minh were opposed, much of members of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh were formed in the art of the Guérilla in the South of China. To be allocated to Vietnam was not difficult for the members of the Vietnamese soldier-Minh, because the French defeat with CAD Bang (close to the Chinese border) in October 1950 made it possible to the Vietnamese soldier-Minh to control this zone.

The French tried by all the means of subduing the nationalist movement which asserted the total independence of Vietnam by exerting an effort of against-guerilla who will be a failure. In the book History of the War of Indo-China , Yves Fatty, a general who was present during this confrontation between France and Vietnam, had written that “to pacify” Cochinchine (South of Vietnam), the Valluy general, the commander-in-chief, had configured the troops of the Nyo general with nearly 40% of the forces of the task force: 23 of its 69 battalions of infantry, 9 groups of artillery and 5 squadrons of cavalry, are 38.000 men, to which the 6000 men of the guard cochinchinoise were added and the totality of the partisans is approximately 10.000.

The principal weakness of the French troops came from their dispersion. Many missions of safety diverted the majority of them “hunting for the enemy”. They had to protect, in addition to their own bases, the axes of communication, the installations economic, in particular the plantations of hévéas, and the population of the campaigns.

This being known as, the author of the book Histoire of the War of Indo-China specifies his explanations more by specifying that these strategies and tactics returned the men of the motionless French troops. Therefore, that favoured considerably the Vietnamese soldier-Minh in mobile terms of forces, because it could seize the occasion “to concentrate at the time and the place where it wanted it. ” Another thing important to mention: the difficulty of the war, for the French, was increased by impossibility of distinguishing an ordinary Vietnamese from a guerilla.

Finally, the battle of Diên Biên Phu, at the Western limit of Tonkin (Northern of Vietnam), in the mountains with the borders of Laos, violently put a term at the French domination on Indo-China. According to Laurent Henninger, a French operations manager in the Center of studies of history of defense, the installation of seven campings bearing a code name (Huguette, Lilie, Claudine, Éliane, Dominique) allowed the French task force to keep a control on “the road which connects Hanoï to Laos and to seize this plain cut of a river and surrounded by hills forming like an immense stage. ” Besides, for the French Staff, Diên Biên Phu was to be used like a point of fixing to attract the Vietnamese soldier-Minh, an imperceptible adversary, in an arranged battle. The French staff hopes on his air superiority to nail on the ground and to eliminate the enemy forces. In fact, the Minh Vietnamese soldier thwarts the air monitoring while making pass men and materials by invisible tracks under the trees, on vehicles arranged with carcasses of bicycles. The digging of underground shelters enables him to escape the air raids. The first waves of assault (50 000 men of the general Nguyen Vo Giap against 11.000 French soldiers) put the whole of the camp at the range of powerful artillery (of Chinese origin) brought on-site by the Minh Vietnamese soldier. The landing strip become unusable, the French garrison is supplied more only by dramatically insufficient parachutings. May 7th, 1954, after two months of baited resistance, the base of Diên Biên Phu falls.

Moreover, according to Laurent Henninger, “no one could not provide that the Giap general would concentrate as much artillery on hills such escarpées and covered with jungle. ” France had required of its ally, the United States, to authorize an air intervention to save the fortified camp, but president Dwight Eisenhower, which feared an extension of the conflict by engagement of China, had refused. In Paris, a new parliamentary crisis makes fall Bidault and Pleven, in favor of the continuation of the operations, and pleasing with the capacity Pierre Mendès France with a program of negotiation. The conference of Geneva devoted to the payment of the Indochinese question opens the shortly after the fall of Diên Biên Phu.

General conclusion

Finally, the Prime Minister for the French Republic Pierre Mendès France concludes the conference from Geneva on July 21st, 1954 and these agreements, according to Jacques Dalloz, did not give “a final exit to the Vietnamese problem, but make it possible France to be reached some. ” Vietnam will be cut in two parts starting from the 17 {{E}} parallel: in North, the Democratic republic of Vietnam (communist), in the South will be a Vietnam pro-Westerner. Thereafter, the independence of Vietnam (divided into two parts), of Laos and Kampuchea is recognized. According to the agreements of Geneva, elections will have to be held in the two years in order to unify Vietnam. But the non-observance of this expiry involves a resumption of the communist guerilla (Vietcong) in the South. As from 1964, the United States will support massively, from a military point of view, the South Vietnamese government and that will plunge Vietnam in another war.

Colonial administration of French Indo-China

General governors of French Indo-China

High commissioners of French Indo-China

August 22nd, 1945, DGER makes parachute two teams with their ête a police chief of the republic: Pierre Messmer for North, Jean Cedilla for the South.

General police chiefs

Territorial administration of Annam

Persons in charge

General residents

Higher residents

Territorial administration of Tonkin

Higher residents

Territorial administration of Cochinchine

Military governors (1858-1879)

Governors (1879-1887)

Lieutenant governors (1887-1911)

Governors (1911-1954)

Territorial administration of Kampuchea

Territorial administration of Laos

Chronological reference marks - conquest with the decolonization

  • 1858-1867: Conquest of the Vietnam of the South. Protectorate in Kampuchea.
  • 1882-1897: the Center and the North of Vietnam as well as the principalities lao pass under the French supervision.

  • 1897-1911: Creation of the Indochinese Union made up of a colony (the Cochinchine), of three protectorates (Annam, Laos, Kampuchea) and of a semi-protectorate (the Tonkin).

  • 1900-1926: Vietnamese nationalism reformist and radical makes his appearance.

  • 1919

April 27th: Speech of Albert Sarraut, the general governor of Indo-China, in Hanoï. He proposes a " collaboration franco-vietnamienne".
  • 1925: Nguyen Have Quoc, a rather known man under the name of Ho Chi Minh, founds the Association of revolutionary youth Vietnamese.

  • 1930

February: Failure of the mutiny of the garrison of Yen bay; the democratic national Party is decapitated. Nguyen Have Quoc unifies the three communist bunches in a Vietnamese Communist party.
  • 1930-1931: Rising of the peasants of Nghe Tinh, Quang nam, Quang ngai and of Cochinchine organized by the Indochinese Communist party.

  • 1930-1934: the world economic crisis which started with the the United States into 1929 extends in Indo-China.

  • 1936-1937: Great social movement: strikes, occupations of grounds.

  • 1940-1941: Agreement between the Vichy government and that of Tokyo; the Japanese army enters in Indo-China and during this time, the France is occupied by the Germany in this time of the Second world war. The Indochinese Communist party launches the insurrection armed in Cochinchine and fails.

  • 1945

March 9th: Takeover by Japanese force. The independence of three Indochinese monarchies is proclaimed.

March 11th: Proclamation of the independence of Vietnam by the emperor Bao Dai.

March 24th: Declaration of the provisional government of the French Republic on Indo-China.

13 August 14th: Beginning of the insurrection Vietnamese.

August 15th: The general of Argenlieu is named high commissioner in Indo-China.

August 22nd: Jean Sainteny arrives at Hanoï.

September 2nd: Japanese capitulation. Vietminh seizes the power in Vietnam and proclaims the independence of the Democratic republic of Vietnam (RDV).

September 11th: Arrival of the Chinese with Hanoï.

October 5th: Leclerc unloads in Saigon.

October 31st: Arrival of the general of Argenlieu to Saigon.

  • 1946

March 6th: French unloading with Haipong.

March 18th: Entry of the Leclerc general to Hanoï.

June 1st: Proclamation of the republic of Cochinchine.

July 6th: Beginning of the Conference of Fontainebleau.

December 19th: Insurrection with Hanoï.

  • 1947

March 5th: Bollaert replaces of Argenlieu.

December 23rd: The Laos and the Kampuchea adhere to the French Union. Paris challenges any prospect for negotiations with Ho Chi Minh.

  • 1948

June 5th: Agreements of bay of Along.
  • 1949

March 8th: Agreements established between Auriol and Bao Dai.

July 19th: The Laos becomes associated State.

October: Mao Zedong, chief of the Chinese Communist party, proclaims the Popular republic of China after having gained a civil war, which had started in 1946, against the nationalist troops directed by the general Tchang Kaï-chek, former commander-in-chief of the forces combined in Asia during the Second world war (1939 - 1945). The nationalist troops will flee towards the island of Taiwan to form an independent government vis-a-vis in China.

November 8th: The Kampuchea becomes associated State.

December: Free-Vietnamese agreements. Arrival of the Chinese communist troops at the border of Tonkin.

  • 1950

January: Recognition of the Democratic republic of Vietnam by the China, then by the Union of the Soviet socialist republics (Soviet Union), which was directed by Joseph Stalin. Ratification by the French National Assembly of the agreements of association of the States of Indo-China.

February 7th: The United States recognizes the government Bao Dai.

June 25th: Beginning of the War of Korea (1950 - 1953)

3 October 8th: French defeat with CAD Bằng.

November: Chinese intervention in Korea.

December: The general of Lattre is named high commissioner in Indo-China.

  • 1952

January 11th: Died of the general of Lattre.

April: Salan becomes commander-in-chief.

October: Offensive vietminh in Thai country.

  • 1953

March: Offensive vietminh in North-Laos.

July 27th: Armistice in Korea.

  • 1954

January 25th: Opening of the Conference of Berlin. The final communique announces that forthcoming Conférence, on the Asian questions, will be taken place in Geneva.

March 13rd: Beginning of the battle of Diên Biên Phu.

April 26th: Conference of Geneva.

May 7th: French defeat at Diên Biên Phu.

May 8th: Beginning of the Indochinese phase of the Conference of Geneva.

June 4th: Treaties free-Vietnamese.

July 20th: Signature of the Agreements of Geneva.

October 9th: The French evacuate Hanoï.

November: Beginning of the War of Algeria.

December: Agreements between France, Laos, Kampuchea and South-Vietnam.

  • 1955

May 15th: The last French troops leave North-Vietnam.

Indo-China in the culture



  • Pedro Nguyên Long, Georges Walter, the Mountain with the perfumes , (1996), 602 pages

  • Claude Farrère, Civilized the (1906)


They were born there:

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