China Beat Archive



Caroline Finlay

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May 6, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright May 6, 2008 Caroline Finlay. Used by permission.


Vietnam’s history has been intertwined with that of China for thousands of years, and it hasn’t all been pretty. Wave after wave of Chinese invaders have controlled Vietnam for more than half of the last two millennia, and the influence on Vietnamese language and culture has been stronger than that of any other neighbouring country. The Vietnamese follow Mahayana Buddhism, and Confucianism continues to influence the education system. The Mon-Khmer roots of the Vietnamese language are all but drowned under the pressure of a massive number of Chinese loan words, the adoption of Chinese tonal pronunciation, and until the Latin writing system was adopted, Chinese characters.

Perhaps it’s a human characteristic that the closer we are culturally, the greater we perceive our differences. The Chinese continue to fan the flames of World War II massacres and stoke anti-Japanese sentiment. The Vietnamese do the same – but direct their anger at China. Just as the PRC’s government has given tacit approval for anti-Japanese protests, anti-Chinese protests are the only ones likely to appear on Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh’s streets. Ask a random Vietnamese person, “Which country do you hate the most?” and the answer will most likely be, “China!” The neighbors have put aside their differences in favor of trade, and in 2005, seventeen years after China last invaded northern Vietnam, China became Vietnam’s biggest trading partner.