From Nam Viet to Paracel/Spratly

Vietnam and the Vietnamese People fought with China for independence for 1,200 years and continue to resist Chinese imperialism even to this day! The reason is simple. Vietnamese people live by the words of Lady Trieu: "I want to rail against the wind and the tide, kill the whales in the sea, sweep the whole country to save the people from slavery, and I refuse to be abused."

208 BC: Trieu Da, a turncoat Chinese general, conquers a domain in the northern mountains of Vietnam. He defied the decadent Ch'in dynasty, built his capital at Canton, and declared himself emperor of Nam Viet "Land of the Southern Viet" which reached as far south as the present city of Danang.

111 BC: The Nam Viet kingdom (spreading from the Red River delta to north of Canton) is annexed by the Han and becomes the Chinese district of Giao-chi.

40 AD: Trung Sisters Rebellion. Lady Trung Trac, avenging the murder of her dissident husband by a Chinese commander, leads the first major revolt against China. She and her sister, Trung Nhi, mustered other restive nobles and their vassals, including another woman, Phung Thi Chinh, who supposedly gave birth to a baby in the middle of the battle but continued to fight with the infant strapped to her back. They vanquished the Chinese in 40 AD and, with the Trung sisters as Queens, set up an independent state which stretched from Hue into southern China.

43 AD: Chinese conquer the Trung Sisters who committed suicide - in aristocratic style - by throwing themselves into a river. The Vietnamese still venerate them at temples in Hanoi and Sontay.

248 AD: Lady Trieu Au launches a revolt wearing golden armor and riding an elephant as she leads a thousand men into battle. Gloriously defeated at the age of 23, she committed suicide rather than suffer the shame of surrender. Like the Trung sisters she is remembered by a temple and by her words of defiance: "I want to rail against the wind and the tide, kill the whales in the sea, sweep the whole country to save the people from slavery, and I refuse to be abused."

The Chinese conquerors referred to Vietnam as Annam, the "pacified south." But it was far from peaceful. Resistance against China persisted. Revolts recurred chronically, and dissident nobles gradually perceived the need to mobilize peasant support. They broadened their movements and stressed that Vietnam's customs, practices, and interests differed from those of China.

542-545 AD: Ly Bon takes action, organizes and leads a rebellion against the Chinese presence in Vietnam. The struggle was a difficult one, not only because of the advantages possessed by the Chinese in men and material but also due to a war with the Champa Kingdom in the south that broke out at the same time. All might have gone very badly, but the amount of oppression endured under the rule of China ensured that Ly Bon had massive public support in Vietnam. As many others would find out, no enemy, no matter how strong, can hold dominion over the common people of Vietnam for very long. Finally, in 544 Ly Bon succeeds in over-throwing the hated Chinese government and established the independent nation of 10,000 Springs (Van Xuan). Using the name instituted by the earlier Trieu Da Dynasty he was proclaimed Emperor Ly Bon of Nam Viet. He established his ruling city at Gia Ninh, at the bottom of Mt. Tam Dao, near present day Hanoi. Once secure in his position as Emperor, Ly Bon launched military expeditions to unite the Vietnamese people. Eventually he secured control of most of the cultural lands of Vietnam as well as the northern Champa territories. However, while Emperor Ly Bon was engaged in battle, in 545 the Liang Dynasty sent an attack force against him. While Ly Bon was fighting in the south Ch'en captured his city of Gia Ninh. The Emperor managed to evade Ch'en's forces and handed most of his authority over to the general Trieu Quang Phuc to stop the invader. However, shortly thereafter Emperor Ly Bon was assassinated by the unpredictable mountain tribes and without his leadership the nation of Van Xuan fell apart. However, Ly Bon's example inspired resistance against the Chinese for many years to come.

602 AD: Chinese rule is now a protectorate, the capital being Dai La Thanh (Hanoi)

938 AD: Ngo Quyen vanquishes the Chinese. China had deployed fresh forces in Vietnam, some arriving by sea. In 938 AD, as a large flotilla of armed Chinese junks approached the Bach Dang River - a tidal waterway near Haiphong, Ngo Quyen resorted to a clever strategem. He ordered his men to drive iron-tipped spikes into the riverbed, their points concealed below the water's surface. Then, at high tide, he engaged the Chinese, his own vessels retreating as the tide ebbed. The pursuing Chinese ships became impaled, and Ngo Quyen turned back to destroy them.

967 AD: Dinh Bo Linh ascends the throne calling his state Dai Co Viet, "The Kingdom of the Watchful Hawk." The son of an official, he had organized a peasant army commanded by urban intellectuals. His dynasty won recognition of Vietnam's independence from China in exchange for regular payments of tribute. The tributary arrangement, which was typical of Chinese relations with other states of Southeast Asia, endured for centuries. The capital moves to Hoa Lu with the Dinh and first Le dynasties.

1075-1077 AD: General Ly Thuong Kiet successfully repells continuous attacks from China.

1226: Tran dynasty comes to power.

1257: General Tran Hung Dao leads the Vietnamese armies to resist the first Mongol invasion. The Mongol armies of Kublai Khan invaded Vietnam who had anticipated their attacks and evacuated the city beforehand. Disease, shortage of supplies, the climate, and the Vietnamese strategy of harassment and scorchedearth tactics foiled their invasions.

1285: Second Mongol invasion. Kublai Khan demanded passage through the Kingdom of Dai Viet (in northern Vietnam) for his Yuan army on their invasion of the kingdom of Champa. When Dai Viet’s Emperor Tran Nhan Tong refused, the Mongol army, led by Prince Toghan, attacked Dai Viet and seized the capital Thang Long (modern day Hanoi). The Vietnamese retreated to the south after burning off most of their crops and facilities. Tran Hung Dao and other generals escorted the Royal Court, staying just ahead of the Mongol army in hot pursuit. When the Mongol army had been worn down with tropical diseases and lack of supplies, Tran Hung Dao launched a counter-offensive. Most of the battles were on the waterfronts, where the Mongols could not use their cavalry strength. Mongol commander Sogetu of the southern front was killed in the battle. In their withdrawal from Dai Viet, the Mongols were also attacked by the Hmong and Yao minorities in the northern regions.

1287: Third Mongol invasion. The third Mongol invasion, of 300,000 men and a vast fleet, was also defeated by the Vietnamese under the leadership of General Tran Hung Dao. Borrowing a tactic used by Ngo Quyen in 938 to defeat an invading Chinese fleet, the Vietnamese drove iron-tipped stakes into the bed of the Bach Dang River (located in northern Vietnam in present-day Ha Bac, Hai Hung, and Quang Ninh provinces), and then, with a small Vietnamese flotilla, lured the Mongol fleet into the river just as the tide was starting to ebb. Trapped or impaled by the iron-tipped stakes, the entire Mongol fleet of 400 craft was sunk, captured, or burned by Vietnamese fire arrows. The Mongol army retreated to China, harassed enroute by Tran Hung Dao's troops. The entire Mongol fleet was destroyed, and Omar, the Mongol fleet admiral was captured and executed. The ground force of Prince Toghan was more fortunate. They were ambushed along the road through Noi Bang, but managed to escape back to China by dividing their forces into smaller retreating groups.

Vietnam is the only nation to defeat the Mongols, who at their peak swept out of remote northern Asia on horse cavalry and conquered China, much of Southeast Asia, Russia, and on into present day Poland and Germany.

1407: Chinese occupation again. Their brief rule was the harshest in their history. Chinese forced Vietnamese peasants to mine for gold and other ores, cut rare woods, and grow spices, all to be exported to China along with elephants tusks, rhinoceros horns, pearls, and precious stones. They drastically imposed Chinese culture, confiscated Vietnamese literature, compelled schools to teach in Chinese, suppressed Vietnamese cults, and permitted only the worship of Chinese gods. They ordered Chinese dress for women and prohibited men from cutting their hair. This last rule was to facilitate the beheading of any outspoken Vietnamese male, who could easily be seized by the hair and decapitated. They even outlawed betel nut. They issued identity cards and collected heavy taxes from all. The Vietnamese undoubtedly will not let themselves be subjected to this kind of rule long.

1418: Le Loi leads Vietnamese rebellion. Proclaiming himself the Prince of Pacification, Le Loi raised the banner of revolt. He withdrew to the mountains near his home and rallied relatives, friends, villagers, and even local bandits to his cause. He taught them the guerrilla tactics that had worked for Tran Hung Dao, who had vanquished the Mongols. The Chinese became increasingly insecure as the insurrection spread. They clung to the towns, venturing out only by day, their big battalions sticking only to the roads. The Chinese adopted a method of defense by building fortified towers along main routes. Gradually, as the balance of forces tilted his way, Le Loi struck at the Chinese directly in 1426, deploying platoons of elephants against their horse cavalry. Fighting in rain and mud west of Hanoi the Vietnamese routed the Chinese. At the surrender, the Chinese recognized Vietnam's independence, and Le Loi generously furnished the Chinese with 500 junks and thousands of horses to get them home.

1428: After his victory against the Chinese armies, with the aid of Nguyen Trai, Le Loi begins the second Le dynasty. Le Loi established his capital at Hanoi. He distributed land to poor peasants, rewarded nobles with large estates, and set up agencies to build dikes, dams, irrigation systems and projects to increase agricultural production. This political structure served Vietnam for the next 400 years until the French disrupted life there in the nineteenth century.

1771: The Tay Son brothers start a rebellion causing heavy warfare in the next thirty years.

1788: China attempts to attack Vietnam once more but was defeated by the Vietnamese army led by Nguyen Hue (Quang Trung) in 1789 at Dong Da (inner Hanoi).

1802: After pushing back the Tay Son with the help of French mercenaries recruited by Jesuit Pigneau de Behaine, Nguyen Anh (the only survivor from the massacre of the Nguyens by the Tay Son brothers) changes his name to Gia Long and starts the Nguyen dynasty. The capital of the unified country is now Hue.

1858-1954: French imperialism (with Japanese imperialism in 1945).

1909- : China comes interested in the Paracel Islands of Vietnam for strategic reasons. At first, it declared these islands had no owner, and eventually declared the archipelago as part of China’s Quang Dong Province.

29/4/1932: France sends official letter of protest to China with evidence of Vietnam’s sovereignty of the Paracels. France proposed to take the matter to international court. China objected to this idea immediately.

26/10/1954: Taking advantage of the Vietnamese forces preoccupied in the battle against French colonialism, China sends fleets to occupy Paracel and Spratly archipelagos illegally.

4/1950: China withdraws all of its forces from the Spratly, then the Paracel archipelagos.

1954: Vietnam divided into North and South at the 17th parallel as determined at the Geneva Conference. The North becomes the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, a communist state supported by China and the USSR. The strict communist ideology began to prevail at the 2nd congress of the Vietnamese labor party in 1951. In 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem becomes president of the Republic of South Vietnam with backing from the West.

1956: China launches naval units to the islands and took a portion of the Paracels.

4/9/1958: China declares that the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos are within its sea territories even though at that time, South Vietnam had already claimed control over these islands.

19/1/1974: China invades the Paracels and a battle takes place between Chinese and South Vietnamese forces. All of Paracels fell into the hands of China. One warship was sunk, while two others were heavily damaged on the Chinese side. Vietnam also lost a warship with two others damaged, along with the lives of 70 fighters. From this year on, China began to build infrastructure on the Paracel islands including air strip, and conducting military exercises.

1975: Fall of South Vietnam to Communist North.

1976: Reunification officially proclaimed. The country is called the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

17/2/1979: China invades Vietnam as a retaliatory act for putting an end to the murderous China supported Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. China was repelled after a month of fighting.

30/7/1979: China releases documents that claim that Vietnam supposedly “admmited” Chinese sovereignty over the islands to the protest of Hanoi on 7/8/1979.

1980: China releases the White Papers with various ill-founded reasons for while the archipelagos belonged to China after Vietnam released its White Papers in 1979.

1/6/1984: China sets up administrative area of Hainan which includes Paracel and Spratly archipelagos.

10/11/1987: Chinese forces make their way onto the Louisa Reef in the Spratly islands. China conducted naval patrols and established a permanent base on the Spratly islands.

1-4/1988: Chinese forces take over more features on the Spratly Islands. China and Vietnam ships clashed over Johnson Reef. Chinese forces prevailed and retained control of the area. Infrastructural projects began on these islands by China until today.

5/1989: Chinese forces continue their conquest of more features.

1992: China continued to take control of more features on the Spratly islands.

1994: China signs a contract with Crestones (US) to conduct oil exploration in the area of the Spratly islands.

30/12/1999: 800km2 territorial land along the border line of the two provinces of Cao Bang and Lang Son was annexed by China.

25/12/2000: Hanoi is forced to concede more territories to China. The Vietnamese - Sino Territorial Waters Treaty on Tonkin Bay and the provisions that defined by regulations on fishing between the two countries, indicates that Vietnam's sovereignty is 53.23% and of China, 46.77% over the territorial waters of Tonkin Bay, instead of 62% for Vietnam, referred to in the France - Sh'ing China Territorial Waters Treaty, 1887. This means Vietnam lost to China 11,000km2 of its territorial waters from Tonkin Bay southward to the Spratleys where potentials of sea products, gas, oil reserves are reported.

2004: Chinese boats make illegal incursions into Vietnamese waters 1,107 times (Vietnamese coastguard).

12/2004: China detains 80 Vietnamese fisherment in that month (Reuters).

11/11-31/12/2004: China bring drilling platform Katan 3 into Vietnam's territorial waters to explore oil and gas. The site of the exploration was located 63 miles from the Vietnamese coastline and 67 miles from Hai Nam Island.

8/1/2005: Chinese navy fires at Vietnamese fishing boats killing 9, injuring 7 more, and 8 were kidnapped. The incident took place in Vietnamese territorial waters (Gulf of Tonkin), 10 miles west of the nearest border mark of the common fishing area between Vietnam and China.

7/2007: Chinese navy shot at Vietnamese fishing boats and injured 5 Vietnamese fishermen in the Paracel islands area.

16-23/11/2007: Chinese forces carry out military exercises on the Paracel islands.

11/2007: China ratifies a plan to create a symbolic 2.6 million square km county-level city called Sansha to manage three archipelagos, including the Paracels and the Spratlys.

9/12/2007: Hundreds of Vietnamese people, mostly students, in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City conduct protests in front of the Chinese embassy and consulate to protest the Chinese decision.

10/2007: China opens tours for Chinese people to the Paracels.

11/12/2007: Chinese Foreign Spokesperson Qin Gang condescendingly remarks: “We are deeply concerned over recent developments in Vietnam which will undermine the friendly relations between China and Vietnam. We hope that the Vietnamese Government would take a responsible attitude and adopt effective measures to prevent the situation from further developing and the bilateral relations being undermined.”

16/12/2007: Second protests take place in these two cities. Other protests against Chinese expansionism into Vietnam took place in France, Great Britain, Poland, Norway and various cities in the United States, etc.. in the days following.

2008 - ? The struggle to resist Chinese imperialism continues.

Compiled by L.D.


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Paracel and Spratly Islands belong to the Cham people whom the Vietnamese imperialism had destroyed. Thus, the Vietnamese invaders have no right whatsoever to claim the paracel and spratly islands at all.

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