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Vietnam Between World Wars (1900-1940)
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Towards the end of the 19th century the United States government began to insist on the Open Door policy in China. Having obtained a colony in the Philippines a few hundred miles to the east, the U.S. was not inclined to interfere with French control of Vietnam. Vietnamese armed resistance to French control would be unceasing, but the French periodically pushed for increased control.
The varied factions of the Vietnamese independence movement, including the young Ho Chi Minh, were inspired by the words of President of the United States Woodrow Wilson at the end of World War I. They were just as disgusted by his refusal to accept a Japanese-introduced statement against racism, as well as the actual results of the Versailles Treaty. Wilson spoke of national self-determination, but he did not even grant independence to the Philippines. The world of imperialism went its merry way.
Concerns about Vietnam and French Indochina grew in the 1930’s among America's rulers and business elite. Japan was gradually lifting the Western yoke from China and replacing it with a Japanese yoke. In France a Catholic, fascist movement wanted to duplicate the path used to seize power by Hitler, Franco, and Mussolini. In the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the intellectual heir of Theodore Roosevelt, was determined to keep Asia in Western, and preferably American, control. Vietnam was caught up in the maneuvering between outside powers. At the same time, nationalist resistance continued to build within Vietnam. Bao Dai, the Emperor of Vietnam during this time, was truly a French puppet.
Japan already controlled much of China when Great Britain and France started World War II by declaring war on Germany on September 1, 1939. At that time the Vietnamese Communists, like the Chinese Communists, were aligned, at least in theory, with the Soviet Union. Chiang Kai-shek, the Generalissimo, controlled parts of China and was backed by the United States. Confronted with the well-disciplined, technologically superior German Army and Air Force, and stabbed in the back by their own fascists, the French capitulated on June 22, 1940.