Our friends in the south: anti-colonial universalisms and Sino-Vietnamese solidarity in the global 1960s

Benjamin KINDLER*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


In 1964, the Foreign Languages Publishing House of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam released a series of letters in English, French, Chinese and other languages as part of its campaign of international solidarity against the US military presence. These letters, having initially been published in Vietnamese for domestic consumption, collected the exchanges between resistance fighters in southern Vietnam and their lovers, friends and families in the north, offering a varied and harrowing portrayal of a protracted guerrilla struggle. Whilst these publications left traces across their myriad sites of circulation, of no country was this more true than the People’s Republic of China, where the letters, published as Letters from the South (Nanfang Laixin), produced a series of powerful cultural afterlives. This study tracks the reception of these publications in China and examines the works that they inspired. The first consists of noted author Ba Jin’s multiple journeys to North Vietnam in the first half of the 1960s and his lyrical essays and public epistolary exchanges with leading North Vietnamese writers and poets, in which the publication Letters from the South features heavily. The second involves two theatrical scripts that were written and performed in China, also under the name Letters from the South (Nanfang Laixin). These sets of textual afterlives differed in their specific forms but in combination the two raise questions about translation, border-crossing and geography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-227
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Quarterly for Asian Studies
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Vietnam
  • Sino-Vietnamese solidarity
  • Letters from the South
  • 1960s
  • anti-imperialist resistance
  • literature
  • theatre


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