Japan's overseas Chinese policies in Southern Vietnam during World War II

  • Siu Tsun CHOI

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


“Overseas Chinese is the mother of the Chinese revolution.” This quotation reflects the conventional perception that overseas Chinese is the chief enemy of Japan. However, this is in contrast with Vietnam’s overseas Chinese view; Japan considered them as a potential and crucial ally in Japan's Expansion in Southeast Asia. Chinese’s economic dominance in Vietnam, especially its monopoly in the rice industry and its traditional commercial network, provided them with an incredible political influence and bargaining power. This thesis aimed to rediscover the historical truth of overseas Chinese in Southern Vietnam during wartime by studying the transitions and policies made by Japan on overseas Chinese on French Indochina. It is commonly viewed that overseas Chinese are nationalist and have strong emotional attachment towards the motherland, China. However, there seem to have decline on their nationalism and their main concern was on bloodline, local community, survival and economic interest. The loss of Canton clique from the power struggle with Kuomintang strengthened the regional identity of Cantonese. It also created hostility towards the Nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-shek. The transition of attitude and selection to cooperate with Japan in the wartime was deemed a significant topic of Chinese politics and geopolitics in Southeast Asia in the 1930s. The overseas Chinese work of Nanking Nationalist government was successful in French Indochina. However, that was the only successful case of overseas Chinese work in Southeast Asia. The establishment and implementation of Japan’s policies on overseas Chinese in French Indochina differ from overseas Chinese in other occupied regions in Southeast Asia. This unique treatment reflected how Japan viewed the importance of overseas Chinese in French Indochina for its Pacific War’s scheme. Rice resource and geographical significance of French Indochina forced Japan to put special consideration and measures on French Indochina. Overseas Chinese's economic dominance in French Indochina, especially the rice industry made them primary target for Japan to win. To recover the historical truth hidden behind the ‘myth’ and propaganda of overseas Chinese, this research utilized the historical sources from different sides of interest, including army report, newspaper, books, and articles on time. Japan government’s official records dating back from the 1920s to the 40s could shed light to the perception and reality of Japan’s policies on overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and French Indochina. With the opening of the confidential documents of the Japanese Military, it is possible to reshape the historical role of overseas Chinese in Vietnam and eliminate the perceptions created by different political parties. To date, overseas Chinese is still influential in Vietnam and its neighboring countries.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of History
SupervisorChi Pang LAU (Supervisor) & Xiaorong HAN (Supervisor)

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