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Why did the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) repeatedly refuse to unify with North Vietnam? Was this against the wishes of the South Vietnamese?

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One of the recurring myths about the Vietnam War was that the North Vietnamese and other communists were liberators and overwhelmingly popular while South Vietnam’s leaders were Imperialists puppets and its leadership was hated. This fits well with the North Vietnamese propaganda that they were eventually victorious because they were the ‘good guys,’ liberating Vietnam(their homeland) from the French and then the Americans. The myth goes on that the majority of South Vietnamese wanted to join their North Vietnamese brothers in building a prosperous, peaceful, state.

The truth was much more complicated. Interestingly the only people fighting for their homes were the South Vietnamese (whether they were ARVN or NLF). While there was a great deal of brutality, the ARVN had largely won its battle against the NLF (aka Viet Cong).

The North Vietnamese, who took over most of the combat later in the war after the Tet offensive greatly weakened the South Vietnamese communist forces, were as much an expeditionary army as the Americans and other of the South Vietnamese allies.

Another fact we overlook is that almost all of the fighting and the massive bombing by the US air forces were against South Vietnamese targets. Although the Americans did bomb North Vietnam, they bombed and shelled far more in South Vietnam. Fear of Chinese intervention prevented the Americans and South Vietnamese from taking the war into North Vietnam or even making serious attempts to cut off the Ho Chi Minh ‘trail’(which was actually a vast logistics network constantly repaired by North Vietnamese and Chinese engineers that included a pipeline and roads that could support trucks) which ran through Laos and Cambodia.

The people suffering the worst of the bombing and shelling were South Vietnamese.The remarkable story of resilience and endurance during the Vietnam War was actually that the South Vietnamese managed to keep fighting that long - not that they eventually lost.

Even though the South Vietnamese government was corrupt and brutal, there were many that fought hard for it. Of course, as in any guerilla war, the communist insurgents and North Vietnamese were as brutal if not more so.


This picture is South Vietnamese in the city of Hue sorting through clothing trying to identify their loved ones, after they uncovered a mass grave where communists had massacred government supporters. The articles of clothing obviously show that the victims were civilians.

If the North Vietnamese enjoyed overwhelming popular support, one must ask why so many South Vietnamese had to be ‘re-educated.’ Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese were sent to these camps, and hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese would risk their lives on boats to escape the ‘peaceful reunified Vietnam’ where they could work without “fear of being killed by American bombs” (to quote Lucia Millar ).


The men being marched here are ARVN soldiers and government officials shortly after the North Vietnamese took Saigon.

While the atrocities by the communists does not justify those committed by the ARVN or its allies the history of the Vietnam War is much more complex than any simplified black vs. white narrative.

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The South Vietnamese were actually split on this. Many, especially the Buddhists and those living in the countryside, wanted to reunify with North Vietnam, but those in the major cities wanted to stay separate. But generally, most supported reunification, and in fact almost everybody knew that the leader of North Vietnam was much more popular than every leader of South Vietnam.

This however hit a major stumbling block when the USA began to back South Vietnamese rulers, who were anti-Buddhist and anti-Communist. This prevented any fruitful communication, as both sides refused to negotiate with the other side. In addition, the Americans ever let the South Vietnamese unite with a Communist country, nor would the Soviets allow the North Vietnamese to fall under the rule of a Capitalist government.

So despite both sides really wanting a peaceful reunification, they had to settle things with a war instead.

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The question is misleading in the sense that it portrays North Viet Nam in the right.

Both sides wanted unification, but the question was under which system: communism or democracy.

Never mind the criticism that South Viet Nam was not a democracy. Compared to North Viet Nam, South Viet Nam was democratic ENOUGH for the South Vietnamese to want to be separate from North Viet Nam.

So here is another question: Why did North Viet Nam repeatedly refuse to unify with South Viet Nam ?

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Because if the election happened, communist would win. But the reason here is not like South Vietnamese said. North Vietnam had more people, sure but the reason here is because Diem can not win against Ho Chi Minh if the election happened.

If you put two of them on the scale, you will see why.

Ho Chi Minh was a popular leader, even before 1945. His army, Vietminh was the most popular movement in all Indochina. Their cadets can reach even the farthest villages in Vietnam even where the French didn't bother to come.

Ho Chi Minh and his movements defeated French. Unless you working with French for money then you hate them, mostly poor farmers hate them, and farmers were 90% of Vietnamese population of that time. And farmers don't care about communism or capitalism, if you get rid of France then you got their support. North Vietnamese hate French more due to the long tradition of wars against China, the great famine in 1945, and the North is less abundant land than the South so their life is far harder than South Vietnamese.

Diem was unpopular, he didn't do much as he working with French. He is a Catholic and Diem's favoritism toward Catholic. Talk about Catholic, they are outsiders, they helped France with their conquest of Indochina, most well known is they helped France in Tokin campaign, so the hartred is quite deep. So his religion is also a minus. He won the election through rigged but he know this won't work twice.

Unlike North Vietnam where Ho Chi Minh and his party had total power and support from population. South Vietnam had more land than the North so they wouldn't need the government support. That make their life less harder but also they don't care much about who is in power. And in Indochina war, to win against Vietminh in the South led by Nguyen Binh, French supported to all sides in the South to pacify South Vietnam, namely Hoa Hao, Cao Dai. That make the South Vietnamese is more divided. But even all of that, Vietminh is still the most popular.

The true nature of South Vietnam government is a puppet government created by French to undermine the Vietminh, it call “Bao Dai solution”, it won't take long for people know it true face.

With all of that combine the chance Diem can win against Ho Chi Minh in fair election is laughable, can compare with someone believe Saigon was richer than Singapore in 1965. In fact US see how the Diem government without US support.


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The Americans set up a puppet' government in Saigon and controlled everything in this "country" - as its vice-president Nguyen Cao Ky - said. The US wanted to divide Vietnam to make South Vietnam a base. The Vietnamese people wanted to unify the country by election in 1956 under the Geneva Agreement. Because they were afraid that Ho Chi Minh would win the election with 80% of population , the US resisted the election, causing war to break out. The French and the Americans had one point in common before war broke out: that was the stupid arrogance, they had pay a heavy price for it.

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Before 1954, there was no South Vietnam overall. On those days, the communists had yet to establish a stronghold, no matter the Chinese communists established PRC at 1949 (Ho Chi Minh addressed he would rather eat French shits than sniff Chinese shits). Thus, it was clear that there was no divisions between North and South Vietnam, only Vietnamese from which region.

Those days the Republic of Vietnam DID NOT EXIST! Only State of Vietnam! The Vietnamese were still remembering the historic independent declaration read by Ho Chi Minh at 1945 (with the supports from OSS and the United States). Ho Chi Minh had never given up hope to ally with the U.S., since he hated Russia and China. This is what Chinese do understand but Russians will be shocked!

Ngo Dinh Diem, prior to 1954, was just still unknown in international stage. Where was Ngo before that? He was also a Catholic while Catholicism is the result of French colonization.

Clearly Vietnamese supported an unification. But then? Who did? Look on this guy:


Say hello to Chinese PM, Zhu Enlai.

Zhu Enlai planned carefully about a total division of Vietnam like how he did in Korea. China wanted Vietnam to be separated into two parts in fear of an reunification of Vietnam would exert more Vietnamese influence.

So to be fair, the question is wrong in both factor: not North Vietnam, not South Vietnam, but it was CHINA who refused to see Vietnamese unification.

This was why Ho Chi Minh hated China! And so neither wanted the division, and Vietnamese delegations from both parties refused it.

Sadly because the American politicians were not wise to realize this plan, they later prompted up into the country, pushing Ho into the hand of commies and thus, made China’s plan fruitful for a decade!

So? The question is actually wrong in all level. China wanted against reunification, not North or South Vietnam.

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