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In Session: Non-State Actors in Vietnam and the Diaspora during the Long Cold War
3: The “Vietnamization” of the Hoa in the Republic of Vietnam (1955-1975)
Friday, March 26, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Alvin K. Bui
University of Washington, United States
This paper focuses on the citizenship question of the ethnic Chinese, or Hoa, in the Republic of Vietnam from its establishment in 1955 until its demise in 1975. Most Hoa, in a period where the freedom of movement between countries was limited by war, embryonic commercial aviation and border control (exit visas), were relegated to all-or-nothing allegiance decisions between their country of birth and competing Chinese states with claims on them via cultural heritage.
The citizenship question also led to a rocky foundation for the newly promulgated RVN’s relationship with the Republic of China, who laid claim to Hoa worldwide as “Overseas Chinese” (huaqiao). The RVN’s 1955-6 citizenship laws forced mixed Chinese-Vietnamese children and anyone born on Vietnamese soil to retroactively become an unrenounceable citizen of the RVN, laws which directly conflicted with the ROC’s citizenship laws based on blood relation (jussanguinis) through the paternal line. This discrepancy and the RVN’s subsequent banning of the Chinese Congregational Halls (lishihuiguan) would lead a Catholic father, rather than the ROC’s diplomat, to leverage his direct connections with RVN leaders in order to mediate on behalf of the Hoa community.
This paper complements recent research by Cold War-era historians who focus on historical communist Sino-Vietnamese relations with a concurrent narrative of Asian anti-communist relations. By contextualizing the RVN Hoa communities within the historical setting of Cold War-era diplomatic relations between nation-states, I follow the footsteps of scholars working to link the fields of migration and diaspora studies with transnational diplomatic history.