Western Exploration and Exploitation of Indo China (Vietnam) – 2

FRENCH EXPLOITATION OF INDO CHINA:-

France was one of the greatest powers in the world. Along with its European rivals, it acquired a huge empire that comprised territories from the Africa to Asia. In the region of Southeast Asia, France became a major player in its politics during the 19th century. In competition with Great Britain, it exerted a lot of effort in order to acquire lands as much as possible. At the end, France managed to obtain the region known as Indochina. And for the countries, of Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, it was a start of a half a century of colonization and exploitation. France only started to assert its dominance over Indochina during the 1800’s. Before then, the only French that settled in the areas of modern day Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam or Indochina were the French missionaries. The French missionaries played a part in the rise of the Nguyen Dynasty in the early 1800’s. The missionaries’ propagation of the Christian faith then became very active. So much so that by 1840, the Vietnamese Christians numbered around 500,000. Off course, Confucian and traditionalist courtiers in the Nguyen capital of Hue felt anxious, suspicious, and even threatened by the rising number of Vietnamese Christians. They saw Christianity destroying the traditional Confucian values of ancestral worship, which also became a top issue of Christians in East Asia. And so, the Nguyen officials began the persecution of Christians in Vietnam. On the process of destroying the Christians, the traditionalist Vietnamese killed numerous French and Spanish priests. France then used this persecution as a driving force for its intervention and eventual conquest of Vietnam and its neighbouring lands of Laos and Cambodia, during the colonial period, France faced no political opposition to their occupation of Indochina. With the little opposition, the French saw no need in paying attention to local governments, and they cared very little about the opinions of the Indochinese (the 99%). In a United States Military Academy at West Point book on the history of Indochina, the prose read, “French political control was absolute, and there was little, if any, attempt to include local elites in shaping the destiny of Indochina. The titular sovereigns of Cambodia, Luong Prabang (Laos), and Annam retained some importance in the cultural ceremonial of their countries, but they were summarily removed when they sought to gain actual control of any part of the administrative machinery. There existed, for all to see, the glaring difference between the political roles of the French minority and the vast Asian majority.” With the little opposition that was facing the French, they were essentially given a licence to do whatever they pleased, which quickly unfolded into what a historian may call exploitation.

The alienation of Indochinese land is the epitome of France’s exploitation of Indochina. In Cochin china alone, 80% of the land was owned by 25% of the land owners, and 57% of the rural population was landless peasants, and this was not limited to Cochin, China, for throughout Indochina, the amount of landless peasants skyrocketed exponentially. In addition to this, the misery of the peasants was further augmented by large taxes and heavy interest rates on loans.

Indochina was exploited even further with their natural resources. Not only was over 90% of the rubber plantations French owned, but nearly two-thirds of the coal mined in Indochina (Nearly 2 Million Tons in 1927) was exported. Also, Indochina’s manufacturing became limited to cement and textiles for the purpose of quieting French industrialists. In addition to this, naval ship yards and armament factories were dismantled by the French, and very few local industries survived, except for the craft industry, which gave the Indochinese people an alternative to the French commodities, which were quite dear on one’s wealth.  Indochina was exploited even further with their natural resources. Not only was over 90% of the rubber plantations French owned, but nearly two-thirds of the coal mined in Indochina (Nearly 2 Million Tons in 1927) was exported. Also, Indochina’s manufacturing became limited to cement and textiles for the purpose of quieting French industrialists. In addition to this, naval ship yards and armament factories were dismantled by the French, and very few local industries survived, except for the craft industry, which gave the Indochinese people an alternative to the French commodities, which were quite dear on one’s wealth.