chapter 3 - vietnam


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the geneva conference (1954)

representatives of freance, bao dai, vietminh, cambodia, laos, usa, ussr, china and great britain assembled in geneva 2 discuss ending the war in indochina.

different aims of the conference:

  • ho's vietminh - take over as much of vietnam as possible and get foreigners out - war weariness - truce.
  • bao dai - vietnamese independence and an easy life.
  • french - wanted to end their colonial war - retain some influence in indochina.
  • america - contain communism in southeast asia and to avoid elections in vietnam - knew ho chi minh would win. hoped for a united non-communist vietnam.
  • chinese - peace in indochina to keep western powers away from china's borders while recovering from civil war. wanted to appear impressive and gain recognition and trade contacts.
  • soviets - divide french and americans, and ho and the chinese. defuse situations that could hurt ussr.
  • british - stop the advance of communism and prevent a wider war.
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the geneva conference (1954)


  • at first - no agreement seemed possible.
  • new french government (determined to settle the affair) came to power.
  • china - determined to keep usa out of indochina and as far away from china as possible & willing to sacrifice comrade Ho in the interests of china - make his country look peace loving and moderate.
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the geneva accords (1954)

the vietminh & china agreed with france that:

  • communist rule in the north while bao dai and his new prime minister, diem, would govern the south. ho's vietminh would give up the territory in the south. there would be a 10-km demilitarised zone above that parallel.
  • french forces would withdraw from the north and ho's vietminh forces from the south and there would be a truce between them.
  • democratic elections for a single vietnamese government in 1956 where vietnam would be re-unified.
  • not the north or south vietnam were to make any military alliances with foreign powers or allow foreign military bases in their territories. french would remain in the shouth only in order to help prepare for elections in 1956.
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the geneva accords (1954)

significance: why did Ho accept a settlement that forced the vietminh to retreat?

  • may have agreed in advance of the geneva conference to accept the settlement in echange for crucial chinese aid at dienbienphu.
  • wanted to forestall american intervention in vietnam and accepting a supposedly internationally supported agreement would hopefully ensure that.
  • needed time for consolidation in the north and peace would give him time for that.
  • needed soviet aid and the soviets wanted peace.
  • the agreement would produce nationwide elections in 1956 and he would most definately win

significiance: the geneva accords were significant in several ways:

  • 2 communist giants were willing to sacrifice Ho if it suited them.
  • USA was slow to pick up and/or exploit these divisions.
  • ceasefire in vietnam was between vietminh and french. not vietminh and any SV gov.
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