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Anti-Vietnamese sentiment, known on the lesser version as Vietnamophobia and Anti-Vietnamism, has a strong and deep historical root for more than thousand years since the establishment of Đại Việt. There are several features behind this anti-Vietnamese hatred:
- Organized persecution of the Vietnamese as a nation or as an ethnic group, often based on the belief that Vietnamese interests are a threat to one's own national aspirations;
- Racist anti-Vietnamese sentiment, a variety of xenophobia;
- Cultural anti-Vietnamese sentiment: a prejudice against Vietnamese and Vietnamese-speaking persons – their customs, language and education; and
- Stereotypes about Vietnam and Vietnamese people in the media and popular culture.
Anti-Vietnamese acts had been long organized by various countries and ethnicities opposing the existence of Vietnam as a country and the fear over Vietnamese people's takeover, both direct and indirect forms. Chinese Empire's dynasties used to extend its level of anti-Vietnamese persecutions from imprisoning, hanging to even massacres in large scales, notably under the Ming dynasty which the Chinese organized massacring methods from burning to beheading with no mercy; or the famine of 1945 in which the Empire of Japan was believed to attempt on a brutal extermination of possible Vietnamese resistance against Japanese rule. Smaller states like Cambodia also organized massacres on Vietnamese, in which notably under Lon Nol and Khmer Rouge, justifying that Vietnam wanted to takeover Cambodia and making it a province. Historic actions inspired by anti-Vietnamism ranged from felonious acts motivated by hatred, to physical extermination of the Vietnamese nation, the goal of which was to eradicate the Vietnamese state.
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment started to rise by various nations that suffered from Vietnamese military conquests. In Cambodia during its decline, the Cambodians often clashed and fought against Vietnamese settlers, accused Vietnam for being behind the massive deportation, expulsion and ethnic cleansing in Cambodia and modern-day Southern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta. Being a Vietnamese in Cambodia was almost entirely brought Vietnamese under watch of Cambodian population with distrust. Moreover, due to Vietnam being a Sinosphere country in contrast to the rest of Southeast Asia and a different political approach than majority of Asian nations, the Vietnamese are seen with fears and hostilities by Chinese, Thais, Malays, and other foreigners like French, Dutch and Portuguese.
The Siamese, and later Thais, following the Vietnamese expansions and occupation at 15th century, became extremely frightened and hostile toward Vietnam. The Siamese had waged a number of wars against Vietnam since 18th century, but they had not won another war after the successful first ransack in 1712. This facilitated Vietnamophobia against Vietnam and anything Vietnamese among Siamese. Similar to Cambodians, Thais also referred Vietnamese as "Youn", a derogatory term about Vietnamese in general as "black-skinned".
With French military occupation of Vietnam later as for the consequences of Vietnam's persecution on Catholic population by the Nguyễn dynasty after Gia Long, French colonial rulers considered Vietnamese as an inferior race, calling them "Annamites", even toward Vietnamese elites. Though originally referred to northern Vietnamese, it became widespread discrimination and a symbol of anti-Vietnamism. Mass uprisings against French colonial overlords increased and tightened French grips on Vietnamese with a more brutal and infamous records, including deportation to New Caledonia. French colonial rule would be soon disrupted by the Japanese, but the attitude remained the same even after the World War II until the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ.
Japanese occupation of Vietnam at 1940 was a fresh event of growing anti-Vietnamese sentiment, with Vietnam under chains of two empires. Although Japan tried to initiate pan-Asian alliance, Japanese colonizers distrusted Vietnamese because of its unlimited opposition to Japanese imperialism even when Japan had also had Vietnamese allies. In response, Japanese colonizers started a brutal campaign of forced labors and massive farming loots, resulted with the famine of 1945 that killed nearly more than 1 to 2 million Vietnamese, an act that contributed to the distrust of Japanese administrations toward Vietnamese.
Following the French Indochina War was the Vietnam War and American involvement. Although the American intervention on behalf of their South Vietnam ally received mixed reception, American troops brought numbers of anti-Vietnamese acts and discrimination, with the most infamous being the My Lai Massacre, Agent Orange and mass executions of Vietnamese civilians suspected to be communist agents. Unlike China, France, Japan, Thailand, Laos or Cambodia however, anti-Vietnamese sentiment in the U.S. and among American troops was scarce, being limited to some factions of the military and government; some American groups even sympathized with Vietnamese people. Meanwhile, despite North Vietnam's alliance with the Soviet Union, Soviet officials were believed to have smeared Vietnamese and considered them unworthy to match with the Russian techniques, often refused or delayed aids to North Vietnam against American-backed South Vietnam.
The end of the Vietnam War, in an unwanted consequence, made Vietnamophobia grow rapidly both in Asian communists and non-communists alike, such as China, Thailand, Singapore, North Korea, Malaysia and Cambodia, as for the fear of a Vietnamese Intermarium—based on the idea of Poland's Józef Piłsudski that sought to turn Southeast Asia into a communist/anti-Chinese base increased. The previous Lon Nol and even Khmer Rouge encouraged anti-Vietnamese massacres, blaming them for trying to colonize Cambodia, such as Ba Chúc massacre. In Thailand, possibility of Vietnamese invasions prompted hostility against anything Vietnam and Vietnamese in Thailand, to wide range support for Khmer Rouge. In China, they issued war against Vietnamese imperialism and aggression on neighbors including China. Singapore and Malaysia also called for sanctions against Vietnam with the same reason accusing for Vietnamese imperialism in Cambodia. North Korea, meanwhile, accused Vietnam for the same reason and supported anti-Vietnamese movement, hosting Norodom Sihanouk and broadcast anti-Vietnamese propaganda in North Korea. The wide range anti-Vietnamese sentiment widespread that attacking against Vietnamese boat people became common by the pirates in the region, followed the effect of Vietnamophobia.
This trend of anti-Vietnamese sentiment only started to slow down after Đổi mới, which Vietnam started economic liberalization and reforms, opening Vietnam to the world which gave them a rising profile of political and economic successes with normalization of the U.S. and China's relations; however due to historical traumas, attitude towards Vietnam and Vietnamese remain questionable in a number of countries due to its previous past, particularly in Cambodia, Laos and China.
Media reference to Vietnam War
Although in general, the view on Vietnam and Vietnamese in majority is positive since the Vietnamese economic reforms post-1986; the memoirs of the Vietnam War may prove to be a greater consequence and can downplay the positive image of Vietnam.
The most notable is the use of Việt Cộng, which is very dependant on context. The term may be used to invoke memories of North Vietnamese war crimes on other Vietnamese people.  It may be used to insult Vietnamese people, or provoke an angry response towards Vietnamese people, mostly from former South Vietnamese refugees, Vietnamese in Western Europe and Vietnamese Americans, particularly due to grudges held about the war crimes and traumas of the war associated with North Vietnamese massacres on Vietnamese suspected to be American/South Vietnamese agents.
On the other hand, the use of "Việt Cộng" can also provoke anger among Vietnamese in the native country and from the diaspora in Eastern Europe as well, due to this reference being used to evoke memories of previous American war crimes, since American and American-allied troops could not distinguish Việt Cộng from normal Vietnamese citizens or those suspected to be Việt Cộng agents, and so large swathes of innocent Vietnamese lives were razed and massacred by American and American-allied troops.
Incidents by country
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Thailand has been the direct result of Vietnamese expansionism in the past, with indication of fears about Vietnamese conquest in the history. Since the war between two started at 18th century, Siam had only won one direct conflict, with the others were all indecisive or Siamese defeats to Vietnam, manifested the theory of Vietnamese aggression and imperialism on Thai people. Thailand also later participated in the Vietnam War, and took prides for its participation.
When the Khmer Rouge was overthrown in Cambodia, Thailand was one of the main countries that harbored Khmer Rouge's leader and provided them ammunition against Vietnamese forces, owning by the old historical fear against Vietnamese invasion, and accusation over Vietnamese plan to invade Thailand inflamed anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Thailand.
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in North Korea was the direct consequence of the previous Vietnamese actions on the Vietnam War.
Initially, North Korea provided support for North Vietnam against South Vietnam, but with the result of North Vietnam's peace talk with the Americans at 1968, this disgusted North Korea and soon following the future Cambodian–Vietnamese War, North Korea, where Pol Pot paid his only foreign trip, immediately proclaimed support to Khmer Rouge and broadcast anti-Vietnamese propaganda throughout 1980s to 1990s.
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodia dates back to the Khmer Empire, Because Cambodia was constantly being invaded by the Vietnamese Nguyễn lords. The Khmers who inhabited the Mekong Delta started to become inundated by Vietnamese and in response the Vietnamese were subjected to Cambodian retaliation. After the Vietnamese successfully annexed Champa, they then moved to conquer the Khmers on the Mekong Delta. Following the beginning of French Cochinchina with the arrival of European troops and missionaries, the Cambodians told Catholic European envoys that the Vietnamese government's persecution of Catholics justified the launching of retaliatory attacks against the Vietnamese colonists in Cambodia.
In 1978, under the administration of Democratic Kampuchea, especially when Cambodian socialists began to rebel in the eastern zone of Cambodia, Pol Pot ordered his armies to exterminate 1.5 million eastern Cambodians which he branded as "Cambodian with Vietnamese minds" along with the 50 million Vietnamese in the area. This led to a war with the Vietnamese when they began to retaliate for the inhumane genocide and subsequently overthrew the Khmer Rouge. Norodom Sihanouk, the King of Cambodia at the time, asked United States President Lyndon B. Johnson to send American forces to Cambodia in order to liberate it from the Viet Cong but his request was to no avail.
In the 21st century, anti-Vietnamese sentiment occasionally flares up in Cambodia due to the Cambodian people's fear that Vietnam will take over their land one day and some Cambodian opposition politicians continue to exploit this issue in order to justify their hatred of the Vietnamese. That fear was illustrated by attacks against Vietnamese which resulted in the rape and murder of several Vietnamese in the country.
As China had occupied the Vietnamese people for 1000 years, there has been a long uneasy sentiment towards China by the Vietnamese, with disproportionately more anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam than anti-Vietnamese sentiment in China. Nonetheless, anti-Vietnamese expressions have been dated back longer in Chinese history, especially following the Lý–Song War, which the Vietnamese army under Lý Thường Kiệt invaded the Southern Guangxi province, the first ever invasion from a single Vietnamese dynasty and a medieval country against China. Ironically the people that lived in the areas that were looted and massacred were native Nanyue peoples who are closely related to the Vietnamese themselves but got Sinicized and became Chinese under process of Sinicization, with more than 58.000 ethnically Sinicized Nanyue inhabitants of Yongzhou and nearly more than 100.000 other Nanyue peoples lost their lives in other parts of southern Guangxi. Yongzhou allegedly became Song China's national wound to some, causing the anger especially from ethnic sinicized Nanyue inhabitants who demanded a retaliation of Southern Barbarian Vietnamese by Chinese officials after the Vietnamese invasion. In retaliation, Chinese imperial forces launched large-scale massacres against the Vietnamese, killing hundred of thousands of Vietnamese civilians. Chinese historical source stated seven million Vietnamese were eventually exterminated by Chinese forces during the retaliatory campaign, the Vietnam plains was thus left stained red with Vietnamese blood. Brutality against the Vietnamese civilians continued during the Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam and when Vietnam regained its independence, the Vietnamese attacked a number of China's allies in the region, fueling anti-Vietnamese hostilities among Chinese emperors.
During the Sino-Vietnamese War, Vietnam was accused of raids and an invasion on China, in which it is still being taught in China as a "war of resistance against Vietnamese invasion", as a seed of anti-Vietnamese sentiment, in spite of modern research accused China for planning invasion on Vietnam.
Recent tensions in the South China Sea have caused more disdain towards Chinese among the Vietnamese community. As a retaliation, a Chinese restaurant in Beijing refused to serve foods to Vietnamese, Filipino and Japanese customers, the three countries being among China's loudest opponents in its territorial disputes.
In ancient and medieval times, during the millennium long Chinese domination of Vietnam, Vietnam was a great source of slave girls who were used as sex slaves in China. The slave girls of Vietnam were even eroticized in Tang dynasty poetry. In the modern era, many Vietnamese girls who lived in northern Vietnam have been trafficked to China and sold into marriage for Chinese men.
Due to the large number of Vietnamese prostitutes working in Taiwan, Vietnamese women are stereotyped to be prostitutes or mail order brides in Taiwan. Although most of the 200,000 Vietnamese living in Taiwan hardly face any other more serious forms of discrimination.
Hatred towards foreigners especially to non-white people began to rise in Russia as they were blamed for the country's 10 years of failed reforms in which living standards plummeted. Prior to the Chechen–Russian conflict, especially when Russian authorities blamed the Chechen Muslims Jihadist as responsible in the Russian apartment bombings, this has fuelled more hatred towards immigrants in the country. Prior to this, Russian skinheads began to be formed with some of the group members joining to take revenge for their family members that had been killed during the bomb attacks, though some other Russians joined the group because they are just "bored" and want to bully people. Following the attack against Vietnamese in Russia as they also been included on Russian skinhead target list on immigrants, a protest was held by Vietnamese community in the country especially after the murder of 20-year old Vietnamese student, Vu Anh Tuan on 13 October 2004 with the protestor said:
We came to study in this country, which we thought was a friend of Vietnam. We do not have drunken fights, we do not steal, we do not sell drugs and we have the right to protection from bandits.
Despite the protest for protection from Russian authorities, Vietnamese people continue to be attacked as on 25 December 2004, two Vietnamese students at the Moscow Energy Institute, Nguyen Tuan Anh and Nguyen Hoang Anh suffered severe injuries and were subsequently hospitalised after they had been assaulted by a group of strangers with knives and clubs on the way back to their dormitory. On 13 March 2005, three Russians stabbed a 45-year-old Vietnamese man named Quan to death in front of his home in Moscow. On 22 March 2008, a 35-year old Vietnamese woman who worked at a Moscow market stabbed to death in an apparent race-hate killing. On 9 January 2009, a group of strangers in Moscow stabbed a 21-year-old Vietnamese student named Tang Quoc Binh resulting in his death on the next day.
Amid continuous attacks against Vietnamese students and workers, around 600 Vietnamese were rounded up in August 2013 in the city of Moscow and placed in poor condition tents while waiting to be deported from Russia.
Reports about growing Vietnamese population in North Caucasus have resulted in several ethnic violence between ethnic Vietnamese and North Caucasian peoples, notably occurred in Chechnya and Ingushetia. Following a rumor about Chechens being killed by Vietnamese employers, it had sparked uproar and anti-Vietnamese sentiment in social media. In 2013, violence broke out in Malgobek between Vietnamese and Ingush workers, with the Chechens supporting the Ingush, resulting with deaths of several Vietnamese. A year before, ethnic violence between Vietnamese and Ingush also broke out, with the Ingush accused the authorities of Vietnamization of Ingushetia.
There is a strong sense of anti-Vietnamese sentiment among Laotian population, although not as large as neighbors, mainly due to Vietnamese exploitation and economic investments, which are seen as looting Laos' national resources; and Vietnam was also accused for standing behind the communist regime in Laos, seen as a stooge of Vietnam.
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Unlike countries who have had long tensions with Vietnam, anti-Vietnamese sentiment in the U.S. is scarce, limited, and divided between group of Americans, or even marginalized. Some cases, however, have witnessed anti-Vietnamese sentiment within the country.
Tension and hatred between Vietnamese immigrants and white fishermen rose up in Galveston Bay, Texas in 1981, and was intensified by the Ku Klux Klan following an invitation from the American fishermen to threatening and intimidating the Vietnamese to leave, which resulted in attacks on Vietnamese boats.
In June 2020, Matthew Hubbard, a mathematics professor at Laney College, allegedly asked Vietnamese student Phuc Bui Diem Nguyen to anglicize her name because he believed it sounded like an offensive phrase in English.
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