0.96% of the Vietnamese population (2009)
|Regions with significant populations|
|Vietnamese • Chinese language (Cantonese
Teochew • Hakka • Hokkien • Mandarin)
|Mahayana Buddhism • Shenism (Confucianism, Taoism)
Minorities: Roman Catholicism • Protestantism
|Related ethnic groups|
|San Diu people • Ngái people|
Hoa (Chinese people) refers to a minority group living in Vietnam consisting of persons considered ethnic Chinese ("Overseas Chinese"). They are often referred to as Chinese Vietnamese, Vietnamese Chinese, Sino-Vietnamese, or ethnic Chinese in/from Vietnam by the general Vietnamese populace, Overseas Vietnamese and other ethnic Chinese. The Vietnamese government's classification of the Hoa excludes two other groups of Chinese-speaking peoples, the San Diu people and the Ngái people. The Hoa constitute one group of Overseas Chinese and contain one of the largest Overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.
The Hoa were highly represented in Vietnam's business and commerce sector before the Fall of Saigon in 1975. As of 2012[update], they comprise a well-established middle class ethnic group and make up a high percentage of Vietnam's educated and upper class. As with immigrant Chinese elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the Sino-Vietnamese are dominant in Vietnamese commerce and business. They are estimated to have started 70% to 80% of pre-fall of Saigon's privately owned and operated South Vietnamese economy.
At present, Sino-Vietnamese comprise a small percentage in the modern Vietnamese economy, now mostly Kinh-run, as many Hoa had their businesses and property confiscated by the Communists after 1975, and many fled the country as Vietnamese boat people due to persecution by the new Communist government. Hoa persecution intensified in the late 1970s, which was one of the reasons for the Sino-Vietnamese War.
- 1 Migration history
- 2 Population
- 3 Trade and industry
- 4 Diaspora communities
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 References
- 9 External links
2nd century BCE–14th century AD: Early history
According to old Vietnamese historical records Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư and Khâm định Việt sử Thông giám cương mục ("欽定越史通鑑綱目"), An Dương Vương (Thục Phán) was a prince of the Chinese state of Shu (蜀, which shares the same Chinese character as his surname Thục), sent by his father first to explore what are now the southern Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan and second to move their people to modern-day northern Vietnam during the invasion of the Qin Dynasty.
Some modern Vietnamese believe that Thục Phán came upon the Âu Việt territory (modern-day northernmost Vietnam, western Guangdong, and southern Guangxi province, with its capital in what is today Cao Bằng Province). After assembling an army, he defeated King Hùng Vương XVIII, the last ruler of the Hồng Bàng Dynasty, around 257 BCE. He proclaimed himself An Dương Vương ("King An Dương"). He then renamed his newly acquired state from Văn Lang to Âu Lạc and established the new capital at Phong Khê in the present-day Phú Thọ town in northern Vietnam, where he tried to build Cổ Loa Citadel, the spiral fortress approximately ten miles north of that new capital.
Han Chinese migration into Vietnam dated back to the era of 2nd Century BCE when Qin Shi Huang first placed Tonkin under Chinese rule, Chinese soldiers and fugitives from Central China migrated en masse into Tonkin from this time onwards, and introduced Chinese influences into Vietnamese culture. The Chinese military leader Zhao Tuo founded the Trieu dynasty which ruled Nanyue in southern China and northern Vietnam. The Qin Governor of Canton advisted Zhao to found his own independent Kingdom since the area was remote and there were many Chinese settlers in the area The Chinese prefect of Jiaozhi Shi Xie ruled Vietnam as an autonomous warlord and was posthumously deified by later Vietnamese Emperors. Shi Xie was the leader of the elite ruling class of Han Chinese families who immigrated to Vietnam and played a major role inndeveloping Vietnam's culture. Many Chinese fled to the Vietnamese part of the Red River Valley from Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces during the tumult which occurred during the transition from the Western to Eastern Jin Dynasty, when northern China was plunged into anarchy. The Chinese rulers encouraged the immigration of Han Chinese into Tonkin, and implemented a policy of systematic assimilation with the ancient Vietnamese people. This policy was continually enforced over the next 1,000 years of Chinese rule of Vietnam until the Ngô Dynasty when the Vietnamese regained their independence from China. The Vietnamese emperors deported some 87,000 Chinese nationals, although a large minority applied for permanent residency in Vietnam. Chinese who chose to remain in Vietnam adopted Vietnamese customs and culture.
The founder of the Early Lý Dynasty, Emperor Lý Bôn, who rebelled against the Liang Dynasty came from a family of Chinese descent, the ancestors of his family were Chinese who fled to Vietnam from Wang Mang's seizure of power during the interregnum between the Western and Eastern Han dynasties.
Sporadic Chinese migration into Vietnam continued between the 9th to 15th century AD. The Vietnamese court during the Lý Dynasty and the Trần Dynasty welcomed ethnic Chinese scholars and officials to fill into its administrative and bureaucratic ranks, but these migrants had to renounce their Chinese nationality and assimilate into Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese court also allowed Chinese refugees, which consisted of civilian and military officials with their family members to seek asylum in Vietnam. However, these Chinese settlers were not allowed to change their place of residence without the Court's permission, and were also required to adopt Vietnamese dress and culture. During the Early Lê dynasty some Chinese were captured in 995 after the Vietnamese raided the border. During the Lý Dynasty Vietnam raided Song Dynasty China to enslave Chinese, who were forced to serve in the Vietnamese army as soldiers. In 1050 the Cham dedicated some Chinese slaves to their goddess Lady Po Nagar at the Po Nagar temple complex, along with Thai, Khmer, and Burmese slaves. It has been speculated by Professor Kenneth Hall that these slaves were war captives taken by the Cham from the port of Panduranga after the Cham conquered the port and enslaved all of its inhabitants, including foreigners living there. In the South, the Daoyi Zhilue also mentioned Chinese merchants who went to Cham ports in Champa, married Cham women, to whom they regularly returned to after trading voyages. One notable example of such intermarriages was Chinese merchant from Quanzhou, Wang Yuanmao, who in the 12th century traded extensively with Champa, and married a Cham princess. Chinese prisoners were returned to China for captured districts in 1078 after China defeated Đại Việt and overran several of Cao Bằng Province's districts.
The founder of the Trần Dynasty Emperor Trần Thái Tông was the great grandon of a Chinese who came to Vietnam from Fujian, from the Chinese Chen clan and several members of the family like Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn continued to be able to speak Chinese The name of his great grandfather was Trần Kinh.
The Vietnamese elites who were descended from mixed marriages between Chinese and Vietnamese viewed other non Vietnamese people as beneath them and inferior due to Chinese influence.
Early immigration: 15th-18th centuries
The Chinese living in the Mekong Delta area settled there before any Vietnamese settled in the region. When the Ming Dynasty fell, several thousand Chinese refugees fled south and extensively settled on Cham lands and in Cambodia. Most of these Chinese were young males, and they took Cham women as wives. Their children identified more with Chinese culture. This migration occurred in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 17th century many Chinese men from southeastern Chinese provinces like Fujian continued to move to southeast Asia, including Vietnam, many of the Chinese married native women after settling down in places like Hội An.
In the 16th century, Lê Anh Tông of the Lê Dynasty encouraged traders to visit Vietnam by opening up Thăng Long (Hanoi), Huế and Hội An. Chinese presence in the Huế/Hội An area dated back as early as 1444, when a monk from Fujian built the Buddhist temple, Chua Chuc Thanh. Hội An quickly developed into a trading port from the 16th century onwards, when Chinese and Japanese traders began to arrive in the city in greater numbers. When an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Christofo Borri, visited the city in 1618, he aptly described the city as: "The city of Faifo is so vast that one would think it is two juxtaposed cities; a Chinese city and a Japanese city." The Japanese traders quickly disappeared by the first half of the 17th century as Tokugawa shogunate imposed a policy of self-isolation, and when Dutch traders such as Francisco Groemon[who?] visited Hội An in 1642, the Japanese population was no more than 50 people, while the Chinese numbered some 5,000 individuals.
Hội An was also the first city to take on refugees from the Ming Dynasty following the Manchu conquest. An association for these refugees, commonly referred to as "Ming-Huong-Xa (明香社)" first appeared between 1645-53. Around this time, Hội An and Vietnamese territories further south were under the control of the Nguyễn lords, and the Nguyễn rulers allowed Vietnamese refugees to freely settle in disputed frontier lands with remnants of the Champa kingdom and the Khmer empire. According to the Dai Nam Chronicle, a Chinese general from Guangxi, Duong Ngan Dich led a band of 3,000 Ming loyalists to Huế to seek asylum. The Nguyễn court allowed Duong and his followers to resettle in Đồng Nai, which had been newly acquired from the Khmers. Duong's followers named their settlement as "Minh Huong", to recall their allegiance to the Ming Dynasty. More Chinese refugees followed suit to settle in Hội An and the frontier territory in Cochinchina such as Mạc Cửu, who had earlier settled in the Kampot–Hà Tiên area in the 1680s under the patronage of the Cambodian king, Chey Chettha IV. However, Cambodia fell into Thai rule under Taksin, and, in 1708, Mạc Cửu switched his alliance to the Nguyễn lords, paying tribute to Huế. Mạc Cửu was given autonomy to rule Ha Tien in return for his tribute, and throughout the 18th century his descendants implemented their own administrative policies, independent of Huế and Cambodia. The presence of these semi-autonomous fiefdoms run by Chinese refugees encouraged more Chinese to settle in the South. In contrast, very few Chinese refugees chose to settle in territories controlled by the Trịnh lords, who still mandated Chinese refugees to strictly follow Vietnamese customs and refrain from contacts with the local Vietnamese populace in the cities.
The Ming Chinese refugees were mostly male immigrants who generally married local Vietnamese or Khmer women while fostering a strong Chinese cultural identity in their descendants. Chinese trade and immigration began to increase towards the earlier half of the 18th century as population and economic pressures encouraged more Chinese men to seek trade opportunities in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. It was around this time that the descendants of the Ming Chinese refugees–often referred to as Ming Huong Chinese–begin to foster a separate ethno-cultural identity from the newer Chinese immigrants, whom they refer to as "Thanh Nhan (清人)", or Qing people. The Thanh Nhan form independent Chinese associations along the same dialect group or clans in cities and towns where large populations prevail, including Cholon, Hội An and some towns in the Mekong Delta. The Minh Huong Chinese also formed similar associations, and notable examples include the Đình Minh Hương Gia Thạnh in Cholon, and the Dinh Tien Hien Lang Minh Huong in Hội An. Both groups of Chinese were also very active in the interior affairs of Vietnamese society; notable Minh Huong Chinese such as Trinh Hoai Duc and Ngo Nhan Tinh who became ministers under the Nguyễn court during Gia Long's reign. Many Thanh Nhan Chinese also participated as ragtag militia during the Tây Sơn rebellion, although their loyalties were divided based on their location of residence. The Thanh Nhan Chinese in Gia Định and Biên Hòa sided with Gia Long, whereas some Chinese in the Mekong Delta regions sided with the Khmers until the late 1790s.
Nguyễn Dynasty and French rule: 19th-20th centuries
The Thanh Nhan Chinese made their living by exporting rice to other Southeast Asian countries, and their participation increased greatly in the years during the early 18th century after the Tây Sơn rebellion. Under local laws, rice exports to other countries was tightly regulated, but the Chinese largely ignored this rule and exported rice en masse. The prices of rice witnessed an increase of 50-100% in the 1820s as a result of these exports, which irked the Nguyễn court under Emperor Minh Mạng. Minh Mạng's mandarin, Lê Văn Duyệt noticed that the Chinese had a great autonomy over trade affairs in Gia Dinh, which was partly attributed to the patronage of Trinh Hoai Duc who was serving as the governor of the province. Minh Mạng introduced a new series of measures to curb Chinese trade from 1831 onwards, and started by introducing new restrictions to which residents are banned from overseas travel, which culminated in a brief revolt among Gia Dinh's residents in 1833. The Nguyễn court also experimented with measures to assimilate the Chinese immigrants; in 1839 an edict was issued to abolish the Chinese clan associations in Vietnamese-ruled Cambodia, which proved to be ineffective. Minh Mạng's son, Thiệu Trị, introduced a new law to allow only Chinese-born immigrants to register with the Chinese clan associations, whereas their local born male descendants are allowed to register with the Minh-Huong-xa and adorn the Vietnamese costume. The Nguyễn court also showed signs of subtle discrimination against people of Chinese origin; only one Minh Huong Chinese was promoted to a Mandarin. This sharply contrasted with the high representation of people of Chinese descent who were able to serve the Nguyễn court under Gia Long's reign.
Chinese immigration into Vietnam visibly increased following the French colonisation of Vietnam from 1860 onwards following the signing of the Convention of Peking whereby the rights of Chinese to seek employment overseas were officially recognised by the Chinese, British and French authorities. Unlike their Vietnamese predecessors, the French were very receptive of these Chinese immigrants as it provided an opportunity to stimulate trade and industry, and they generally found employment as labourers or middlemen. The French established a special Immigration Bureau in 1874 requiring Chinese immigrants to register with the Chinese clan and dialect group associations and eased trade restrictions that were previously in place. Historians such as Khanh Tran viewed this as a divide-and-rule policy, and the intention of its implementation was to minimise the chances of any internal revolt against the French authorities. The Chinese population nevertheless witnessed an exponential increase in the late 19th century and more so in the 20th century; between the 1870s and 1890s, some 20,000 Chinese settled in Cochinchina. Another 600,000 arrived in the 1920s and 1930s, and peaks in the migration patterns was especially pronounced during the 1920s and late 1940s when the effects of fighting and economic instability arising from the Chinese Civil War became pronounced.
Statehood under North Vietnam and South Vietnam: 1950-1975
At a party plenum in 1930, the Indochinese Communist Party made a statement that the Chinese were to be treated on an equal footing with the Vietnamese, specifically defining them as "The workers and labourers among the Chinese nationals are allies of the Vietnamese revolution". One year after the state of North Vietnam was established, a mutual agreement was made between the Communist Party of China and Communist Party of Vietnam to give ethnic Chinese living in North Vietnam Vietnamese citizenship. This process was completed by the end of the 1950s.
- 7 December 1955: A nationality law was passed which automatically qualified Vietnamese residents of mixed Chinese and Vietnamese parentage as South Vietnamese citizens.
- 21 August 1956: Decree 48 was passed which made all ethnic Chinese born in Vietnam South Vietnamese citizens, irrespective of their family wishes. First-generation immigrants who were born in China, however, were not allowed to apply for Vietnamese citizenship and had to apply for residential permits that were to be renewed periodically, on top of paying residential taxes.
- 29 August 1956: Decree 52 was passed which required all Vietnamese citizens regardless of their ethnic origin to adopt a Vietnamese name within six months, failing which they had to pay a heavy fine.
- 6 September 1956: Decree 53 was issued which prohibited all foreigners from engaging in eleven different trades, all of which were dominated by ethnic Chinese. The foreign shareholders were required to liquidate their business or transfer their ownership to Vietnamese citizens within 6 months to 1 year, and failure to do so would result in deportation or a fine of up to 5 million piastres.
As most ethnic Chinese in Vietnam were holders of ROC nationality in 1955, the measures greatly reduced the number of expatriate Chinese in South Vietnam. The fourth decree in particular had the effect of encouraging Chinese businessmen to transfer their assets to their local-born children. In 1955, the number of ROC nationals stood at 621,000, which was greatly reduced to 3,000 by 1958. The South Vietnamese government later relaxed its stance to foreign-born Chinese in 1963, and a new nationality law was passed to allow them the choice to retain their ROC nationality or adopt South Vietnamese citizenship. The following year, the Statistics Office created a new census category, "Nguoi Viet goc Hoa" (Vietnamese people of Chinese origin), whereby Vietnamese citizens of Chinese heritage were identified as such in all official documents. No further major measures were implemented to integrate or assimilate the Chinese after 1964. The Chinese sought cultural and economic pursuits more actively during President Thiệu's rule, especially in the manufacturing, finance and transport industries. At the grassroots level, ethnic Vietnamese resentment against the Chinese was widespread for their dominance over the South Vietnamese economy.
In North Vietnam, the initially favorable situation of the Chinese minority began to deteriorate during the Vietnam War. In 1967-1968, friction started to occur in Sino-DRV relations, because the People's Republic of China disapproved both Hanoi’s broadening cooperation with the Soviet Union and the North Vietnamese decision to start negotiations with the U.S. in Paris. Inspired by the Chinese embassy, the official newspaper of the ethnic Chinese community published a number of anti-Soviet articles until the DRV authorities replaced its editors with some more compliant cadres. Anxious to prevent Beijing from exerting a political influence on the Chinese minority, in the early 1970s the North Vietnamese leaders resorted to various methods of forced assimilation. At first they sought to pressure ethnic Chinese to adopt Vietnamese citizenship, but only a handful of Hoa cadres complied, most of whom were heavily assimilated individuals anyway. Thereupon the authorities attempted to seize the Chinese passports of the ethnic Chinese under various pretexts, but most Hoa refused to give up their passports. The regime made repeated efforts to transform the Chinese minority schools into mixed Chinese-Vietnamese schools in which Hoa children were to study together with Vietnamese pupils and the curriculum was to be based on the standard North Vietnamese curriculum. The authorities ceased to hire Hoa interpreters, nor did they employ Hoa in offices that were in regular contact with foreigners. Ethnic Chinese were rarely admitted to the military, and even if they volunteered for service, they could serve only in logistical units but not in troops sent to the front in South Vietnam. Following the Battle of the Paracel Islands (a Chinese action that Hanoi disapproved), the DRV authorities started to hinder the Hoa in visiting their relatives in the PRC.
Departure from Vietnam: 1975-1990
Following reunification of Vietnam, the Hoa bore the brunt of socialist transformation in the South. The control and regulation of markets was one of the most sensitive and persistent problems faced by the government following the beginning of North–South integration in 1975. The government, in its doctrinaire efforts to communize the commercial, market-oriented Southern economy, faced several paradoxes. The first was the need both to cultivate and to control commercial activity by ethnic Chinese in the South, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. Chinese businesses controlled much of the commerce in Ho Chi Minh City and the South generally. Following the break with China in 1978, some Vietnamese leaders evidently feared the potential for espionage activities within the Chinese commercial community. On the one hand, Chinese-owned concerns controlled trade in a number of commodities and services, such as pharmaceuticals, fertilizer distribution, grain milling, and foreign-currency exchange, that were supposed to be state monopolies. On the other hand, Chinese merchants provided excellent access to markets for Vietnamese exports through Hong Kong and Singapore. This access became increasingly important in the 1980s as a way of circumventing the boycott on trade with Vietnam imposed by a number of Asian and Western Nations. An announcement on March 24 outlawed all wholesale trade and large business activities, which forced around 30,000 businesses to close down overnight, followed up by another that banned all private trade. Further government policies forced former owners to become farmers in the countryside or join the armed forces and fight at the Vietnam-Cambodia border, and confiscated all old and foreign currencies, as well as any Vietnamese currency in excess of the US value of $250 for urban households and $150 by rural households.
While such measures were targeted at all bourgeois elements, such measures hurt ethnic Hoa the hardest and resulted in the takeover of Hoa properties in and around major cities. Hoa communities offered widespread resistance and clashes left the streets of Cholon "full of corpses". These measures, combined with external tensions stemming from Vietnam's dispute with Cambodia and China in 1978 and 1979 caused an exodus of the majority of the Hoa, of whom more than 170,000 fled overland into the province of Guangxi, China, from the North and the remainder fled by boat from the South. China received a daily influx of 4-5,000 refugees, while Southeast Asian countries saw a wave of 5,000 boat people arriving at their shores each month. China sent unarmed ships to help evacuate the refugees, but encountered diplomatic problems as the Vietnamese government denied that the Hoa suffered persecution and later refused to issue exit permits after as many as 250,000 Hoa had applied for repatriation. In an attempt to stem the refugee flow, avert Vietnamese accusations that Beijing was coercing its citizens to emigrate, and encourage Vietnam to change its policies towards ethnic Hoa, China closed off its land border in 1978. This led to a jump in the number of boat people, with as many as 100,000 arriving in other countries by the end of 1978. However, the Vietnamese government by now not only encouraged the exodus, but took the opportunity to profit from it by extorting a price of five to ten taels of gold or an equivalent of US $1,500 to $3,000 per person wishing to leave the country. The Vietnamese military also forcibly drove the thousands of border refugees across the China-Vietnam land border, causing numerous border incidents and armed clashes, while blaming these movements on China by accusing them of using saboteurs to force Vietnamese citizens into China. This new influx brought the number of refugees in China to around 200,000.
The size of the exodus increased during and after the war. The monthly number of boat people arriving in Southeast Asia increased to 11,000 during the first quarter of 1979, 28,000 by April, and 55,000 in June, while more than 90,000 fled by boat to China. In addition, the Vietnamese military also began expelling ethnic Hoa from Vietnam-occupied Kampuchea, leading to over 43,000 refugees of mostly Hoa descent fleeing overland to Thailand. By now, Vietnam was openly confiscating the properties and extorting money from fleeing refugees. In April 1979 alone, Hoa outside of Vietnam had remitted a total of US $242 million (an amount equivalent to half the total value of Vietnam's 1978 exports) through Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City to help their friends or family pay their way out of Vietnam. By June, money from refugees had replaced the coal industry as Vietnam's largest source of foreign exchange and was expected to reach as much as 3 billion in US dollars. By 1980, the refugee population in China reached 260,000, and the number of surviving boat people refugees in Southeast Asia reached 400,000. (An estimated 50% to 70% of Vietnamese and Chinese boat people perished at sea.)
The official census from 2009 accounted the Hoa population at some 823,000 individuals and ranked 6th in terms of its population size. 70% of the Hoa live in cities and towns, mostly in Ho Chi Minh city while the remainder live in the countryside in the southern provinces. The Hoa had constituted the largest ethnic minority group in the mid 20th century and its population had previously peaked at 1.2 million, or about 2.6% of Vietnam's population in 1976 a year following the end of the Vietnam War. Just 3 years later, the Hoa population dropped to 935,000 as large swathes of Hoa left Vietnam. The 1989 census indicated the Hoa population had appreciated to 960,000 individuals, but their proportion had dropped to 1.5% by then. In 1999, the Hoa population at some 860,000 individuals, or approximately 1.1% of the country's population and by then, were ranked Vietnam's 4th largest ethnic group. The Hoa population are mainly concentrated in Cochinchina, and a 1943 census indicated that they made up the bulk (89%) of the Hoa population of Vietnam, or about 7% of Cochinchina's population.
Intermarriage between the Hoa and other ethnic groups, particularly the Vietnamese have been very common since the early days of Chinese settlement. However, for some Hoa they preferred to intermarry within their own ethnicity, since they "frowned upon inter-marriage with the local Vietnamese". Between the 17th to 20th century, offsprings of such intermarriages are identified as Minh Huong and were officially classified as a distinct group in census counts until the 1950s. Most of these intermarriages take place between Hoa males and Vietnamese females, and in a demographic study carried out by the World Bank in 2002, about a third of all Hoa are married to a spouse of another ethnic group, mostly from the Vietnamese.
The Hoa trace their ancestral origins to different parts of Southern China and they are identified based on the dialects that they speak. In cities where large Chinese communities exist such as Hội An and Saigon, Chinese communities set up clan associations that identify themselves based on surnames or their ancestral homeland. In Vietnam, five different dialects are recognised within the Hoa community, with the Cantonese forming the largest group. Each of these Hoa sub-groups tend to congregate in different towns and one dialect group may predominate over the other.
|Dialect Group||1924||1950||1974||1989||Predominant group in province/city|
|Cantonese||35.0%||45.0%||60.0%||56.5%||Ho Chi Minh City, Đồng Nai, Mỹ Tho|
|Teochew||22.0%||30.0%||20.0%||34.0%||Cần Thơ, Sóc Trăng, Kiên Giang, Bạc Liêu, Cà Mau|
|24.0%||8.0%||7.0%||6.0%||Hội An, Huế|
|Hainanese||7.0%||4.0%||7.0%||2.0%||Phú Quốc, Ninh hoa, tuy hoa, nha trang|
Trade and industry
The Hoa are traditionally associated with the commerce sector, and ethnic Chinese controlled about 75% of the economic activity in South Vietnam in 1975, including 100% of the domestic wholesale trade, 80% of the industry, 70% of the foreign trade and presided over half the retail trade. Some 117 of the 670 leading business families were of ethnic Chinese origin. Utilizing the Confucian paradigm of personal networks, Hoa have dominated several types of businesses such as finance, food, information technology, chemicals, electronic and electrical equipment, machinery, fabricated metals, wholesale trade, transportation equipment, and services. 100% of the domestic foreign trade, 80% of the industry, 70% of foreign trade, and 50% of retail trade was controlled by the Chinese minority. Constituting just 1 percent of Vietnam's population, the Chinese controlled an estimated 90 percent of non-European private capital in the mid-1960s and dominated Vietnam's retail trade, its financial, manufacturing, and transportation sectors, and all aspects of the country's rice economy. Although there were also numerous wealthy Vietnamese in the commercial class, this led to resentment from the dominant ethnic Vietnamese.
Early history & French colonial rule (16th century–1945)
Chinese settlement and immigration in Vietnam was came about from conducive opportunities for trade and business. Chinese merchants began to visit Hội An from the 16th century onwards and initially traded incense, alum and Chinese medicinal products with the local Vietnamese. Dutch, Portuguese and French traders who visited Hội An in the 17th century brought brass utensils that attracted the Chinese. In turn, other goods such as porcelain, silver bars and various metals were traded. Around this time, the local Chinese community began to establish trading associations and social associations, the latter of which is referred to as Bang in Vietnamese. The bang provided various welfare services for immigrants, including financial services such as the collection of taxes. As more immigrants arrived in the 19th century, the bang served as meeting points for Chinese community leaders to pool money to establish corporations.
When the French colonial authorities arrived in the 1860s, the French authorities allowed Chinese merchants and businessmen to own land and freely travel in and out of Indochina. Chinese merchants delved into the rice, liquor, opium and spice trade, where they set up plantations in the rural hinterlands of the Mekong delta and sold its products in Cholon. In the north, the Hoa were mainly rice farmers, fishermen, and coal miners, except for those residing in cities and provincial towns. The French regularly worked with Chinese merchants in the agriculture and industry sectors, and the latter often served as middlemen to liaise with the Vietnamese in the domestic trade. In 1906, the Chinese and French businesspeople have a total capital of 222 million francs, as compared to 2 million francs for the local Vietnamese.
South Vietnamese rule (1945–1975)
In 1970 it was estimated that while Chinese Vietnamese made up only 5.3% of the total population, but reputedly controlled 70 to 80% of the commerce sector of Vietnam. Chinese businesses controlled much of the commerce in Saigon in South Vietnam. Before the Fall of Saigon, ethnic Chinese controlled 40.9% of the small scale enterprises, 100% of the wholesale trade in South Vietnam, transitioning from smaller-scale retail firms to larger wholesale enterprises. At the end of 1974 the Hoa controlled more than 80 percent of the food, textile, chemical, metallurgy, engineering, and electrical industries, 100 percent of wholesale trade, more than 50 percent of retail trade, and 90 percent of export-import trade. Dominance over the economy enabled the Hoa to "manipulate prices" of rice and other scarce goods.
The control and regulation of markets was one of the most sensitive and persistent problems faced by the government following the beginning of North–South integration in 1975. The government, in its doctrinaire efforts to communize the commercial, market-oriented Southern economy, faced several paradoxes. The first was the need both to cultivate and to control commercial activity by ethnic Chinese in the South, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. Chinese businesses controlled much of the commerce in Ho Chi Minh City and the South generally. Following the break with China in 1978, some Vietnamese leaders evidently feared the potential for espionage activities within the Chinese commercial community. On the one hand, Chinese-owned concerns controlled trade in a number of commodities and services, such as pharmaceuticals, fertilizer distribution, grain milling, and foreign-currency exchange, that were supposed to be state monopolies. On the other hand, Chinese merchants provided excellent access to markets for Vietnamese exports through Hong Kong and Singapore. This access became increasingly important in the 1980s as a way of circumventing the boycott on trade with Vietnam imposed by a number of Asian and Western Nations.
As they are inclined to be entrepreneurs, Chinese Vietnamese have dominated several types of businesses such as selling rice, crewed junk, rice transportation, and ship building during their early arrival to Vietnam. Through enterprise, organization, and cooperation many Chinese became part of a prosperous, urban middle class that controlled retail trade. Chinese shops filled every town in sea route rice selling and transportation remained one of the most profitable businesses in the nation. In addition, the Hoa became actively involved in commerce, particularly in the area of Saigon, where Chinese worked as vendors and sold an array of products as an industrious enterprising ethnic group. Many would then work as butchers and tailors, and then venture into confectionery. Many Chinese also worked as money lenders, bankers, and money changers. Products such as tea, porcelain, drugs and medicine, and cabinet-work were shipped to Vietnam from China. Government officials said the ethnic Chinese in Cholon were active in municipal interests and the Vietnamese Communist Party. But their main interest was enterprise. The Chinese feel secure in business as well as their social and cultural life. About 20% of 6,000 private companies and 150,000 small individual businesses in the city were run by Chinese. The Chinese accounted for more than 30% of Ho Chi Minh City's business output due to better equipment used by the businesses.
In the South, they controlled more than 90% of the non-European capital, 80 percent of the food, textile, chemical, metallurgy, engineering, and electrical industries, 100% of the wholesale trade, more than 50% of the retail trade, and 90 percent of the import-export trade. Economic dominance presided accusations from the Vietnamese that the Hoa manipulated prices of rice and other scarce commodities. It was noted by 1983 that more than 60% of southern Vietnam's bourgeoisie were of Chinese extraction. They controlled the entire rice paddy market and obtained up to 80% of the bank loans in the south. Hoa also owned 42 of the 60 corporations having a large annual turnover of more than 1 million dong and investments accounted for two-thirds of the total investment in South Vietnam.
Reunification and Doi Moi (1975–present)
In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, and new economic zones established by the ethnic Vietnamese, the Hoa became scapegoats for the communists, and later, due to the Sino-Vietnamese War, many fled or were driven out of Vietnam. The Vietnamese government's post-1988 shift to market liberalization has led to an astounding resurgence of Chinese commercial dominance in the country's urban areas.Much of the Hoa community in Ho Chi Minh City control 50 percent of the city's market activity and have achieved economic prominence in the light industry, import-export, shopping malls, and private banking causing much resentment with the indigenous Vietnamese.
Today, there are many Hoa communities in Australia, Canada, France and the United States, where they have reinvigorated old existing Chinatowns. For example, the established Chinatowns of Los Angeles, Houston, Toronto, Honolulu, and Paris have a Vietnamese atmosphere due to the large presence of Hoa people. Some of these communities also have associations for transplanted Hoa refugees such as the Association des Résidents en France d'origine indochinoise in Paris.
The Chinese Vietnamese population in China now number up to 300,000, and live mostly in 194 refugee settlements mostly in the provinces of Guangdong, Yunnan, Fujian, Hainan, Jiangxi, and Guangxi. More than 85% have achieved economic independence, but the remainder live below the poverty line in rural areas. While they have most of the same rights as Chinese nationals, including employment, education, housing, property ownership, pensions, and health care, they had not been granted citizenship and continued to be regarded by the government as refugees. Their refugee status allowed them to receive UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assistance and aid until the early 21st century. In 2007, the Chinese government began drafting legislation to grant full Chinese citizenship to Indochinese refugees, including the ethnic Hoa which make up the majority, living within its borders.
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