The Hoa (Hua 華 in Mandarin Chinese, literally "Chinese") are a minority group living in Vietnam consisting of persons considered ethnic and racially overseas Han 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 Hoa constitute one group of the Chinese diaspora and contain one of the largest Overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.
0.96% of the Vietnamese population (2009)
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
người Tàu (might be offensive)
During the time that Vietnam was a Chinese colony, there was an attempt by Imperial China to assimilate the Vietnamese. During this time, the Hoa people played an important role in the development of Vietnamese culture. Despite the achievement of Vietnamese sovereignty, Vietnam to this day remains a part of the cultural Sinosphere.
From the late 19th century, the Hoa played a leading role in Vietnam's private business sector before the Fall of Saigon in 1975. They were a well-established middle class ethnic group and made up a high percentage of Vietnam's upper class. Despite their small numbers, the Hoa were disproportionately dominant in the Vietnamese economy having started an estimated 70 to 80 per cent of pre-fall of Saigon's privately owned and operated businesses. Many Hoa had their businesses and property confiscated by the Communists after 1975, and many fled the country as boat people due to persecution by the newly established Communist government. Hoa persecution intensified in the late 1970s, which was one of the underlying reasons for the Sino-Vietnamese War. At present, the Sino-Vietnamese comprise a smaller percentage in the modern Vietnamese economy with the share now mostly held in indigenous Kinh hands. The Vietnamese government's post-1988 shift to economic liberalization has revived the entrepreneurial presence of the predominantly urban Chinese minority, allowing them to reassert and regain much of their previous economic clout in the Vietnamese economy.
In recent times, the ethnic Chinese have largely assimilated into mainstream Vietnamese society, partly due to similar traditions and religious beliefs, and partly through interracial marriages with the Kinh majority. Many of the younger generation are no longer able to speak their ancestral dialects.
2nd century BC; 14th century AD: Early history
According to the 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 BC. 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 dates back to the 2nd Century BC when the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang first placed Tonkin under Qin rule, an influx of Qin Chinese soldiers and fugitives from Central China settled en masse into Tonkin from this time onwards, and introduced Chinese influences to the ancient Viet people. 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. A century later, the powerful Han dynasty conquered and annexed Nanyue (which in Chinese translates to "land of the southern barbarians") into the Han Empire and was ruled as a province of China for the next several hundred years. Han imperial control proceeded to expand further southwestward by military means after the conquest.
Sinification of Nanyue was brought about by a combination of Han imperial military power, regular settlement and an influx of Han Chinese refugees, merchants, scholars, bureaucrats, fugitives, and prisoners of war. The conquest also made it possible to extend the Han Empire's power projection and maritime influence to further develop trade relations with the various kingdoms in Southeast Asia. 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 in infusing Vietnam's culture with Chinese influences. 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 Viet 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 chose to assimilate. Vietnamese women were wedded by new Chinese gentry migrants. A revolt against China was mounted by Ly Bon who himself was of Chinese descent.
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 identity 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 Lý Dynasty, Lý Thái Tổ (Lý Công Uẩn) 李公蘊 has been ascribed of having origins from Fujian province somewhere in his paternal bloodline while little is known about his maternal side except for the fact that his mother was a woman named Phạm Thị. Very few direct details about his parents are known, however, the ethnic Chinese background of Lý Công Uẩn (李公蘊 [Hokkien POJ: Lí kong ùn]), at least on his paternal side has been accepted by Vietnamese historian Trần Quốc Vượng.
The ancestors of the Trần clan originated from the province of Fujian before they migrated under Trần Kinh (陳京, [Hokkien POJ: Tân Kiaⁿ / King]) to Đại Việt, where their mixed-blooded descendants established the Trần dynasty which ruled Đại Việt. The descendants of the Trần clan who came to rule Đại Việt were of mixed-blooded descent due to many intermarriages between the Trần and several royal members of the Lý dynasty alongside members of their royal court as in the case of Trần Lý and Trần Thừa, the latter whose son Trần Thái Tông would later become the first emperor of the Trần dynasty. Their descendants established the Tran dynasty, which ruled Vietnam (Dai Viet). Some of the mixed-blooded descendants and certain members of the clan could still speak Chinese, as when a Yuan dynasty envoy met with the Chinese-speaking Tran Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn in 1282. The first of the Trần clan to live in Đại Việt was Trần Kinh, who settled in Tức Mặc village (now Mỹ Lộc, Nam Định) who lived by fishing.
Professor Liam Kelley noted that people from Song dynasty China like Zhao Zhong and Xu Zongdao fled to Tran dynasty ruled Vietnam after the Mongol invasion of the Song. The ancestor of the Tran, Trần Kinh had originated from the present day Fujian province of China as did the Daoist cleric Xu Zongdao who recorded the Mongol invasion and referred to them as "Northern bandits". He quoted the Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư which said “When the Song [Dynasty] was lost, its people came to us. Nhật Duật took them in. There was Zhao Zhong who served as his personal guard. Therefore, among the accomplishments in defeating the Yuan [i.e., Mongols], Nhật Duật had the most.”
Southern Song Chinese military officers and civilian officials left to overseas countries, went to Vietnam and intermarried with the Vietnamese ruling elite and went to Champa to serve the government there as recorded by Zheng Sixiao. Southern Song soldiers were part of the Vietnamese army prepared by emperor Trần Thánh Tông against the second Mongol invasion.
Fujian was the origin of the ethnic Chinese Tran who migrated to Vietnam along with a large amount of other Chinese during the Ly dynasty where they served as officials. Distinct Chinese last names are found in the Tran and Ly dynasty Imperial examination records. Ethnic Chinese are recorded in Tran and Ly dynasty records of officials. Clothing, food, and language were all Chinese dominated in Van Don where the Tran had moved to after leaving their home province of Fujian. The Chinese language could still be spoken by the Tran in Vietnam. The ocean side area of Vietnam was colonized by Chinese migrants from Fujian which included the Tran among them located to the capital's southeastern area. The Red River Delta was subjected to migration from Fujian including the Tran and Van Don port arose as a result of this interaction. Guangdong and Fujian Chinese moved to the Halong located Van Don coastal port during Ly Anh Tong's rule in order to engage in commerce. The usurpation of the Ly occurred after they married with the fishing Fujianese Tran family.
Early immigration: 15th-18th centuries
After the Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam it was recorded that the union of Vietnamese women and Chinese (Ngô) men produced offspring which were left behind in Vietnam, and the Chams, Cẩu Hiểm, Laotians, these people, and Vietnamese natives who collaborated with the Ming were made into slaves of the Le government in the Complete Annals of Đại Việt.
There was no mandatory required reparation of the voluntarily remaining Ming Chinese in Vietnam. The return of the Ming Chinese to China was commanded by the Ming and not Le Loi. The Trai made up the supporters of Le Loi in his campaign. He lived among the Trai at the border regions as their leader and seized the Ming ruled lowland Kinh areas after originally forming his base in the southern highland regions. The southern dwelling Trai and Red River dwelling Vietnamese were in effect locked in a "civil war" during the anti Ming rebellion by Le Loi.
The leader Lưu Bác Công (Liu Bogong) in 1437 commanded a Dai Viet military squad made out of ethnic Chinese since even after the independence of Dai Viet, Chinese remained behind. Vietnam received Chinese defectors from Yunnan in the 1400s.
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 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.
Vietnamese women were wedded as wives of the Han Chinese Minh Hương 明鄉 who moved to Vietnam during the Ming dynasty's fall. They formed a new group of people in Vietnamese society and worked for the Nguyễn government. Both Khmer and Vietnamese women wedded the Chinese men of the Minh Hương. Chinese culture was practiced by these Chinese men despite them marrying Vietnamese women. Ha tien came under the control of Mo Jiu (Ma Cuu), a Chinese who was among the Mekong Delta Ming migrants. Lang Cau, Cam Pho, Chiem, and Cu Lao in Hoi An were the sites of settlement by Minh Huong who were the result of native women becoming wives of Fujianese Chinese. The Minh Hương community descended from Vietnamese wedding youthful Chinese men in Cochinchina and Hoi An in Nguyễn lands. This new migration established a distinct Chinese diaspora group in Vietnam which was unlike in ancient times when the Vietnamese upper class absorbed ethnic Chinese who had come. Minh Hương were ethnically hyrid Chinese and Vietnamese descended from Chinese men and Vietnamese women. They lived in rural areas and in urban areas. Chinese citizens in Vietnam were groups as Huaqiao by the French while the Minh Huong were permanent residents of Vietnam who were ethnic Chinese. To make commerce easier, Vietnamese female merchants wedded Chinese male merchants wedded in Hoi An. Trần Thượng Xuyên and Dương Ngạn Địch were two Chinese leaders who in 1679 brought Minh Huong to South Vietnam to live under the Nguyen Lords.
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.
Crocodiles were eaten by Vietnamese while they were taboo and off limits for Chinese. Vietnamese women who married Chinese men adopted the Chinese taboo.
Vietnamese women were wedded to the Chinese who helped sell Viet Minh rice. Customarily intermarriage between Chinese and Vietnamese has consisted of Vietnamese female exogamy, generally because Chinese men were wealthier and seen as better able to support a wife than the other way around.
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 (formerly Saigon). Chinese businesses controlled much of the economic activity in Ho Chi Minh City and South Vietnam. Following Vietnam's break with China in 1978, some Vietnamese leaders evidently feared the potential for espionage activities within the Chinese business community. On the one hand, Chinese-owned concerns controlled trade in a number of goods and services, such as pharmaceuticals, fertilizer distribution, grain milling and foreign-currency exchange, that were supposed to be state monopolies. On the other hand, savvy Chinese entrepreneurs 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 Hoa the hardest and resulted in the expropriation 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. One family was split. An ethnic Chinese man was deported while his ethnic Vietnamese wife and child were left behind.
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 Vietnamese-occupied Cambodia, 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.)
Đổi Mới (since 1986)
After Nguyễn Văn Linh initiated the Vietnamese economic reforms in 1986, the Hoa in Vietnam has witnessed a massive commercial resurgence and despite many years being persecuted began to reassert and regain much of their power in the Vietnamese economy. The open-door policy and economic reforms of Vietnam, as well as the improved economic and diplomatic relations of Vietnam with other Southeast Asian countries has revived the entrepreneurial presence of the predominantly urban Chinese minority of the roles they previously played in the Vietnamese economy.
The official census from 2009 accounted the Hoa population at some 823,000 individuals and ranked 8th 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.
The Hoa trace their ancestral origins to different parts of China many centuries ago 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 recognized 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 others.
|Dialect Group||1924||1950||1974||1989||Predominant group in province/city|
|Cantonese/Sán Dìu||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 Hòa, Tuy Hòa, Nha Trang|
Trade and industry
Like much of Southeast Asia, Hoa dominate Vietnamese commerce and industry at every level of society. Before 1975, entrepreneurial savvy Chinese had literally taken over Vietnam's entire economy and have been prospering disproportionately as a result of the country's post-1988 economic liberalization vis-a-vis the Vietnamese majority. Ethnic Chinese in Vietnam have been a market dominant minority in Vietnam for centuries, historically controlling the country's most lucrative commercial, trade, and industrial sectors. The economic power of the Hoa is far greater than that of their proportion in the population in addition to the Chinese being socioeconomically successful for hundreds of years than the indigenous host Kinh population. Hoa wield tremendous economic clout over their indigenous Kinh Vietnamese majority counterparts and play a critical role in maintaining the country's economic vitality and prosperity before having their property confiscated by the Vietnamese Communists after 1975. The Hoa, a disproportionate wealthy, market-dominant minority not only form a distinct ethnic community, they also form, by and large, an economically advantaged social class: the commercial middle and upper class in contrast to the poorer indigenous Kinh Vietnamese majority working and underclass around them. Today inside Vietnam, the deeply resented 1 percent Hoa minority controls as much as 70 to 80 percent of the country's economy and commercial wealth.
Early history and French colonial rule (3rd century BC–1945)
Chinese economic dominance in Vietnam dates back to 208 B.C., when the renegade Qin Chinese general Zhao Tuo defeated An Dương Vương, the king of Âu Lạc in north Vietnam and conquered the Âu Lạc Kingdom, an ancient Vietnamese state situated in the northern mountains of modern Vietnam populated by the ancient Lạc Việt and Âu Việt. He annexed Âu Lạc into the Qin Empire the following year and declared himself the emperor of Nam Viet. A century later, the powerful Han dynasty annexed Nanyue (which in Chinese translates to "land of the southern barbarians") into the Han Empire and was ruled as a province for the next several hundred years. Sinification of Nanyue was brought about by a combination of Han imperial military power, regular settlement and an influx of Han Chinese refugees, officers and garrisons, merchants, scholars, bureaucrats, fugitives, and prisoners of war. By the end of the 17th century, a distinct Chinese community, known as the Hoa, formed within Vietnamese society. Ethnic Chinese enclaves and small Chinatowns took root in every major Vietnamese city and trading center. Large congregations of Chinese immigrants coupled with their economic power allowed the establishment of insttitions to their regulate business activities and protect their economic interests. Modern Chinese settlement and immigration in Vietnam came about from conducive opportunities for trade and business. Ethnic Chinese businessmen began to visit Hội An from the 16th century onward and initially traded black incense, silk, alum and Chinese medicinal products with the local Vietnamese. Dutch, Portuguese and French merchants who visited Hội An in the 17th century brought high quality European made brass utensils that attracted the attention of the Chinese. In turn, other Hoa manufactured goods such as porcelain, silver bars and various metals were traded. Around this time, the local Chinese community began to establish their own trading and social associations, the latter of which is referred to as bang in Vietnamese to protect their own economic interests. The bang also provided various welfare services for new Chinese immigrants, including financial services such as the collection of taxes. As more immigrants poured in the 19th century, the bang served as meeting points for Chinese community leaders to band together to pool seed capital and establish their own businesses.
The Hoa were notoriously enterprising entrepreneurs that traded and manufactured a myriad of good and services of value ranging from fine Chinese silk to black incense. The monopolized gold export trade was entirely in Chinese hands in addition to Chinese domination of local trade in paper, tea, pepper, arms, sulphur, lead, and lead oxide. The economic clout held by the Hoa coupled with repeated attempts by China to conquer and dominate Vietnam inflamed anti-Chinese hostility, bitterness, and resentment from the indigenous Vietnamese Kinh majority. Hostility against Chinese economic success sparked recurrent anti-Hoa reprisals, including the infamous 1782 massacre of some 2000 Hoa in Cholon, Saigon's Chinatown. The 1782 massacre in which an estimated ten thousand Chinese were slaughtered. According to official Vietnamese records, Chinese shops were burned and looted, and the victims, including "men, women, and children," were indiscriminately "killed and their corpses thrown into the river." Chinese economic dominance continued to grow following the establishment of the Nguyễn dynasty in 1802. As wealthy Chinese merchants and investors served as a source of tax revenue and political interests of the Nguyen officials. By the time the French arrived in the mid-19th century, Hoa held a controlled and dominated the indigenous Vietnamese majority in trade, mining, and every urban market sector in addition to prospering under the colonial laissez faire market policies enshrined by the French colonialists. Vietnam's gold industry in particular, was entirely monopolized by Chinese merchants. Hoa entirely monopolized the internal procurement and distribution system. In 1865, Chinese merchants in Cholon created contacts with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank to export rice and other agricultural products to China. By 1874, there were fourteen rice exporting companies owned the Chinese competing with ten European import-export businesses. The Grain Merchants Association with its headquarters in Cholon had direct contracts with rice markets in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, and British Malaya. The French colonial regime saw the advantage of market expertise offered by the Chinese and allowed Chinese merchants to freely engage in external trade; sometimes leading to a certain amount of cooperation between the French and Chinese in both import and export. The French would shrewdly and astutely cultivate and champion Chinese entrepreneurship. The French colonial administrators welcomed Chinese immigrants and saw their importance in paving the way for French colonial rule as well as sustaining economic prosperity within it. The Hoa population rose from 25,000 in the 1860s to more than 200,000 in 1911. In addition, Hoa also served as intermediaries operating as agents for the French as well as their own. Hoa also collaborated with the French and other European capitalists in tapping the natural riches and exploiting the native Kinh Vietnamese via the laissez faire economic system to become wealthy. During the colonial era, imports were completely under the control by the French authorities. Almost all the major import items such as machinery, transport equipment, and building materials, and luxury goods were undertaken by French companies, while the Chinese acted as middlemen for a commission. Under French rule, the collection of paddy in the Mekong delta was completely under Chinese hands who resold it to French companies for export. Industrial commodities imported from France by French companies in Vietnam were retailed to the rural population in the South by Hoa merchants, with some of them holding exclusive distribution rights.
With Hoa's strong presence in trade and industry during early part of the twentieth century, the Hoa people emerged as a prosperous economic minority and established themselves as successful entrepreneurs and investors. In the fishing sector, the Hoa maintained a strong presence, particularly in deep sea fishing. Stiff competition between Hoa fishermen drove the indigenous Kinh away from the local fish export trade. Many Hoa delved into coconut and peanut oil production and began their humble careers as laborers on French rubber plantations and eventually worked their way to start their own tea, pepper, and rice plantations to supply the domestic market. Hoa gardeners monopolized the grocery stores in the suburbs of Saigon and Chinese restaurants and hotels began to take root in every urban market center. In 1906, Chinese and French businesspeople together had a total capital output of 222 million francs, compared to 2 million francs for the native Kinh Vietnamese. The first steam-operated rice milling enterprise owned by the Chinese came into being in 1876 in Cholon. By the end of the nineteenth century, Chinese controlled five of the eight rice milling factories in Saigon-Cholon. In 1920, they expanded to 13 out of the 20 rice mills and by the 1930s, Chinese ended up controlling 75 of the 94 rice mills. By the 1930s, gaps between the large-scale manufacturing, commercial, plantation and financial enterprises held by the French were filled by smaller businesses controlled by the Chinese. Favorable economic policies attracted a rapid influx of Chinese immigrants seeking their financial destiny through business success until the mid-twentieth century. Between 1925 and 1933, some 600,000 Han Chinese immigrants settled in Vietnam. Between 1923 and 1951, as many as 1.2 million Chinese emigrants moved from China to Vietnam. Hoa 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 businessmen in the agriculture and heavy industry sectors, and the latter often served as middlemen to liaise between themselves and the French in the domestic trade sector.
South Vietnamese rule (1945–1975)
By the 1950s, the Hoa had held such vast amounts of economic power and political influence, that they were viewed as "a state within a state", forming a more distinct cosmopolitan and wealthier population than the host Vietnamese majority. The economic success of the Hoa inflamed local Kinh resentment and hostility. The Hoa had a huge propensity to live apart from the Vietnamese, typically associating themselves with the Chinese community at large, attending Chinese institutions, marrying their within their ethnic community, and projected a sense of "superiority" and distinct sense of "ethnic and cultural exclusivity". After the French withdrew from Vietnam in the 1950s, the Ngo Dinh Diem government tried to Vietnamize the economy and reduce Chinese and French participation while trying to increase the indigenous Vietnamese involvement to gain a proportionate presence. Indigenous Kinh Vietnamese entrepreneurs were unable to compete with the Hoa and ultimately lost out to them due to lack of capital and business ties outside Vietnam.
In 1961, Hoa controlled 80 percent of all the capital in the retail trade and 75 percent of Vietnam's commercial activities. Utilizing the Confucian paradigm of personal networks, Hoa have dominated several types of businesses such as financial services, food, information technology, chemicals, electronic and electrical equipment, machinery, fabricated metals, wholesale trade, transportation equipment, and other miscellaneous services. Constituting a mere 1 percent of Vietnam's population, Hoa controlled an estimated 90 percent of non-European private capital in the mid-1960s and dominated Vietnam's entire retail trade, financial services, manufacturing, and transportation sectors, and all aspects of the country's rice economy. In the hospitality and tourist sector, Hoa owned more than 50 percent of all the largest hotels and 90 percent of small hotels and boarding houses in the Saigon-Cholon and Gia Dinh areas, in addition to 92 large restaurants, 243 tea and beer shops, 48 hotels, and 826 eating houses. Hoa controlled much of the restaurants, drink and hotel, amusement and recreation, medical, educational, and other miscellaneous establishments and services. Hoa businessmen operated restaurants and hotels as a stepping stone as these businesses turned in a quick profit while requiring very little initial startup capital. Furthermore, hospitality businesses were not regulated by government or local discriminatory policies. Although there were also numerous wealthy Vietnamese in the commercial class, the disproportionate amount economic power held by the Hoa minority led to resentment from the indigenous Vietnamese Kinh majority. The Hoa were also the pioneers of the Vietnamese banking industry. Early in the twentieth century, the Franco-Chinese bank was jointly established by French and Hoa businessmen in Saigon-Cholon. Within five years, its capital grew from 10 million to 50 million francs. The Chinese community would soon go on to establish their own banks providing capital to rice merchants and operating their own pawnshops. During the early years of the Republic of Vietnam, Chinese controlled three of the ten private banks while the rest were French and British owned. Furthermore, Chinese also controlled foreign Chinese banks such as the Bank of China, Bank of Communications, and Bank of East Asia. In South Vietnam, 28 of the 32 banks were controlled by the Hoa and ethnic Chinese capital accounted for 49 percent of the total capital invested in eleven local private banks in 1974. The Chinese also ran the bank's Chinese Affairs Office to serve the Hoa business community. Before 1975, Chinese capital, entrepreneurship, and skilled manpower in South Vietnam played an important role in developing domestic markets and international trade.
In 1970, it was estimated that while Hoa made up only 5.3 percent of the total population, they reputedly controlled 70 to 80 percent of the entire commercial sector of Vietnam. In 1971, ethnic Chinese controlled 2492 shops or 41 percent of all the small and medium-sized shops in Saigon-Cholon's nine districts. In addition, ethnic Chinese controlled the entire wholesale trade and 50 percent of the retail trade of the South before 1975. With regards to exports, Hoa businessmen established their own business networks with their compatriots in Mainland China and other Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. Chinese businesses controlled much of the economic activity in Saigon in South Vietnam where the Chinese controlled 80 percent of South Vietnam's overall industry despite making up a tiny percentage of South Vietnam's population. Before the Fall of Saigon, ethnic Chinese controlled 40.9 percent of the small scale enterprises, 100 percent of the wholesale trade in South Vietnam, transitioning from smaller-scale retail firms to larger wholesale enterprises. Chinese enterprises made up 45.6 percent of all the enterprises handling the import trade in the early 1970s. In addition 815 of the 966 direct and indirect importers in 1971 were controlled by the Chinese along with 300 Chinese shipping companies in Ho Chi Minh City alone as well as fifty large Chinese agents for agricultural, sea, and forestry products. By 1974, Chinese investment in the field of amusement and recreation was 20 percent and made up 80 percent of the total investment in medical and health services sector. 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. During the Vietnam War, the wealth of the Hoa increased dramatically and intensified as they seized lucrative business opportunities that came with the arrival of the American troops, who needed a trade and services network to serve their military needs. The war prompted the South Vietnamese government gradually deregulated the economy, adopting relatively liberal market policies that caused the local Hoa to exploit local business opportunities as well as extending their economic dominance into the light industry. Throughout the war, Hoa took advantage of U.S. aid and expanded not only their trade and services networks but also their operations in other domains. Ethnic Chinese controlled nearly all the keys sectors of South Vietnam's economy such as trade, industry, banking, communications, and transportation. Of more than $100 billion poured into the war effort by the United States, a disproportionate amount ended up in the hands of the Chinese, effectively enriching the Chinese minority and intensifying the wealth and economic power held in Chinese hands. In 1972, Hoa owned 28 of the 32 banks in South Vietnam, handled more than 60 percent of the total volume of goods imported into South Vietnam through U.S. aid, and comprised 84 percent of the direct and indirect shipping importers. The Hoa controlled nearly two-thirds of the amount of cash in circulation, 80 percent of the processing industry, 80 percent of the fixed assets in manufacturing, 100 percent of the wholesale trade, 50 percent of the retail trade, and 90 percent of the export and import trade. Hoa completely monopolized 100 percent of the grain trade and obtained 80 percent of the credits from South Vietnamese banks, owning 42 out of the 60 companies with a turnover of more than 1 billion piasters including major banks, and accounted for two-thirds of the total annual investments inn the South. Hoa controlled about 75 percent of the economic activity in South Vietnam in 1975, including 100 percent of the domestic wholesale trade, 80 percent of the industry, 70 percent of the foreign trade and presided over half the country's retail trade. Some 117 of the 670 leading Vietnamese business families were of Chinese descent.
In Vietnamese business circles, the Hoa were dubbed as "Crownless kings", "rice kings", "gasoline kings", or "scrap-iron kings". Highly publicized profiles of wealthy Hoa entrepreneurs attracted great public interest and were used to illustrate the Chinese community's strong economic clout. The huge materials supply system ensured maximum support for ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs for whatever goods and services they provided to their clients. The market was allegedly calibrated so as to ensure maximum profits and manipulated prices through import-export and transport systems. Hoa also acted as agents for expatriate Mainland and Overseas Chinese investors outside of Vietnam that act as their underlying providers of economic intelligence. Under the Saigon administration, a rapid influx of Chinese expatriate entrepreneurs from Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan came to South Vietnam for business and investment activities. The Hoa compradore bourgeoisie in South Vietnam also had the economic and political backing of wealthy expatriate Chinese from Taiwan and Hong Kong and Overseas Chinese capitalists in the United States and other countries in Southeast Asia. As the Hoa entrepreneurs in South Vietnam became more financially prosperous, they often pooled large amounts of seed capital and started joint business ventures with expatriate Mainland and Overseas Chinese businessmen and investors from all over the world. In addition, prominent Hoa compradore bourgeoisie often colluding and mingling with Saigon government officials and the South Vietnamese army elite to attain even greater wealth. The most notorious of South Vietnam's Hoa compradore bourgeoisie was Ly Long Than, who reportedly held large assets in 18 major commercial and industrial manufacturing enterprises (Vinatexco and Vinafilco textile factories, Vinatefinco dye-works, Vicasa steel factory, Nakydaco edible oil factory, Rang Dong sea transport company, a real estate company, a plush hotel, an insurance provider, and many restaurants) and sixteen banks including the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank, and the Agriculture Industry Commerce Bank. Foreign investors and visitors doing business in Cholon would recall seeing the plethora of import-export shipping giants, banks, modern high-rise buildings, plush hotels and nightclubs, and restaurants all owned by Hoa businessmen. Other Hoa compradore bourgeoisie capitalists include Hoan Kim Quy, a native of Hanoi where he owned a prominent shipping firm and made his fortune from barbed wire manufacturing, the operation of a large textile and appliance import company and a gold mining and trading firm. He was the Director of the Vitako Company and was a major shareholder in several banks.
The control and regulation of markets was one of the most sensitive and persistent problems faced by the revolutionary government following the beginning of North–South integration in 1975. The government, in its doctrinaire efforts to nationalize 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, Hoa 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. Hoa 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 the country's entire retail trade. Chinese retail shops filled every major Vietnamese town and sea route as rice selling and transportation were one of the most profitable businesses in the country. In addition, the Hoa became economically dominant in Saigon, where Chinese worked as vendors and sold an array of products as an industrious entrepreneurial ethnic group, producing much of the city's economic output. 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, pharmaceuticals and medicine, furniture and cabinet-work were shipped to Vietnam from China. Government officials said the ethnic Chinese in Cholon were also politically active in municipal interests and the Vietnamese Communist Party, but their main interest was entrepreneurship. The Chinese feel secure in business as well as taking priorities in into focusing onto improving their social and cultural lives. About 20 percent of the 6,000 private companies and 150,000 individual small businesses in the city were run by Chinese. The Chinese accounted for more than 30 percent of Ho Chi Minh City's business output due to better equipment used by the businesses.
In South Vietnam, Hoa controlled more than 90 percent of the non-European capital, 80 percent of the food, textile, chemical, metallurgy, engineering, and electrical industries, 100 percent of the wholesale trade, more than 50 percent of the retail trade, and 90 percent of the import-export trade. Economic dominance by the Hoa presided accusations from the indigenous Vietnamese majority who felt that they could not compete with Chinese businesses. With the Hoa's economic clout, it was noted by 1983 that more than 60 percent of southern Vietnam's bourgeoisie were of Chinese extraction. They controlled the entire rice paddy market and obtained up to 80 percent 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 (since 1975)
Following Vietnam's reunification in 1976, the socialist and revolutionary Vietnamese government began using the Hoa as a scapegoat for their socioeconomic woes. The government referred the enterprising Chinese as "bourgeois" and perpetrators of "world capitalism." Brutal draconian policies against the Chinese involved the "Employing the techniques Hitler used to inflame hatred against the Jews" as reported by the U.S. News and World Report's Ray Wallace in 1979 led many Hoa being persecuted by fleeing the country or death laboring in Vietnam's so-called "new economic zones". Despite undergoing many years of being persecuted by the socialist Vietnamese government, the Hoa have to begun to reassert and regain much of their economic clout in the Vietnamese economy. Since the early 1980s, the Vietnamese government has gradually reintegrated the Hoa into mainstream economic development. By 1986, the Chinese were actively encouraged to take part in parlaying the economic development of Vietnam. Hoa have once again begun contributing significantly to the expansion of Vietnamese internal markets and capital accumulation for small-scale industrial business development. In the 1990s, the commercial role and influence of Hoa in Vietnam's economy has rebounded substantially since Doi Moi as the Vietnamese government's post-1988 shift to free market liberalization has led to an astounding resurgence of ethnic Chinese economic dominance across the country's urban areas. Hoa have achieved prominence in the light industry, import-export trade, shopping malls, and private banking sector. In 1996, the Hoa continued to dominate Vietnam's private industry and was responsible for about $4 billion in business output making up one-fifth of Vietnam's total domestic business output.
Today, there are many Hoa communities in Australia, Canada, France, United Kingdom and the United States, where they have reinvigorated old existing Chinatowns. For example, the established Chinatowns of Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Houston, Chicago, Dallas, 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, Guangxi, Hainan, Fujian, Yunnan and Jiangxi. 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.
|Frequencies of the main mtDNA haplogroups and sub-haplogroups by ethnic group|
|Haplogroups: A B C D M (xD,C) N(xB,R9'F,A) R9'F|
|Vietnam (n = 622) |
|Kinh (n = 399) |
|Mong (n = 115) |
|Tay (n = 62) |
|Hoa (n = 23) |
|Nung (n = 21) |
|Source: Figure 1 A, Page 6, Sara Pischedda et al. (2017)|
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