Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 08:15 (GMT+7)
Diplomatic struggle of Vietnam’s feudal dynasties

Diplomatic struggle is one of the important and regular sectors during the nation’s history of countering foreign invaders which contributed to safeguarding the sovereignty, independence of the country. There are several valuable lessons for us to study and apply in the present cause of Fatherland protection.

In our history of national construction and defence, as a small country located adjacent to big countries with hegemonic ambition, Vietnam had to deal and counter against strong powers aiming to invade and conquer the country numerous times. Through the ups and downs of the history, most of the Vietnam’s feudal dynasties succeeded in maintaining independence, peace and self-control with their resilience and indomitable spirit. However, some others, with their feebleness, failed to do so.

Together with military struggle, our ancestors flexibly and effectively applied ingenious and resolute diplomatic policies, thereby showing the thinking, intellect and the vigour of an undaunted nation not accepting to be a vassal. Those policies were applied in a flexible manner suitable to each historical period and deeply imbued by specific features of each dynasty but all aimed to safeguarding the independence and self-control, avoiding invasion and protecting the nation’s territory for a perpetual peace.

The diplomatic art of Vietnam’s feudal dynasties mentioned in this article ranges from the first independent dynasty of Ngo established in 938 until the foundation of the Communist Party of Vietnam. With a nearly 1000 year span and under the rule of different feudal regimes, namely Ngo, Dinh, Pre-Le, Ly, Tran, Ho, Post-Le, Mac, Tay Son, Nguyen, our diplomatic lines have been founded, developed and applied very effectively, becoming a core and regular value in the protection and affirmation of the nation’s independence, self-control, and cultural identity. Some of the most notable features can be listed as follow:

1. Diplomatic struggle is aimed to maintaining independence, self-control and territorial integrity. In the nation’s history of foreign relations, its relation with China is considered the most important and longest one. In this relation, our ancestors attached special importance to diplomatic struggle to safeguard the independence, self-control and sovereignty of the country. This represented the thinking, spirit and vigour of an indomitable nation not accepting to be conquered by any countries, be they big or small.

 Notably, in the Ly Dynasty, to prevent the plan of invasion of the Song dynasty, King Ly Nhan Tong heightened vigilance and employed different methods of diplomatic struggle, particularly the soft diplomatic lines, thereby reducing the tension, curbing the intension of invasion of the Song Dynasty and regaining a vast area of land occupied before in 1079. In return, in 1081, Ly Dynasty handed over to their Chinese counterpart the troops and civilians they captured. Moreover, in 1084, King Ly Nhan Tong also sent one of his mandarins, Le Van Thinh, to China to talk about border matter and succeeded in asking the Song to hand over us three districts.

The Pre-Le Dynasty implemented a number of ingenious policies forcing the Ming to recognise the independence and self-control of Dai Viet. In the Tay Son Dynasty, due to diplomatic struggle, Qing Dynasty had to accept the independence of Vietnam, abandon tribute practice, changed their attitude and respect the independence and culture of Vietnam in the relations between two countries. Especially, diplomatic affairs in the Nguyen Dynasty forced the Qing to recognise the independent and sovereign feudal state of Vietnam instead of the previous “An Nam” name and respect the land and sea territories of our country.

2. Implementing flexibly and creatively diplomatic policies and measures. Facing the hegemonic ideology of Chinese feudal monarchies which always considered smaller countries as vassals and ordination and tribute mechanism as a must, Vietnam’s feudal dynasties implemented very flexible diplomatic policies to keep friendship with their China’s counterparts and peace for the country. Notably, we implemented the policy of “Emperor internal, king external”. This means, externally, we paid tribute and made concession to China in exchange for independence, sovereignty and peace for the country; internally, our kings proclaimed themselves as “Emperor” to exercise their rule over the country. In 997, taking advantage of the death of the Song King and his newly appointed king by Song Dynasty, Le Hoan sent his ambassador bringing along gift to China. As a result, Song King highly appreciated and implemented favourable policies for our country. In the Pre-Le Dynasty, to prevent retaliation and reoccupation plan of the Ming Dynasty, Le Loi made an important concession as clearing his blockage and let the enemies free. In addition, he also provided the enemy with boats and food so that Ming troops returned their home safely.

Especially, in the Tran Dynasty, even though beating the Yuan troops three times and firmly protecting the northern border line, the Kings of Tran Dynasty still implemented soft diplomatic lines with the Yuan to prevent them from invading our country again, thereby safeguarding the dynasty in 175 years. In addition, our ancestors also employed diversion, decoy and negotiation in diplomatic affairs. As in Tay Son Dynasty, King Quang Trung sent his stuntman to China for a peace talk to prevent their reprisal intention. Those policies deeply manifested our humanitarian treatment and the flexible and ingenious foreign policies of our ancestors in history.

3. Combing internal policies with external ones to create an overall strength for Fatherland protection. Fully aware of the relation between internal policies and external affairs, feudal dynasties of Vietnam always paid attention to the combination of both to mobilise the resources of the entire people and gather forces for national defence. Internally, they carried out agriculture-stimulating and people easing policies. Nguyen Dynasty sent their troops to explore the uninhabited islands, collect the treasures, and exercise control over the Spratly and Paracel islands. To foster cultural and educational development, Ly Dynasty built the Temple of Literature, held courses and examinations to employ the talented people and preserve the cultural identities of the nation to avoid assimilation. In economic and defence fields, they paid attention to the dual policies which emphasize both economic production and national defence to foster economic development, make the country prosperous and strong and generate potentials for deterrence and for resistant war in the event of being invaded. In foreign affairs, our ancestors always heightened vigilance, kept secret and prevented foreign agents to infiltrate into the country while taking every opportunity to strengthen cooperative and friendly relations with neigbouring countries to prevent the risk of war, safeguard our sovereignty and create peaceful environment for the enduring existence, development and prosperity of the dynasties and the country.

The above mentioned contents in the foreign policies for national defence of the feudal dynasties of Vietnam in the past should be further studied and applied in the present foreign affairs in  general and in defence diplomacy in particular to contribute to protecting the country soon and from afar by peaceful means.

Colonel Nguyen Duc Phu, MA.

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