Why is Vietnam’s capital Hanoi and not Ho Chi Minh City?




Vietnam is located south of China, clockwise from China’s Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to the north, the South China Sea to the east, Cambodia to the southwest, and Laos across the Truong Son Mountains to the west.



Vietnam is centered in the north on Hanoi, radiating the Red River Delta, and in the south on Ho Chi Minh City, driving the Mekong Delta. The two most important cities in Vietnam are Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which in turn is superior to Hanoi in terms of population and economic output. Why does Vietnam not have Ho Chi Minh City as its capital, but always has Hanoi as its administrative center?



The straight-line distance from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City is about 1,100 kilometers, about the same distance as from Beijing to Shanghai, or Shanghai to Hong Kong. The country has had the same book and the same car since the Qin Dynasty, and there are still big cultural differences between the north and the south. The north and the south of Vietnam did not start to influence each other until the Qing Dynasty, and the differences between the north and the south are self-evident.



Hanoi has an area of about 3,340 square kilometers and a population of about 8.05 million (2019). Ho Chi Minh City has an area of about 2061 km2 and a population of about 8.99 million. Not only does Ho Chi Minh City have a larger population than Hanoi, it also has a larger economy than Hanoi, accounting for about 20% of Vietnam’s total GDP.



In the north of Vietnam is the Red River Delta (North Vietnam) and in the south is the Mekong Delta (South Vietnam), both of which account for more than 90% of Vietnam’s economy and population. The central mountainous country is narrow and sparsely populated, but also self-contained, and we call it Central Vietnam.



The history of Vietnam as a whole is clearly presented once the history of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and Central Vietnam is sorted out.




[North Vietnam]




North Vietnam, which is also near the Red River Delta, belonged to the Xiang County of the Great Qin Empire during the reign of Qin Shi Huang, who had Tu Sui as his main general and Zhao Tuo as his deputy, and led 500,000 troops across the South Ridge to attack Lingnan. The first of these is the “new” version of the “new” version.



During the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, the state of South Yue was destroyed and Jiaozhou was established. In the north, there are three counties of Jiaotui, Jiuzhen, and Rinnan, which are also part of Jiaozhou, one of the thirteen states of the Han Dynasty, and at this time the north penetrated into Central Vietnam.



The Eastern Han Dynasty continued the pattern of the Western Han Dynasty, and later the Three Kingdoms, the Western Jin Dynasty, and the Eastern Jin Dynasty, which were also basically the same pattern.



During the Tang dynasty, the southern frontier of North Vietnam shrank somewhat, losing roughly the extent of Sunan County, but most of the territory of North Vietnam was still within the Tang dynasty.



During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, there were many vassals in central China, and North Vietnam could be considered a vassal of China, confronting the neighboring Southern Han.



When the Northern Song Dynasty was established, it lost the sixteen states of Youyun in the north, and instead of unifying North Vietnam in the south, it allowed this vassal to establish an independent state, Jiaotui. This was the first time that North Vietnam was carved out of the Chinese map after it had appeared on the Chinese map for more than a thousand years. The regret of the Northern Song Dynasty was left to the Southern Song Dynasty, which still failed to revive North Vietnam. When it came to the Yuan Dynasty, because of its extremely short reign, it did not have time to recover North Vietnam, and the Zhu Yuanzhang people fought over.



Photo – Vietnamese celadon with Chinese style



In the early years of the Ming Dynasty, during the time of Zheng He’s voyage to the West, Ming Chengzu sent his troops south to incorporate North Vietnam into his territory and set up the Jiaotui Chengxuan Bujianji (administrative province). After 400 years, North Vietnam briefly returned to its mother’s embrace.




[China and Vietnam]




At the time of Zheng He’s voyage to the West, the Central Vietnamese state of Cham was an independent state. There was a port of Xinzhou on the coast of Chamshu, which was not a large place, with two chiefs leading 50 or 60 families stationed there. As an important pivot point in the chain of the Maritime Silk Road, the first stop of the Ming fleet abroad, Zheng He attached great importance to this place.



Photo – Vietnamese



After the Daming fleet landed, the king of Chamdo came to meet him on an elephant with more than 500 troops. The king wore a crown of gold flowers on his head, a brocade flower scarf, tortoiseshell footwear, a square belt of eight treasures around his waist, and gold bracelets on all his limbs.




[South Vietnam]




Around the beginning of the Han Dynasty in China, a unified Khmer people arose in the central and southern peninsula. The Khmer were centered in present-day Cambodia and included parts of the territories of Thailand, Laos, and also South Vietnam. The locals identify strongly with the Khmer and do not consider the North Vietnamese to be the same people.



Photo – Hanoi Festival Market



Like the changing dynasties in Central China, the Khmer people went through three dynasties, namely Funan, Chenla and Angkor, and came to China in time for the Ming Dynasty. After the annexation of Central Vietnam by North Vietnam, South Vietnam and North Vietnam had their first clash in terms of territory and culture.



At this time the Khmer dynasty of Angkor was in civil strife, Thailand and Laos became independent from the Angkor dynasty, and Cambodia maintained its Angkorian orthodoxy. But Thailand also continued to encroach on Cambodian territory, and it was at this time that the North Vietnamese took the opportunity to move south to seize Cambodia’s Mekong Delta and annex South Vietnam.



Photo – View of Ho Chi Minh City



The first time in history that North Vietnam and Central Vietnam were integrated was in the early Qing Dynasty. Later, the Jiaqing Emperor gave the country the name “Vietnam”, which is the origin of the name of Vietnam.




[French colonization]




But Cambodia didn’t die under the east-west attack of Vietnam and Thailand, because the French came. Vietnam and Thailand didn’t have much time to be complacent. The French conquered the South Central Peninsula, and called Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos collectively French Indochina.



During World War II, the French colonies in the South Central Peninsula, were all occupied by the Japanese. When the Japanese retreated after World War II, the French came back with a vengeance.



North Vietnam was established as a strong state during World War II, and in 1953, Cambodia declared independence. in 1954, South Vietnam won a huge military victory over France, and with US mediation, France withdrew its troops and South Vietnam gained independent status. But France was not willing to just pull out and managed to drag the United States down to take over South Vietnam.



Photo – U.S. troops deployed in South Vietnam




[North-South partition, U.S. takes over South Vietnam]




In the 1954 Geneva Agreement, North and South Vietnam were bounded by the 17th parallel, with approximately 160,000 square kilometers of territory in North Vietnam, with Hanoi as its capital, and approximately 170,000 square kilometers in South Vietnam, with Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) as its capital. Both sides have the will to annex each other and war is imminent.



When France withdrew from South Vietnam in 1954, the U.S. took the baton and began to increase its troops year by year. at its peak in 1969, U.S. forces reached 543,000. Due to the constant change of defense, a total of 2.7 million U.S. troops participated in the Vietnam War. The U.S. has been in the Vietnam War, with 58,300 killed and 303,600 wounded.



Photo – U.S. troops evacuate South Vietnam in fear



In 1976, North Vietnam declared the reunification of South Vietnam. The country of South Vietnam (Republic of Vietnam) then disappeared from history, having existed for only about 20 years. Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City.




[Red River and Mekong River]




The Red River originates in Dali, Yunnan Province, and is known as the Lishe River upstream. The Red River is about 1280 km long and has an average volume of 2,640 m3/s, equivalent to a provincial river in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.



The Mekong River originates in Yushu, Qinghai and is known as the Lancang River in its upper reaches. The Mekong is about 4,350 kilometers long and has an average water volume of 16,000 cubic meters per second, which can reach half of the Yangtze River and is larger than the Pearl River with plenty of water.



The Mekong Delta has certain geographical advantages over the Red River Delta. But no victor would want to trade Hanoi, which has long been consolidated for years, for Ho Chi Minh City, the capital of a fallen nation.


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