Why were the Viet Minh able to defeat the French by 1954?

Essay by MancyHigh School, 11th grade June 2004

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The Viet Minh defeated the French in 1954 due to the strong leadership of Ho Chi Minh. Vietnam's sense of nationalism and the determination to rid the foreign intruder, and the Viet Minh's political and military tactics were decisive factors which would contribute to their victory at Dien Bien Phu.

When the French colonised in Indochina, they introduced their western way of living to the traditional people of Vietnam. To the French, Vietnam was simply an investment to economically assist their homeland. Therefore, the introduction of western styles was not in the best interest of the Vietnamese people. Three major changes that forced more Vietnamese into poverty were all established over a traditional and functional structure.

Firstly, historic land claims of the inhibitors of the new French colony were ignored. The French, therefore, were able to acquire the most fertile land in the country. More peasants were forced into becoming workers, which resulted in a significant division between the Vietnamese bourgeoisie and working classes.

Secondly, the French modified the Vietnamese education system to incorporate French educational practices. However, the Vietnamese people already had established their own, effective educational system.

Thirdly, a cash economy was established and imposed, which completely altered the nature of the already suitable Vietnamese barter economy. This disadvantaged the Vietnamese in terms of trading, as they did not have the concept of the value of money.

With the French taking control over the already structured lives of the Vietnamese, "The French thus made it easier for Ho Chi Minh to capture the support of the majority of the Vietnamese and harder for themselves later on to find any alternative to Ho and the Communists."

While suffering from French oppression, Vietnam had developed a very strong sense of national identity and wanted independence from France. From...