740.0011 Pacific War/3531

Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Vincent) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)5

Mr. Berle: We have read with keen interest your memorandum of conversation with Mr. Hoppenot and his aide-mémoire, and concur in the opinion expressed in your note.

There is at the bottom of page 1 of the aide-mémoire the following statement which we feel should not pass without comment: “Pour l’Annamite, les Chinois, qui ont si frequemment dans le passé envahi et ravagé leurs régions frontieres, representent Pennemi héreditaire.” This statement is grossly misleading, if not actually false. In 1879 the Annamites sought military aid from China to drive out the French. It was China’s weakness, not Annamite dislike or fear of China, that permitted the French to remain. Recurrent waves of Annamite nationalism have looked to Chinese nationalism for inspiration and guidance, particularly since 1920. Today there is understood to be in southern China a group of Annamites which advocates independence for Indochina and seeks Chinese support. It is our belief that the Annamites, by and large, have for the Chinese a feeling of friendliness and cultural affinity.

The Chinese Government’s attitude regarding the post-war status of Indochina has been cautious. Officials of the Government have disclaimed territorial ambitions but they have at times intimated that China would desire an arrangement which assured access to the sea from Yunnan Province through Tonkin to Haiphong. Independence for Indochina is included in the Chinese Government’s general advocacy of self-government for eastern peoples.

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The post-war status of French Indochina is a matter of speculation: return to France; international control; and even British control. It is our belief that the Annamites are fundamentally capable of self-government and that it should be the objective of any post-war administration to train Annamites to resume the responsibilities of self-government. This objective might be achieved by a continuation of French administration for a definitely limited period or by international administration. There would seem to be no reasonable basis for British administration. In any event, the Chinese Government should be consulted and its views given full consideration in regard to plans for the future of Indochina.

  1. Initialed by the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs (Ballantine).