I am a passionate scholar pursuing my PhD in the School of History at the University of Leeds. My research focuses on the intricate dynamics between ethnic minority groups and the state in Vietnam during the historically significant Second Indochina War (1955-1975). Prior to embarking on this academic journey, I had the privilege of graduating from the distinguished University of California, Irvine (USA) in 2019. There, I earned a BA degree with honors in International Studies and History, achieving the esteemed distinction of Magna Cum Laude and being inducted into the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa society. During my time at UC Irvine, I undertook an exceptional research endeavor for my honors thesis, supervised by Professor Robert M. Uriu and Professor Philip C. McCarty. The project delved into Vietnam's foreign policy towards China following the Oil Rig Incident in 2014. My dedication and scholarly contribution were recognized through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program Fellowship. Further enriching my educational pursuits, I ventured into the field of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, completing a comprehensive Master's program at the same institution. Through this experience, I actively engaged in diverse entrepreneurial initiatives, fostering my ability to think creatively and approach problem-solving with an entrepreneurial mindset. Building upon this foundation, I further expanded my academic horizons at the esteemed University of California, San Diego (USA). There, I obtained my second Master's degree in International Affairs/International Relations in 2022, honing my expertise in global matters and diplomatic relations with particular focus on Asia and the Pacific region. I successfully concluded my capstone project with supervision from two prestigious Political Science scholars Professor Barbara F. Walter and Professor Stephan Haggard, which aimed to provide insights into the phenomenon of US support for authoritarian regimes. In this study, I specifically focused on South Vietnam and South Korea, employing them as two compelling case studies. These educational milestones have equipped me with a profound understanding of historical and contemporary issues, empowering me to undertake rigorous research and contribute meaningfully to the field of history and international relations.
My project attempts to explore the extent to which “microconflicts” starting from 1955 and precipitated by ethnic minority groups explain the collapse of the government of the South and the birth of united Vietnam in 1975. That is, I argue that the microconflicts instigated by ethnic minority groups within the southern territory of Vietnam were a direct consequence of the policies implemented by the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) government. The project emphasizes that these policies implemented under the First Republic (1955-1963), initially presented as integral to a “nation-building” endeavor, were later regarded as “assimilationist” policies that exhibited hostility towards ethnic minority communities primarily residing in the Central Highlands and Mekong Delta regions. Placing emphasis on archival research at the Vietnam National Archive II and III (VNA-II and VNA-III), the project also posits that the RVN's endeavor to incorporate and rally support from ethnic minority groups against the infiltration efforts of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) ultimately proved futile, culminating in their defeat in 1975.
As there is a limited number of literature in History focusing on the roles of ethnic minority groups during the war, my research is to fill in that gap. It is unique in a way that it draws primarily on sources housed in VNA-II and VNA-III, especially its enormous and still largely untapped trove of Vietnamese-language documents on ethnic minority under the republic. These two archives built by and for the postcolonial state store central, regional, and local reports dating from 1920 [VNA-II which is specifically for housing materials of the South Vietnamese government] and 1954 [VNA-III which is specifically for housing materials of the DRV]. Consulting archival sources required thinking carefully about their content and the conditions under which they were produced, stored, and accessed. Considering the unexplored nature of RVN policy documents in archival repositories, which hold paramount significance for the research inquiries of this project, I scrupulously formulate my research questions through a methodical process of categorizing and examining these archival policy documents:
- Why did the state policies implemented during the First and Second Republics (1955-1975), initially presented as a progressive "nation-building" process, fall short in gaining support from ethnic minority populations?
- What were the significant contributions of agencies dedicated to ethnic minority affairs, such as the Ministry of The Development of Ethnic Minorities and the Council of Ethnic Minorities, in executing these policies? Additionally, how did their implementation prove to be ineffective in achieving the desired outcomes?
- In what way did the unsuccessful state policies directed towards ethnic minority populations contribute to the eventual downfall of the Saigon government in 1975?
- Did the policies implemented by the DRV towards ethnic minority communities residing in both the northern and southern regions prove successful in securing support from these minority populations? This additional layer of inquiry reinforces my argument regarding the failure of the South in garnering support from ethnic minority populations.
The project also applies Shawn Mchale’s logic of political fragmentation in his most recent book The First Vietnam War: Violence, Sovereignty, and the Fracture of the South, 1945-56 with an attempt to compare and contrast how the Khmer, Cham, and Chinese ethnic minorities in the Mekong Delta played their role in the war. That is, the “double-fracture” of the Viet Minh, a cohesive national coalition formed with the objective of attaining independence for the DRV during the First Indochina War, with one faction aligned themselves with the communists and vehemently opposed the French, while another faction strategically collaborated with the French, all with the ultimate goal of achieving independence. Simultaneously, a tumultuous eruption of Khmer-Vietnamese ethnic violence unfolded, driven by its own unique dynamics. This intricate duality of fractures significantly molded the political landscape of the southern region, leaving a profound impact that reverberated until 1975 and beyond. McHale's book concludes its argument in 1954, focusing on the First Indochina War, whereas my project takes a broader scope, spanning from 1955 to 1975, encapsulating the era of the Second Indochina War, commonly known as the Vietnam War. Building upon his reasoning, I delve into the intricacies of this subject matter and investigate its profound influence on the ultimate outcome of the war. That is, I firmly contend that bringing ethnic minorities in the literature proves indispensable when elucidating the ramifications of the Vietnam War. The multifarious political disintegration and unrelenting turmoil precipitated by minority populations not only bespeak their enduring historical predicaments but also underscore the RVN's inadequacies in resolving these deep-rooted concerns.
An intriguing aspect of my research lies in the revelation of a novel connection between political theory and the downfall of the RVN, with a specific emphasis on the role played by ethnic minorities. Notably, I use the political scientist Stathis Kalyvas’s ethnic war model to reframe how we think about the Vietnam War. Due to its complexity, the Vietnam War is characterized as “a civil and an interstate war as well as an irregular and a conventional war involving a variety of actors over time”. According to Kalyvas, even though the “high degree of government control” and repression generated violence and fragmentation among different ethnic groups and organizations throughout the country, the Vietnam War overall does not conform to an ethnic war model. The ethnic dimension mainly contributes to the complexity, outcome, and consequence of the war rather than a stand-alone cause and effect. By employing the ethnic war model and drawing upon McHale's astute reasoning regarding political and ethnic fragmentation, I put forth a compelling argument. While acknowledging that the Vietnam War cannot be unequivocally categorized as an ethnic conflict due to the inadequacy of the RVN's state policies in engendering widespread violence and fragmentation along ethnic lines, I contend that these very factors exert a profound influence on the overarching structural outcome of the war. In the next section, I will expound upon seminal literary contributions delving into the intricate interplay between ethnic minorities and state dynamics amid the tumultuous wartime era. Furthermore, I shall elucidate the profound pertinence of these scholarly endeavors to my own project, diligently identifying their limitations, and articulating my proactive approach in bridging the existing gaps.
In addition to my primary research focus, I am deeply passionate about several other areas within the realm of academia. These include:
Political History and Historiography: I have a keen interest in exploring the intricate nuances of political history and the methodologies employed in the field of historiography. By delving into these subjects, I aim to enhance our understanding of historical events and their broader implications.
History of Modern Southeast Asia, with a specific emphasis on Vietnam: The rich and complex history of Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, captivates me. I am dedicated to unraveling the historical narratives and examining the societal, political, and cultural transformations that have shaped the region throughout the modern era.
Politics of Vietnam: An in-depth comprehension of the political landscape of Vietnam is crucial to my research. I am committed to studying the political dynamics, ideologies, institutions, and policies that have influenced the nation's development and its relations with other actors on the global stage.
International Relations Theory and Security Studies: I have a strong inclination towards exploring various theoretical frameworks within international relations. By critically engaging with concepts and theories, I strive to shed light on the intricate dynamics of global politics, particularly in relation to security issues.
International Relations of Asia and the Pacific: Given the increasing importance of Asia and the Pacific region in global affairs, I am deeply interested in comprehending the intricate web of relationships and power dynamics within this area. By studying the international relations of Asia and the Pacific, I seek to gain insights into the interactions between states, regional organizations, and non-state actors.
US Foreign Policy towards East Asia: The United States' foreign policy towards East Asia holds significant implications for regional stability and global dynamics. I am particularly fascinated by examining the historical context, policy decisions, and geopolitical considerations that have shaped US engagement with East Asian countries.
These diverse areas of interest allow me to engage with a broad range of topics, fostering a comprehensive understanding of historical, political, and international affairs.
- BA International Studies - UC Irvine
- BA History - UC Irvine
- Master of Innovation and Entrepreneurship - UC Irvine
- Master of International Affairs - UC San Diego