The Tale of the Conqueror: Historical Memory and Its Impact on Sino-Vietnamese Relations
Keywords:Sino-Vietnamese Relations, Historical Memory, South China Sea, Historical Narratives, Memory Politics, 1979 War, Hegemonic Conflict
Anthony D. Smith once wrote, “one might almost say: no memory, no identity, no nation.” Never has this axiom on the importance of historical memory in politics been clearer than in the complicated, difficult, and history-suffused relationship of China and Vietnam. This paper seeks to examine how those two countries operationalize historical memory to buttress their own state narratives with nationalism that underpins their politics, particularly in regards to each other. A wealth of historical memory couched in centuries of conflict is a major reason why relations between China and Vietnam have been and will likely continue to be problematic. Past events like the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese war (which both sides refuse to discuss, given the political tension still surrounding it) cast long shadows onto the future and current events like disputes about the South China Sea reach back into history. Historical memory, with its chosen glories and traumas, has spun many tales in Sino-Vietnamese relations; some true, others not. And yet, no matter their truth, they all affect what comes next for the two contentious countries.
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