his May 22, 1954 file photo shows Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who commands the Communist-led Vietminh forces currently waging war against French Union Troops in Indochina
Fidel Castro and Vo Nguyen Giap
General Vo Nguyen Giap in the cover of TIME Magazine
Vo Nguyen Giap in 10 July 2008
In this Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 file photo, Hanoi Communist Party chief Pham Quang Nghi, center right, shakes hands with Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap in a hospital bed in Hanoi, Vietnam, prior to the start of celebrations for the city's 1,000th birthday
Võ Nguyên Giáp (born August 25, 1911) is a prominent Vietnamese officer in the Vietnam People’s Army and a politician. He was a principal commander in two wars: the First Indochina War (1946–1954) and the Vietnam War (1960–1975). He participated in the following historically significant battles: Lạng Sơn (1950); Hòa Bình (1951–1952); Điện Biên Phủ (1954); the Tết Offensive (1968); the Easter Offensive (1972); and the final Hồ Chí Minh Campaign (1975). He was also a journalist, an interior minister in President Hồ Chí Minh’s Việt Minh government, the military commander of the Việt Minh, the commander of the Vietnam People’s Army (PAVN), and defense minister. He also served as Politburo member of the Lao Động Party.
He was the most prominent military commander, beside Hồ Chí Minh, during the war and was responsible for major operations and leadership until the war ended.
Giáp was born in the village of An Xá, Quảng Bình Province. His father and mother, Võ Quang Nghiêm and Nguyen Thi Kien, worked the land, rented some to neighbors, and lived a relatively comfortable lifestyle. At 14, Giáp became a messenger for the Haiphong Power Company and shortly thereafter joined the Tân Việt Cách Mạng Đảng, a romantically styled revolutionary youth group. Two years later, he entered Quốc Học (also known in English as the “National Academy”), a French-run lycée in Huế, from which two years later, according to his own account, he was expelled for having organized a student strike. Although he has denied it, Giáp is said to have also spent a few years in the prestigious Hanoian Lycée Albert Sarraut, where the local elite was educated to serve the colonial regime. He was apparently in the same class as Phạm Văn Đồng, future Prime Minister, who has also denied having studied at Albert Sarraut, and Bảo Đại, the last emperor of Annam. In 1933, at the age of 22, Giáp enrolled in the University of Hanoi.
Giáp was educated at the University of Hanoi where he gained a bachelor’s degree in politics, economics and law. After graduation, he taught history for one year at the Thăng Long School in Hanoi. Throughout most of the 1930s, Giáp remained a schoolteacher and a journalist, writing articles for Tien Dang, while actively participating in various revolutionary movements. He joined the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1931 and took part in several demonstrations against French rule in Indochina as well as having assisted in founding the Democratic Front in 1933. All the while, Giáp was a dedicated reader of military history and philosophy, revering Napoleon I and Sun Tzu (Vietnamese: Tôn Vũ). Võ Nguyên Giáp was arrested in 1930 and served 13 months of a two-year sentence at Lao Bảo Prison. During the Popular Front years in France, he founded Hon Tre Tap Moi, an underground socialist newspaper. He also founded the French-language paper Le Travail (on which Phạm Văn Đồng also worked). In 1939 he married Nguyễn Thị Quang Thái, another socialist. She bore him a daughter, Hong Anh. When France outlawed communism during the same year, Giáp fled to China together with Phạm Văn Đồng where he joined up with Hồ Chí Minh, the leader of the Vietnam Independence League (Việt Minh). While he was in exile, his wife, sister, father and sister-in-law were arrested, tortured and later executed by the French colonial authorities. His daughter is also believed to have perished in prison due to neglect.
He returned to Vietnam in 1944, and between then and 1945 he helped organize resistance to the Japanese occupation forces. When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, the Japanese decided to allow nationalist groups to take over public buildings while keeping the French in prison as a way of causing additional trouble to the Allies in the postwar period. The Việt Minh and other groups took over various towns and formed a provisional government in which Giáp was named Minister of the Interior.
In September 1945, Hồ Chí Minh announced the formation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Unknown to the Việt Minh, President Harry S. Truman, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin had already decided the future of postwar Vietnam at a summit meeting at Potsdam. They agreed that the country would be occupied temporarily to get the Japanese out; the northern half would be under the control of the Nationalist Chinese and the southern half under the British.
After the Second World War (WWII), France attempted to reestablish control over Vietnam. In January 1946, Great Britain agreed to remove her troops, and, later that year, the Chinese left Vietnam in exchange for a promise from France that she would give up her rights to territory in China.
In late 1945, after the defeat of Japan in WWII, the French returned to reclaim Indochina. Sporadic fighting quickly became a general war between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Việt Minh) and the French on December 19, 1946. The first few years of the war involved mostly a low-level, semi-conventional resistance fight against the French occupying forces. However, after the Chinese communists reached the northern border of Vietnam in 1949 and the Vietnamese destruction of French posts there, the conflict turned into a conventional war between two armies equipped with modern weapons supplied by the United States and the Soviet Union.
French Union forces included colonial troops from many parts of the French former empire (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Vietnamese ethnic minorities), French professional troops and units of the French Foreign Legion. The use of metropolitan (i.e. from France itself) recruits was forbidden by the governments to prevent the war from becoming even more unpopular at home. It was called the "dirty war" (la sale guerre) by supporters of the Left in France and intellectuals (including Sartre) during the Henri Martin Affair in 1950.
When it became clear that France was becoming involved in a long drawn-out and so far not very successful war, the French government tried to negotiate an agreement with the Việt Minh. They offered to help set up a national government and promised that they would eventually grant Vietnam its independence. Hồ Chí Minh and the other leaders of the Việt Minh did not trust the word of the French and continued the war.
French public opinion continued to move against the war. There were five main reasons for this:
Between 1946 and 1952 many French troops had been killed, wounded, or captured.
France was attempting to build up her economy after the devastation of the Second World War. The cost of the war had so far been twice what they had received from the United States under the Marshall Plan.
The war had lasted for seven years and there was still no sign of an outright French victory.
A growing number of people in France had reached the conclusion that their country did not have any moral justification for being in Vietnam.
Parts of the French left supported the goals of the Việt Minh to form a socialist state.
While growing stronger in Vietnam, the Việt Minh also expanded the war and lured the French to spread their force to remote areas such as Laos. In December 1953, Navarre set up a defensive complex at Ðiện Biên Phủ, which attempted to block the aids transportation route passing through Laos. He surmised that in an attempt to reestablish the route to Laos, Giáp would be forced to organize a mass attack on the French forces at Ðiện Biên Phủ, where he hoped to have advantage in a conventional battle.
Giáp took up the French challenge. While the French dug in at their outpost, the Việt Minh were also preparing the battlefield. Divergent attacks in other areas, diverted French air logistics elsewhere. Giáp ordered his men to secretly pull their artillery by hand, 24 105mm howitzers to hollows on the inner hill sides of Ðiện Biên Phủ for providing them cover from French aircraft and counter-attacks from French artillery.
With antiaircraft guns supplied by the Soviet Union, Giáp was able to severely restrict the ability of the French to supply their forces, and forced them to inaccurately drop supplies from high altitude to the besieged areas. Giáp chose to surround the outpost and ordered his men to dig a trench system that encircled the French. From the outer trench, other trenches and tunnels were dug inward towards the center. The Việt Minh were now able to move in close to the French troops defending Ðiện Biên Phủ.
When Navarre realized that he was trapped, he appealed for help. The United States was approached and some advisers suggested the use of tactical nuclear weapons against the Việt Minh, but this was never seriously considered. Another suggestion was that conventional air raids would be enough to scatter Giáp’s troops. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, however, refused to intervene unless the British and other Western allies agreed. Churchill declined, claiming that he wanted to wait for the outcome of the peace negotiations taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, before becoming involved in escalating the war.
On 13 March 1954, Giáp launched his offensive. For 54 days, the Việt Minh seized position after position, pushing the French until they occupied only a small area of Ðiện Biên Phủ. Colonel Piroth, the artillery commander, blamed himself for the destruction of French artillery superiority. He told his fellow officers that he had been "completely dishonoured" and committed suicide with a hand grenade. General De Castries, French Commander in Ðiện Biên Phủ, was captured alive in his bunker. The French surrendered on May 7. Their casualties totaled over 2,200 men, 5,600 wounded and 11,721 taken prisoner. The following day the French government announced that it intended to withdraw from Vietnam.
Giáp remained commander in chief of the People’s Army of Vietnam throughout the war against the United States. During the conflict, he oversaw the expansion of the PAVN from a small self-defense force into a large conventional army, equipped by its communist allies with considerable amounts of relatively sophisticated weaponry, although this did not in general match the weaponry of the Americans. Giáp has often been assumed to have been the planner of the Tết Offensive of 1968, but this appears not to have been the case. The best evidence indicates that he disliked the plan, and when it became apparent that Lê Duẩn and Văn Tiến Dũng were going to push it through despite his doubts, he left Vietnam for medical treatment in Hungary, and did not return until after the offensive had begun. Although this attempt to spark a general uprising against the southern government failed militarily, it turned into a significant political victory by convincing the American politicians and public that their commitment to South Vietnam could no longer be open-ended. Giáp later argued that the Tết Offensive was not a "purely military strategy" but rather part of a "general strategy, an integrated one, at once military, political and diplomatic."
Peace talks between representatives from the United States, the Republic of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the NLF began in Paris in January 1969. President Richard M. Nixon, like President Lyndon B. Johnson before him, was convinced that a U.S. withdrawal was necessary, but five years would pass before the last American troops left South Vietnam. In October 1972, the negotiators came close to agreeing to a formula to end the conflict. The plan was that the last U.S. troops would withdraw from Vietnam in exchange for a cease-fire and the return of American prisoners held by Hà Nội. It was also agreed that the governments in North and South Vietnam would remain in power until new elections could be arranged to unite the whole country. Although the casualties in the Nguyễn Huệ Offensive during the spring of 1972 was high, PAVN was able to gain a foothold in territorial Southern Vietnam from which to launch future offensives.
Although U.S. troops would leave the country, PAVN troops could remain in their positions in the south. In an effort to put pressure on both North and South Vietnam during the negotiations, President Nixon ordered a new series of air raids on Hà Nội and Hải Phòng, codenamed Operation Linebacker II. Following the failure of the operation, on 27 January 1973, Nixon agreed to sign the Paris Peace Accords that had been proposed in October.
The last U.S. combat troops left in March 1973. Despite the treaty, there was no letup in fighting. South Vietnamese massive advances against the [[Vietcong|NLF] controlled teritorry inspired their opponents to change their strategy. In March, communist leaders met in Hanoi for a series of meetings to hammer out plans for a massive offensive against the South. In June 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Case-Church Amendment to prohibit further U.S. military involvement, so the PAVN Hochiminh trail were able to operate normally without fear of U.S. bombing.
South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu appealed to Nixon for continued financial aid. Nixon was sympathetic but the U.S. Congress was not, and the move was blocked. At its peak, U.S. aid to South Vietnam had reached $30 billion a year. By 1974, it had fallen to US$1 billion. Starved of funds, Thiệu’s government had difficulty paying even the wages of its army, and desertions became a problem. On the other side, the PAVN was also has to bring up obsolette equipment such as the SU-100 tank destroyers to prepare for their final offensive.
Some sources claim that right after the war, Giáp was made into an outcast. The Politburo was suspicious of Giáp’s intentions, and feared his influence, because Giáp had a high reputation after the war. Sometime before 1968, Lê Duẩn, the future general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, accused Giáp of being a Soviet mole. Despite these accusations, Giáp played a critical role in all military decisions at the end of the war. Some VC Politburo's ex-members even said: "None of his proposals were refused by the Politburo throughout the war."
In the spring of 1975, Giáp sent four star General Văn Tiến Dũng to launch the deadliest attack on Buôn Ma Thuột. This town sat at the intersection of the important routes of Central Highland and it was a weak point for the enemy forces. The sudden strike frightened the southern leaders and generals, worsened the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) morale, and shook the ARVN defence system.
Giáp sent General Lê Trọng Tấn to launch series of attacks against Đà Nẵng, where nearly 100,000 well-equipped troops of the best southern divisions were camped. In three days, Đà Nẵng was seized. Giáp appointed General Văn Tiến Dũng as 1st Commander and General Lê Trọng Tấn as 2nd Commander of the "Hồ Chí Minh Campaign", a massive conventional operation that utilized armor and heavy artillery. The goal of the operation was to take over Saigon from two directions, Central Highland and coastal no.1 highway. These attacks were done in coordination with General Lê Đức Anh and Snr. Lt. General Trần Văn Trà. After important areas such as Buôn Ma Thuột, Đà Nẵng and Huế were lost in March, panic swept through the ARVN and its high command. President Thiệu attempted to abandon the northern half of the nation while pulling his troops back to defensive positions in the south.
Under guidelines from Giáp, General Lê Trọng Tấn’s force was first to enter Saigon and Tấn captured Dương Văn Minh alive. Minh was the last president of the Vietnamese Republic in the capital of Saigon on 30 April 1975. Soon afterward, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was established. In the new government, Giáp maintained his position as Minister of National Defense and he was made Deputy Prime Minister in July 1976. He was removed from this post at the Defense Ministry in 1980 and was also removed from his position in the Politburo in 1982. He remained on the Central Committee and Deputy Prime Minister until 1991.
Giáp has also written extensively on military theory and strategy. His works include Big Victory, Great Task; People's Army, People's War; "Ðiện Biên Phủ; and We Will Win. Historian Stanley Karnow described him as ranking with "Wellington, Grant, Lee, Rommel, and MacArthur in the pantheon of great military leaders".
In 1995, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara met Giáp to ask what happened on 4 August 1964 in the second Gulf of Tonkin Incident. "Absolutely nothing", Giáp replied. The incident, that served President Johnson as a pretext to step up U.S. involvement in the conflict, had been imaginary, although it had not started as a deliberate fabrication.
In 2010, Giáp became a prominent critic of bauxite mining in Vietnam following government plans to open large areas of the Central Highlands to the practice. Giáp indicated that a 1980s study led experts to advise against mining due to severe ecological damage.
Interview with Vo Nguyen Giap, Viet Minh Commander:
Q: Was Diên Bin Phû a conventional military victory or was it a victory for military warfare?
Giap: The victory at Diên Bin Phû was a victory for the people. But then, of course, while the concept of a people's war and guerrilla warfare are not entirely separate, they are separate nonetheless. In this case, it was the people's war that was victorious. And guerrilla warfare was one aspect of that people's war. It's all quite complicated.... What is the people's war? Well, in a word, it's a war fought for the people by the people, whereas guerrilla warfare is simply a combat method. The people's war is more global in concept. It's a synthesized concept. A war which is simultaneously military, economic and political, and is what we in France would call "synthesized." There's guerrilla warfare and there's large-scale tactical warfare, fought by large units.
Q: What was new about the idea of the "People's War"?
Giap: It was a war for the people by the people. FOR the people because the war's goals are the people's goals -- goals such as independence, a unified country, and the happiness of its people.... And BY the people -- well that means ordinary people -- not just the army but all people.
We know it's the human factor, and not material resources, which decide the outcome of war. That's why our people's war, led by Ho Chi Minh, was on such a large scale. It took in the whole population.
Q: What do you think about the significance of Diên Bin Phû for the world?
Giap: The history of the Vietnamese people goes back thousands of years. During that time we've repelled thousands of invaders. Only, in former times the countries that tried to invade us were on the same economic level as we were. Theirs, like ours, was a feudal society. That was the case, for example, when we fought the Chinese in the 13th century. But Diên Bin Phû was a victory in another era. What I mean is that in the latter half of the 19th century, when western imperialism divided the world into colonies, a new problem emerged. How could a weak, economically backwards people ever hope to regain its freedom? How could it hope to take on a modern western army, backed by the resources of a modern capitalist state? And that's why it took us 100 years to fight off the French and French imperialism. Diên Bin Phû was the first great decisive victory after 100 years of war against French imperialism and U.S. interventionism. That victory that put an end to the war and marked the end of French aggression. From an international point of view, it was the first great victory for a weak, colonized people struggling against the full strength of modern Western forces. This is why it was the first great defeat for the West. It shook the foundations of colonialism and called on people to fight for their freedom -- it was the beginning of international civilization.
Q: Was Diên Bin Phû an easy victory because the French made so many mistakes?
Giap: It's not as simple as that. We believed that in the French camp, French general staff and the military chiefs were well informed. They'd weighed up the pros and cons, and according to their forecasts, Diên Bin Phû was impregnable. It has to be said that at the beginning of the autumn of '53, for example, when our political headquarters were planning our autumn and winter campaigns, there was no mention of Diên Bin Phû. Why? Because, the Navarre plan didn't mention it either. They had a whole series of maneuvers planned.
For us, the problem was that Navarre wanted to retain the initiative whereas we wanted to seize it. There is a contradiction that exists in a war of aggression whereby you have to disperse your forces to occupy a territory but rally your mobile forces for offensive action. We took advantage of this contradiction and forced Navarre to disperse his forces. That's how it all started. We ordered our troops to advance in a number of directions, directions of key importance to the enemy although their presence wasn't significant. So the enemy had no choice but to disperse their troops. We sent divisions north, northwest, toward the center, towards Laos; other divisions went in other directions. So to safeguard Laos and the northwest, Navarre had to parachute troops into Diên Bin Phû, and that's what happened at Diên Bin Phû. Before then, no one had heard of Diên Bin Phû. But afterwards, well that's history, isn't it? French General Staff only planned to parachute in sufficient troops to stop us advancing on the northwest and Laos. Little by little, they planned to transform Diên Bin Phû into an enormous concentration camp, a fortified camp, the most powerful in Indochina. They planned to draw our forces, break us, crush us, but the opposite took place. They'd wanted a decisive battle and that's exactly what they got at Diên Bin Phû -- except that it was decisive for the Vietnamese and not for the French.
Q: Before Diên Bin Phû, do you think the French ever imagined you could defeat them?
Giap: Well, everyone at Diên Bin Phû, from the French generals and representatives of the French government to the American generals and the commanding admiral of the Pacific Fleet, agreed that Diên Bin Phû was impregnable. Everyone agreed that it was impossible to take. The French and then the Americans underestimated our strength. They had better weapons and enormous military and economic potential. They never doubted that victory would be theirs. And yet, just when the French believed themselves to be on the verge of victory, everything collapsed around them. The same happened to the Americans in the Spring of '65. Just when Washington was about to proclaim victory in the South, the Americans saw their expectations crumble. Why? Because it wasn't just an army they were up against but an entire people -- an entire people.
So the lesson is that however great the military and economic potential of your adversary, it will never be great enough to defeat a people united in the struggle for their fundamental rights. That's what we've learned from all this.
Q: Why was the National Liberation Front so successful in expanding the areas it controlled between 1960 and 1965?
Giap: Throughout our long history, whenever we've felt ourselves to be threatened by the enemy, our people have closed in the ranks. Millions of men, united, have called for "Unification above all," for "Victory above all".... The National Liberation Front was victorious because it managed to unite most of the people and because its politics were just.
Q: Did you change your tactics at all when the American troops began to arrive after 1965?
Giap: Of course, but even so, it was still a people's war. And, a people's war is characterized by a strategy that is more than simply military. There's always a synthesized aspect to the strategy, too. Our strategy was at once military, political, economic, and diplomatic, although it was the military component which was the most important one.
In a time of war, you have to take your lead from the enemy. You have to know your enemy well. When your enemy changes his strategy or tactics, you have to do the same. In every war, a strategy is always made up of a number of tactics that are considered to be of great strategic importance, so you have to try to smash those tactics. If we took on the cavalry, for example, we'd do everything we could to smash that particular tactic. It was the same when the enemy made use of strategic weapons.... And, when the Americans tried to apply their "seek and destroy" tactic, we responded with our own particular tactic that was to make their objective unattainable and destroy them instead. We had to...force the enemy to fight the way we wanted them to fight. We had to force the enemy to fight on unfamiliar territory.
Q: Was your Têt offensive in 1968 a failure?
Giap: As far as we're concerned, there's no such thing as a purely military strategy. So it would be wrong to speak of Têt in purely military terms. The offensive was three things at the same time: military, political, and diplomatic. The goal of the war was de-escalation. We were looking to de-escalate the war. Thus, it would have been impossible to separate our political strategy from our military strategy. The truth is that we saw things in their entirety and knew that in the end, we had to de-escalate the war. At that point, the goal of the offensive was to try to de-escalate the war.
Q: And did the de-escalation succeed?
Giap: Your objective in war can either be to wipe out the enemy altogether or to leave their forces partly intact but their will to fight destroyed. It was the American policy to try and escalate the war. Our goal in the '68 offensive was to force them to de-escalate, to break the American will to remain in the war....
We did this by confronting them with repeated military, as well as political and diplomatic victories. By bringing the war to practically all the occupied towns, we aimed to show the Americans and the American people that it would be impossible for them to continue with the war. Essentially, that's how we did it.
Q: You are familiar with those famous pictures of April 1975, of American helicopters flying away from the American Embassy. What do those pictures mean to you?
Giap: It was as we expected. It marked the end of the American neo-colonial presence in our country. And, it proved that when a people are united in their fight for freedom, they will always be victorious.
When I was young, I had a dream that one day I'd see my country free and united. That day, my dream came true. When the political bureau reunited Hanoi with Laos, there were first reports of evacuation. Then the Saigon government capitulated. It was like turning the page on a chapter of history. The streets in Hanoi were full of people.
The pictures of the helicopters were, in one way, a concrete symbol of the victory of the People's war against American aggression. But, looked at another way, it's proof that the Pentagon could not possibly predict what would happen. It revealed the sheer impossibility for the Americans to forecast the outcome. Otherwise, they would have planned things better, wouldn't they.
The reality of history teaches us that not even the most powerful economic and military force can overcome a resistance of a united people, a people united in their struggle for their international rights. There is a limit to power. I think the Americans and great superpowers would do well to remember that while their power may be great, it is inevitably limited.... Since the beginning of time, whether in a socialist or a capitalist country, the things you do in the interests of the people stand you in good stead, while those which go against the interest of the people will eventually turn against you. History bears out what I say.
We were the ones who won the war and the Americans were the ones who were defeated, but let's be precise about this. What constitutes victory? The Vietnamese people never wanted war; they wanted peace. Did the Americans want war? No, they wanted peace, too. So, the victory was a victory for those people in Vietnam and in the USA who wanted peace. Who, then, were the ones defeated? Those who were after aggression at any price. And that's why we're still friends with the people of France and why we've never felt any enmity for the people of America....
Q: Who invented the idea of People's war? Whose idea was it originally?
Giap: It was originally a product of the creative spirit of the people. Let me tell you the legend of Phu Dong...which everyone here knows well. It's a legend set in prehistoric times. The enemy was set to invade, and there was a three-year-old boy called Phu Dong who was growing visibly bigger by the minute. He climbed on to an iron horse and, brandishing bamboo canes as weapons, rallied the people. The peasants, the fisherman, everyone answered his call, and they won the war. It's just a legend and like popular literature, the content is legendary, but it still reflects the essence of the people's thinking. So, popular warfare existed even in legends, and it remained with us over the centuries.
Q: Why do you think Vietnam is almost the only country in the world that has defeated America? Why only Vietnam?
Giap: Speaking as a historian, I'd say that Vietnam is rare. As a nation, Vietnam was formed very early on. It is said that, in theory, a nation can only be formed after the arrival of Capitalism -- according to Stalin's theory of the formation of nations, for instance. But, our nation was formed very early, before the Christian era. Why? Because the risk of aggression from outside forces led all the various tribes to band together. And then there was the constant battle against the elements, against the harsh winter conditions that prevail here. In our legends, this struggle against the elements is seen as a unifying factor, a force for national cohesion. This, combined with the constant risk of invasion, made for greater cohesion and created a tradition -- a tradition that gave us strength.
The Vietnamese people in general tend to be optimistic. Why? Because they've been facing up to vicissitudes for thousands of years, and for thousands of years they've been overcoming them.
Q: What was the contribution of Marxism and Leninism to your theory of a People's War?
The People's War in Vietnam pre-dated the arrival of Marxism and Leninism, both of which contributed something when they did arrive, of course.
When the USSR collapsed, we predicted that 60 to 80 percent of our imports and exports budget would be eliminated because we depended upon aid from the USSR and other socialist countries. So people predicted the collapse of Vietnam. Well, we're still hanging on and slowly making progress. I was asked what I thought of Perestroika, so I answered that I agreed with the change and thought it was necessary in political relations. But Perestroika is a Russian word, made for the Russians. Here we do things the Vietnamese way. And we make the most of our hopes and the hopes of those in Russia, China, the USA, Japan, Great Britain -- but we try to assimilate them all.
As I mentioned, the Vietnamese people have an independent spirit, stubborn people, I suppose, who do things the Vietnamese way. So now the plan is to mobilize the entire population in the fight against backwardness and misery. While there are the problems of war and the problems of peace, there are also concrete laws, social laws, great laws, which retain their value whether in peace or war. You have to be realistic. You have to have a goal. You have to be a realist and use reality as a means of analyzing the object laws which govern things. To win, you have to act according to these laws. If you do the opposite, you're being subjective and you're bound to lose. So, we learn from the experience, both good and bad, of Capitalism. But, we have our own Vietnamese idea on things. I'd like to add that we are still for independence, that we still follow the path shown us by Ho Chi Minh, the path of independence and Socialism. I'm still a Socialist but what is Socialism? It's independence and unity for the country. It's the freedom and well-being of the people who live there. And, it's peace and friendship between all men.