The Time-Honored Friendship: A History of Vietnamese-Algerian Relations (1946-2015)
First Indochina War
East Asian Area Studies
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
Heather J Sharkey
Islamic World and Near East History
In 1958, the newly established Democratic Republic of Vietnam initiated a top secret program to ship a “large quantity” of submachine guns disguised as commercial goods to Algeria to assist the Front de libération nationale in its struggle for independence from French colonial rule. In 1973, Algeria leveraged its position as the host of the fourth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement to issue a draft resolution requesting that all member nations pledge diplomatic support to the Việt Cộng, contribute to Vietnam’s post-war reconstruction, and demand the wholescale withdrawal of foreign troops from the Southeast Asian nation. At the close of 2015, Vietnam and Algeria celebrated the first commercial oil flow from the joint Vietnamese-Algerian Bir Seba oil project, located in the Algerian Sahara. Despite such events indicating that there exists a long and rich history of Vietnamese-Algerian relations, there has been no scholarship documenting it. Responding to this gap in scholarship, this project, “The Time-Honored Friendship,” pieces together the history of Vietnamese-Algerian relations from the beginning of the Indochina War in 1946 to the present day. In doing so, it proposes that the relationship can be divided into three distinct eras: anti-colonial solidarity (1946-1962); socialist, anti-imperial brotherhood (1962-1986); and joint ventures in economic liberalization (1986-2015). Corresponding with these three proposed eras of Vietnamese-Algerian engagement, this project is divided into three main sections. The first section, “The Era of Anti-Colonial Solidarity (1946-1962),” argues that the Vietnamese and Algerian people understood each others’ struggles against French colonial rule as extensions of their own and supported each other accordingly. Acts of solidarity were not merely initiated at the state level by political elite, but were also overwhelmingly driven from the grassroots during both the Indochina and Algerian wars of independence. The second section, “The Era of Socialist, Anti-Colonial Solidarity (1962-1986),” asserts that having both secured their formal independence from France, Vietnam and Algeria were eager to engage with one another through official bilateral relations. They premised their official relationship on their common adherence to the socialist creed and on supporting each other in securing economic sovereignty from the neo-colonial West. The third section, “The Era of Joint Ventures in Economic Liberalization (1986-2015),” details the drastic turn in the Vietnamese-Algerian relationship from being premised on revolutionary struggle against colonialism in all its forms to being premised on mutual economic growth through foreign investment, increased bilateral trade, and technical cooperation for the sake of reaching parity with the developed world. Rather than collaborating to fend off the corrupting influences of the West, the two nations came to embrace liberalization, and worked together to navigate a post-Cold War capitalist order. The conclusion entreats scholars of all disciplines to both build on this project’s findings and to explore how other formerly colonized peoples around the world, united in common oppression under distant European powers, engaged with each other in the quest for a more nuanced trans-regional scholarship.