(54 Total References)
SONSHI.COM | William Duiker Interview: Sun Tzu The Art of War and Strategy Site
Interview with William Duiker
Interview with William Duiker
Rarely have we seen our chief founder happier than the day Dr. William Duiker
agreed to an interview with Sonshi.com
Vietnam has always been a subject of interest for us.
The only person we know who is most qualified to answer them is William Duiker
is the world-renowned authority on Vietnam, particularly on the life of Ho Chi Minh.
In our opinion (along with many other critics), his
600-page biography of Ho Chi Minh published in 2000 is the most balanced and trustworthy portrayal of the immensely important Vietnamese leader to date.
The book was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post
and the Los Angeles Times
, and is the finalist for the Mark Lynton History Prize and the Lionel Gelber Prize.
Dr. Duiker is a professor emeritus of East Asian Studies in Penn State's College of the Liberal Arts.
: We understand you were first fascinated by Ho Chi Minh in the mid-1960s when you were a foreign service officer stationed at the US Embassy
Please recount for our readers the spark that led to three decades of research into his
: I first became interested in Ho Chi Minh in 1964-1965 while I was stationed at the U.S. Embassy
in South Vietnam as a foreign service officer with the Department of State
: Ho Chi Minh rarely wrote about Sun Tzu
, but when he
did mention the ancient Chinese military strategist, he
was always laudatory, and he
sometimes cited his
ideas as a model for the Vietnamese revolutionary movement to follow.
There were various aspects of Sun Tzu's approach that appealed to him: a) to learn to understand both the enemy and yourself, to seek out his
weaknesses and your own strengths, and act accordingly, b) to make ample use of subterfuge and stratagem in order to defeat or disarm your adversary, and c) to use outright violence only when absolutely necessary in the belief that political struggle was more effective than military struggle.
Sun Tzu's ideas as expressed above had a profound effect on Ho Chi Minh, who sought to defeat both the French and the Americans without recourse to violence - or at least to conventional battle tactics.
was well aware that the enemy possessed more firepower than did his
own forces, and sought to use what he
viewed as the superior political and moral position of his
own revolutionary movement as a trump card to defeat a well-armed adversary.
These ideas were originally generated during his
early years as a revolutionary in the 1920s and 1930s, and continued to influence his
recommendations in the wars against the French (1946-1954) and the United States (1959-1965).
sought to defeat both adversaries primarily by using diplomatic and political means, combined with paramilitary activities.
: The influence of Sun Tzu
on other North Vietnamese military strategists is harder to answer.
: Could the DRV have won the war without relying on Sun Tzu's
ideas - or those provided by the USSR and China?
That is not an easy question to answer, because many of the ideas of Sun Tzu and Mao Zedong
came naturally to the young Ho Chi Minh, who would probably have applied the same strategy even had he
not been aware of them.
From the outset, when he became a member of the French Communist Party in 1920, he was an independent thinker who adjusted Marxist-Leninist ideas and tactics to what he perceived to be the concrete situation in Indochina.
When the advice of Moscow ran counter to his
own ideas - as in the 1930s - he
head down and waited until the situation changed in his
favor with the beginning of the Pacific War.
served in China during World War II, he
learned about Mao Zedong's tactics of guerrilla war against the Japanese (and later against Chiang Kai-shek's forces), and he
translated some of Mao's
works into Vietnamese.
But it is clear that his
own ideas on how to counter the enemy ran along the same lines.
When China began to provide major assistance and advice to the DRV in the 1950s, Ho Chi Minh was generally receptive to such advice, but was always conscious that conditions in China and Vietnam were not always the same.
"kowtowed" to the Chinese - as he
had to the Soviet Union - in order to receive their assistance, but he
quietly worked to limit those forms of influence of which he
did not approve (such as the harsh forms of land reform and the Great Leap Forward).
was not always successful in fending off those forms of external advice that he
didn't agree with.
: Ho Chi Minh preferred to use the tactics of negotiation and compromise, primarily because of his
recognition that the revolutionary movement was militarily weaker than its adversaries.
had had carte blanche over his
movement, would the results of the war have been different?
That is difficult to say.
In some cases - as in 1945 and 1946, he
appeared to overestimate the possibility that the United States might decide to recognize his
government and the independence of the DRV (although to be fair, from the outset he
had warned that Washington might eventually decide to align with the French because of the Cold War).
In the spring of 1946 he signed a provisional agreement with the French representative on a compromise solution to the dispute over Vietnamese independence.
Once again, he
might have been naive in hoping that a compromise was really possible.
Finally, in 1954 he
agreed to the Geneva Agreement, which divided the country temporarily into two zones, in the hope that national elections might unify the country under his
Once again, his
hopes were dashed.
In the end, many of his
more militant colleagues began to feel that Ho's tendency to compromise, and his
reluctance to confront the enemy directly, was a sign of weakness.
: What is the influence of Sun Tzu
in the world today?
: How will Vietnam evolve in the future?
Booknotes :: Watch
William Duiker | Ho Chi Minh: A Life
Booknotes :: Watch
gave him him access to revealing documents about Ho's relations with China and Russia and about the war with the United States.
BRIAN LAMB, HOST: William J. Duiker
, who was Ho Chi Minh?
Professor WILLIAM DUIKER, AUTHOR, "HO CHI MINH: A LIFE": Ho Chi Minh, of course, to most Americans was the leader of the Vietnamese revolutionary movement, a movement, of course, that caused us enormous difficulty for 15, 20 years.
I think most Americans see him that way.
I think to the rest of the world, he's
also--for many people living in Asia, Africa, Latin America, he's
a symbol of the national liberation movement.
And, of course, within the--what used to be known as the Communist world, he
was one of the international figures of that movement, along with Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.
started out, certainly, with strong patriotic leanings, but in the course of his
early maturity, he
became convinced that capitalism was a system that was very oppressive to--not only to peoples like the Vietnamese, but to the working class around the world.
became--while in France, he
became a convinced Marxist and stayed that till the end of his
Prof. DUIKER: 1969.
Prof. DUIKER: Seventy-nine years old.
Prof. DUIKER: I think he died probably, like many people, of a combination of things.
But, bas--basically, a form of congestive heart failure.
: Yes, I have.
: In fact, the--the origin of it has to go back to Ho Chi Minh's testament, which he
drafted over a period of years in the last few years of his
indicated in his
testament that he
wanted to be cremated, and he
wanted to have his
ashes distributed both north, center and south, so that the people of all Vietnam would have a chance to venerate him.
: And you--and you see his--his remains there.
But it--it doesn't seem to fit his
personality, and I think a lot of people have been a little disappointed in that.
Prof. DUIKER: Yes, mm-hmm.
Prof. DUIKER: Ba--Ba Dinh Square, correct.
: I wonder if the clean-up is meant as a--more or less, a kind of political statement, or do you think it's just generally cleaning up...
: You mean to the Vietnamese?
LAMB: Or to us, to the Americans.
Prof. DUIKER: Oh, to us?
: It would obviously be a controversial statement.
There are many Americans and certainly many Vietnamese emigres living in the United States who see Ho Chi Minh as a symbol of oppression and brutality.
And I think if he
does go there, and it's--it's televised and--and shown back in the United States, it will arouse a good deal of debate.
standpoint--I certainly couldn't try to anticipate how he
feels about it--he may feel this is sort of symbolic statement embracing the idea of a reconciliation of the two peoples.
: It could be a divisive issue, but my experience in traveling there on many occasions is that the--certainly the vast majority of people living in the north still venerate him.
His reputation is a lot more controversial in the south, where some people feel that he's a representative of a--of a repressive system.
Interestingly enough, for many young Vietnamese, he
has no more particular meaning than, say, Abraham Lincoln to the average American.
some old guy, you know, that they look back on and say, `This is one of the founders of our country.' But many Vietnamese I talk to who--who are, of course, much too young to remember the war will say, `We--we don't really remember the war.
Prof. DUIKER: Oh, the one with the top hat.
I--some of these pictures are hard to--to locate precisely because there are pictures that were in the French archives, and they're not really identified.
But in the course of--of analyzing some of his
activities in Paris, this was a picture that, I believe, was taken by the French security services simply to be able to identify him.
And as you can see there, he's
very dapper in a top hat and so forth.
And it's an interesting picture in some ways because it's so out of character for the image that he
projected in the last years of his
life, the simple Uncle Ho who--who wore a kind of bush jacket and that sort of thing.
went to Paris originally in the years before World War II, probably to contact some friends of his
father's who were engaged in the--what we might call the Vietnamese independence movement.
was already at that time very much dedicated to doing whatever he
could to liberate his
country, and I think he
hoped to link up with these people and perhaps get in--get involved in the national liberation struggle.
Later on, he--he left France before the war and then came back at the end of World War I and immediately came to the attention of the entire nation of France because he
submitted the famous petition to the victorious allies meeting in Versailles, at the Versailles Peace Conference, in which he
in effect demanded that Woodrow Wilson live up to the promise of the 14 points involving self-determination of peoples.
: I see it.
: That's correct.
There's some debate over when he was born, but based on what I've been able to determine and his movements, he was probably born in 1890.
So he--he would have been about 34 at that time.
: Physically, you mean?
LAMB: Physically and population.
: The total population perhaps at that time may have been about 15 million--14 million, 15 million.
: How did they manage to take it over?
does, doesn't he?
looks very serious and somber and almo--loo--looks like a different hairdo.
He--he had gone to--to Moscow in 1923 at--at the invitation of the Soviet leadership, and they--they wanted him to--to perform in Moscow, basically, as a kind of token Asian.
They're not treating him entirely seriously, but just having him there as a kind of symbol of the fact that the international Communist movement had its objective to help liberate the colonial peoples.
stayed there in training and working at the Communist international headquarters for a while.
And then he
became very impatient, and he
said, `I need to go back and help organize my people and build a Communist Party
in--in Indo-China,' as the French called their territory there.
had to--he literally had to plead for permission to go back, not to Vietnam, where he
would have, of course, been--at that time he
would have been under arrest.
went back to South China and created the first revolutionary movement out of the emigre community living there.
: Interesting question.
I--it's not certain that he
was ever married in the Western sense; in other words, th--th--what we think of, of course, as the wedding ceremony.
There's adequate evidence that he
had serious liaisons on a number of occasions and that he
had at least a Chinese marriage to a young Chinese woman while he
was in Guangzhou, Canton, as we used to know it.
establish a relationship with a young woman there and lived with her
for about two years.
And then when he
was forced to leave the area, after Chiang Kai-Shek began to crack down on the Communists, he
then-Chinese wife lost track of each other.
: That is a young man--a young woman we know as Winte Min Kai, who's probably the most famous female revolutionary in Vietnam.
went back to Vietnam with her
new husband, who was also, of course, a leading figure in the movement.
They were both arrested in the late 1930s, and both were executed.
So she died in 1940.
I can go, I guess, in two or three different directions on this.
I first became interested in the book before the end of the war, and I think at that time, insofar as I thought of it in marketable terms, I thought Ho Chi Minh would be a fascinating subject because he
was the public image of our adversary.
: Well, if--any author, I guess, would like to feel that he's
answered every question, and I do feel that I have--I've certainly penetrated some of the mysteries around his
I think I picked out his
movements and pinned them down.
Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei: Educator of Modern China, William J. Duiker
Three interrelated themes are treated by Professor Duiker: the evolution of the Chinese educational system from the beginning of the 20th century to World War II; the process by which a Chinese intellectual absorbed Western values and attitudes while retaining significant elements of his traditional Confucian world view; the goals of the humanist movement in early republican China and the reasons for its failure.
William J. Duiker is the author of The Rise of Nationalism in Vietnam, 1900-1941 (1976) and The Comintern and Vietnamese Communism (1975).
A former foreign service officer in Taiwan and Vietnam, he took his PhD in Far Eastern History at Georgetown, and now teaches History at Penn State.
Subversity Press Release for December 20, 2000 Show
William J. Duiker, who formerly served at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon before becoming a university professor, is interviewed on Wednesday, December 20, from 5-6 p.m. on Subversity, a KUCI public affairs program, airing on KUCI, 88.9 fm in Orange County, California, and Web-cast simultaneously on kuci.org.
Duiker has published numerous other studies of Vietnam's political history, including The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam (Westview, 1981).
Duiker received his B.A. in political science from Dickinson College in 1954, his B.S. in foreign service, his M.A. in Russian history and Ph.D. in Far Eastern history from Georgetown University in 1955, 1961 and 1968, respectively.
Before joining Penn State in 1967 as an assistant professor of history, he served from 1955 to 1958 in the U.S. Army.
From 1959 to 1965 he was a foreign affairs analyst and then a foreign service officer in the U.S. Department of State, including service in Vietnam from 1964-65.
He became professor at Penn State in 1974 and was appointed Liberal Arts Professor of East Asian Studies in 1994.
He is now a Penn State Emeritus Profesor.
William J. Duiker
William J. Duiker
William J. Duiker is a former United States Foreign Service officer and Professor of History at Penn State University.
His area of expertise is East Asia; while in the Foreign Service he spent several years in Vietnam, where an injury left him with partial hearing in one ear.
In ''Ho Chi Minh: A Life'', William Duiker repudiated this hypothesis.
According to Duiker, he lived with and married a Chinese woman, Tang Tuy?t Minh (née Zeng Xueming), on 18 October 1926.
When his comrades objected to the match, he told them, "I will get married despite your disapproval because I need a woman to teach me the language and keep house.
William J. Duiker.
William J. Duiker.
1981. ''The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam''.
''Booknotes'' interview with William Duiker on ''H?
Chí Minh: A Life'', November 12, 2000