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Indochinese Democratic Republic
Cộng hòa Dân chủ Đông Dương
Flag of Indochinese DR
Flag of the Indochinese DR
Motto: "Independence - Freedom - Happiness"
"Độc lập – Tự do – Hạnh phúc"
Anthem: The Army March (Tiến Quân Ca)

Indochinese DR locator map
Location of the Indochinese DR
Capitals Hanoi (national capital),
Vientiane and Lumphat (regional)
Official languages Vietnamese, Lao, Khmer
Demonym Indochinese
Government
 - President
One-party federal state
Nguyễn Văn Đỗ
Independence 2 January 1995 (official formation)
Population
 - 2010 census

82,000,000
Area 568,498 km2
GDP
 - Total
 - Per capita
2011 estimate
95 billion USD
1,168 USD
HDI (2010) Green Arrow Up Darker .472 (medium to low)
Currency
Indochinese Dong (ICD)
Internet TLD .ic
Calling Code +84
Time Zone UTC+7

The Indochinese Democratic Republic (Vietnamese: Cộng hòa Dân chủ Đông Dương), commonly referred to as Indochina, is a federal state in Southeast Asia comprising territory of former Laos, Vietnam and part of Cambodia. The Indochinese DR is a one-party state formed for the major part out of Vietnamese political structures and thus considered the latter his successor state. Even though several attempts at reform have been taken since the collapse of the first Soviet Union, the economic results of Indochina remain poor. The regime can only maintain itself by relying on systematic oppression and the usage of anti-imperialist propaganda. The Democratic Republic has a difficult relation with its southern neighbor, the Grand Yarphese Republic, though this only manifests itself in a lack of mutual contact.

History

Map of Indochinese DR

Map showing the Indochinese DR's three regions.

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Pre-colonial history of Indochina

The area now known as Indochina has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, and some archaeological sites purportedly date back several thousand years. Archaeologists link the beginnings of civilization in the area to the late Neolithic, Early Bronze Age, Phung Nguyen culture, which was centered in Vĩnh Phúc Province of contemporary Indochina from about 2000 to 1400 BCE. The tree different regions of the contemporary Indochinese Democratic Republic have been ruled in various compositions by subsequent dynastic kingdoms. Notable examples are the legendary Hồng Bàng Dynasty, by many considered the first Vietnamese state, and the Kingdom of Lan Xang which forms the basis of the modern day region of Laos. For more information you could check the histories of Indochina's predecessor states Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Colonial rule and the Indochina Wars

Colonial presence of France in the Indochinese region dates back to as early as 1858, when the first French troops arrived. The colonization process took about a quarter century and was completed in 1883 when the native ruling dynasty of Vietnam submitted. Resistance against the French occupation was never rooted out completely but never took off before the Second World War. When the Japanese assumed control of Indochina under the excuse of 'liberation' Hồ Chí Minh established the Việt Minh resistance movement which got support of the United States.

When the war was over, the Việt Minh opposed reoccupation by the French and demanded independence for the nations within the Indochinese colony. This sparked of the First Indochina War between France and the colonial resistance. Under the international climate of Cold War a second conflict was created. Communist North Vietnam and the South Vietnamese liberation movement Việt cộng sought to unify Vietnam and fought against the US-supported regime of Ngô Đình Diệm which was perceived as en agent of imperialism. Similar conflicts brew in Laos and Cambodia, though the Cambodian Red Khmer Movement fought against the Vietnamese communist forces too. The three nations of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia won the war(s) and established independence under authoritarian and nationalist regimes albeit communist in name.

The Indochinese Democratic Republic

With the dissolving of the Soviet Union in 1991, countries like Cuba and Vietnam suffered greatly from the changing international trade environment. The economic integration into the Soviet bloc made those countries independent of the COMECON-market which disappeared with its creator. The Vietnamese regime decided to follow the example of the Chinese People's Republic and under pressure of the IMF and the World Bank began economic and political reform. A moderate take-off was perceived but soon political instability come about. A group of radicals established the Vietnamese Liberation Army and their goal was to 'liberate' the land along the Gulf of Thailand and take it over. This resulted in the creation of the Grand Yarphese Republic in late 1994.

The Vietnamese establishment reacted divided and was ruled by chaos. Several coups were attempted by military and political leaders of diverse backgrounds. Order was restored by January 1995 when Nguyễn Văn Đỗ is appointed president by the Vietnamese Communist Party. Văn Đỗ rolled back the reforms and had parts of the armed forces that 'pose a treat to national harmony' eliminated. Only in southernmost Vietnam the government had lost control. Rapprochement was found to Laos, which feared the growing turmoil in the region. The CP was reformed into the Unity Party of Indochina (UPI) as the Indochinese Democratic Republic was created. This federal union came about on 2 January 1995 and is in essence an answer of its predecessor states to the instability and uncertainty they faced. In the decade that followed the Indochinese DR assumed an international policy based on isolationism and political neutrality. A course of reforms towards market socialism was pursued even though the economic results attained remain poor.

In April 2009, World War III broke out. Indochina initially fought with the Planetary Alliance against the Yarphese Republic. Parts of Cambodia and Indochina are annexed by Yarphei as part of the Yarphese War. Eventually Indochina switches sides to avoid total defeat and joins the Organization of Independent States. In 2010, Indochinese troops fought on the OIS side during the Karma War. The war ended with the Treaty of Beira which recognized the Annam Cession. In early 2011, friendship with the Yarphese Republic was restored and Northern Cambodia became a part of the Indochinese DR.

Government and political institutions

Nguyen Do

President Nguyễn Văn Đỗ in military outfit. (2008)

Indochinese National Assembly

Interior of the Indochinese National Assembly.

Indochinese DR as OIS member

The Indochinese DR as a member of the OIS.

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Constitutional provisions

The Indochinese Democratic Republic inherited most of its political institutions of the Vietnamese state. When the union with Laos was established a new Constitution was written, the first of the Indochinese DR. Major amendments were made in 2004 and 2011, the latter being the most substantial and accommodating the political structures to the inclusion of northern Cambodia as third region in the union. Article one of the Constitution of 2011, approved after the inclusion of Northern Cambodia, describes Indochina as follows:

The Democratic Republic of Indochina is a federal union consisting of the three regions of Vietnam, Laos and Northern Cambodia united under the sovereign Unity Party. The Unity Party represents the united people of Indochina and exercises sovereignty in their name to achieve the common good and prosperity for all.

This article includes several elements that can be paraphrased as a democratic federal republic with a one-party system. The official name of the country includes both the words 'democratic' and 'republic'. Yet Indochina is often not considered any of those two. It can hardly be called a democracy since the only party allowed to participate in elections is the Unity Party of Indochina (UPI). It is considered contradictory to include both the provision of democracy and a one-party system, but the Indochinese regime has confidence in its own take on democracy. The democratic dimension can best by captured by considering the socialist past of Vietnam and Laos and is comparable to the people's democracies in Eastern Europe under communism. The republican provision is mainly outer form too as the leader of the country, Nguyễn Văn Đỗ ever since his appointment in 1994, holds the office of president. No real democratic or republican institutions have developed since all power ultimately resides with the Unity Party, the key feature of the system.

Indochina really is a one-party state with the UPI that functions as the backbone of the entire political system. According to the Constitution, sovereignty resides with the UPI which governs the people in the name of common good. The UPI determines who gets to run in elections for the Indochinese National Assembly, delivers the president without popular consultation and concepts the major guidelines of policy. Nonetheless the Democratic Republic is not entirely subjected to party rule: economy and judiciary have been relatively privatized in comparison to the classical soviet-style dictatorships.

Organization of the power branches

It is quite clear-cut that the Indochinese DR does not hold separate power branches. There is on the contrary a strong convergence between especially the executive and legislative level. In theory the Indochinese National Assembly, the country's parliamentary organ, is the only body to write laws and it alone determines which legislation passes. The Assembly holds moderate power and most certainly can block proposals quite successfully. It is on the other hand reliant on the UPI for its composition: the UPI determines who gets to run in elections and of course only picks members loyal to the party ideals. There has been an allowance of controlled puppet opposition in the last years though. A second limit to the parliament's power is the veto right of the president who is directly appointed by the UPI. The party officials have been trying to gently privatize the judicial and economic branches of society to counter the growing corruption on lower, regional party levels.

Next to the horizontal devision, a vertical one exists corresponding the principles of federal organization. The three regional entities - Vietnam, Laos and Northern Cambodia - have a relative autonomy in domains such as preservation of natural resources, cultural identity and language, education, etc. Yet this autonomy is limited since the regional party levels have to follow the instructions of the federal one. The regions still get their autonomy though as long as they stay loyal to those views that really matter. The federal make-up of the Democratic Republic is enshrined in the Constitution and reflected in the division of the Assembly in so-called regional chambers. For a limited list of issues, a majority of votes is to be gathered in each of the three regional chambers. This procedure remains once again a symbol since the party strictly centralizes the voting process.

For the control of the economy a special institute has been developed. This used to be the domain of the Economics Department but this administration has been 'privatized' and enjoys greater autonomy from the party than other departments. The former Economics Department is now known as the Economic Planning Administration and is responsible for implementing ánd creating economic legislation.

Policies

The UPI has moved away from orthodox marxism and has stripped its policy bare of almost all references to marxist theory. Stressing the nationalist aspects of the program more strongly has been the course of action the past decade. The influence of marxist thought can however still be seen in the aggressive stance against imperialism. Nonetheless efforts have been made to leave the soviet-like organization without fully loosing control: a attempt at the creation of market socialism has been made and party control over the judicial branch and administration have loosened. This course is pursued even though the economic results attained remain poor. The regime can only maintain itself by relying on systematic oppression and the usage of anti-imperialist propaganda. The UPI is afraid that allowing more political reform will result in anarchy and foreign nations profiting of a weak and divided Indochina.

The Indochinese DR holds an international policy based on isolationism and political neutrality too. The relations with the Grand Yarphese Republic have long been tensed as the Indochinese leadership saw the Yarphese presence as a factor threatening regional stability. In 2011 the Indochinese-Yarphese Mutual Friendship Agreement was however signed, acknowledging the borders as they were at the time. Southernmost Vietnam and most of Cambodia came under Yarphese rule while Northern Cambodia joined Indochina as its third region. The treaty also confirmed the membership of the Indochinese DR of the Organization of Independent States (OIS) which has been under dispute ever since its creation in 13 February 2010. The Indochinese DR missed out on the first three conferences of the OIS but has expressed its commitment to future rounds.

The Indochinese DR is negotiating to expand the Mutual Friendship Agreement with the creation of a (limited) free trade zone and has requested membership of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It might be denied membership of the NAM due to its lack of a democratic regime. It is however speculated the Indochinese DR might be granted the status of 'observing member' though it is unclear what such statute would constitute.

Economic development and institutions

Indochinese DR trade map

Map with the main trading partners of Indochina. The darker a country, the more important it is.

Indochinese DR trade balance map

Positive (green) and negative (red) trade balances of the bilateral trade flows with the most important trading partners.

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Institutional framework

For the control of the economy a special institute has been developed. This used to be the domain of the Economics Department but this administration has been 'privatized' and enjoys greater autonomy from the party than other departments. The former Economics Department is now known as the Economic Planning Administration (EPA) and is responsible for implementing ánd creating economic legislation. The EPA consists of an executive board of seven members that set up directives for the centrally planned industries. It determines the production quota for utility sectors like electricity or the extraction of natural resources like mining. Sectors like infrastructure, housing and transportation are also largely dependent on public investments issued by the EPA.

The Economic Planning Administration controls the financial branch of economy by means the the Indochinese Central Bank (ICB). The ICB is the cornerstone of a monstrous mono bank system that controls the Indochinese Dong, the national currency. The ICB maintains a policy of price control on basic resources and heavily subsidizes the food industry. The artificial low prices however pose a treat in the form of a monetary overhang and oppressed inflation rates. The relation of the Dong to the international markets is currently marked by an undervaluation. The ICB keeps the Dong artificially low to attract foreign capital. To stimulate the industrial growth with domestic capital in the future, the ICB has worked out a plan that should cope with the lack of means for further financing the system:

Taking into account the weak financial markets and the lack of sustainability by foreign capital, the ICB proposes to accumulate capital trough micro-financing local collective initiatives. The ICB would invest private savings into a nationwide investment program that allows people to finance their enterprise against low interest rates. This ought to stimulate economic growth immediately and deliver financial profit on the long run. We need to use the agricultural industry as the motor of our further industrial development. (From: the 2011 Development Plan)

The ECB proposed this as an alternative to the financing trough foreign capital it resorted to in the past. The plan is to focus on the secondary and tertiary sectors and is complemented by a privatization of the agricultural economy. Agricultural production is to be taxed in-kind and the farmers will be allowed to trade the surplus on private markets. The government will restrict its distribution of subsidized food to the poorer strata of society. Opposers of this policy program wanted to use resources to stress another problem of the Indochinese economy: the lack of innovation and technological development.

Policy history

Before 1991, Vietnam was entirely dependent on the COMECON-market and held a mostly planned economic system. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Vietnam and Laos submitted to the support by the IMF and the World Bank. Economic and political reforms lead to a moderate take-off especially in the agricultural sector. The share of industrial production and services in the GDP increased. Most reforms did not manage to get a firm hold within society because in 1994 political unrest caused an economic setback. When Nguyễn Văn Đỗ became president he turned back the reforms to assure tight control over society once again, something he deemed crucial for attaining national unity and avoiding a collapse of the regime. By the early 2000s economic stagnation had rooted out all optimism about a higher standard of living. To spark economic growth, Văn Đỗ pushed policy towards the stronger integration of market incentives into the socialist economic structure. The current policy is based on the experiments of market socialism which showed success in eastern Europe and China before. The economic apparatus is however still subject to high levels of government interference. Good results have nonetheless become standard and privatization of small agricultural enterprises have averted a shortage of food supply.

In the past the country used to cope with a low living standard and a small internal market, but in recent years it has combatted those problems with a high degree of success. A modernization of the agricultural production and policies aimed at an equitable distribution of produced wealth have increased the per capita GDP. Domestic savings have even been multiplied by five due to the reforms initiated in the early 2000s. Now that high growth rates of up to seven percent are attained the specter of inflation is haunting the Indochinese. Even though the regime refrained from monetary financing in the past only to avoid growth-eating inflation, liberalizing prizes where in the past there has been prize control set free the historically oppressed inflation. The 2004 reforms have released even more growth potential but nonetheless kept government control on food prices, traded off against an estimated 2 to 3 percent of the annual GDP growth rate. Another main problem with the Indochinese economy is the lack of ties with foreign markets. There are various trade barriers for agricultural production such as subsidized food production and tariffs and quota for import. The artificially low Indochinese Dong contributes to this competition advantages of the domestic production. The lack of ties with the world market caused friction with trading partners in the past and continuous to trouble the ties between the Indochinese DR and the world market. In spite of the Indochinese maintaining a protectionist policy it keeps opening up its internal market and remains to receive a considerable influx of foreign capital.

Currently the UPI is divided over whether to stress capital accumulation or innovation as the motor of growth. The majority want to stimulate growth by an extensive growth model and introducing market incentives while the other side deems the closing of the 'technology gap' with other countries as highest priority.

Economic development

Indochina has left its old status of underdeveloped country and attained moderate economic power. Some have even proposed that for a third world country with a repressive regime and state-controlled economy, the numbers are astoundingly well. Estimates of the realized nominal GDP for 2011 are situated around 95 billion USD. This comes down to a per capita GDP of 1,168 USD which means an approximate five percent rise compared to previous year. This coincides with the expected drop in growth due to combatting the two-digit inflation rate of around 11 percent. The Human Development Index (HDI) was for 2010 pinned down at .472 which is a medium to low score. The HDI has increased greatly since the reforms initiated in 2004 started to be implemented. Yet in the previous decade the index had dropped below .300 which according to critics made an increase inevitable as measures were taken.

The Democratic Republic of Indochina has refuted assistance programs of the IMF and World Bank and denies access to critical NGO's which makes estimates about the development hard, especially in more remote regions. Yet deep poverty, defined as a percent of the population living under $1 per day, has declined significantly and is now smaller than that of China, India, and the Philippines. Much can be attributed to equitable economic policy that aimed at improving living standards and preventing the rise of inequality; this included egalitarian land distribution, investing in poor remote areas and the supporting the poor with education and health fees. The Indochinese DR has a remarkable score on the GINI-index, measuring the equity in a country as the relative share of wealth (income) to the relative share in the population. The unemployment rate in Indochina is 2.9 percent.

Military information and technology

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The military of the Indochinese Democratic Republic is in effect a military police force to control the inland population. Since the creation of the Indochinese National Forces (INF) not a single serving unit has crossed the Indochinese borders. The National Forces are land troops mainly, though there are small air force and navy divisions too. The most notable intervention by the National Forces was when several provinces rebelled against the central government in 1994. Under the command of Nguyễn Văn Đỗ order was restored, with the exception of some southern Vietnamese regions. The Indochinese National Forces are not considered capable of striking outside the own country. President Nguyễn Văn Đỗ has maneuvered his country in a more or less neutral way out of diplomatic conflicts and seeks to avoid an open war. The failing of the military apparatus could well mean the end of the regime and the Indochinese Democratic Republic as a state.

The biggest lack of the Indochinese National Forces is that they do not posses up-to-date advanced military equipment. Besides a fair amount of light artillery and tank divisions, the Indochinese army depends on deploying guerrilla warfare tactics and hit-and-run raids. Some international observers doubt whether Indochina can defend its urban centers against a foreign invasion at all. Nguyễn Đỗ has answered to such claims that 'the people of Indochina have been underestimated before' and pointed out that as long as a guerilla army exists, it is winning.

During peaceful periods, the INF has actively been involved in Indochina's workforce to develop the economy of the country, to coordinate national defense and the economy. The INF has regularly sent troops to aid with natural disasters such as flooding, landslides etc. The INF is also involved in such areas as industry, agriculture, forestry, fishery and telecommunications. The INF has numerous small firms which have become quite profitable in recent years. However, recent decrees have effectively prohibited the commercialisation of the military.

Cultural divides and the New Indochina

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The Democratic Republic of Indochina has a wide variety of cultures of which the Vietnamese, Lao and Khmer are the most visible. There is a fair amount of cultural autonomy for the three regions and several other minorities have been recognized and protected as well. The current regime does stress the unity of the country but is very careful in dealing with the existing cultural divides. It wants to avoid an outbreak of regional national conscience and thus stimulates the image of a 'New Indochina' were cultural plurality and political unity go hand in hand. Some ethnicities originally feared that their culture would be replaced by the Vietnamese one or a newly constructed 'Indochinese' identity. While the latter surely is a noticeable goal of the country its leadership, strive between certain ethnicities has been ended by the regime.

There is a huge amount of personal freedom when it comes to religion, tradition, language, etc. The own identity does however not stand in the way of accepting the multi-ethnic political structure. The federal structure and local party branches serve to integrate the many people of Indochina. The leadership has been very cautious in not making their national project seem like a Vietnamese occupation.

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