Japan, the reigning economic giant of East Asia, and Vietnam, an industrializing socialist country in Southeast Asia with strong links to China, occupy worlds that seem not to intersect. Yet historical connections between the two countries date back at least to the fourteenth century, when a Japanese merchant community flourished in the city of Hoi An.As Guy Faure and Laurent Schwab point out, relations between the two countries have been greatly influenced by outside powers. In the late nineteenth century, confronted by Western colonialism, Vietnamese nationalists took refuge in Japan and sought inspiration from Japan's economic development and resistance to the West. During the Pacific War Japan's imperial army virtually occupied Vietnam, albeit under a treaty agreement with France. And American B52 bombers flew sorties during the Vietnam War from bases in Okinawa, which made Tokyo an enemy in the eyes of Hanoi. However, the new century has brought a growing convergence of interests and the beginnings of a new relationship based on an emerging convergence of interests.
Guy Faure has studied at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies, Nagoya University, and Chuo University. He holds a PhD in Politics from the EHESS Paris and is presently Director of the French Research Center on Contemporary Southeast Asia in Bangkok (IRASEC), and Research Fellow at French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). Laurent Schwab has a PhD in macroeconomics from the University of Paris IV (Sorbonne), and has lived for fourteen years in Southeast Asia, mainly in Thailand and Vietnam. He has worked for the United Nations (ESCAP) and as a consultant and educator.
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