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On General Policy

President Ngo Dinh Diem
(New York, May 1957)


It is for me both a great pleasure and an honor to be among you today, for you rightly represent the elite of the United States.

By accepting your kind invitation I have not only respected a long tradition, for other foreign statesmen have preceded me here and their eloquence can still be felt in these precincts. But still more, I have just seen a personal wish come true. I have always wanted to have the opportunity of meeting personally with men of good will and high learning who, in spite of their very important work, take time for the serious study of international questions.

I know with how much interest you have followed the situation in Vietnam.

Therefore much I shall say will be already known to you. But I hope it will be of interest to you if I outline some of the problems facing my country -how they arose- how some of the are being solved and how our struggle organist communism is part of yours.

The Vietnamese problem, a problem of civilization.

The Vietnamese problem is not merely a local once. It is an integral part of the problems of modern Asia. By virtue of its location at one of the main points of access to raw materials, Viet Nam is also a big stake. Its possession can be decisive for one of the two contending camps of our time.

Before and after the Geneva Conference, the problems of Viet Nam have been extremely broad and complex.

The Asian problem is a centuries-old evolutionary problem common to all the peoples of the East, which can now be rightly considered, with its mass and dynamism, the central historic movement of the Twentieth Century. The march toward political and economic liberation of this mass of peoples has obliged the modern world to abandon the old colonial system in order to involve experiment with a new formula of international cooperation. The problem of Viet Nam, because of its geographical position, forms an important part in the general Asian complex-in this problem of civilization.

The Asian people are no longer passive and resigned-they are embittered by past colonial oppression and also are impatient to catch up with the West. A large percentage of them are dissatisfied with the slow results of total planning. This yearning for haste is putting enormous pressure on all Asian leaders-regardless of their ideologies.

Therefore, Asian leaders are not permitted the luxury of plenty of time to study problems-debate about or curry on experiments- to find the best solutions. They will not be able to work out evolutionary solutions as American leaders could in the past. For that is a luxury which Asian peoples cannot afford. This is especially true of Viet Nam, placed by history and geography in a most vulnerable position in the seething Asian volcanic mass.

It is necessary, therefore, to appraise Viet Nam’s special problems in this context.

Particular data on the Vietnamese problem.

What have been Vietnam’s special problems after the Geneva Settlement ?

Our country inherited a bankrupt political system, a disorganized administration, a crumbling economy, an empty treasury. The country was plagued with the politico religious armed sects which had carved it up, and appropriated its best parts. Our army was shapeless and under the command of foreigners. Nearly one million refugees -a tenth of the population- had to be received and resettled. Moreover, Viet Nam had to wrest back her sovereignty from France, who maintained over 150.000 troops in our country. We had to make of Viet Nam, partitioned by the Geneva diktat, an independent and modern state, capable of governing and defending itself against colonialism, political and economic feudalism and. above all, against absorption by Communism, implanted in North Viet Nam by the Geneva Accords. The task seemed almost hopeless and beyond our means, so that the defeatists were not the only once to think that we would receive our independence only to lose it immediately to the Communists.

Reasons for our success

Events have belied those apprehensions. We have achieved independence without sacrificing our reconquered independence. We are now building a free economy in spite of the illusory temptations of state ownership. In the same fashion, we shall achieve unification without abandoning freedom.

We have restored political stability, internal and external security, thanks to the sense of unity, the sound judgment and the energy of our people, as well as to the moral and material support of the American people. The political and moral tradition of Viet Nam has always been a tradition of deep and persist ant spiritual unity. The Vietnamese people have always rejected separatism as they have feudalism and megalomania. We have never been governed by a hereditary nobility nor a personal ruler.

It is by drawing inspiration from that long tradition, by adopting a clear-cut policy, characterized by sincerity and loyalty and adapted to the geopolitical realities of Viet Nam, by relying on the moral and material support of the American people, that we have erected around us a climate of confidence and determination indispensable to the recovery of a situation seemingly past mending.

Lessons to be drawn from those experience

I have enumerated some of our achievements not out of vanity, but to draw from them the indispensable lessons for the next stage of our national reconstruction. These lessons have been both painful and exulting. They have many facets.

In the first place, all our problems, however minor, can be solved only by extraordinary efforts of imagination and will power. Viet Nam is part of Asia. We cannot therefore solve our problems by Western methods without profound modifications. The West had at its disposal plenty of time to achieve and digest revolutions. We do not.

Secondly, thanks to a convergence of favorable circumstances and a willingness to understand, American aid has met a complete success in Viet Nam. This undeniable success must be known to the American people.

Lastly, it must not be forgotten that Viet Nam has just recovered from a crisis of exceptional gravity and is not completely cured, she is only in convalescence. In spite of this serious handicap, she has to face economic competition on the part of the Communists for such is the iron law of Asian reality.

Our major tacks as present

Our difficulties have been enormous. Some of them were transient others permanent, all of them were inherent in the geopolitical situation of Viet Nam. By relying upon Vietnamese and Asian traditions and on the experience of our elders in democracy we have surmounted most of these difficulties and laid the foundation for a new political structure. We have adopted a constitution capable of handling the permanent dangers which face our country, while safeguarding the essential liberties of the individual.

We are convinced that the present regime of Viet Nam can become a system which will be more free each day since it is built on national realities and the realities of man. We can achieve this by extensively acquainting the Vietnamese people with our doctrine of respect for the human being and the common good, and by making our citizens more conscious each day of its inspiring and invigorating internal logic. The major political preoccupation of our government will be to preserve and maintain the free character of the regime, and prevent it from falling into any form of totalitarianism, despite the pressures working in that direction.


It is in keeping with these principles that we are endeavoring to provide Viet Nam with a new economic structure commensurate with its means and conforming to the fundamental aspirations of the Vietnamese people. We are aware that in the present situation, only a system of economic planning can solve our economic and social problems. By industrializing, we shall meet the condition of continuous economic progress and guarantee the preservation of our political independence. By raising the standard of living of our people, we shall raise its purchasing power so that they will become the natural customer for the products of our industries.

We realize that the economic structure in a large measure deter mines the political regime of a country, and that total planning would result in the regimentation of the masses, we cannot forget that the time at our disposal to achieve economic recovery is very short, and that we must use methods best suited to bring quick results. At the same time, we have to defend our border a stability that is continuously threatened by Communist subversion and demagogues. I must also add that my government has the duty of defending the country against economic imperialism, and that in Viet Nam the state must initially take a part in starting big enterprises because the Vietnamese, ruined by war and little used to taking financial risks, have to be encouraged.

Such are the facts of Viet Nam’s economic problems and such are also our limitations. Here again, you should take into account the various aspects of our problems before making a final judgment on our actions and before gauging your sympathy for our efforts.

In order to preserve the essential freedoms, to avoid a system of absolute state control, which is contrary to technical progress, we are endeavoring to reduce to the strictest minimum the areca subject to planning. Our plans call for the State to transfer whatever shares it may have in enterprises to private owners as this is made possible by economic stabilization. The problem is nevertheless complex. The question is how to obtain the quick economic and sound results demanded by the masses. By force or by more liberal methods which are nonetheless effective ?

It is here that the importance of American aid comes in. Will it be large enough, applied rationally and given at the right time ?

I need not elaborate on the technical details of our five-year plan, I shall only mention, its main political and sociological features to point out the important stake we aim to attain. Placed in its real setting and given the short time which is at our disposal for its solution, the problem of economic and social democracy presents contradictory aspects. It is in the interest of the western industrial powers and especially of the United States, to reduce the number of these ‘’internal contradictions’’ by a concerted cooperation with Viet Nam at the planning as well as the executive level.

Americans and Vietnamese have had to solve together difficult problems over the last two years. The success we have obtained must encourage us to continue our endeavors.

Foreign relations.

In any case, Viet Nam is determined to keep moving forward along the course it has chartered over the last two years, especially in regard to its foreign relations.

It is obvious that the foreign policy of Viet Nam is also conditioned by its geopolitical determinants as well as by its concept of liberty.

Geographically as well as historically and culturally. Viet Nam is a part of Asia. Its point of view is above all Asian.

Cut off from the world, and in particular from its Asian neighbors by the French conquest. Viet Nam’s first concern, once she regained independence, has been to renew and intensify its traditional bonds with other neighbors. Viet Nam would like to help revive the spiritual community which should be the main feature of Contemporary Asia and which is one of the most important contributions of Asian civilization to the history of mankind. Viet Nam would also like to see established between the various free countries of Asia a certain coordination of their economic efforts. The idea of Asian common market could easily be possible between peoples with the same technological level and standard of living. This would help mightily toward the solution of our economic and social problems without taking us away from the ideas of Asia.

The importation into China of a doctrine and of methods alien to Asia is a danger for its neighbors and especially for Viet Nam. For Communism is organically interventionist.

It is only natural that Viet Nam, which is the country most threatened by this new form of Colonialism, should seek to defend herself. For this reason we can only congratulate ourselves for our alliance with the United States, which is for us, like for other countries, a fundamental element of our legitimate defense.

The unselfish aid of the American people, its respect for our independence have contributed to tighten the relations between our two countries.

Our relations with France, however, after a period of uncertainty have greatly improved. A number of questions remain to be settled between France and ourselves before our relations become perfect. We hope this will come to pass.

Viet Nam is a seating ground

However that may be, and from whatever angle one looks at it from the purely Asian or -from the point of view of the new formula of international cooperation based on freedom of choice advocated by the United States- the experiment made by Free Viet Nam, with its own efforts and with the aid of the Free World, and especially of the United States, is a success no one can deny. It is at the same time a testing ground for other Asian countries.

I conclude on this optimistic note hoping that I have made clear to you the main contour of the problem of Free Viet Nam and the noble part played by American aid, despite the malicious and slanderous efforts of our adversaries to belittle our accomplishments.

Thank you.






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