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HOÀNG VĂN HOAN (PHÓNG, THÁI LƯƠNG NAM, 1905–1991)

Powerful Vietnamese communist diplomat in Thailand and China during the Indochinese War. Born and raised in Nghe Tinh province, he began his revolutionary career in Guangdong (Canton), where he joined Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth League and studied at the Chinese Military Academy at Whampoa. Fluent in Chinese, he joined the Chinese Communist Party at this time. In 1928, following the outbreak of the Chinese civil war, he moved to Thailand where he was an active member of the Indochinese Communist Party’s (ICP) bases along the Mekong River and in Bangkok. He was also fluent in Thai. He returned to southern China in 1935. In both countries, he was a close collaborator with Ho Chi Minh. His knowledge of southern Chinese politics and the Chinese language made him a crucial go-between with the Chinese of all political stripes. He helped form an “early” Viet Minh in southern China in the 1930s and joined the General Directorate (Tong Bo) of the “real” Viet Minh in 1941. He returned to Vietnam for the first time in decades at this time. With the creation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in 1945, he joined the ICP’s Central Committee and was named vice minister in the Ministry of Defense. In March 1946, he was elected deputy and named a member of the Permanent Committee of the National Assembly. Following the outbreak of full-scale war on 19 December 1946, in 1947 he was designated a governmental delegate to war Zone IV (Khu Chien IV) in upper central Vietnam. In 1948, he returned to northeast Thailand and Bangkok where he served as the head of the ICP’s “Overseas Cadres Committee” (Ban Can Su Hai Ngoai) in charge of governmental and party foreign policy not only in Asia but in the world. One of his tasks was to make contact with and win over the support of major communist parties and governments, above all the Chinese Communist Party and that of the Soviet Union. In December 1950, following Beijing’s diplomatic recognition of Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam, Hoang Van Hoan became the DRV’s plenipotentiary minister to the People’s Republic of China. In October 1952, he obtained the rank of ambassador, Vietnam’s first to China. He was a crucial link between the Vietnamese and the Chinese during the Indochinese War, facilitating the delivery of Chinese military, economic, and diplomatic aid. He was a member of the DRV’s delegation to the Geneva Conference and accompanied Ho Chi Minh to Liuzhou to meet with Zhou Enlai in early July 1954 concerning concessions to be made at Geneva in order to reach an agreement.