This paper revisits Lai Châu in late 1953 when the Thái Federation's collapse signaled the rise of a hegemonic Democratic Republic of Vietnam. I use this moment to analyze processes of legitimating and remaking forms of rule and ruling. I illustrate both how a militarized political project configured and articulated itself, as state, and how this self-proclaimed "state" attempted to recruit local people by casting them in a new community, as nation. Making nation and state together produced enduring, and contested, spatial and communal boundaries structuring relations of rule in an emergent "Northwest" region and knowledge of its peoples.

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