The South China Sea conflict is spurring a popular nationalist movement in Vietnam that challenges the ruling communist Party by demanding Hà Nội to sever relations with its patron in Beijing. This paper examines this movement by connecting it to the often misunderstood historical relationship between the ruling Party and modern Vietnamese nationalism. This historical relationship explains why the Party has tried to suppress the movement and why movement discourse strives to debunk national myths and reconstruct national history. Linking national interests to democracy and human rights, the currently fragile movement is creating dissent within the Party and damaging its legitimacy.

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