The terms “decolonization” and “Cold War” refer to specific processes and periods in the international system, but they do not capture the full agency of local actors such as Vietnamese Communists. Based on recently available archival materials from Hanoi, this article maps those terms onto Vietnamese Communist thinking through four specific cases. The declassified materials underscore the North Vietnamese leaders’ deep commitment to a radical worldview and their occasional willingness to challenge Moscow and Beijing for leadership of world revolution. The article illuminates the connections (or lack thereof) between global, regional, and local politics and offers a more nuanced picture of how decolonization in Southeast Asia in the 1950s–1980s sparked not only a Cold War confrontation but also a regional war.

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