anuary 19 marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Paracel Islands, the first naval battle between China and Vietnam in the 20th century and a key conflict in the quest to control the South China Sea. This is also an occasion of reckoning on how the current Vietnamese government treats the history, legacy, and agency of the former Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), which controlled the Paracel Islands before 1974 and was the main combatant in that year’s battle.

Even more important, Hanoi’s contemporary claims over the Paracel Islands rest on it being the rightful heir to pre-1975 Republic of Vietnam’s sovereignty.