Vietnam became an identifiable country from 939 AD and was only once under the direct rule of China in the early fifteenth century, despite being enormously influenced by China in every way. Indeed, the Vietnamese themselves annexed the kingdom of the Chams in the south to form the extent of the present-day country.
It was the British successes in southern China that largely inspired the French to try similar adventures in Vietnam. Using the pretext of attacks on missionaries, French forces succeeded in conquering Saigon and three southeastern provinces by 1862 and formed a French colony known as Cochinchina (present-day South Vietnam) in 1867. They proceeded to develop commercial interests by establishing large rubber plantations. In 1884 Annam (Central Vietnam) and Tongking (North Vietnam) became French Protectorates, and along with Laos and Cambodia, the French Indo-Chinese Union was created. Franco-Vietnamese interactions were never easy or straightforward and in the long term this contributed to the instability of the situation and eventual conflict. After Japanese occupation in WWII, the country saw a dramatic rise in Communist sympathy after liberation. Conflict began in the North and ended in 1954 with division of the country into the Communist North Vietnam and the French-governed South Vietnam. The conflict did not cease, however, and US intervention in 1965 resulted in the Vietnam War.