In 1874, the Nguyen government under Emperor Tu Duc adopted the system of licences for its remaining territories in Annam and Tonkin; the only real change after the establishment of the French protectorates in 1884 was a gradual increase in the rate of taxation.
(17) The immediate context of his appointment as Governor General was the financial crisis that had developed in France's new protectorates of Annam and Tonkin, where costly 'pacification' campaigns and unchecked spending had left the local administrations on the verge of bankruptcy.
The legal basis of the French protectorates in Annam and Tonkin and the organisational structures of the colonial state made the collection of taxes a means to project the power of the central government directly into the Vietnamese countryside, bypassing both Imperial officials and local French Residents under the authority of the regional officials in Saigon, Hue and Hanoi.
By 1884, however, the French had established their protectorates over Annam and Tonkin, and by 1887 had created the General Government for the administration of the entire region.
The Indochinese Union combined present-day Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, the last being subdivided into Cochinchine, Annam and Tonkin
Swapping her elegant European clothes for the black pyjamas familiar to viewers of Vietnam war films as the uniform of the Viet Cong, she experiences the realities of life in Annam and Tonkin: famine, epidemic disease, and forced labour, far removed from the refined colonial society in which she has been brought up.
But there is no doubt that the roots of the revolts were economic, lying in the appalling burden of taxation imposed upon the peasantry and the dreadful hardship of rural Annam and Tonkin. The film, realistically or not, goes along with the official version as the fires of rebellion flare up along the track of the subversive theatrical company.
In a study published two years before taking up his governorship, the strongly anti-clerical Lanessan had declared (referring directly to Bishop Puginier) that 'our representatives have allowed themselves to be more or less consciously dragged towards the missionaries' policy, based on suppressing mandarins and scholars, with the consequence of conquering Annam and Tonkin
with all the human and financial costs this imposes', (12) The fact is that in the years following the 1884 Patenotre Treaty establishing the definitive French protectorate over the Vietnamese Empire, a policy of domination and assimilation was applied to the Vietnamese people, chiefly in response to the missionary leadership headed by Paul Puginier.
From the beginning of the French conquest of Cochinchina in 1859 and the French Protectorate in Cambodia in 1863, and then of the conquest of Annam and Tonkin in 1884, the colonial state was never adequately funded by the metropol, and it almost never balanced its budgets with direct taxes.
In Annam and Tonkin, the history of development of the state opium monopoly was similar after 1884.
The French thus took complete control of the finances of Annam and Tonkin for the first time.
On the one hand, he lamented the "loss of the country" to foreigners; and, above all, rejected the example of those Confucian scholars willing to serve the French protectorate in Annam and Tonkin
. He compared them to a pathetic Cheo actor, allowed to play the part of a mandarin on the stage but without real power, unable to defend himself against his wife's scolding every night.