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History of Lao Cai

Lào Cai has been known since ancient times as a historic trading post. Here, the Chinese, the Vietnamese and the ethnic minorities of the region fought to gain control of the region. In 1463, the Viet Kings established Lào Cai as the capital of their northernmost region, then named as Hưng Hóa. It came under French colonial rule in 1889 and was their administrative town, and also served as a military garrison. In the early 19th century the first railway line was built from Hanoi to this region. It took 7 years to complete but at the cost of 25,000 lives of Vietnamese conscripted labour.

In late 1978, the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia. In retaliation, the Chinese, as allies of Cambodia, countered and invaded North Vietnam with the aim of "teaching the Vietnamese a lesson". The attack was launched by 200,000 strong People's Liberation Army. They occupied territory from Paso (previously known as Phon Tho) in the Northwest to Cao Bằng and Lạng Sơn in the Northwest. Even though the Chinese suffered heavy casualties, they managed to conquer these cities, and declared that the gate to Hanoi was open and that their punitive mission had been achieved. On the way back to the Chinese border, the PLA destroyed all local infrastructure and housing and looted all useful equipment and resources (including livestock), which were mainly donated by China to support Vietnam's economy prior to the war, severely weakening the economy of Vietnam's northernmost provinces. The PLA crossed the border back into China on March 16. Both sides declared victory with China claiming to have crushed the Vietnamese resistance and Vietnam claiming that China had fought mostly against border militias.

After the province was invaded by the Chinese in 1979 from its border town Lào Cai, the border with China was closed for several years. In this war, the city of Lào Cai was destroyed by the Chinese. Remnants of the war in the form of land mines are reported to pose threat to people along the border with China.

The Lào Cai town at the border town on the bank of Red River as the provincial capital has now prospered in view of large trade with China and is a booming city with a community of many rich millionaires. Since 2006, Lào Cai has the status of a city, is the largest town in the region and strategically very important. An airport is planned to be built by 2020.