Ruled by China for more than a thousand years (111BC to 938AD), Vietnam maintained a Confucian social philosophy for centuries thereafter. However, by the midpoint of French colonial rule (1858–1945), Vietnamese intellectuals were debating whether Confucianism was still relevant, how it should be reformed to fit the needs of the rapidly changing country, or whether to get rid of it. During this period, most opinions about Confucianism were written in quoc ngu (romanized Vietnamese). However, a few thinkers of the younger generation partook in these debates using the French language. This paper explores the ideas of two opposing Francophone intellectuals who were especially familiar with Western political philosophy. Pham Quynh (1892-1945) envisioned a reformed Confucianism as a means of preserving the family and Vietnam’s traditions in the face of the threat of individualism from the West, using Western conservative philosophers to justify his arguments. In contrast, Nguyen An Ninh (1900-1943) viewed individual freedom as key to Vietnam’s self-determination and Confucianism as stifling this process. For Ninh, the Vietnamese should not turn to Chinese or European ideas because they were not earned by the Vietnamese; only through the emancipation of the individual from the constraints of tradition could the Vietnamese gain genuine freedom. Considering this debate from the perspective of comparative political theory, this paper will contend that those French texts give us renewed insights on the political debates over Confucianism in Vietnam. Additionally they can teach us how these men reworked Western concepts for their own ends.