The reality was quite different. Under the constitutional framework of the French Union, Vietnam could receive only autonomy rather than full independence. France recognized Vietnam's right to have diplomats only in a few specified countries: China, Thailand, and the Vatican. (Because of the subsequent victory of the communists in China, India was substituted for China, but India did not recognize the Bao Dai regime.) Proof that the new State of Vietnam was not independent was seen in the fact that it recognized Paris's right to control its army and foreign relations, and French economic domination of Vietnam was preserved.
Stanley Karnow quotes Bao Dai as remarking soon after the treaty was signed that "what they call a Bao Dai solution turns out to be just a French solution." Indeed, Bao Dai was unable to offer Vietnamese nationalists any alternative to the communists. The French had, however, recognized the territorial unity of Vietnam. By the end of 1949 Laos and Cambodia signed treaties similar to the Élysée Agreement.
Spencer C. Tucker
Hammer, Ellen J. The Struggle for Indochina. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1954.; Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking, 1983.; Tucker, Spencer C. Vietnam. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1999.