Twentieth-century industrialization in the agricultural landscapes of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam took a very different form from other places, characterized less by a continuous spread of large-scale technology than by its destruction in mid-century and the subsequent spread of small technology which powered scooters, water pumps, and boats. The numbers of these portable motors, an everyday technology in 1960, rose from a few thousand units in 1963 to millions in the present day. The colonial and post-colonial state in Vietnam played a key role in the demise of large technology and, ultimately, of the water infrastructure. Its failures during wartime spurred farmers to adopt cheap, small engines to survive; however, the state's role was complex during this time. Several key factors, including the influence of American aid programmes and the contributions of Taiwanese agricultural advisers, especially those pushing high-yield rice, favoured the adoption of small engines. From an ecological viewpoint, the post-1960 explosion in the use of small motors, especially as water pumps, has brought people and states in Southeast Asia to an ecological impasse as unrestricted use has impacted on water tables, salinity levels, and the long-term sustainability of agriculture in many places. This paper examines the state's indirect role in shaping this silent revolution, and it considers the political and ideological factors underpinning its history.