VIETNAM IN CRISIS AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
To do justice to the above topic requires a book-length treatment. I don’t have the time, patience, energy, or the scholarship to do so. The following are observations of a concerned Vietnamese who would like to share his thoughts with fellow Vietnamese, especially with those who are accustomed to both thinking and acting, not with those whose favorite pastimes are pontification and rationalization. I welcome all corrections and rectifications, not exercises in nitpicking and wisecracking.
A casual observer of Vietnam from afar would fall for a rosy myth that the small country in Southeast Asia is a rising phoenix or a dragon in the making as evidenced by steady GDP growth, influx of foreign investments, and admittance into the WTO (World Trade Organization). However, upon closer examination, a very dark picture of Vietnam comes into light. In fact, Vietnam is facing its biggest existential crisis since the 13th century when the country was invaded three times by the mighty Mongols.
The crisis had its genesis in the geopolitics, but has been exacerbated by the ineptitude and the rabid corruption which exists throughout all levels of governance, but manifests its most virulent form at the highest levels of the Vietnamese Communist Party and the corresponding government structures.
Vietnam is in an unenviable position of living next door to a gigantic China which has been bent on annexing and assimilating surrounding smaller nations and has been very good at doing so. Since the very inception of the consciousness of being a separate social entity more than 4,000 years ago, preserving identity and avoiding assimilation by the Chinese have been a deeply-held preoccupation of the Vietnamese people. The last full-scale invasion from China was only over 200 years ago and the last border war was merely 30 years ago. China always regards, rightfully or not, Vietnam as a vassal state. It even went to war with France between August 1884 and April 1885 in the so-called Sino-French War to determine who controlled Tonkin (northern Vietnam). Since the French achieved their war objectives, they are generally regarded as the victors, but a Taiwanese scholar, Lung Chang, whose 1993 study of the war hailed it as the Qing dynasty’s sole victory against western powers in the 19th century (source: Wikipedia).
So it should not be a surprise to any casual student of history that the Red Chinese actively supported their fellow Vietnamese communists, especially after the Red Chinese conquered the whole continental China in 1949, with the result that in 1954 the Viet Minh, the Vietnamese communists, finally defeated the French, thus ending the First Indochina war. The Geneva Conference in 1954 had in attendance the representatives from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (Viet Minh), the State of Vietnam (whose forces were in South Vietnam and allied with France), Cambodia, Laos, China, France, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. All the countries, except the United States, signed the agreement to end the hostilities. The United States, who supported France and the State of Vietnam, took note and acknowledged that the agreement existed, but it refused to sign the agreement in order to avoid being legally bound by it. It is important to note that the presence of foreign powers in the conference, especially China, the Soviet Union, and the United States since these powers were involved again in the Second Indochina War, (generally known as the Vietnam War though the war did spread to Cambodia and Laos) which ignited when South Vietnam, supported by the United States which supplanted France as the backer and the banker, refused to hold the general elections for the reunification of the country. North Vietnam--- with the backing of the Soviet Union and especially China--- through its proxy, the Vietcong, and later by direct involvement, was determined to reunite the country by force and under communist rule.
North Vietnam achieved its aim on April 30, 1975 after more than 15 years of ferocious fighting in the south of Vietnam and heavy, intense aerial bombardment in the north. Both the Soviet Union and China helped North Vietnam in its war efforts. The Soviet Union supplied airplanes, anti-aircraft missile defense systems, tanks, and technical advisers. China supplied Vietnam with food and consumer products, besides ammunitions and weapons such as artillery, anti-tank rockets, rifles, as well as troops in charge of supplies and transportation, and military advisers as it did during the First Indochina War.
China helped North Vietnam with unflagging support not because it was kind or bound by common communist ideology, but because it knew that it must maintain a friendly regime in its southern flank. More importantly, helping North Vietnam was part and parcel of its long-cherished goal of annexing Vietnam. During its long involvement in the Vietnam War, China allegedly secured some informal promise from North Vietnam’s leaders about the Paracel and Spratly Islands as well as the land at the border (see the interview of Duong Danh Dy, a former Vietnamese consul, by the RFA in one of the links in the Declaration of the concerned Vietnamese regarding the current quiet but comprehensive invasion of Vietnam by China. The Declaration can be accessed in the Website Haokhidienhong). China also trained and indoctrinated most, if not all, North Vietnam’s leaders, going back in the 1930’s to ensure that it had a sympathetic ear at the highest levels of the Vietnamese Communist Party (the current Vietnamese Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung attended school in southern China in the 1960’s and still speaks fluent Mandarin). China also has been known to be instrumental in establishing Vietnam’s intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies and thus is embedded in these agencies.
The pro-China leaders in the Vietnamese Communist Party were clearly in the ascendant when Vietnam decided to throw its lot in with China after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the crumbling of the Soviet Union’s satellite states in Eastern Europe in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, in order to preserve the anachronistic and unpopular communist form of government which is now only practiced in six countries (China, Vietnam, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, and Cuba) in the world, two of which---North Korea and Vietnam--- are clearly the satellite states of China, at least in the minds of the Chinese. Laos (in particular) and Cambodia, in turn, are considered satellite states of Vietnam although China is making progress in displacing Vietnam’s influence in these countries. Russia, the birthplace of communism, though still oppressive, is no longer a communist country in name and practice. It allows the existence of multiple parties and some trappings of democratic political practice.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the lack of active engagement of the United States in the affairs of Southeast Asia during the 1980’s, 1990’s and most of 2000’s led to the increasingly aggressive posture of China there, bolstered by its rising economic prosperity. Meanwhile, Vietnam, led by a myopic and corrupt ruling clique, failed to learn the lessons from the border war of 1979 and the naval battles with China over the sovereignty of Spratly Islands in 1988. The clique was busy enriching itself through corruption. Only in 2008 when China officially established an administrative structure which incorporated not only the Paracel Islands which it wrested from the then Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) in 1974, but also the Spratly Islands did Vietnam lodge some feeble protests.
This lack of vigorous protests accompanied by:
1. The permitting of Chinese mining companies---with tens of thousands of men of military age---moving into the strategic Central Highlands
2. The pomp and pageantry of the ceremonies marking the new border boundary in the north, to the advantage of China.
3. The suppression of Vietnamese students’ protests against the China’s official annexation of the Paracel and Spratly Islands.
4. The dispatch of Chinese advisers to Vietnam to help Vietnam in the business of suppressing of dissidents, the business the Chinese are very good at after decades of practicing this art to the Tibetans, the Uighurs, and to their own citizens (ref. the Tienanmen Square and the Fulong Group).
5. The loud and condescending protests of China to Vietnam after some Vietnamese questioned on TV the quality of Chinese consumer products, especially food.
led the great majority of Vietnamese, inland as well as overseas, to question the legitimacy of the Vietnamese government and wonder whether it already functions as a puppet regime of China.
Upon further reflections, those concerned Vietnamese realize with stunning clarity aided by the benefits of hindsight that the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has been an unmitigated disaster for the well-being and the very existence of Vietnam. Because of the VCP, the following disasters have taken place:
1. Reunification of the country through force instead of through negotiation. The long war led to the deaths of more than 4 million Vietnamese, devastation of the infrastructure, making Vietnam an easy target for China, causing Vietnam to lag behind its neighbors, and resulting in an exodus of most of the best and brightest minds of South Vietnam.
2. Destruction of the morals of the people through institutionalizing corruption and worshipping money.
3. Destruction of educational system. Teachers openly demand bribes. Students, in addition, have to attend private tutoring classes, often conducted by these same teachers, after hours in order to receive real teaching and training. The poor, no matter how bright some of them are, have no chance at all to receive an education. Now, in all practicality, there is no public and free education in Vietnam.
4. Destruction of health care system. Doctors and nurses also openly demand bribes otherwise patients will not be treated.
5. Destruction of environment, following the practice of its master, China. All economic efforts are aimed at making the profit now. The hell with environmental concerns.
6. Indifference with the issue of China’s construction of hydraulic dams in the upper reaches of the Mekong River, with disastrous consequences for the Mekong Delta, the rice basket of Vietnam.
7. Indifference with the issue of global warming. In twenty years or so, the rising sea level will put most of the Mekong Delta in the south and the Red River Delta in the north under water, with horrific implications for the well-being and survival of the Vietnamese.
8. Turning a blind eye to the practice of selling Vietnamese women to foreigners. Vietnamese women have to parade IN THE NUDE for foreigners’ inspection before the foreigners would agree to “marry” them. No other country in the world allows this practice.
The recent fanfare of the announcement of purchasing some advanced submarines from Russia could be just a sideshow to allay the concerns that the VCP is not keen on defending Vietnam against the increasing encroachment of China on Vietnam’s territory. It could well be that the VCP already agreed that Vietnam is to be merged into China. Those submarines, purchased with the money belonging to the Vietnamese people, after bribe money ends up in the hands of those in the Politburo, could one day be under the administration of China anyway. There has been a very public issue, currently out in open debate, of whether or not the very Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Tan Dung, has pocked $150 MILLION U.S. dollars as bribe money in the scheme of permitting the Chinese companies to move into the strategic Central Highlands of Vietnam.
1. The VCP is a sick phenomenon comprised of venal leaders. Its existence is pathological because it is unduly obsessed with money. Governance is only a means to get money. It is consumed with a desire to amass money through foul means as much as possible while it still has power. It does not care about the well-being of the Vietnamese people. It does not care about the territorial integrity of our country which our forefathers have shed blood to bequeath to us.
2. We have managed to stay unassimilated by the Chinese for thousands of years. We must not let the VCP, which is in cahoots with our historical enemy, sell our land and allow the assimilation process to take place.
3. We, the concerned Vietnamese who care about the preservation of the territorial integrity of Vietnam, have to get all united. No more proliferation of opposition parties established overseas. There should be no more than two opposition parties galvanizing the will and the spirit of the Vietnamese inland as well as overseas to overthrow the VCP and to resist the Chinese.
4. If the will of the Vietnamese people is mobilized and harnessed, no force can stop the desire for revolution in Vietnam. The VCP knows the people are fed up with it because of its ineptitude, its insatiable venality, and its oppression of the people through intimidation and rampant arrests of those peacefully asking for basic human rights such as freedom of religion, speech, and assembly. Most important of all, the VCP realizes that the people are questioning its legitimacy to rule because it has shown clearly with each passing day that it functions at the behest of the its patron, the Chinese, as evidenced by its decisions to cede islands, land, and maritime rights in the East Sea to the Chinese. Furthermore, the VCP incredibly permits the entry of over 35,000 (official figure, but in reality the number is much higher, reaching 100,000) Chinese “workers” of military age into Vietnam while Vietnam is suffering from high unemployment. The presence of these “workers” has evoked tremendous anxiety across all walks of life in Vietnam due to their living in enclaves off-limits to the Vietnamese and their unruly behavior when they interact with the Vietnamese. Their presence on the soil of Vietnam has given rise to a pervasive fear that these “workers” are nothing more than soldiers in disguise and the VCP is already acquiescing to the demands of their patron, the Chinese, for a quiet take-over of Vietnam.
5. If the patriotic elements of the Vietnamese society somehow overcome their fear of arrest and suffering, get organized, and decide to rise up and get the restive populace behind them to save the country from the hands of the Chinese, the VCP’s days are numbered. Look at the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Once there are genuine leaders worthy of leadership and respect, people will follow. The VCP can fall in days and weeks as what happened in Eastern Europe. But first we first overcome fear because like all totalitarian regimes, the VCP relies on fear as a tool of oppression. If we, the Vietnamese people no longer fear, if we really want to live a life with pride and dignity, and not in slavery, and thus are willing to die to save Vietnam from China as our ancestors did, then a new dawn is coming in Vietnam, then a new life is waiting, a life where we live in freedom with basic human rights, and a life without the Chinese as our master. This land, the land with the letter S is our land, the East Sea is ours, the Paracel and Spratly Islands are ours. The time to fight to protect what is ours is now. All the Vietnamese, let’s get all united, throw out the VCP and along with them the Chinese out of our country. Our ancestors have done so many times before. It is our turn now. History is in the making. Don’t be cowardly. Cowards live in slavery and end up assimilated or exterminated. When we fight we have a chance to win. Our ancestors took on the mighty Mongols three times and won! When we roll over and play dead, we end up being kicked around and get killed anyway. After all, we only die once. Nobody lives forever. While we live, we must live with pride and dignity, not in humiliation.
The Chinese have always wanted our country. The VCP is quietly selling it to the Chinese in order to get rich. We must stop that. Long live Vietnam!
August 12, 2009