Who will be the modern Viet hero to save Vietnam from the grasp of the imperialistic China?
Any student of human history would tend to agree that the well-being of nations in their crucial moments depends on the ability of the leaders in existence. Humans are social beings. They function in groups and in accordance with rules and laws. The leaders have authority over individual members. Their leadership affects the well-being and sometimes even the survival of the whole groups (nations). That is a fact. Leaders do matter and they matter a great deal. It does not make any difference if one subscribes to Thomas Carlyle’s Great Man Theory or its opposite, Herbert Spencer’s social determinism. The fact remains that actions taken by leaders have a direct bearing on the nation’s collectivity then and thereafter. It does not matter if the leadership takes place in absolutist monarchy, democracy, or dictatorship. What matters is the ability or inability of the leaders to deliver to the needs of the people.
In early 18th century, Peter the Great carried out a policy of modernization and expansion that transformed the Tsardom of Russia to a 3-billion acre Russian Empire, a major European power (see Wikipedia).
In late 18th century, George Washington, set the nascent U.S. firmly on the foundation of democracy--- after winning the war of independence from Britain, instead of reverting back to absolutist monarchy---and paved the way for the country on the path of expansion and prosperity.
Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk led the Turkish national movement in the Turkish War of Independence. Having established a provisional government in Ankara , he defeated the forces sent by the Allies. His military campaigns gained Turkey independence. Atatürk then embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform Turkey into a modern and secular nation-state. The principles of Atatürk's reforms, upon which modern Turkey was established, are referred to as Kemalism.
The 20th century saw a sea change of regime in Russia , from absolutist Tsar monarchy to communist dictatorship ruled by a series of strong men Lenin, Stalin, and now Putin (other leaders in between Stalin and Putin could not be described as strong). While Russia has enormous potential in natural resources and a strong educated class, the leaders have failed to harness the potential and currently the country is still foundering economically, life expectancy is on the decline, and rules of Mafia and governmental corruption are the norms.
In China the ineffectual response of the Qing Dynasty to the incursions of the West in the 19th century led to its collapse in 1912 and gave rise to a long period of warlord factionalism which finally concluded with Mao as the eventual winner. His leadership led to the Great Famine of 1959-1961 during which estimated 26 million Chinese died of starvation. Deng Xiaoping was a much better leader. He opened China to Western technology and investments. As a consequence, China has become stronger economically and militarily and its current leaders are increasingly bellicose and are aspiring to see China supplant the U.S. as the world’s dominant power. While China has made tremendous material progress, its lengthy records of violations of human rights, environmental concerns, and lack of ethics (counterfeit goods, including fake medicines and foods; harsh and selfish behavior in social interactions) have been severely deplorable. These deficiencies and the alarming bellicosity with its neighbors and the U.S. have led some observers to question if indeed the 21st century belongs to China or the century will witness the disintegration of the country after a military confrontation with the U.S.
For years South Africa was unable to make much progress despite its vast natural resources and territory because of international sanctions on account of its policy of oppressive apartheid, causing undue sufferings to the majority blacks. Then a historic change took place in February 1990, when President FW de Klerk decided to let the charismatic hero of the struggle against apartheid, Nelson Mandela, free after Mandela had spent 26 years in captivity. The brave and far-sighted decision of De Klerk and the subsequent equally far-sighted decision of Mandela of seeking reconciliation among different ethnic groups instead of “justice” and “revenge” led South Africa firmly on the current path of world integration, not isolation, and slow but prosperous development, instead of the post-colonial governance void suffered by many other countries on the continent. In addition, the government Mandela led after the 1994 election stayed within the free-market principles that had been in force in South Africa for decades. He resisted the call of the left-wing of the ruling ANC (African National Congress) which insisted on nationalization. Thus, we saw clearly the decisive and positive impact the leaders like De Klerk and Mandela have on this nation at the southern tip of Africa . In the words of F.W. De Klerk, "If we had not changed in the manner we did, South Africa would be completely isolated. The majority of people in the world would be intent on overthrowing the government. Our economy would be non-existent – we would not be exporting a single case of wine and South African planes would not be allowed to land anywhere. Internally, we would have the equivalent of civil war." (quoted by Alex Duval Smith in The Observer, January 31, 2010)
After seeing various examples what leaders could do to the well-being of the nations, let us examine what kind of leaders Vietnam has had in contemporary times. Ho Chi Minh capitalized on the fervor of the patriotism of the Vietnamese in 1945 and succeeded in driving out the hated French colonists in 1954. Not content to rule the northern half of Vietnam under communist dictatorship, he harbored an ambition to rule the whole of Vietnam and thus launched a war of conquest of the south under the slogan of war of liberation. He died in 1969. His successors continued his policy of the war of aggression against the south. They succeeded because their patron, the communist China , gave them unstinted support in arms and ammunition and food. Instead of doing like Mandela did in South Africa ---practicing reconciliation and respecting free-market principles then in existence---the ruthless and inept communist leaders promptly sent hundreds of thousands of former South Vietnamese military officers and governmental officials to concentration camps euphemistically called “reeducation centers” where tens of thousands died of sickness and mistreatment. They also stupidly imposed the central “planning” principles on the economy on the south, leading to its economic collapse, bringing suffering and hardship to the people, and driving them to seek freedom by getting on flimsy boats at great risks to their safety. And indeed, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands did perish at sea either by shipwrecking or being killed by Thai pirates. Meanwhile they kowtowed and are continuing kowtowing to their Chinese master by agreeing to a new Viet-Sino border at the expense of Vietnam, “leasing” hundreds of thousands of acres to Chinese firms, letting Chinese firms with their own labor force do the bauxite mining in the militarily strategic Central Highlands, selling Viet brides to Chinese men, importing Chinese goods to Vietnam willy-nilly causing horrendous trade imbalance, voicing feeble and ineffectual protests when China killed and harassed Viet fishermen in the very waters where the Viet people have plied their trade for hundreds of years, and treating Chinese in Vietnam with complete respect while oppressing and mistreating their own fellow Vietnamese if these people voice concerns about the territorial designs China has on Vietnam. In other words, the leaders of Vietnam have been acting in a treasonous manner. They must be replaced immediately otherwise Vietnam will be a province of China soon.
Father Nguyen Van Ly, the former prisoner of conscience, has recently and publicly called for the Vietnamese people to take the matter of the survival and independence of Vietnam into their own hands and peacefully demonstrate against the current inept and treasonous leaders. He also earnestly asked the caring, patriotic elements of the Viet military officers and government officials to heed his call in this dark hour that Vietnam is facing.
The Viet communists are staging a congress in January of 2011 where national leaders are chosen and national policies are adopted. We fervently hope and pray that out of this congress, a new crop of caring, patriotic leaders will emerge and lead Vietnam out of the orbit and grasp of China . The models of leadership behavior for the new leaders of Vietnam should be those of the democratic Japan and South Korea and the U.S. and Australia and India, not of the undemocratic and corrupt and ruthless Chinese leaders who starved their own people, shot down defenseless students in the Tiananmen Square, and turned a blind eye on those unethical Chinese business firms which make fake medicines and fake foods and which don’t give a damn about ethics and environmental concerns.
January 1st, 2011
Lê Quang Long, Nguyễn Hùng, and Ngô Khoa Bá