While still officially a communist state, Vietnam’s economic growth in the last decade has been one of the highest in the world, culminating in its membership in the World Trade Organization in 2007.
Vietnam is a beautiful country with an identity shaped by its colonial past and influence from powerful neighbour. Vietnam first gained its independence from Imperial China during China’s Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.
It was subsequently colonized by the French, occupied by the Japanese Empire, interfered by the proxy wars between the Eastern and Western Blocs. Those influences manifest itself through its national psyche, urban planning, architecture, dialect, rituals and more. Consequently, Vietnam can be culturally divided into three parts – the North, Centre, and South.
The North hosts the capital city Hanoi, once the political centre of French Indochina and North Vietnam. It was where the Eastern Bloc exerted its influence, seen through things like the concrete housings à la Le Corbusier. Those communist-era architecture stands side-by-side with the impressive colonial structures built during the French Indochina era.
Moving south, Central Vietnam was the political centre of the ancient Nguyen dynasty. It features the cultural legacies of Vietnam’s imperial era, such as the palace, temples, and mausolea of Vietnamese emperors. It is symbolic of Vietnam’s pre-revolutionary feudal order.
One only need to walk through the central business district of Ho Chi Minh City or the Hang Bong street of Hanoi to appreciate the creativity of those capitalistic communists.
Close to the bottom end, the South received the most American influence because its major city, Saigon (renamed Ho Chi Minh City), used to host the government of the anti-communist South Vietnam before falling to the hands of communist North Vietnam.
Being one of the five remaining communist states in the world, government positions in Vietnam are dominated by the Vietnamese Communist Party apparatus. Its economic policies, however, are surprisingly capitalistic. Since the late 1980s, the government has been actively promoting foreign investment and privatization.
Though its international trade (one of the world’s largest exporters of coffee and rice) and GDP have grown considerably since then, its ineffective legal system, rubber-stamping legislature, and nepotism have limited its ability to grow to its full potential.
Those flaws notwithstanding, Vietnam’s economic growth in the last decade has been one of the highest in the world, culminating in its membership in the World Trade Organization in 2007. One only need to walk through Ho Chi Minh City core or the Hang Bong street of Hanoi to appreciate the creativity of those capitalistic communists.