The next China?

Keep your eye on this one. When I was there I was told that in the past year or two property values in the big cities had soared by as much as 1,000 percent and more (I actually think the guide said 10,000 percent – is that possible?). Anyway, all I could think about as I walked the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City was how similar it seemed to China, in that everyone seems to be running a business, everyone’s selling something. There’s that same sense of irrepressible entrepreneurialism. What I also noticed was the kinder, gentler environment – people smile, cars and motorbikes yield to one another (which isn’t to say there aren’t massive traffic jams, but they are friendlier traffic jams than those in Beijing) and the people in general looked happy. Of course, this was through the eyes of a naive first-time tourist. Who knows what lurks beneath the smiling exterior? But based on my first impressions, if I were an American manufacturer trying to choose between Guangzhou and Hanoi, I know which one I’d pick. (Remember, that is qualified by the phrase “based on first impressions.”)

Be sure to check that article if you have any doubts at all about Vietnam’s incredible success story.

The Discussion: 20 Comments

That makes perfect sense to me, considering how Viet Nam never went through any organised campaign of enforced barbarianism like China did under Mao.

Certainly Viet Nam was traumatised by years of war, but so have other wonderfully civilised countries like Germany and Russia. What neither Russia nor Germany ever experienced (not even Germany under Hitler, as you know Richard although some readers might not) was any wholesale rejection and destruction of their civilisations like China’s Cultural Revolution, no campaign of enforced brutalisation of manners such as China has had (and is still demonstrating the long term effects to this day.)

October 25, 2006 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

Also, Ho Chi Minh was a son of a bitch, but by no means was he any kind of enemy of civilisation. A ruthless Nationalist warrior, yes, but a barbarian, no.

Unlike Mao.

October 25, 2006 @ 12:11 pm | Comment

I agree with every syllable, Ivan. When I hear people defending Mao I feel heartsick; he robbed a generation of both their minds and their souls, and recovery is still long off.

Hitler, the world’s most evil man ever, at least cherished traditional german culture (though he was brutal in his opposition to any form of innovative modern art and music). Stalin was often seen at the Bolshoi, and was in constant contact with Prokofiev and Shostakovich and, until he (probably) murdered him, Maxim Gorky. Mao and Pol Pot were the ones who got farthest with their utopian, let’s-start-from-scratch vision, and their people have yet to recover.

October 25, 2006 @ 12:15 pm | Comment

I’ve heard such great things about Hanoi – how the years of economic stagnation under communism kept the city from the sort of runaway development that has engulfed cities like Saigon – and that Hanoi is a really lovely city. True?

One of these days I’m going to see it.

October 25, 2006 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

Hanoi is a dream. It is truly charming. Saigon is impressive, but it isn’t charming. Hanoi is a time warp, and its downtown at night makes you think you’re back 50 years ago. And what great restaurants. Best food I have ever had anywhere in Asia.

October 25, 2006 @ 1:03 pm | Comment

I must say that it’s a bit scary listening to you fellows defending all them ‘other’ despots by comparing them to Mr. Mao…too weird!

Vietnamese people are great – I have two unrelated families of Viet friends here – they’re both wonderful and kind to a fault. So many of my choices as a teenager were dreadful, I’m glad that I don’t bear the burden of the guilt of ‘Nam as one of them.

October 25, 2006 @ 1:14 pm | Comment

Are you nuts? We aren’t in any way defending Hitler or Stalin. It’s simply a matter of fact that they did not try to wipe out their cultures, smash their museums and punish artists as did Mao. That doesn’t make them less evil. These are not mitigating factors – nothing can mitigate their crimes against humanity. But let’s get our history right.

October 25, 2006 @ 1:43 pm | Comment

Yeah really. Dude, you DO know Richard is Jewish, don’t you? In fact, he belongs to TWO categories of people whom the Nazis tried to exterminate.

And I don’t think the SS ever made any uniforms which could fit him, anyway…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 25, 2006 @ 1:53 pm | Comment

In fact, he belongs to TWO categories of people whom the Nazis tried to exterminate.

Richard’s a Gypsy??

October 25, 2006 @ 8:17 pm | Comment

You can’t imagine how many times the police have raided his apartment for fortune-telling. Oh and don’t even get me started on that used car he sold me just before he got out of town…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

October 25, 2006 @ 8:24 pm | Comment

My Jewish grandparents were also Russians. That might land me in yet another group marked for special treatment.

October 25, 2006 @ 8:47 pm | Comment

You mean – in the not-too-distant past you and Ivan are related??!!

October 26, 2006 @ 12:20 am | Comment

I was in Vietnam about 13 years ago and at the time HCM City/Saigon was just starting to rev up a bit…floating hotels, occasional neon, the odd Russian or Aussie tourist. I’d be fascinated to return now and see how much has changed.

October 26, 2006 @ 12:56 am | Comment

Ah, another one-sided memetic battle to win over another state on China’s borders. Bravo.

October 26, 2006 @ 2:02 am | Comment

This last comment is a reminder that t-co is a one-sided memetic BSer. It’s really nausious and ranky. Flapdoodledoo for hooey!

October 26, 2006 @ 5:22 am | Comment

I visited Vietnam at length this summer and was struck by both its physical beauty and also its poverty relative to China. For example, the Chinese have developed their physical infrastructure to a far greater extent than in Vietnam- even the roads in southern Guangxi Province are in better shape than their counterparts near Hanoi.

Plus, I’ve never felt so noticed before as a tourist than in Vietnam- the locals are absolutely desperate to capitalize on tourism there and can make walking through the streets of a city like Hoi An exhausting. I didn’t find this atmosphere even in the most touristy Chinese towns, such as Yangshuo or Dali.

(I will note as an aside that other travelers I met on my trip had the opposite impression of China and Vietnam than I, and I could be biased based on my two years as a resident in China)

Other Lisa- Richard is right: Hanoi is a dream. I would say that both Hanoi and Saigon are more attractive, interesting, and enjoyable than any large Chinese cities and most others in Asia as a whole.

October 26, 2006 @ 5:54 am | Comment

Dear t-co,

Your adventure with the word “memetic” is no longer excellent.

Sincerely yours,
Bill and Ted

October 26, 2006 @ 8:58 am | Comment

Hm. Matt says he was struck by VietNam’s “physical beauty and also its poverty relative to China.”

I think the above phrase demonstrates some of the prevalent confusion about “economics”, which is shared by America and China alike (and to a lesser extent by Europeans): How can you call a place beautiful and then say it’s relatively impoverished compared to one of the (for the most part) ugliest countries in the world?

China is ugly as shit. That’s poverty.

October 26, 2006 @ 9:21 am | Comment

Actually let me qualify the above comment. Not all of China is ugly. But far too much of it is, including so much of what superficially impresses Western visitors. Beauty is not the same thing as shopping malls, not to mention the wretchedness of so much of the countryside.

October 26, 2006 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

And what of your beloved Russia? Have you visited Magnitogorsk? Or, communism aside, I fail to see how a massive cathedral with ugly-ass gold and green domes built by a psychotic tyrant is beautiful.

And we can’t forget the beauty of all those dachas in the countryside–embezzlement is soooo beautiful, as is the convenient shooting of one of your country’s leading dissidents and the convenient tax fraud of a politically deviant oil baron.

October 27, 2006 @ 8:08 am | Comment

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