A new book out last week reminds us that despite our growing interest in Asian ‘superpowers’ India and China, we’d best not forget another less assuming but still dynamic nation in the region that’s currently being met with an influx of foreign investment.
Author Bill Hayton, a former correspondent for the BBC who lived in Vietnam for several years, raises in his non-fiction work, Vietnam: Rising Dragon, several major themes, including what effects the foreign funds being poured into the country may be having on its people and society. Hayton notes in his introduction various major shifts and large-scale polarities in Vietnamese society that are now emerging—such as a new trend towards individualistic urban living that is displacing traditional family life and community ties and the numerous industrial parks that are replacing the country’s iconic scenery of fields and tropical greenery.
He also argues that despite the common outsider’s perspective of an idyllic Vietnam that ‘promises everything your modern world has left behind,’ neither the developers nor the Vietnamese themselves share the same sentiments of the Western tourist, and in fact want nothing but to leave it behind for progress. He thus asserts that in Vietnam now, ‘Every day, petty conflicts are being fought in fields, cybercafés and offices. Whatever happens next is unlikely to be dull.’
I’m looking forward to reading Vietnam: Rising Dragon, and further encouraged by the Financial Times’ recent review that praised it saying: ‘Examining nearly every aspect of Vietnamese politics and society, from the economy and family life, to religion and the plight of indigenous minorities, Hayton gives a balanced, intelligent account of a country whose history so differs from our own.’