Bubble tea has stirred up quite a controversy in recent weeks as netizens argue whether its frequent consumption is wasteful or simply a matter of personal choice. Last month, Swedish fast fashion brand H&M also made headlines as thousands of shoppers lined up for its first store opening in Saigon. These are just some signs of rising consumerism in Vietnam. When describing professional middle class youth in Vietnam, a research paper published in 2007 in the Journal of Modern Asian Studies stated: "The evidence that is available suggests a greater interest in consumption, leisure activities, accessing information and news, and the maintenance and achievement of social status." Yet, "there does not seem to be a significant political identity emerging among middle class Vietnamese or an interest in mobilizing political resources, although there is some evidence of involvement in topical … [Read more...] about Is it right to channel Vietnam’s brimming youthful energy into consumerism?
VnExpress International introduces to you the second think-piece on The Cable Car Debate by Mila Le. Click here to read why another reader thinks world's largest caves in Vietnam are not for everybody. A lot has been said about the environmental repercussions of a cable car system across Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park. It goes against the concept of why national parks were introduced in the first place - protecting invaluable biodiversity from exploitative humans. But it’s not just a matter of the classic environment versus economic growth trade off. In Vietnam, cable cars, along with luxury resorts, huge statues and other “quitessence of modernity”, have also come to represent the country’s obsession with becoming civilized (văn minh) through owning (làm chủ) nature. Yet by trying to “improve” what we already have with imposing … [Read more...] about Don’t try to ‘improve’ Phong Nha. Learn to appreciate it instead
Vietnam's internet community was abuzz over the weekend following news that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has endorsed a controversial cable car project into the country's world-renowned cave kingdom. Unlike previous plans, this one does not include the world's largest cave Son Doong. Instead it will run 5.2 kilometers (3.2 miles) from a section of the Ho Chi Minh Highway to En (Swallow) Cave, which was catapulted to global fame when it was aired live on U.S. talk show Good Morning America in May 2015. En Cave, a feeder to the world's largest cave Son Doong in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, stretches 1,645 meters into the mountain and has been named one of the most captivating caves on earth by National Geographic. It is also believed to be the world’s third largest cave, according to CNN. The cable car controversy in Quang Binh started in 2014 when the province announced plans to build a $212-million gondola lift into Son … [Read more...] about The cable car debate: Should Vietnam open its cave kingdom to mass tourism?
My uncle was a vice principal of a high school in Vietnam’s northern highlands and he was accustomed to his students and their parents visiting every year end. They would carry a basket or hold a sack with a rooster inside, which my uncle would cook and put on the altar on New Year’s Eve. It wasn't just chicken. His house was full of homegrown guavas, beans, peanuts, cassava, sweet potatoes and vegetables, all gifts from his students. My uncle said he only took a little from each of them and had to force them to bring home the rest, because “in this rural area, everyone is poor.” The lovely memory still makes me smile many years later. Showing gratitude is a noble thing and Vietnamese have well preserved that custom. But the boundary between the rooster of gratitude and a thick envelope to buy personal favors is a blurry one. As it would be embarrassing to carry a rooster to someone’s house, and a rooster is no longer particularly valuable, people have … [Read more...] about There’s a thin line between noble gratitude and bribery. Free markets will sort out the latter
China’s rise over the last generation has been impressive, with the country moving from the periphery to the center of the global system, and climbing from impoverished backwater to a position of substantial wealth and power. But the strategic environment in which China’s “lay low” approach to international affairs has helped to make it the world’s second-largest economy is changing – and a broader backlash against China is beginning. Under President Xi Jinping, Beijing has been pushing an increasingly aggressive and high-profile foreign policy, attracting the sort of attention that Xi’s predecessors had carefully avoided. Now, countries that only a few years ago welcomed Chinese investment and engagement are beginning to mobilize against Chinese influence. The global conditions that favored China’s rise began at the end of the Cold War. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the West in general and the United States in particular were eager … [Read more...] about Inside the growing backlash against China