Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library


Bill Hayton
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The eyes of the West have recently been trained on China and India, but Vietnam is rising fast among its Asian peers. A breathtaking period of social change has seen foreign investment bringing capitalism flooding into its nominally communist society, booming cities swallowing up smaller villages, and the lure of modern living tugging at the traditional networks of family and community. Yet beneath these sweeping developments lurks an authoritarian political system that complicates the nation's apparent renaissance. In this engaging work, experienced journalist Bill Hayton looks at the costs of change in Vietnam and questions whether this rising Asian power is really heading toward capitalism and democracy.

    Based on vivid eyewitness accounts and pertinent case studies, Hayton's book addresses a broad variety of issues in today's Vietnam, including important shifts in international relations, the growth of civil society, economic developments and challenges, and the nation's nascent democracy movement as well as its notorious internal security. His analysis of Vietnam's "police state," and its systematic mechanisms of social control, coercion, and surveillance, is fresh and particularly imperative when viewed alongside his portraits of urban and street life, cultural legacies, religion, the media, and the arts. With a firm sense of historical and cultural context, Hayton examines how these issues have emerged and where they will lead Vietnam in the next stage of its development.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17540-0
    Subjects: History, Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. Introduction: Another Vietnam
    (pp. xii-xv)

    ‘The Hidden Charm’ is Vietnam’s seductive tourist slogan. Many Vietnamese don’t like it, but it teases foreigners’ yearning for adventure and discovery. The phrase conjures an image which sums up the country: the peasant girl looks up, tips back the brim of her conical hat and reveals her shy smiling face beneath. The straw-coloured hat, the bright green paddy fields and the black buffalo grazing all around – a world pure and beautiful, hidden and charming. Make the effort, implies the slogan, and your reward will be a vision of tranquillity, grace and beauty. This Vietnam promises everything your modern...

  6. Maps
    (pp. xvi-xviii)
  7. 1 The communist capitalist playground
    (pp. 1-25)

    Autumn is wedding season in Vietnam. The temperatures dip, the humidity slackens, everyone’s ready for a party. It was a Sunday evening and the streets of central Saigon were filled with the weekend parade – the motorised celebration of youth, noise and exhaust fumes. Young men and women biked down the wide boulevards, exulting in the freedoms of their new urban culture. Starting on Le Duan Street, named after Vietnam’s last Stalinist leader; they rode past the United States Consulate (the old embassy long demolished); up to the gates of the Reunification Palace, the old Saigon seat of power; down...

  8. 2 Selling the fields
    (pp. 26-45)

    On 10 January 2007, the day before Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation, Tran Thi Phu dug up her field in the northern province of Ha Tay and took it away in a wheelbarrow. Under a flat winter sky she and her cousin scraped away the topsoil with their hoes, piled it on top of old fertiliser bags and heaved it on to the barrow. The two then carted it into their village, Hoai Duc, several hundred metres away, to sell it to a neighbour who was expanding his fruit-growing business. Across the paddy fields behind them ran a line...

  9. 3 Living on the streets
    (pp. 46-67)

    In 24 hours Nguyen Quy Duc Street would be a pile of rubble but at midday on 27 December 2006 everything seemed normal – 130 shops were still doing business. Nguyen Quy Duc wasn’t a pretty street but neither was it significantly uglier than many others in modern Hanoi. This area, the southwest, had exploded out of the old city boundaries long before. The city planners had had grand ambitions – punching a four-lane highway through the fields and lining it with new university campuses, factories and Sovietinspired housing projects. In between the concrete blocks they had left plenty of...

  10. 4 Grandfather is watching you
    (pp. 68-90)

    Each January, Nguyen Hai’s work begins anew. From the bleakly modern interior of his small office on one of the main tourist shopping streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, he and his team rejoin the battle to improve the lifestyles of the city’s inhabitants. Mr Hai’s instructions will cascade down to every district, ward, neighbourhood, and eventually to every home. By the time the process is complete, each household in Hanoi will have been asked to account for its behaviour and submit itself for judgement by its neighbours. Stories of disputes and squabbles will have been retold, allegations made and refuted...

  11. 5 ‘Greet the Party, Greet Spring!’
    (pp. 91-112)

    Ba Dinh Square, the epicentre of political life in Vietnam, was designed for parades. The great boulevard along its western side can accommodate hundreds of military vehicles, the tiered reviewing stands and the lawns opposite have space for thousands of cheering spectators and Ho Chi Minh’s grey marble mausoleum has a terrace from which Communist Party leadership can wave at the masses. Except the masses don’t come any more – not even for Uncle Ho’s birthday. Once upon a time, before about 1998, Ba Dinh Square would be filled on national occasions. No longer. The party of the masses no...

  12. 6 The rise and fall of Bloc 8406
    (pp. 113-134)

    On 11 May 2007 the Chief Judge of the Hanoi People’s Court, Nguyen Huu Chinh, brought his chamber to order, called his two defendants forward and squashed the brief flowering of Vietnam’s democracy movement. It was a show trial; special arrangements had been made to relay the four hours of proceedings to a side room full of diplomats and the international media. By lunchtime it was all over. When it was done, two of the most outspoken critics of the Communist Party had been silenced. The two, both human rights lawyers, were convicted of ‘spreading anti-state propaganda’. Judge Chinh sentenced...

  13. 7 A sharp knife, but not too sharp
    (pp. 135-158)

    The gang of men lounging in the Hanoi Botanic Gardens were enjoying themselves. They were on a break from a training course, it was mid-December, the weather was cool and the Gardens provided some respite from the roar of city traffic. Traffic was the men’s livelihood – they were paid a salary for controlling it and most made a tidy income from the side perks. Hanoi’s traffic police are notorious. Any minor infraction is an excuse for an informal transaction, no receipt offered or asked for. But some of these cops were into something much bigger than roadside bribery. They...

  14. 8 See it before it’s gone
    (pp. 159-180)

    The morning mêlée on the boat steps was in full swing. Bus-loads of brightly coloured tourists sought shade under the souvenir shops’ awnings. Guides grabbed permits from the booking office and ushered their sweltering charges past the barriers. Tour parties headed left and right: snakes of Koreans, Chinese, Americans and Europeans teetering along the tide-wet concrete, searching out the wooden junk to begin their tour of Vietnam’s greatest visitor attraction, the World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay. Balancing bags and cameras while dodging box-loads of food and laundry overhead and the ropes and moorings underfoot, they eventually reached their...

  15. 9 Enemies into friends
    (pp. 181-202)

    It wasn’t, perhaps, the best choice of date. Whoever arranged the port visit for Pacific Command couldn’t have had a strong sense of history, otherwise why send two US warships up the Saigon River exactly 30 years after the day which set the seal on the United States’ defeat in Indochina? The minesweeper USSPatriotand the rescue vessel USSSalvorsteamed into harbour on 2 July 2006, the 30th anniversary of the date when the two Vietnams were formally unified, 15 months after the fall of Saigon, the day in 1976 when Saigon and its surroundings were formally renamed...

  16. 10 Schisms and divisions
    (pp. 203-225)

    Nguyen Thi Nhu Hoa’s finger hovered over the return key. When her finger came down she would break a national taboo, set off a furious online ‘blog war’ and reveal long-suppressed tensions in Vietnamese society. This wasn’t her plan. All she wanted to do was share a few home truths about the differences between her home town of Saigon and the capital, Hanoi. All her life she’d heard about Hanoi, beautiful Hanoi, home of the nation, its source of culture. And then, in November 2006, she went there. She couldn’t believe her eyes. She saw ‘dirty and ugly streets …...

  17. Epilogue
    (pp. 226-228)

    There’s nothing inevitable about what happens next in Vietnam. Whether the country thrives or stagnates will depend upon the choices made, in the main, by the Communist Party. The ingredients of national success are already in place. Some are easy to measure: a young population, widespread basic education and plenty of foreign investment. Others are less tangible, in particular the optimism, energy and acquisitiveness of the people. But these ingredients could easily be wasted or allowed to spoil. The country is storing up troubles – the entrenchment of the new elite, the hollowing out of the state, the over-exploitation of...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 229-235)
  19. Suggestions for further reading
    (pp. 236-238)
  20. Index
    (pp. 239-254)