Arthur I. Cyr: Vietnam is a battleground - for commerce and investment
Vietnam today has risen dramatically in importance, for reasons having to do with commerce rather than communism. According to a new survey by U.S. News and World Report, the nation is now eighth in a competitive ranking of 29 economies.
This puts that country ahead of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, which finished 13, 14 and 15 respectively. Heretofore, these powerhouse economies have been far more prominent in the realm of trade and investment. Last year, Vietnam ranked 23.
The survey involved just under 7,000 business executives in decision-making positions. Respondents gave perceptions of each of the countries regarding eight characteristics, including corruption, economic stability, innovation, tax environment, technology and others.
Vietnam’s rapid climb reflects the government’s 1986 decision to open the doors to private investment and commerce. The term “doi moi,” which translates from Vietnamese as renovation or reform, became the formal label for these economic changes. They mirror similar important reforms in China since the late 1970s.
In November 2017, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit occurred in Danang, Vietnam. The traditional spelling of this third largest city in the nation is Da Nang, just as the traditional spelling of Vietnam is Viet Nam.
APEC has become one of the most important intergovernmental networks in East Asia for the promotion of trade and investment. President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James Baker deserve great credit for making APEC a firm reality. Prime Minister Bob Hawke of our close ally Australia conceived APEC.
Australia has moved in the direction of free markets, and a much more explicit national commitment to tolerance, directly reflected in official policy toward indigenous populations. The Obama administration decision to station a U.S. Marine contingent in Australia underscores the strong bilateral ties between the two nations, dating back to World War II.
Vietnam also hosted the 2006 APEC summit. That gathering provided an opportunity to highlight the nation’s economic growth and the wider commitment to multilateralism.
The nation also for understandable reasons was long a special case. For years after Hanoi’s military victory in 1975, the newly unified nation was unable to turn the corner from political revolution to economic development. Vietnam did not join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations until 1995, nearly three decades after the creation of the regional development organization.
Recent years have witnessed escalation of maritime conflicts across Asia. For example, in April 2014 China authorities impounded the Baosteel Emotion, a freighter of Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines. The move was part of commercial claims resulting from World War II. The two nations also both claim the Senkaku Islands.
China and Vietnam are traditional enemies, a reality masked by their ideological alliance as Communist partners during the long Vietnam War. Maritime conflicts and occasional violent clashes between these nations continue.
There are military security aspects to APEC summits, though the focus is economics. In the 2008 summit held in Peru, Americans and Russians discussed differences over Moscow’s invasion of Georgia, and missile developments in Europe and Korea. In 2006, Hanoi honored U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and our government with a martial parade, complete with American flags - an ironic and truly poignant gesture.
French journalist Bernard Fall provides brilliant insight regarding Vietnam. He was reflective, unhurried and utterly realistic.
Read Fall’s book titled “The Two Viet Nams.” His spelling of the nation’s name reflects his respect for other cultures.
That is important, in business and in war.
Arthur I. Cyr is a Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War” (Macmillan/Palgrave and NYU Press). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.