Vietnam Today
by James Lap

[Fall 2001]

Prof. James T. Lap, Director of Computer Applications at New York City Technical College, spoke at AAHEC's Distinguished Speakers Forum on "Vietnam Today". He took the audience on a grand tour of Vietnam, from its beautiful coastline to a history of wars of independence, and concluded with the economic opening of the recent visit by President Clinton. 

From its wars with Japan, France, United States, and China, Vietnam has emerged as a highly respected leader in South East Asia. Its military prowess, however, did not translate easily into economic prosperity. With a population of 80 million, more than 80% under 40 years old, Vietnam has yet to conquer the entrenched enemy of high unemployment. It must also work on the harmony among its 54 ethnic groups, the largest being the Viet (Kinh), comprising 87% of the population.

Increasing globalization has brought investors to Vietnam from many foreign countries, chief of which is Singapore, followed by Taiwan. The economic opening also introduced a burgeoning of information technology, which the government attempts to keep under control. As of now, there are 85,000 internet subscribers in Vietnam with only 5 internet service providers, all owned by the government. Rapid change may be happening, however, since July last year, when Vietnam signed the trade agreement to open up its telecommunication industry. 

Vietnam, which has always had a love and hate relationship with China, has recovered from its war with China in 1979, and is now engaged in cultural, and technology exchanges with its former enemy. China is now the 21st leading foreign investor in Vietnam. 

On the other hand, Vietnam still suffers from the lingering effects of its war with the U.S. The remaining land mines after the war has killed 38,000 people and injured 60,000. On an average day, three to four people became victims of this remnant of the war period. So far, the U.S. has provided less than two million dollars of equipment to locate these hidden land mines. In addition, with tens of thousands of birth defects, more than a million people are suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, the deadly chemical which was sprayed over Vietnam during the war years, by millions of gallons. As of now, the U.S. agreed only to conduct scientific studies of the affected population in cooperation with the Vietnamese. 

The future of Vietnam, Prof. Lap concluded in his lecture, lies in its continual balancing act between the two super powers: China and U.S. With the reopening of U.S. embassy in Hanoi, and the recent visit by President Clinton, together with the improvement of Vietnamese and Chinese relationship, it is hoped that peace and prosperity for the region may endure for a long time.

Synopsis by Thomas Tam






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