Many people with a personal and professional interest in Vietnam are patiently waiting to see if any nuggets of gold can be mined from the ore that is the 2325 US Embassy-Hanoi documents that will be trickling out on the Wikileaks Cable Gate website.
Areas of interest include all of the “usual suspects” such as war legacy issues (e.g., unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange), HIV/AIDS, adoption, human rights, bilateral trade, human trafficking, “good governance,” and the much discussed concept of a strategic partnership between the two countries.
Another issue that has been at the top of the State Department’s Vietnam agenda in recent years is (yes, you guessed it) education. In a speech entitled A Review of 15 Years of U.S.-Vietnam Relations and a Look to the Coming Years, delivered on 26 May 2010 to the Vietnam Business Club in Hanoi, Ambassador Michalak had this to say about education: “I’d also have to say that American education, which for us is a U.S. service export, is my favorite U.S. export sector because of the significant and long-lasting benefits it yields for all involved.”
One of the documents likely to be uploaded to the Cable Gate site is a leaked April 2008 cable known as the US-Vietnam Education Memo. Its 4330 words and eight pages, chock-full of optimistic references to seizing opportunities and capitalizing on the admiration of Vietnamese for the U.S. higher education system, contain a Chief of Mission’s well-documented, cogently argued and passionate appeal for additional resources that would enable the US, or so it was thought, to “reshape this nation in ways that guarantee a deep, positive impact for decades to come. If we want the Vietnam of 2020 to look more like South Korea than China, now is the time to act.” The “Memo” offers telling examples and revealing insights into the use of education as a tool of soft power. Stay tuned…
Vietnamese version from Sunflower Mission, “a 501(c) 3 organization committed to improving the lives of the people in Vietnam, mainly through educational assistance programs. We are a U.S.-based, non-profit, non-political, non-governmental organization,” according to its website.)