As we ease into the Solar New Year and look ahead with great anticipation to the 2018 Lunar New Year, here are some upbeat thoughts about Donald Trump’s November 2017 visit to Viet Nam. Let’s start the year off on a happy note!
In the weeks leading up to President Trump’s visit to Viet Nam for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang and the state visit to Hanoi the following day, I was interviewed by several journalists about the education angle of Trump’s visit and some of his (anti-immigration) policies, real or imagined.
One of my comments, a hope, in fact, was that Donald Trump would say and do the right things, both scripted and unscripted. In other words, that he would behave himself. This was for the sake of continued good relations between the two countries and also continued interest in the US as an overseas study destination.
Lo and behold, he did! Here are two examples, points on which he and I are agreement. It’s a rare moment so savor it!
Vietnamese students rank among the best students in the world. This assertion was made in a his speech at the APEC CEO Summit in Danang. While it was no doubt written by one of his staff with input from the US Mission in Viet Nam, that statement is generally true in terms of academic achievement and reputation at many secondary and postsecondary institutions in the US and other countries.
Viet Nam is one of the great miracles of the world, a statement he made at a state banquet in Hanoi. Since this was Trump’s very first trip to Viet Nam, my guess is that his (mis)perceptions about the country and what it would look like and be like clashed with the reality of what he saw from Air Force One and his limousine. In other words, it blew his mind. All of the construction, the businesses, the cars, the luxury cars, the motorbikes, etc.
I agree because I have an inkling, based on what I’ve read, seen, and experienced in my over 12 years of living and working in Viet Nam, of just how much the Vietnamese and their country have overcome since the end of the American War, and how much progress they’ve made.
In a recent Pew Research Center survey, a whopping 88% of Vietnamese said that life is better than it was 50 years ago, the most positive response in the world. (That percentage is not surprising when you consider that 1967 was approaching the height of the American War in Viet Nam, a war in which 3.8 million Vietnamese ultimately perished, over half of them civilians.)
Then there is Viet Nam’s tiger economy, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, which has improved the standard of living and the quality of life for most Vietnamese. That explains the high level of economic confidence. (US Americans, by contrast, said that life is worse now than it was 50 years ago by a margin of 41% to 37%.) 91% said the economic conditions are good. Even if you’re only in Viet Nam for a few days on your first visit, you will sense this optimism, dynamism, and forward momentum.
Postscript: I would describe President’s Trump’s reception on the streets of Hanoi as lukewarm. There was some polite applause as his limousine drove by. (Those applauding included tourists.) The level of excitement didn’t compare to that of Barack Obama’s visit in May 2016 or Bill Clinton’s trip in November 2000. It was more on par with George W. Bush’s visit to Hanoi in 2006 for APEC.