This is the second in a trilogy of posts about various Vingroup projects. This one is a more detailed look at VinUniversity and the Vinhomes community in which it is embedded. (Here’s a related post from 17.8.20.) Before the fourth wave of COVID-19 reared its ugly head, I had time to drive out there and have a look. I wasn’t disappointed, in a manner of speaking. The fact that Vingroup was able to acquire so much agricultural land is a testimony to its power and influence.
The Marriage of Financial and Political Power
For some background about the connection between financial power and political influence, not unique to Viet Nam, check out this comprehensive 2019 Financial Times article The rise and rise of a Vietnamese corporate empire (subtitle: Vingroup makes everything from smartphones to schools. But civil activists fear its growing clout) that contains this quote: “’To be successful in Vietnam, you have to nurture relationships with people in the government to protect you,’ Alexander Vuving, a Vietnamese-American scholar at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, told me. ‘But once you have a close relationship with the powerful in an authoritarian state, it’s tempting to leverage it to silence your critics.'” And how do maintain leverage? That’s a rhetorical question for anyone who understands how the system works, the government’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign notwithstanding.
Another 2019 article worth reading by the same journalist is Vietnam’s Vingroup gives hard sell to own workers – Leaked memos reveal pressure to buy VinFast cars and to use Vsmart phones. In the context of the US, this reminds me of miners who buy supplies from the company store. The company gets it employees coming and going, so to speak. A sweet deal for the owners but not the workers.
Looking Back to 2018
Here are some of my quotes from a 2018 article Vietnamese property developer partners with Cornell on new HEI.
“From the perspective of Vietnamese parents, this will have the win-win benefit of saving money … And keeping their children closer to home during their still-formative undergraduate years,” said Mark A. Ashwill, PhD, managing director of Capstone Vietnam.
“VinUniversity could very well fill that niche [for parents], perhaps even better and faster than Fulbright University Vietnam, especially in view of the partnership with Cornell and the amount of money Vingroup is willing to invest in the short-term,” Ashwill said.
“From what I’ve seen, Vingroup is fully prepared to [put] its money where its vision is.”
These quotes have aged nicely in the short time it took for VinUniversity to come to fruition, along with the rest of the community that includes shophouses, condos, villas, a Vincom Mega Mall, which naturally includes a Vinmart supermarket, a place to sell VinFast cars, and a sales office for Vinhomes condos, shophouses, and villas, and a number of artificial lakes, hence the reference to “ocean.” Have a look at the photos below. The only pic that is missing is of a Vinschool, which is under construction.
An Architectural Wasteland
What’s striking to me is the sameness, reminiscent of The Truman Show or much of US suburbia. (Click on the link if you don’t understand this US cultural reference.) the lack of color (the gray day accentuated this), and the lack of green space. It’s clear that the purpose of the design was to maximize profit. The reality is that most urban Vietnamese, people who can afford to live in Vinhomes Ocean Park, are used to living in close quarters with a lack of green space. As a result, they don’t have high expectations and lack perspective, in this regard. Vinhomes Ocean Park offers every convenience within walking distance. And the price is right. I give them credit for knowing their market.
That’s not all! What do we have behind Door #3? Coming soon in the third and final post in this series. That’s called delayed gratification, a sign of intelligence and maturity. Wait for it! You won’t be disappointed.
Shalom (שלום), MAA
Postscript: Sometimes, you have to sacrifice quality for the timely completion of a high-priority construction project. Note the cracks at the bottom. I’ll check back in a year or two.