Fake News About Viet Nam

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Photo: AFP/Kao Nguyen

The above photo was taken at a 10 June 2018 demonstration in HCMC against a bill to create three new special economic zones (SEZs) in Quang Ninh and Khanh Hoa provinces, as well as on Phu Quoc Island.  (There are already 18 SEZs.)  As a result of considerable feedback from the public, including in the form of protests, the government has said it would adjust the 99-year term.  At issue is the fear of Chinese encroachment on Vietnamese sovereignty, since many of the investors would presumably be Chinese.  (China is Viet Nam’s leading trading partner.)  

Below is my response to a thread on the Viet Nam Studies Group (VSG) listserv about reputable sources of information about Viet Nam.  One colleague, DB, suggested Asia Times (AT), among others.  


Asia Times?  Really?  I guess it depends on which articles you read.  The one below, written by “Khai Nguyen” (KN) and posted on VSG a while ago, is an op-ed masquerading as news (Southeast Asia – Politics).  KN is obviously toeing the VK (Việt Kiều) or overseas Vietnamese/US-centric party line and thereby engaging in the kind of wishful thinking that’s prevalent in overseas Vietnamese refugee communities.  (Think Quận Cam/Orange County, CA, USA)  By the way, does anyone know who KN is?  I’d like to drop him a line.  Or maybe it’s a nom de guerre (?).    

A democratic revolution has just begun in Vietnam  (8 July 2018, Asia Times)

Massive but orderly protests across the country hint at the beginning of the end of Communist Party rule

My favorite comments, both spot-on, are:  

What a stupid story. Just more wishful thinking by Vietnam haters living in the US.  – Bao D Nguyen.  

This is clearly sponsored fake news. -Badri Subedi

If history is any guide, the suggestion in this comment is also a distinct possibility:  

Another colour protest organized and funded by CIA and the NED. CIA and the NED failed in their attempt to organise similar protest in Hong Kong and Thailand. Now, they are trying Vietnam. They will fail again. – Michael Chan

Below is the excerpt GN shared with the list.  Absolute BS, pardon my salty language.  Source?  Likely KN’s overactive imagination.  Statistics pulled out of thin air.  Whatever it takes to enhance his false narrative.  

The government now spends about 82.1% of the national budget to pay salaries to government officials, military, police, 205 public security generals and five million Party members. The remaining 17.9% is earmarked for development investments

If you don’t know very much about Viet Nam or you hate its government, you might be inclined to believe this 1700-word rant.  That was certainly the case with Chieu T. Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who lives in Texas, and therefore sees his ancestral homeland through three red-striped glasses.  As if on cue, here’s what he wrote in the comments section:  “This is an amazingly accurate, good report.”  How many of you agree with this assertion?  I thought so.  

One of my favorite statements is KN’s conclusion:  Many Vietnamese now believe that a long-awaited true revolution has just begun.  Based on what, exactly, a dream the author had?  How many?  Which Vietnamese?  The author’s refugee buddies (or relatives) in the diaspora who still fly the flag of a client state that was vanquished and tossed into the trash bin of history with the liberation of Saigon on 30 April 1975?  The millions of Vietnamese who are among the most optimistic people in the world, economically and otherwise, according to annual surveys?  The notion that “a long-awaited true revolution has just begun” is so much pie in the sky.  This article has “OUTSIDER” stamped all over it.  

[KN’s essay is not unlike this article, posted by a VSGer a while back to a cyberchorus of groans and snickering.]  

Here’s part of what I wrote to AT about this poorly written and argued tirade:  Shame on Asia Times for publishing this tripe.  Conclusion:  take many of AT’s articles with a grain of salt.  That includes some of David Hutt’s work, e.g., Reactionary ‘red flags’ tilt Vietnam to the Alt-right.  


After reading my post, DB responded thus:  Agree — a story credited to “Khai Nguyen” recently appears to be a Việt Tân propaganda swallowed wholesale by Asia Times.  (Việt Tân, also known as the Vietnam Reform Revolutionary Party, is a network of members inside Vietnam and around the world, that aims to establish democracy and reform Vietnam through peaceful and political means.  It is classified as a terrorist organization by the Vietnamese government.)

Peace, MAA

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“We’ll Become Your Partner, If…

You Send Us a Student”

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I recently had a chat with a US higher education colleague about whether or not it would be advisable for his institution to require prospective education agents to send them at least one student before signing an agent agreement.  Think of it as a test that prospective agents need to pass in order to “make the cut.”  If you can deliver the goods, in this case, an enrolled international student, you  are welcome to join the esteemed ranks of our education agents.    

My response was that it’s better to find the right agents to work with than to have a quid pro quo means of encouraging “performance.”  Agents respond to market demand, to a great extent, in addition to other factors such as the amount of the per head commission and other incentives, mostly but not exclusively tangible.  Imposing any kind of requirement is likely to be a disincentive for most companies.  

It’s best to rely on other vetting criteria and then judge the agent based on performance.  Be selective, unlike many institutions that mistakenly believe more agents translates into more apps and admits,.  Finally, work with a select group of agents in a given country and cultivate quality relationships with those agents.  

Since partnerships are two-ways streets, it also depends on the education “product” that the agent is selling.  Many agents choose not to work with some educational institutions because they don’t see a market for them.  This could have to do with cost, location, a lack of scholarships, and other market-specific factors.  

recruit in vnSome companies like Capstone Vietnam, of which I’m managing director, will not work with institutions that insist on this kind of “audition.”  Capstone treats students and parents as clients not partner (or prospective partner) schools.  This means its advisers do not guide, or pressure, students to choose a Capstone partner.  It’s all about the fit.  

Peace, MAA

“(US) American Ex-Pats Explain Why They Quit the USA”

The work/life balance sucks, there are too many guns, and thanks to a certain someone now in charge, things are likely to get worse.

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Image by Lia Kantrowitz for VICE

This oldie but goodie from 2017 is the tip of the iceberg.  One could write a book about this topic.  There are many other US Americans living outside of the US who did not “quit the USA” but simply chose to live elsewhere for personal and professional reasons.  Most are objective about what the US has to offer, its strengths and its positives, but also realize that it is not the “greatest nation on Earth.”  They see the US is not “an exceptional city on a hill, but as a mortal among other nations,” in the words of Anatol Lieven (2004).  Those who believe that it is either or both are either US nationalists and/or don’t travel overseas very often, if at all.  

Jim Rogers, a US billionaire who lives with his family in Singapore, had this to say about his home country a few years ago in an article in which he sang the praises of…  Singapore:  “I can tell you that when you fly into a New York airport, you are flying into a third world airport.” — Jim Rogers.  (If you’ve ever been to Changi Airport in Singapore, you know exactly what he’s talking about – in spades.)  In a 2015 Wall Street Journal article entitled Expat Investor Jim Rogers on Why He Loves Singapore And Doesn’t Miss the U.S. Rogers also referred to “third world” taxis driving on “third world” roads.   

Peace, MAA

Working with Education Agents: A View from Vietnam

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Image courtesy of NAFSA

Below are a couple of excerpts from a blog post I wrote at the invitation of NAFSA’s International Enrollment Management (IEM) Knowledge Community.  

While there are some indications that growing numbers of students, who are better informed and more empowered than ever, are applying directly to foreign educational institutions – a trend that we should all encourage because it enables colleagues from admitting institutions to exercise more control over the application process – Vietnam, like most sending countries, is still very much an agent-driven market.

Given this reality and the fact that competition is fiercer than ever, colleagues need to develop a long-term and diversified strategy that includes a variety of non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques, both digital and offline, in addition to developing a quality and ethical agent network.  Working with education agents should be just one of many tools in an institution’s recruitment toolbox. If it’s the only one, your recruitment efforts are doomed to fail in competitive markets.

Here’s a link to the original post, if would like to read it in its entirety on the NAFSA website.  

Peace, MAA

Lessons From the UT Tyler Scandal

The scandal concerning students from Nepal should prompt a long-overdue conversation about institutional priorities surrounding international students in higher education, write Laura A. Kaub and James Linville.

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Photo courtesy of IHE

A number of questions came to mind after reading this 16 July 2018 Inside Higher Ed article written by well-intentioned colleagues.  Below are the questions and my responses.  

What is the precise definition of  “high achieving, low income” (HALI) students?  This would be helpful in thinking about the type of student the authors are discussing in Nepal, the African countries that their organization serves, and elsewhere.  

Do the authors know how many of the 60 Nepali students offered scholarships by UT Tyler fall into this category?  Young people are one of Nepal’s major exports in the form of adopted children and students.  Needless to say, many from the latter category are drawn from that country’s upper classes.

How do institutions verify need?  Even if you trust, for whatever reason, you must always verify.  I know of a number of cases in which children from families of considerable means gamed the system and received need-based need.  I know one US colleague who wanted to give all Vietnamese applicants need-based aid, as if all Vietnamese students are poor.  Moral of the story:  even rich people want need-based aid.  It’s up to those who run the system to close any existing loopholes and not open any new ones.  

Instead of loans, why not guarantee on-campus jobs for these students?  Who would make the loans?  What would the interest rate be?  How would you guarantee repayment, e.g., withhold the diploma until the outstanding balance is paid?  What are the visa implications of these loans?  

Finally, the notion that scholarships are (or should be) taxed is absurd but something that is beyond the control of the authors.  

Peace, MAA

The Red, White, & Blue Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Nearly two dozen members of the U.S. Congress have written to the heads of Facebook and Google urging them not to comply with a new cybersecurity law in Vietnam, saying the legislation is in violation of international human rights standards and raises concerns under the country’s trade obligations.

google logoThis is rich, coming from the greatest human rights violator in the world, bar none, and a country that regularly and extensively monitors the online activities of its own law-abiding citizens and anyone else they can sink their claws into via Google, Facebook, and other companies, regardless of nationality.   (Long live Edward Snowden!)  

Here’s a dictionary definition of HYPOCRISY:  the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.  If the shoe fits, wear it, and it certainly does in this case.  (Long live the Tor Project and encrypted email and chat!)  

Radio_Free_Asia_(logo)Follow this link to read this article in its entirety:  US Lawmakers Urge Facebook, Google Not to Comply With Vietnam Cybersecurity Law.  As always, consider the source.  RFA is a propaganda organ of the US government.  It broadcasts and publishes online news, information, and commentary to listeners in East Asia while “advancing the goals of U.S. foreign policy.”  Even if the truth doesn’t set you free, it will make you a more well-informed national and global citizen.    

Bonus!  

Read these 2010 and 2013 articles and weep (and/or get angry): EXCLUSIVE: GOOGLE, CIA INVEST IN ‘FUTURE’ OF WEB MONITORING

Secret program gives NSA, FBI backdoor access to Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft data

Peace, MAA

Postscript:  Cybermemo to those two dozen hypocrites in the US Congress and their fellow travelers:  Rome is burning!  Instead of throwing stones from your rather large and crumbling glass house and wasting precious time talking out of both sides of your sanctimonious maw, why not try putting out some of the fires?  HintUse water not gasoline.  

“Hyderabad techie shot in Kansas restaurant, dies”

Very sad incident. We should avoid USA for study and employment. -Sanjoy Pandey

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Sharath Koppu, 25, was shot and killed inside J’s Fish and Chicken Market Friday, July 6, 2018, according to Kansas City police.
Courtesy of Kansas City Police

Another international student, Sharath Koppu, who arrived in January in the US to begin his Master’s degree in computer science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has fallen victim to the USA’s endemic gun violence.  The above headline was the title of an article that appeared in The Times of India on 8 July 2018.  The quote, which was the first comment, sums the reaction of many, be it on a short- or long-term basis.  

While this shooting apparently received minimal coverage in the US media, with the exception of Kansas City, it was all over the Indian media. (Here is a 9 July editorial from The Kansas City Star editorial board:  Fatal shooting of UMKC student from India tells the world KC is dangerous.)  

More young Indians will think twice before choosing the USA as an overseas study destination.  The shift to Canada and other countries was already taking place and incidents like these only serve to hasten that process.  

Last year, two Garmin engineers, also originally from India, were shot by angry white man yelling “Get out of my country!”  One succumbed to his injuries.  It doesn’t matter that the latter was a hate crime while the former a murder committed during a robbery.  The end result is the same:  they’re both DEAD.  

Sharath Koppu’s cousin, Raghu Chowdavaram, set up a GoFundMe account that raised $50,832 in three (3) days, $25,000 of that within three (3) hours.  Here’s part of what he wrote:

Sharath Koppu is an Indian Computer Engineer who came to the USA in the month of Jan 2018. Sharath is known to his family and friends as full of dreams, cheerful, energetic and athletic. In the pursuit of his dreams, he moved to USA to do his Masters. He had the same dreams like everyone else to make it BIG in the land of opportunity. He had a great sense of humor, and always made people laugh and was always eager to lend a helping hand.

Little did anybody know that life is about to take a big unfortunate turn on a fateful day of July 6th 2018.

R.I.P. Sharath Koppu

Peace, MAA