Just Because the Golden Arches are in Vietnam Doesn’t Mean the US Won the War

Here’s my latest CounterPunch article, in response to a statement in a TV interview by a Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnamese-American author that the US won the war because Viet Nam shifted to a free market economy. 

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Last December, Viet Thanh Nguyen, a chaired professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer, described by Amazon as “thrilling, rhythmic, and astonishing, as is the rest of Nguyen’s enthralling portrayal of the Vietnam War,” made the stunning pronouncement in a TV interview that “the US won this conflict” (8:03) because Viet Nam adopted a capitalist system, what is officially referred to as a socialist-oriented market economy.

I could see many viewers nodding their heads in solemn agreement.  “Yes”, I could hear them proudly and confidently saying to themselves, chests puffed out and hearts beating red, white, and blue, we belatedly yet ultimately triumphed because Viet Nam acquiesced and became like US.  Wasn’t that our goal from the beginning?

The Big Lie

This is a line, a fairy tale, a lie that I’ve heard many times.  It somehow makes US Americans feel good that the “commies” finally came around and saw the light.  It’s a psychological and emotional salve that reassures the gullible, the uninformed, and the nationalists that the sacrifices on their side were not in vain.  The problem is it’s dead wrong.




Keys to Successful Non-Commission-Based Recruitment in Viet Nam

AC17_presenter_badgeTo international education colleagues with an interest in Viet Nam:  Join me, Diana Sampson, Associate Vice President, International Education, Shoreline Community College, & Stephanie Sieggreen, Executive Director, International Enrollment Management, Western Kentucky University at our NAFSA general session entitled Keys to Successful Non-Commission-Based Recruitment in Vietnam

AbstractVietnam now ranks sixth among all sending countries, according to the latest SEVIS update, with most of that enrollment in higher education. While the pool of potential students is expanding, so, too, is the competition. This session provides recruitment strategies that do not involve the use of education agents.

Follow this link for more session-related information, including a brief bio for each presenter. 


Happy 7th Anniversary, “International Educator in Viet Nam”!


WordPress dutifully reminded me yesterday that it was the 7th anniversary of registering this blog.  That was at a time when I suddenly had more freedom of speech, relatively speaking, because of a job change.  No more pre-approvals, no more top-down censorship, no more “change this” or “delete that” because it might offend certain powerful people who happen to control purse strings.

Over the past seven years, this blog has offered ample evidence that the fields of education and international education in general and in Viet Nam, in particular, are many things; dull is not one of them.

So who has read this venerable blog since 2009?  US and other foreign colleagues, Vietnamese colleagues who have an interest in the issues I discuss and who read English, colleagues from the US and Vietnamese governments, competitors, and a veritable rogue’s gallery of other individuals.

The latter category includes people who work, how shall I put it?, on the fringes and in the dark corners of this multi-billion dollar business called education.  I have delighted some and angered others.  And the truth will set you free, even if it occasionally hurts and costs certain people and certain entities money.

Please join me, whoever you are, wherever you are, and whatever your drink of choice is, in tipping your glass to seven (7) years of Information, Insights & (Occasionally) Intrigue!  Thank for spending some of your precious time to visit, virtually speaking.  I do it for you and for myself, i.e., writing as thinking and, sometimes, as therapy.  Happy 7th Anniversary, International Educator in Viet Nam!


A Day Without Facebook in Viet Nam

facebook logoFacebook is hot in Viet Nam.  I mean sizzling, ubiquitous, on fire.  Seemingly indispensable.  It connects 35 million people in a population of about 94 million, who check their accounts on a regular basis, mainly from their mobile devices.  Facebook Messenger is the preferred means of online communication among young people.  According to a January 2016 tech presentation, average daily use of social media, i.e., Facebook is king, via any device is 2 hours and 18 minutes a day.  That’s nearly 10% of each day that Vietnamese spend on Facebook.

Facebook can be informative, enlightening, touching, and entertaining.  That’s 5% of it; the other 95% is garbage, in my opinion.  Spending time on Facebook looking for something of value is like mining for gold.  You have to sift through A LOT of worthless ore to find a few nuggets of gold.


Actually, Two Days, Give or Take

OMG.  For some reason (I’ll leave it to others to speculate), Facebook was down for much of the weekend – a blessing in disguise?  Facebookers flocked to their Twitter accounts to express their discontent, frustration, and anger.  It was like a heroin addict who suddenly couldn’t score.  Withdrawal symptoms began to set in almost immediately.  How were they going to spend all that precious time?  What were they missing out on?

One website called OutageReport-Facebook features a “Facebook Outage Map” that shows where the site can’t be accessed around the world on any given day.  It also has a green button that Facebookers can click on to confirm that the current status is OK in their city and a red one to inform the site that things are not OK.  There’s another website called Downdetector that has a more attractive “Facebook Outage Map” with map and satellite views.

Courtesy of Downdetector.  Screenshot from 18.20 on 15.5.16.  The big yellow spot is HCMC and the small one is Hanoi.

Both received a steady stream of Tweets from disgruntled Facebookers in Viet Nam who couldn’t get their fix.

Aaahhhh! What’s wrong with #Facebook. Can’t connect

Only 2days of weekend,why can’t access FB &Ins

So sad, to day i can’t connect to Facebook in Viet Nam.

HI @_____ w’d you kindly let me know what is happening on Facebook website today in Vietnam? Many people can’t access this site today

Yes, dear reader, Facebook can be addictive.  (Just Google “Facebook addiction.”)   Take a look at yourself and people around you.  There’s plenty of good research into this topic, including how it can even be measured in brain patterns.  One study found that the brains of people who report compulsive urges to use Facebook show some brain patterns similar to those found in drug addicts.  Researchers in Norway developed a psychological scale to measure Facebook addiction, the first of its kind.  Do you have a fear of missing out (FoMO)?  Are you really addicted?  Take one or both of these quizzes and find out, if you dare.

Quiz: Are You Actually Addicted to Facebook?

The Facebook Addiction Test

What could these Facebookers in Viet Nam have done – offline, in the real world?  First, step back and take a moment to recognize that this brief respite was a blessing in disguise.  Find something worthwhile to do in the here and now.  Talk to your family and friends, exercise, hang out at a cafe, read a book, close your eyes and let your mind wander and recharge.  The possibilities are endless.  Look Up! a la the 2014 video poem by Gary Turk, which now has over 57 million views on YouTube.  Think of what you are “MO” on by spending inordinate amounts of time on Facebook.  Like the Internet itself, Facebook is a double-edged sword, both a blessing and a curse, but you’re in control.  Right?

A day without Facebook is like a day without sunshine?  Hardly.


“The key question to keep asking is, ‘Are you spending your time on the right things?’ Because time is all you have.”  (Randy Pausch, 1960-2008)

The TPP & China

Below is guest post by Chuck Searcy, a US veteran who has lived and worked in Vietnam for over 20 years. 

The reporting on “trade” is actually pretty misleading, because the TPP does not have much to do with trade (only what? — five out of 23 chapters related to trade?).  It’s mostly about widening opportunities for multinational corporations to intrude into fragile markets such as Viet Nam to take enormous advantage of local companies and production sectors, particularly drugs and agriculture.

There is something that doesn’t meet the “smell test” about the likelihood that U.S. beef imports into Viet Nam will sell more cheaply than locally produced meats.  That’s because heavy U.S. government subsidies are very well hidden.  The Vietnamese have no clue how to peel through the layers of America’s generously subsidized economy and learn the truth.  But American corporate lawyers will be lined up to take action against Viet Nam for the slightest advantage that Viet Nam seeks under the TPP.

We’ve slapped Viet Nam down several times — with textiles, shrimp, catfish, under terms of the US-VN Bilateral Trade Agreement which the Vietnamese naively thought would help them so much.  The WTO turned out to be a major disappointment for Viet Nam.

Courtesy of WikiLeaks

And no one knows the consequences that will result from America’s attempts to exclude, or cordon off, China from this commercial arena.  The scheme is not realistic, and could be quite damaging for Viet Nam. Much of Viet Nam’s raw material (threads and fabrics for the garment industry, for example) come from China.  Will Viet Nam now have to buy these inputs from other more expensive markets? Possibly. No one quite knows.  But “origin” in China will not be allowed.  That will be great satisfaction for Obama and Washington politicians, who want to “contain” China.

Prof. Herman Daly should be studied and listened to much more carefully. The “steady state” economy that he and many others promote is really the only answer to conventional economics, which is a runaway train that is gobbling up resources as if there will never be a tomorrow.  The conventional approach is to create a rapacious, advertising-driven consumer market that is based on waste and finite destruction.  It is simply not sustainable.

For politicians in Viet Nam and most other countries to continue to speak as robots about “growth” is dangerous for future generations.  We simply do not need to be destroying the earth as we’re doing, in a quest for meaningless gadgets and playthings, while much of the world’s population lives a meager existence only because we have such a distorted global economy that we refuse to distribute a food supply that is actually adequate to feed the entire world.

The TPP is just one more ticket to one more glittery ball to be enjoyed by a few wealthy patrons, as the masses stand outside shivering, but at midnight the clock will strike and everything will collapse (or maybe we’ll turn into pumpkins).

Most of us are in denial that such a scenario will really happen.  And maybe it won’t, if we listen to a few enlightened people like Herman Daly — and if it’s not too late.

Final note:  I recently was in a meeting with two semi-retired company executives and Vietnamese government advisers who are part of a Vietnamese think-tank.  After all the discussion about “trade” advantages turned out to be mostly irrelevant, they concluded, with some confidence, that “trade” didn’t really matter in the TPP.  The reason Viet Nam had to sign the TPP, they said, was strictly political.  “Viet Nam must have a place at the table,” they said.  “We have to be viewed as being a significant ‘international’ player, so we cannot be left out of the TPP.  It is important for our positioning against China.”

There you have it.  It’s all about positioning vis-a-vis China and exactly the trap in which the U.S. wants to ensnare Viet Nam.  Next will come big weapons sales from the U.S. and after that the “independence” that Viet Nam fought for during the past century will be lost to the behemoth of global state capitalism and militarism.

Vietnamese student numbers growing in the US

Below is an excerpt from my recent University World News (UWN) article.  Follow this link to read the article in its entirety.


Top 10 Countries of Citizenship 11-15

There are currently 1.2 million international students studying in the United States, nearly 75% of whom are enrolled in bachelor, masters or doctoral programmes. California, New York and Texas enrol 36% of all students. Some 919,484 of them, or 77% of the total, are from Asia. Compared to July 2015, the total number of active international students studying in the US increased 13.3%.

These figures are from the latest SEVIS by the Numbers quarterly update published in December. Unlike the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors statistics, which are based on data collected the previous year and include higher education enrolment only, SEVIS data are real-time and encompass all levels of the educational system.

Spotlight on Vietnam

One of the shining highlights of the SEVIS report is the breakneck growth in Vietnamese enrolments at all levels of the US educational system, especially at its colleges and universities.

Vietnam has surpassed Japan in total enrolment. It recorded an astounding 18.9% increase from July to November 2015, the third highest after India (20.7%) and China (19.4%).

Incredibly, Vietnam now ranks sixth among all sending countries with 28,883 students studying at US institutions, mostly colleges and universities but also boarding and day schools.

Vietnam is also nipping at the heels of Canada, something that was unimaginable seven years ago when it was not even in the top 10. It climbed to eighth place in 2009 with 15,994 students and stayed there until the end of 2015.

The US has surpassed Australia in terms of numbers of Vietnamese students as there were 28,524 Vietnamese students studying in Australia at all levels as of October 2015, a 0.4% decrease over the previous year.

Interestingly, 54.7% of all Vietnamese students in the US are female and 45.3% male. That’s a difference of nearly 2,700 students.

In terms of degree-related programmes, the breakdown is as follows:

  • Language Training: 12.9% (3,732)
  • Associate: 27.9% (8,050)
  • Bachelor: 31.1% (8,976)
  • Masters: 8.1% (2,330)
  • Doctorate: 4% (1,159)

Vietnam Ranks 6th… in US Immigration

During the US government fiscal year 2015 (ending 30 September 2015), over half a million people emigrated to the US.  Of that number (531,463), 27,391 (5.15%) were from Vietnam, including 13 whose visas were issued under the Vietnam Amerasian category.  Below is the list of top 10 countries based on the number of immigrant visas issued.

  1. Mexico:  82,476
  2. Dominican Republic:  45,065
  3. China:  39,251
  4. Philippines:  36,650
  5. India:  30,381
  6. Vietnam:  27,391
  7. Pakistan:  14,220
  8. Bangladesh:  14,093
  9. Haiti:  13,251
  10. El Salvador:  12,488
Courtesy: Campus.ie
Courtesy: Campus,ie

Most of those are family members of Vietnamese-Americans who arrived in the US during several waves of post-war emigration.  Others are Vietnamese who want to hedge their bets, so to speak, and have no intention of living full-time in the US, while some others are Vietnamese who study in the US and then, for whatever reason, often of a personal nature, make the fateful decision to emigrate.

Unlike some in the past who had close ties to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), who have never returned to their homeland for political reasons, most of the newer immigrants maintain close ties with Vietnam.

Most emigrate in the hopes of a better economic life, which is not always the case, given how static the US economy is right now and how dynamic Vietnam’s is.  I know of one family who were among the last to emigrate under the auspices of the Orderly Departure Program, which ended in 1997.  (Under this program, which began in 1980, 623,509 Vietnamese were resettled abroad, including 450,000 in the US.)  The parents are planning to retire to their home village in Vietnam and one of their children made plans to return because he saw more opportunities in Vietnam and he feels more at home here than in the US.  The main objective of the parent’s decision to emigrate was to give their children a better education than they would have had in Vietnam.

Considering the size of Vietnam’s population, i.e., over 93 million, these numbers are inconsequential and have been decreasing with the passing of each year.

The full PDF report from which the above stats were excerpted can be downloaded here.