The key to success is not information, it's people.

(Lee Iacocca)

 Referring to "Waga kuni = our country ("Waga kuni no baai" or "Waga kuni dewa" = as for our country) is one good aspect of Japanese education.  Students in Economics and Law often see this part at the end of their reading material, thus can understand their country's situation relating to the matter discussed.

I wonder whether our authors in Vietnam have such a good habit or not?    Perhaps not, because they don't have any information on current situation of our country relating to the topic discussed, or they never think about the moral obligation of giving such information to readers.  


France is not really herself unless in the front rank To my mind, France cannot be France without greatness[1].  Former French President Charles De Gaulle declared it in 1955.  He wanted France to continue to be in the first rank among great powers, politically, militarily, economically and culturally.  He was working hard for it indeed: under his leadership, France survived a foreign invasion and has kept being a major power.

Can we Vietnamese declare similar thing?  Deep in our heart, we wish we could.  But look at us: where are we now?  At the end of this 20th century, we are still one of the poorest countries in the whole world. We are second only to Bangladesh, counting upward from the bottom of the list.  We cannot produce even a high quality bicycle chain without any foreign joint venture.  Under-developed and poor indeed!   But when people talk about us, can they really say "they are poor but happy"?  I think you know the answer.


Information is the key to almost everything.  Former Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone once announced he would put all efforts into making Japan a "Joho no kuni " (= information country).  He wanted Japan to produce fewer goods and advance much further into the information field.  But if the government alone is well informed, things can be either good or bad.  Only when all the people of a country are well informed will be greater chance for a better life.  The reason is simple:  the mass can reduce the risks that their government may face when making policies/decisions.


In his book "Việt Nam Vong Quốc Sử" (History of the Loss of Vietnam), Phan Bi Chu (PBC) blamed the Nguyen court for keeping the country in backwardness by monopolizing all information.  Phan said the Royal Court was responsible for the loss of Vietnam because  - for their own interests - they had "blocked the people's eyes and ears".  As a consequence, when Phan Chu Trinh visited Japan in 1907, he admitted that "thực lực của dn ta so vơi Nhật Bản thực như g con so vơi con chim căt gi".   PBC, Trn Qu Cp and their group always felt sad about our people being in a situation of "ếch ngồi đy giếng" (frogs sitting at the well bottom), knowing nothing about the outside world. Trn Qu Cp, for instance, has described our people as:

Kh Ho tụ nghị v đa địa
Thu thủy minh oa tự nh
t thin

(đm kiến tụ trong thn cy Ho kh, chả c bao nhiu đt [để sống]
Bầy ếch trong ao thu, ku vang tự khoe ring mnh ở dơi bầu trời)

Did the Vietnamese elites of the time know anything about the outside world at all?  Not many, but while the vast majority was kept in darkness, a few individuals did have a chance to widen their knowledge.  Phan Thanh Gin, for instance, led a mission to France.  Upon his return, he sadly stated that King Tự Đức and the Court did not bother listening to him:

Từ ngy đi sứ  tới Ty  kinh
Thấy việc u Chu thot giật mnh
Ku gọi đồng bang mau tỉnh giấc

Hết lời năn nỉ chẳng ai tin.

Cao B Qut, the man who always " coi trời bằng vung ", also gave his impression after a trip to Singapore:

Tn Gia Ba vượt con tu
Mới hay vũ  trụ  một mu bao la
Giật mnh khi ở x nh

Con su ci kiến biết l cao su

Of course people like Phan Thanh Gin and Cao B Qut were not allowed to keep the public informed of what they saw and knew.  No one was to be blamed but the System.  The Nguyen Court's strategy for controlling the country was keeping the mass away from all sources of information.  It "blocked the ears and eyes of the people", thereby creating  Việt Nam Vong Quốc Sử " (the History of the Loss of Vietnam).


There are two good sources relating to information and politics. One proves the misfortune of lacking information; the other shows the eagerness of getting information in a wrong way.

A-         In "Ma Mission au Japon", Grard Auguste (French Ambassador to Japan, 1907-1914) says that Japan and France started negotiating a " dtente " agreement as early as the end of the Russo-Japanese War (1905).  One of the final aims of the negotiation was the mutual respect of both countries' status quo in Asia.  Apart from allowing Japan to issue bonds in Paris, France agreed to supply Tokyo with information on anti-Japanese activists in Korea.   In return, Japan pledged to help France preserve her interests in Asia (including Vietnam).  Consequently, when PBC first set his foot on Kobe port (1906), the foundation for his deportation was already established.  

Understandably, when PBC left the country for Japan, he hoped his "going East" would result in an armed-uprising in large scale:

Nguyện trục trường phong Đng Hải khứ
Thin trng bch lng nhất tề phi

(Đng Hải xng pha nương cnh gi
Mun nghn sng bạc nhảy ngoi khơi)

Phan was brave and his cause noble.  Yet he did not succeed because his information was insufficient.

B-         The main points of Bill Clinton's foreign policies, as outlined by Stanley Kober in the magazine Policy Analysis (issue 12 September 1996, published by Cato Institute, Washington DC) have been:  (a) the Cold War is over  (b)  during the Cold War, the USA had allowed its political military allies to take advantage of them in international trade  (c)  because of this, as well as the traditional American aversion to any sort of government guidance of the economy, the USA was losing its international competitiveness.

Too eager to catch up on the economic "loss", President Clinton has ordered the CIA "to make economic espionage of Americas trade rivals a top priority" (p. 2).  The CIA (and FBI) have therefore not only economically spied many major trading rivals of the US.  They have also helped corruption wide spreading in many developing countries, including China, through bribery.

Facing angry protests from both within and without the USA, notably Japan and France, Bill Clinton said he was "re-thinking" his strategy.  Surviving the difficulty of todays world situation is a hard job, especially for small countries.


6.     Here is some more news relating to Vietnam:

A-         In a letter to the editors of a daily newspaper, the representative of a non-governmental group in Australia has warned people that -- in order to get help from the World Bank -- the recipient country must agree to have its economy reformed so that the infra-structure and legal environment of that country can be favourable to foreign investment (I regret not keeping records/copy of this). 

As Vietnam is receiving loans and help from the World Bank, we wonder what has the Vietnamese government promised to the Bank and, more importantly, how our people can keep their "eyes and ears" over all commitments the government has made?

B-         Adam Garfinkle wrote a book entitled "Telltale Hearts: The Origins and Impact of the Vietnam Anti-War Movement" (St. Martin Press, New York 1995).  The introductory part from the cover says:

From the 2 decades after the end of the Vietnam War, Americas wounds have yet to heal, the War's divisiveness continues.  Yet today, even the most hardline hawks and doves share the conviction that... the antiwar movement played an important role in turning American opinion against the War, thereby limiting and ultimately ending US military activity in Southeast Asia.

In "Telltale Hearts", the author convincingly demonstrated that this widely accepted view is WRONG.  He argues that the movement, even at its radical height, had but a marginal impact on limiting and ending the War and in fact unwittingly helped to prolong it.  However, he concludes that it (the movement) had a powerful postwar influence ".


Waga kuni, waga kuni no baai wa, waga kuni dewa, waga kuni ni oite wa... all of them sound like a melody  (a bitter sweet refrain" ! ).  I wonder how our country (Waga kuni) and its people have been?   Of course I am not talking about De Gaulles beautiful dream.  My question is about another dream, which is ton dn ấm, ton dn no, được học hnh.  

The basic point is: the aim of Socialism is to build a better society through the abolition of  --  and definitely NOT the creation of more  --  classes (giai cấp).  Its ideal is to have a fair distribution of income.  Is our country on its way towards this goal? 

The list of questions does not stop here.  How can "waga kuni" deal safely with the giant multinational companies?  How our people can have enough information when they come to the negotiation tables?   In which way do we repay our international debts?  There are more ...  Certainly in all cases your answers are as good as mine.

Most of us are already at the second half of our life.    "Nokori no sukunai jinsei o, yuu-igi teki ni ..." [2].  How can we do it?   We are currently out of waga kuni, "ng sang qu cha đường xa trăm dặm, ng về qu mẹ ni lộng đo cao" ...   

We are not talking about the physical meaning of "ni lộng đo cao", are we?    I wonder how could Trịnh Cng Sơn know these feelings, some 25 years ago?  Is he also a prophet?  He predicted this, in early 1970's:

     Cuối đời cn g nữa đu
Đ tn mộng mị kht khao
Đi khi con tim h hẹn
Ngậm ngi, v một ma mưa ...

                                    bắt đầu.


Văn-Lang Tn-thất Phương, Canberra 1997-02



Ch Thch:

[2]   Khoảng đời cn lại cn ngắn, phải lm sao cho c nghi.

[*]  Elizabeth Maitland Corruption and the Outsiders:  Multinational Enterprises in Vietnam.  In Tim Lindsey and Howard Dick (eds.)   Corruption in Asia:  Rethinking the Governance Paradigm.  The Federation Press, NSW 2002.  [This source is added in June 2002].

[1]  Louis Snyder: Encyclopedia of Nationalism, p. 113