VietNamNet Bridge – In the past, some countries in Asia, Africa or Latin America were rich or had bright cultural development, but were often “robbed” by imperialists or colonialists.
Visit the national museums of the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, or Spain, you can easily see a lot of treasures from Egypt, China, South America. But you do not see any treasure sourced from Vietnam. Except for the Dong Son bronze drum of ancient times, it seems that Vietnamese have not made any item that can be considered a “treasure”.
There are many reasons given to explain the poverty of Vietnam. One of the major reasons is the “wet rice civilization” or the “village culture”. They are usually used to explain gaps or weaknesses of Vietnam in the past.
To be fair, before the industrial revolution and the presence of Western people with the steam locomotive, not only Vietnam but entire Asia was largely dependent on agriculture. The characteristic of this profession is its dependence on nature, instability and production methods hardly changed over the centuries. In this context perhaps people everywhere were poor, except for the authorities and the patrician class.
In this situation, the Vietnamese people were strong in fighting against the threat from the north, and several times it rose to the leading position in the region. In that glory we must mention the Hong Duc period of Emperor Le Thanh Tong (1442 – 1497) and the Dai Nam period of Emperor Minh Mang (1791-1841). The strength of these periods was mainly due to the ability to gather and promote the efficiency of resources in the country. These were the times that Vietnamese were together.
Material poverty did not allow our fathers to maintain permanent military advantage after Vietnam brought its army outside the border. Also because of poverty Vietnamese people had to reject opportunities which could help the country have qualitative change to advance to a new level, with more diverse and more complex economic structure and governance systems.
Except for Japan, which was not ruled by the West and took advantage of the opportunity to reform the country at the beginning of the 20th century, the rest of Asia, including China, was poor before World War II ended in 1945.
Thus, blaming our past poverty for current poverty does not seem to be convincing. Instead, let’s look into the nature of the problem and find out why Vietnam has yet to be lifted out of poverty!
Constant wars took many opportunities for development from us, but it cannot be the eternal reason as the war has ended for several generations.
Though Vietnam has recorded impressive achievements in the field of agriculture in recent decades, more than 7 million tons of rice and several million tons of coffee and pepper for export help us have enough to eat, but not enough to make Vietnam become rich!
Nearly 300 years ago, scholar Le Quy Don realized that only trading activities can make people rich and make society “bustling”. However, for hundreds of years later Vietnamese were still faithful to farming. All dynasties attached importance to stability, even in poverty, and ignored trading.
Unlike the West, we lack a platform industry. When Vietnam began re-integrating into the world, what we knew about industry was zero. Investment in this area is expensive but profits are low and the time for capital recovery is long.
To get rich quickly, Vietnamese in the Doi Moi (renovation) period did not invest in modern machinery and technology to manufacture products but imported goods to sell in the country. In 20 years, Vietnam has quickly changed from a country of farmers into a country of traders.
Of the nearly 500,000 enterprises today, the number of trading businesses is dominant.
Tran Van Tuan
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