THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
the 70th anniversary of Vietnam’s independence and the 40th
anniversary of reunification with the South. In other places,
we saw the leftover billboards from the commemorative events
of 2014. Private advertising along the sides of the roads or in
towns, however, was non-existent. Entrepreneurs seemed able
to publicize their activities in the press, with handouts or on
TV, but not with billboards.
While monuments commemorated northern victories, they
were all victories against the Americans. We saw no references
to the role of southerners in the struggle, except occasionally as
The skyline of Ho Chi Minh City as it appears from the circle in front of the Ben Thanh Market. The tall building in the background at
center left is the Bitexco Financial Tower, the tallest building in the city, a 68-story structure inspired by the lotus flower. The red sign
on the building across the circle says in rough translation: "President Ho Chi Minh lives forever great because of our industriousness."
puppets of the Americans. The southern dead did not seem to
be memorialized with any of their own monuments or cem-
eteries. Those southerners who fled after 1975 did so for eco-
nomic reasons. Hanoi had fought and repelled the Americans.
What does one make of the new Vietnam? A very wise Viet-
namese explained that his generation had all gone through “re-
education” if they had not been believers. The next generation
picked up the message about the Vietnamese victory over the
Americans in school. Some believed it; others were skeptical.
He said the really interesting groups are the people under
the age of about 35. They are cynical about what they learned
in school from professors who couldn't answer questions
about history and gave rote answers to their inquiries. They
are, however, sufficiently connected to the outside world with
cell phones and social media that this matters little. They don't
care about history and politics. They want to be connected with
their peers in the rest of the world, making money.
This is the new Vietnam.
victories, they were all victories
against the Americans.