French and Japanese Economic Relations with Vietnam since 1975

By Singh, Sukhvidner | Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, April 2000 | Go to article overview
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French and Japanese Economic Relations with Vietnam since 1975


Singh, Sukhvidner, Journal of Southeast Asian Economies


French and Japanese Economic Relations With Vietnam Since 1975. By Heinrich Dahm. Surrey, UK: Curzon Press, 1999. Pp. 193.

This book provides an evaluation of the strategies employed by France and Japan in conducting economic relations with Vietnam over the past 25 years. As a timely collection of facts and figures on Vietnam's relations with both its colonial masters, France, and Asia's powerhouse, Japan, it offers an in-depth understanding of Vietnam's experiences with the main foreigners who interacted with and ruled Vietnam. It will serve as a useful survey of existing literature and wealth of knowledge for scholars interested in Vietnam's historical perspectives, the reasoning underpinning its recent move towards the open market and how both countries are today exerting economic and political influence in the new Vietnam. In light of recent developments, it will also serve to shed light in understanding Vietnam's decision to halt foreign investment.

The book comprises three distinct chapters beginning with an account of Vietnam's historical background. This in itself is an arduous task and it proves that exhaustive research was involved in order to construct a realistic impression of Vietnam's tumultuous history. It highlights the need for a sound understanding of Vietnam's history which is quintessential for any study of Vietnam's place in the world economy today. The chapter sets the stage for the later two chapters with a detailed analysis of ancient Vietnam history, the French conquest and so on. Throughout the book issues are penned with clarity and concise facts which aid the understanding of both a newcomer to Vietnamese affairs and experts alike.

Following this, it also elucidates the reader on both Vietnam's domestic and foreign policies since 1975. It explains how domestic policies can be characterised as the leadership's determination to improve the livelihood of the people with an urgency unseen in other socialist environments. As Dahm explains:

After a period of half-hearted economic reforms in the 1980s, the changes in recent years have been essential and profound. These changes were not motivated by new insights of the Vietnamese Communist Party but by the necessity to stay ahead of the people's dissatisfaction.

Vietnam's foreign policy has been targeted primarily at ending the international isolation that it had subjected itself to after 1975. The future challenge resides in Vietnam's ability to establish stable international relations that will continue to support domestic reform and development. In sum, while foreigners are now welcomed in Vietnam, they are at the same time feared, given the past experiences.

The next chapter gives an account of the roles played by the French and Japanese governments respectively in Vietnam. The chapter contains a detailed and fluid treatment of the motivations, activities and problems of both governments' relations in Vietnam. In essence, French governmental relations are motivated by colonial links and the attendant sentimentalities. France sees it as her post-colonial responsibility of continued assimilation to develop relations beyond trade and language. Relations with Vietnam are hence believed to be the starting point of recouping French losses from missing out on the Asian boom.

One way that the French put their motivations into practice was by reaffirming their commitment of contact with the Vietnamese despite the U.S. policy of isolation and embargo. The chapter also shows how France helped Vietnam become an accepted member of the international community. In addition, it discusses France's aid policy with useful data and relevance.

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