Viet-Nam: The First Five Years: An International Symposium

By Richard W. Lindholm | Go to book overview

X. A Survey of Chinese Occupations TSUNG TO WAY55

"THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN countries," wrote John Kerry King in his Southeast Asia in Perspective, "lack not only engineers and managers but also businessmen who can mobilize capital for use in initiating commercial and industrial enterprises and agrarian improvements to essential life. Generally speaking the role of the businessmen throughout Southeast Asia has been left to the foreign minority group, primarily the Chinese." There is certainly no doubt that the Chinese play an important role in the economic life of Viet-Nam.

How do the estimated 800,000 Chinese in Viet-Nam earn a living? Unlike French businessmen who make large investments in farming, mining, forestry, plantations, fisheries, industrial and commercial enterprises, the economic activities of the Chinese are mainly in the field of commerce and trade. The list of Chinese occupations (Table 1) indicates their diversification, with practically no business in which the Chinese cannot be found. True, there are not many Chinese firms of substantial capital and size but, because of their numerical superiority, their influence on the economy is unquestionably great.

Under the category of food and kindred products, there are 26 subclassifications, comprising 653 firms or authorized dealers. Some of these firms, such as rice mills of medium size, may employ capital of over several million piasters. Others, such as the small ones under the subclassification of confectioneries or soya bean sauce manufacturers, may own only simple manual machinery or even a few simple tools, thus making one doubt whether these firms may be classified as "manufacturers" in the real sense. Among the local industries there is no doubt that rice milling is the most important. There are about seventy rice mills in the Saigon-Cholon area, and seventy-five percent are reputedly owned by Chinese. For the past ten years, due to the lack of rice paddy, most of the big rice mills have not been and are still not in operation.

Besides rice milling, there is practically no Chinese food industry which is of capital importance. Most of the other food firms manufacture products such as fish sauce, bean sauce, rice flour noodles, and soya bean cheese, which are either not available in the foreign market or the imported products do not suit the taste of the Vietnamese. There are also firms that produce less expensive goods which are intended for consumption, such as canned goods, sugar, confectionery, and pastry.

Textile mill products are second in importance, with more than 600 firms engaged in the spinning and weaving business. However, most of these manufacturers are small family enterprises. Despite the keen de-

____________________
55
Manager of the Bank of China, Saigon.

-118-

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