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Teaching about Việt Nam

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Việt Nam, with the world’s 15th largest population at 99 million, has substantial contemporary and historical global impact. It is important for teachers and students to know more about Việt Nam. Hopefully what follows will be useful for teachers and students.

“Việt Nam” is not in the title of Pamela McElwee’s “The Politics of Climate Vulnerability in Asia” (volume 26, number 1, spring 2021), but the author, who holds a joint PhD in Anthropology and Forestry, uses Việt Nam as the article’s major case study. Government officials in Việt Nam manipulated international aid programs to both procure funds to reduce climate change that apparently caused flooding and acquired economic development funds that increase the probability of further flooding. Looking for lucid prose and compelling evidence to help students understand that seemingly simple solutions to complex global problems often have unintended consequences? Read this essay.

a photo of a bus and car submerged in flood water on a city street
Severe flooding in Hanoi, Việt Nam, 2008. Việt Nam is highly susceptible to flooding due to a combination of heavy annual rainfall and cities lacking adequate drainage systems. Source: Wikimedia Commons at

Vietnamese entrepreneurs, when permitted by governments (and even when not), have long been noted for their creativity, hard work, and success.  Sarah Grant’s “Café Creatives: Coffee Entrepreneurs in Việt Nam” (volume 24, number 2, fall 2019) is a nifty example of young people capitalizing on Việt Nam’s globally successful coffee industry.

Charles Wheeler in “Silk Roads into Vietnamese History” (volume 10, number 3, winter 2005) dispels the notion that the people who lived today in what is called Việt Nam, were insular until the colonial era. To quote the author, “Vietnamese society was anything but isolated, changeless, or landlocked, as the recent historiography featured in this article will show. Việt Nam’s ancestors (Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese alike) were integral to the creation of crosscurrents of people, goods, and ideas across Asian lands and seas before 1500 CE—a phenomenon now better known as the ‘Silk Roads.'”


Việt Nam: Freedom and Government Corruption

Freedom House, the highly-regarded freedom and democracy watchdog organization, included 210 countries and territories in its 2022 annual report, Freedom in the World. Freedom House classifies each country in its report as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free. Việt Nam was classified as Not Free (19/100). Canada was classified as the world’s freest country (98/100).

Freedom House: Freedom of the World 2022

The Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank that studies and measures the effects of government policies and entrepreneurship, conducts an annual report called Economic Freedom of the World. The report rates 165 countries and territories on how well their policies and institutions are supportive of economic freedom in areas such as the freedom to trade internationally and government regulation. In the 2022 report, Việt Nam ranked 113th out of 165 countries and territories in economic freedom.

Fraser Institute: Economic Freedom of the World

Transparency International is a watchdog organization that reports on corruption in both the public and private sectors. The Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International’s flagship research product, offers an annual snapshot of the relative degree of corruption by ranking 180 countries and territories from data compiled from surveys from institutions such as the World Bank and World Economic Forum. In the most currently available data from 2021, Việt Nam ranked 87th out of 180 countries and territories in government corruption.

Transparency International

screen capture showing information about Vietnam and a photo of people in a Vietnamese city
Screen capture of Freedom House’s Freedom of the World 2022 report on Việt Nam.