The journey to a rich people, strong country

VietNamNet would like to introduce the last part of the talks about Vietnam after 30 years of renovation with the participation of Prof. Vu Minh Giang, Senior Specialist, Chairman of the Scientific and Training Council of the Vietnam National University in Hanoi, and Professor Tran Ngoc Vuong, Lecturer of the Literature Faculty of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities. 

VietNamNet: In the past journey, we can divide it into two periods: before and after the renovation period. From the lessons we have learned from the fact, what do you think about the importance of the vision and assertiveness of leaders in the development of the nation in bringing happiness to the people?

Hành trình tới dân giàu, nước mạnh

Professor Vu Minh Giang

Professor Vu Minh Giang: Vision and determination are the two qualities that have strong ties with each others of the leaders. Vision is the measurement of the things that have not happened yet to calculate the possibilities that will take place in the near future. To have the vision, one must know the laws of development and mobilization of the society.

The assertiveness involves other qualities of the leaders: Analyzing the reality before a certain movement, thereby offering different options and choosing the best.

When looking back at the history of the country’s development, the division it into the two phases of before and after renovation is quite reasonable.

In the period before renovation, the capacity of the vision of the leaders in predicting military situations to set out the guidelines and resistance lines would be said to be brilliant and our leaders made reckless decisions. We accepted to confront the world’s leading superpower and the ultimately victory belonged to Vietnam. Our victories in the two resistance wars against French and the US confirmed that these decisions were correct.

However, also during that period, our vision of the economic model and social organizations could be seen as weak.

We exerted effort in building the Thai Nguyen Iron and Steel Complex by the thinking of giving priority to the heavy industry with the hope to have an industry as the foundation for economic development, while people's lives were still very difficult. As a result, we did not have a good metallurgical industry.

We failed to pursue South Korea. With only a few hundred million of US dollars of war compensation paid by Japan, they built POSCO, a world-level steel group.

Another story is about the organizational model that helped some countries move towards big-scale agricultural production through the collectivization of agriculture. We believed that such a large business could produce abundance of food. When the country forwarded to the large production base in agriculture toward building high-level cooperatives (large scale) and state farms, we fell into crisis and poverty.

The innovation policy that was officially initiated by the Party in 1986 is another example of vision. Our leaders saw the weakness and limitations to be determined to conduct renovation.

By the way I want to talk about the new assessment of the academic world of the importance of reform, associated with vision. I once attended an international conference to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the French bourgeois revolution. Here historians introduced a new and strange argument. They appreciated the reforms in history, especially the Meiji reforms. They even said that the path of reform is the smart choice and it needs the vision of the leaders, who know that they are backward and need renovation. Revolution bursts out when the government hinders development, does not want to change and is finally overthrown.

Innovation in Vietnam is a profound reform.

In 2009, I had a chance to meet former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew when he visited Vietnam. I thought a lot when he said that Vietnam is a country with two precious resources - human resources and opportunities. Unfortunately, he said, Vietnam wasted these resources most in the world. Waste of money is bad but waste of opportunity is worse because opportunities will no return and if a country wastes human resources it will never develop.

Professor Tran Ngoc Vuong: Personally, I have a slightly different perspective on the concept of innovation as the way people has talked about it.

At the time we began renovation, we did it in the way to return things to their original, natural orbit.

At that time, the farmers produced rice but the government did not allocate land to them. If that policy maintained, the whole country would not have rice to eat. So, the government decided to return things to its natural orbit, i.e returning land to the people and let’s goods to be circulated normally. Since then, everything has been different.

Renovation in a broader sense is creativity. If we just innovate by returning the state of inertia of things alone, countries in the world will develop only to a certain threshold before losing momentum and falling into the "middle income trap".

VietNamNet: What’s your biggest concern in the current context of the country?

Professor Vu Minh Giang: Firstly, I’m worried seeing more cases in which the people were treated unfairly and unjustly as the press reported recently. During the past 70 years our people have always tried to defend territorial sovereignty. Now, this urgent issue is weighing heavily on the shoulder of leaders. The upcoming XII Party Congress will surely have to solve this problem because that is order of life and the requirement of the people.

Secondly, it is the middle income trap. According to the purely economic criteria, it is still far away for our country to reach the level of a middle-income country ($3,000-$5,000/person). But many experts have given early warning that, if we are not provident about the future, it is undeniable that Vietnam will fall into the middle income trap.

The problem that must be solved at present is mobilizing all resources to make a breakthrough and develop the country. If we keep around forever on the takeoff runway, we will fail and will always be poor.

Thirdly, we must have a sound mind to realize friends and enemies. A simple thing that likes a truth is: in politics there is no permanent friend nor traditional enemy, only the national interests, the nation is everlasting. It’s time we have to really consider about friend and enemy to take the right decisions.

Professor Tran Ngoc Vuong: Let's look back at the story of Russia in the period of Stalin. People talked a lot about his bad side, but actually he made some major achievements for the former Soviet Union. Because when it comes to the greatest achievements of the former Soviet Union, people mainly mentioned Stalin era.

I read a document saying that, one week after the end of the Second World War, Stalin invited the marshals and military leaders to a meeting. He asked them to stand out to take over all military matters, and he would not play the role of a Great Marshal anymore. Later, he summoned the mayor’s council to discuss measures for national reconstruction and revitalization of national capacity, while helping new countries in Eastern Europe.

Surely he had a very sober look on his mission so he could do it.

Therefore my current concern is:

Firstly, the vision of the leaders. Looking back at the history of Vietnam and the world we see the critical phases, without great men, the efficiency will be very low.

Secondly, the leaders must represent public conscience.

The knowledge and vision of the leaders are the ones that the people and this country are always looking for. Without these factors, innovation is hindered and moved to a different orbit.

VietNamNet: A senior official said that if we keep living in the past, then we will miss the future and we must dare to forget successes of the past to be able to step out to the world. What do you think about this?

Hành trình tới dân giàu, nước mạnh

Professor Tran Ngoc Vuong: The past should not be forgotten, but we should not be obsessed by the past and should not let the past dominate the future. If you forget the past, you will forget a clause of morals. We should exploit the healthy aspects of the past to continue to grow.

It is like when people move to a new house, they have to carry with them some old things that are still useful. No one can dispose of his legacy but he has to use it wisely, with the true meaning of legacy to look back, to reconcile, and to learn from it.

Professor Vu Minh Giang: A prominent historian of China said that the greatest thing of intellectuals is to know about the future, but the future has not happened yet, so how do they know? Everything is guessed based on what have happened. So we should not forget the past. Because the past is not just the story of the old days, it has the values to understand the present and predict the future.

However, we should abandon the habit of "sipping" the glory of the past in the way of a "beggar of the past."

In modern economics, there is the concept of "phoenix factor" to show the knowledge that we get through failure analysis. In European legends, there is the image of a beautiful phoenix rising from the ashes. That image is compared by economists to valuable experience drawn from the analysis of the failures in the past. That is the way to open up the road of development.

If we keep boasting achievements in the past and fall asleep in the glory of the past, we will be left behind the world. "Begging from the past" is not the way to develop the country and it is surely not what we expect.

VietNamNet: The country’s current situation poses the requirement of further innovation. There are many different opinions about this. Some argued that Vietnam needs the second renovation or a strong revolution as the one in 1986. How about you?

Professor Vu Minh Giang: I do not agree that we need to have another reform. Concerning the development of a country, today people use three “Rs” to describe:

Review: always consider what had passed. We have to review the past very often to make renovation, not until the situation gets worse then we conduct renovation. There was a time when we were confused in handling problems because we were tied by the old system of theories.

Research: policies must be designed based on scientific basis and arguments.

Reform: reform should be conducted regularly on the basis of continuous research.

Many people consider history as a rear-view mirror. But as you can see, even the most expensive car also needs a rearview mirror, even a rear-view camera.

If someone says that we need a second renovation, it is also a way of expression. But I think what we need to do first is to seriously summarize the itinerary that we have passed since we started the renovation policy.

My opinion is a little different from Professor Vuong’s. It is not totally accurate to say that renovation is only returning things to its original status. Besides letting the economy develop naturally through the regulation of the market, the innovation really has new elements, especially the opening to receive the value of humanity in an era of globalization. 

However, I still believe that the three Rs that I just mentioned are very important. We always have to reconsider what has passed and predict the future, constantly performing innovation to catch up with the evolution of humanity.


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