Veteran diplomat: Brand Vietnam needs a ‘conductor’
VietNamNet Bridge - “The national brand needs a conductor. The conductors would be people responsible at the highest level to the country,” said Ton Nu Thi Ninh, former Vietnamese Ambassador to Belgium and the EU, and former Deputy Chair of the National Assembly’s Foreign Relations Committee. 


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Mrs Ton Nu Thi Ninh




With dozens of years of experience working in the field of diplomacy, Ninh is considered a pioneer in building a national brand – Brand Vietnam.

She has been invited to be a speaker at the Vietnam Global Leaders Forum (VGLF) which takes place on March 30-31 in Paris, France.

You were one of the first people to make an effort to promote the building of a national brand for Vietnam. Where did this idea come from?

It probably comes from my occupation - diplomacy. When implementing foreign relation activities, I usually hear comments, compliments and criticisms about Vietnam, and questions about the past and present of Vietnam.

I have always thought about this over the last 10 years. We organized a seminar on ‘Vietnam’s national brand’, to which we invited well-known people such as retired ambassadors, representatives of economic groups, scholars and businesspeople.

At the seminar, I raised a question: “How is Vietnam seen in the eyes of the world?” The question was exactly about the story about a national brand.

‘Soft power’ message


Soft power needs to be placed in the relationship between power and force. Force is economic, political and military strength. Meanwhile, power is also something invisible which can be promoted to create strength and influence.

Vietnam’s neighboring countries, such as China and the Republic of Korea, are promoting a soft power strategy. Meanwhile, the building of soft power still has not received appropriate attention in Vietnam. What can you say about this?


Soft power needs to be placed in the relationship between power and force. Force is economic, political and military strength. Meanwhile, power is also something invisible which can be promoted to create strength and influence.

I think that Vietnam still has not created suitable messages. For instance, the message of the tourism sector - ‘safe and friendly’ – has limited coverage. We need another message with broader coverage about the Vietnamese people and the country.

When I was a diplomat and I regularly had meetings with foreign delegations, I recognized that the biggest impression that Vietnam had on foreigners was the strong vitality of the country from the ashes of the war. That is about the ability to rise and overcome all difficulties that have faced the country.

What should Vietnam do to build a national brand?

The biggest ‘treasure’ for building a national brand is the Vietnamese people. American people with whom I have met have always expressed their admiration of the Vietnamese people.

Vietnamese have three good characteristics – open-hearted and tolerant; eager to learn; and able to reconcile the past and the future.

It is necessary to introduce these characteristics to the world. But the way of introduction, I think, has not been really professional and convincing.

The national branding program needs a conductor who is responsible to the country at the highest level. This symphony cannot be assumed by the state alone. However, the state can conduct the orchestra to play the symphony in the best way. 

What can you say about the aspirations of the overseas Vietnamese community for building a national brand?

Many overseas Vietnamese are wealthy and they don’t have to worry too much about earning their daily life. They want to do something to contribute to the homeland’s development.

There are many famous and successful Vietnamese people in the world, such as Philipp Rosler, who was Deputy Prime Minister in Germany, and Professor Ngo Bao Chau in the US.

I hope we can create a mechanism that helps connect Vietnamese people all over the world, and draw up a map of Vietnamese talents.


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Van Anh

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