Vietnam: The Sleeping Giant?

Looking out of my window on the twelfth floor on a Hanoi high-rise I can see a mix of old and new.

I can see out to Ba Dinh district, a collection of government buildings with embassies littered between them and a maze of closed off streets leading to arching monuments, testament to the old guard’s promises of prosperity and their own permanence.

If  I stand on my balcony I can see the Communist Board, right across the street from the newly completed Lotte Tower – Lotte, a Japanese food and shopping commercial giant. Dotted all about Hanoi are half completed tower projects, skyscrapers, commercial centers; my route to work has recently been made easier by the completion of a massive new road system winding through Hanoi like an artery giving life to the beating heart currently under development.

The old guard must have one eye over their shoulder. Vietnam’s economy is growing at an astonishing rate of 8% per year making it the fasted developing economy in the region. Meanwhile, a quick trip outside the city shows a country still heavily reliant on agriculture; Hanoi’s internal infrastructure is often put together quickly without a long term plan; and I can’t access the BBC online due to government censorship.

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Its difficult to see where Vietnam will be in ten years. Hanoi’s southern counterpart, Saigon is already awash with commercialism and economic prosperity, but the capital itself seems to be a decade behind, holding all the signs of a communist stronghold – propaganda posters line the main highways, five minutes from my apartment is a twenty foot statue of Vladimir Lenin, the poster child of the Russian Revolution, and ultimately, Vietnam remains a one-party state.

Hanoi, and Vietnam in general, may struggle to take charge of the pace of development that it is now facing. With an emerging superpower to the North, tech giants Japan and South Korea to the east and a rapidly developing regional neighborhood to the the West, Vietnam is in both a prized location for advancement as well as a vulnerable strategic position on the geo-political map. Whether economic development will be mirrored in the social and political arena’s remains to be seen.

However the course of events takes shape, Vietnam is a country that has been through hell and come out the other side on a Honda Wave. The sky really is the limit.

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