Vietnam Policy on Ethnic Affairs Minorities From 1975 to 2000 Term Paper

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Vietnam Policy on Ethnic Affairs (Minorities) From 1975 to 2000.

This paper provides an analysis and evaluation of the role ethnic affairs played in Vietnamese governments from 1975 to 2000. These years are significant because they represent a time where the Vietnamese government moved from supporting greater autonomy among minorities to adopting policies that supported a unified state, where ethnic minorities and nationalities were encouraged to practice their unique cultural and traditional ideologies provided those ideologies did not conflict with the government's unified front.

This policy adaptation did not initially come off well, causing much unrest particularly among smaller groups of ethnic minorities living in mountainous areas. For some time there was great disparity among the Chinese and Hoa, who held some aggression toward the Vietnamese government, even though these groups represented a rather large portion of the ethnic minority in Vietnam. However, as This paper demonstrates, this disparity tended to dissolve toward the 1990s and now continues. Shifting policies has led to greater economic prosperity, and may lead to a reduction in poverty and greater representation of other minorities if all goes well.

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Term Paper on Vietnam Policy on Ethnic Affairs Minorities From 1975 to 2000 Assignment

Mackerras (2005) provides an overview of policies toward minorities in southeast Asia just south of China, where the population of minorities is low but significant, as they comprise more than 50% of the territory (Banister, 1992), thus have more of an impact on Vietnamese state policy as noted by Mackerras (2003). Many compare Chinese policies to Vietnamese policies when reviewing the ethnic minorities in Vietnam, as it is clear Vietnam is influenced by Chinese culture. This influence has not always been perceived as positive, especially throughout the early 1980s, however changing ideologies during the 1990s has led to greater acceptance of the Chinese as an influential minority leader in Vietnam in recent years, leading to greater economic prosperity and the potential for other minority groups to stand out in the near future.

The years between 1975 through 2000 are significant, in that it was during this time the Vietnam Communist Party established the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) (Mackerras, 2005, p. 85). During the first few years under the rule of the VCP, much conflict and unease existed with regard to ethnic affairs and policy making. Many foreign countries saw Vietnam as hostile during this time, in part due to the VCP's invasion of neighboring countries including Cambodia (Mackerras, 2005). However, during the 1990s formal relationships were restored between Vietnam and the U.S., during a time where Vietnam experienced rapid economic growth; it is important one note that it is also during this time the Vietnamese worked to restore stronger relationships with the Chinese minority groups living in the country. Such dramatic changes have led to positive changes in Vietnam, as we will discuss more throughout this analysis.

Ethnic affairs influencing government policy the early years reviewed included "peasant unrest" in northern provinces including Thai Binh, in part due to theft and corruption as so stated by Mackerras (2005, p. 91). The government at the time sided with protestors, and worked toward campaigning alongside ethnic minorities to support a state they referred to as one favoring the "people" and their "mastery" which many say is characteristic of the "ideological" policies held by the VCP (Mackerras, 2005, p. 86). How has the adoption of the "unified" front affected Vietnam? One can conclude that while this initially caused greater unrest and disparaging qualities of living among ethnic minorities, today this ideological policy has led to more equitable distributions of resources among the ethnic minorities living in Vietnam. To understand this further, it is important to look at the strengths and weaknesses of Vietnam's policies from 1975 through 2000.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Mackerras (2005) notes there are currently about 54 ethnic groups comprising the culture of Vietnam, with the Kinh dominant in most regions, as well as other lowland groups as described by Mackerras (2005) and Banister (1992) including the Chinese and the Hoa, as well as some Cambodians and Cham (p. 86). Chinese ethnic groups tend to live in the more urban areas. One cannot deny that such a large majority of ethnic minorities living in Vietnam is partly responsible for the government's shifting policies, from that of a government supporting greater autonomy to that of a government supporting greater unity. In a country where so many ethnic minorities live in close quarters, it is important to realize that while recognition of one's autonomy is important, reliance on it is not necessarily beneficial to the economy. This is so because with so many groups present, without a unified front there is a stronger likelihood of as Mackerra's notes many times, peasant "uprisings" as various ethnic minorities attempt to establish greater dominance or influence within their region.

Good and Bad Policy Changes

Many policy changes occurred in Vietnam under the socialist republic (Mackerras, 2003). In the mid 1970s for example, the government abolished autonomous areas in north Vietnam, sending Vietnamese to these areas, emphasizing "the goal of a unified country or a whole country," which many initially considered an unwise policy (Mackerras, 2005, p. 90). Questions policy makers had to address included minority nationalities, and whether they should be integrated into the political and economic framework of the country, again with the emphasis being on national unity. The government did not at this time it seems emphasize autonomy or independence. This is not surprising given its history of "insurgency" especially among smaller ethnic minority groups including those living in the mountains and those of Chinese decent (Mackerras, 2005). Many Vietnamese officials seemed quick to blame the Chinese initially for "stirring up trouble" among minorities suggesting that life in China was better than life in Vietnam (Mackerras, 2005, p. 91). Such statements serve as merely a reflection of how government's when attempting to secure their sovereignty will look for a scapegoat or a source to blame for unrest that is realized when trying to establish greater peace and prosperity.

Mackerras (2005) notes government policies related to ethnic minorities during the 1980s may be summed up as follows: (1) that the Socialist Republic was "unified" in state and incorporated all the nationalities living within the territory; (2) that all minorities had equal rights and obligations under this ruling; (3) that the state would work to protect and consolidate even greater unity of nationalities, restricting prejudiced behaviors and discord among nationalities; (4) nationalities should have the right to use their native language to preserve their customs and traditions (Mackerras, 2005, p. 92).

What is weak about these policies is the mode or tool the government or republic relied on to enforce the unified state - military force that many may have viewed as extreme. The government's policies, while claiming to be supportive of various cultural traditions among nationalities, did not seem to tolerate religious or ethnic bodies unless their objectives and intentions were aligned with that of the primary government (Mackerras, 2005). This does not seem like a policy that promotes unity, but rather one that supports less autonomy and more control under a centralized, "unified" and militant type government.

Policies later shifted to reflect economic dissent and dissatisfaction among minorities during the late 1980s and early 1990s, with minorities attempting to gain more representation in government (Mackerras, 2005). Perhaps the largest criticisms of Vietnamese policies during this time is that despite their motivation to create a unified state, policies did not successfully halt of prevent ethnic problems and insurgencies among varying nationalities. This led to many rebellions that persisted for some time, throughout the 1980s, destroying much of the leadership and representation and leading to economic unrest and upheaval among minority groups. However one can clearly understand with so many minorities present why such rebellions are inevitable.

Other notable occurrences during the time-period reviewed include the abolishment of capitalist trade during the late 1970s in Ho Chi Minh City as well as in southern cities (Mackerras, 2005, p. 93). During this time "state-run trading dominated policies," and the "abolishment of capitalist trade" ended up devastating many of the Chinese living in Ho Chi Minh especially given they made their livelihood being capitalist traders, duly noted by Mackerras (2005, p. 92). Many Chinese felt they were ill-treated during this time. The Vietnamese people however, suggested that such accusations among the Hoa people were rumors alone, and that China represented a threat, the threat of a large scale war, which was the governments reasoning for expelling many of the Chinese from Vietnam at the time. Such accusations led to many ethnic minorities fleeing to China.

Further Analysis and Overview

One may best describe Vietnamese policies related to ethnic minorities as at best discriminatory in nature for much of Vietnams history, with the government taking over and attempting to create a "unified state" where on the surface, the government supported the nurturance of separate nationalities, but where realistically speaking, the government acted more as an authoritarian figure attempting to control ethnic minorities rather than allow them to live autonomously within the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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