Archive for September, 2010

Japan’s Dispute With China

Posted in Politics with tags , , on September 29, 2010 by Ian Pham

For the last week or so, Japan and China have been feuding over an incident that took place in the East China Sea.  About two weeks ago, September 8, 2010, some Japanese fishing boats were rammed by a Chinese naval vessel.  In response, the Japanese government swiftly arrested the entire Chinese crew, infuriating the Beijing government.

Since then, Japan and China have been engaged in a diplomatic standoff.  China has urged the Japanese government to release the crew and give a formal apology to Beijing.  The Japanese rejected China’s demands at first, neither releasing the captives or giving a formal apology to the Chinese.  However, the Japanese government decided to release the crew, eventually letting the captain go as well.

After this, however, the Japanese demanded the Chinese repair the ships that were damaged in the incident.  Japan has taken a step towards making amends and are expecting China to do the same.  Since the incident, anti-Japanese sentiment has erupted in China, which is condoned by the Chinese government.  Since the incident, Beijing has cut off diplomatic ties with Japan, blocked export material headed for Japan, and detained four Japanese civilians in China.

The Chinese have accused Japan of wrongfully detaining their people, calling the actions “illegal,” “unreasonable,” and threatens to take “further action” if China is not appeased.  Beijing accuses Japan of committing a wrongful act, but how so?  Wasn’t it the Chinese who rammed the Japanese coast guards first?  Is it not they who lay claim to the Senkaku (Japanese) or Diaoyu (Chinese) islands in the Eastern Sea?

This is not the first time that China has shown aggression against its neighbors (remember Paracel and Spratly?).  This time however, they have been sadly mistaken.  No longer are the Chinese dealing with a bunch of corrupted dictators, as is the case in the Southeast Asia Sea.  This time, the group they’ve decided to antagonize are democratic and accountable to their people.  In no way will the Japanese government let the Chinese navy terrorize the people in the sea.

The latest incident against Japan is just part of a larger pattern of Chinese aggression.  I’m glad that someone, besides the U.S., finally has the guts to stand up to them.  The Communists in Vietnam surely won’t, they’re too busy counting stolen money and sucking the life out of their own country and the people.  Back in the day, 1974, Nguyen Van Thieu (Republic of Vietnam) fought to defend the Paracel Islands against China.  Today, Nong Duc Manh (Communist Vietnam) doesn’t even dare to open his mouth against them.

The Origin of Nôm Writing

Posted in Ancient History, Art, Did You Know? with tags , , , , on September 25, 2010 by Ian Pham

In the late 18th century, the Tay Son Dynasty (1788-1802), under Nguyen Hue Quang Trung, switched the national writing system from Han-Nho (Chinese characters) to the more Vietnamese writing of Nôm (Vietnamese characters).  As part of their sweeping educational reforms, many literature previously written in Chinese were translated into Nôm characters.  What were Nôm characters, and where did they come from exactly?

Primitive Nôm Writing of the Bach Viet (Bai Yue) civilization.

The origin of Nôm writing stretches all the way back to the farmers of Bach Viet (Bai Yue), five thousand years ago.  Back then, the writing was already known as Nôm, part of Viet-Nho, an ancient philosophy native to the people of the south.  However, the nomadic tribes eventually picked up on these writings, altering it over time, and is what people know as Chinese writing today.

Han-Nho writing adapted by the Chinese, is it derived from ancient Nôm?

This fact has also been buried for a long period of time.  Only recently, as part of a wider range of contemporary Viet studies, has these findings become more clear.  To anyone who has studied Chinese history, you probably heard that the origin of Chinese writing came from the ancient Shang Dynasty.  You’ve probably also been told that the Chinese writing simply came out of nowhere, possibly from dragon bones, and was quickly adapted by the Chinese.  However, this is in-fact a myth that has finally been proven false.

Modern or “restored” Nôm writing under the Tay Son Dynasty.

21st century research has clarified that the Shang Dynasty was actually a nomadic tribe that preceded the Zhou.  They were not agricultural, nor were they in any way a settled people.  During the Shang’s existence, the Viet were an independent people not under any type of control to the Chinese Shang.  The Viet were an agricultural people with their own way of life, culture, and government.  These agricultural people had their own philosophy and primitive writing system known as Viet-Nho and Nôm, respectively.  Ancient Nôm is the parent of imperial China’s Han-Nho, as well as the Nôm of modern imperial Vietnam.


Đõ, Thành (2010). NGUỒN GỐC CHỮ NÔM. Retrieved from:

Le Thanh Hoa, Du Mien.  Vietnam: The Springhead of Eastern Cultural Civilization. Trans. Joseph M. Vo.  San Jose: The Vietnam Library Publications, 2010.

Wright, David. The History of China. Connecticut, London: Greenwood Press. 2001.

Orwell’s Classic & Vietnam Today

Posted in Books, IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on September 22, 2010 by Ian Pham

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

– George Orwell

When George Orwell wrote the novel 1984, who could have predicted that the Party in his book would be a spitting image of the Communists in Vietnam and China today?  I’ve thought about this for a while, but never realized the incredible impact Orwell’s novel played in warning us of the evils of the Party.  This book was published in 1949, a time when Communism had not yet taken hold in Vietnam.  At this time, since China was till a young Communist country, the Soviet bloc was the only true Communist force.

Communism is a very secretive system, and back then, information on their activities were not widely understood.  Which brings me to my point: how did George Orwell, someone who never lived under a Communists regime, paint such a vivid picture of what such a regime was like?  In his novel, 1984, George Orwell successfully paints a picture of how devious and cruel the totalitarian dictators can be, long before the crimes of the real Communists were even known to the world.  From the way he told his story, George Orwell literally predicted the future.

If you have never read Orwell’s 1984, here is a quick summary.  Winston Smith, the main man of the story, lives in Oceania, one of three future empires perpetually at war with one another.  Oceania is run by a powerful political force simply known as The Party.  At the very top of The Party is Big Brother, a figure of unprecedented power who’s authority is rivaled by no one.  Everything inside of Oceania is controlled by the Party and Big Brother, nothing is out of their reach.  Through relentless surveillance, terror, and propaganda, the Party controls every aspect of the citizens lives.

The more Winston Smith thinks about it, the more he sees that something is not right.  As a government employee for the Ministry of Truth, the propaganda branch of the Party, Winston begins to ask questions.  Since the Party controls the flow of information, along with everything else, Winston finds himself trapped inside their system and is determined to find out the truth.  These questions eventually lead him on a path of rebellion against the Party, searching for others who share the same viewpoints as him.

This is by no way an easy task, since the government has implemented many elaborate techniques to crackdown and punish anyone who dares question the Party.  Any kind of political opposition is watched closely by the “Thought Police,” a special section of law enforcement who specializes in reading peoples’ thoughts through their actions and moods.  Surveillance cameras are set up in every corner of the country, keeping track of the peoples’ every move.

The Party tries to forcefully control the social order by implementing “Newspeak,” and “Doublethink,” psychological techniques that influences the way people act and speak.  Anyone who does not follow the regulations get severely punished by The Party.  Chillingly, a recurring event in 1984 are the sudden disappearances of characters who start questioning Big Brother and The Party.  At one moment they exist, but the next chapter they are just gone.

In Oceania, no one can be trusted.  The Party has secret spies planted everywhere throughout the state, anyone could sell you out.  Despite all this, Winston manages to find a certain few who support his cause.  One notable person by his side is named Julia, a beautiful woman who also hates The Party and wants to defy them as well.  Her relationship with Winston, complicated by the many twists and turns in Orwell’s classic, makes for an incredibly enjoyable read.  The uncertainty of their existence, mixed with the danger of opposing the totalitarian dictatorship of Big Brother and The Party, keeps us guessing all the way to the exciting conclusion.

So what does all this have to do with Vietnam, exactly?  The system created by George Orwell in 1984 resembles the situation in Vietnam so much, it is frightening.  From the VCP at the very top of the pyramid, all the way to the citizens at the bottom, George Orwell has painted the perfect picture of totalitarianism and The Party.  The VCP, and the CCP, control every aspects of their citizens lives.  The Party plants spies, tries to reshape the social order, spreads relentless propaganda, rewrites history, and destroys any form of dissidence.

In Vietnam, the Party reigns supreme over everything else, even the state itself.  Every act that The Party performs in 1984, the Communists are doing right now.  The legendary figure, Big Brother, can be compared to the mythical, yet fabricated, prowess of the evil Ho Chi Minh.  It is just quite amazing to see Orwell, who did not live long enough to see the true horrors of Communism, paint such a beautifully, yet frighteningly, vivid picture of their System.  This is dedicated to all the Winston Smiths in Vietnam right now.  To all the people who continue to fight for the freedom of Vietnam, braving the abuses, crackdowns, and wrongful arrests by The Party, please stay strong, and know that we support you all the way.

Ho Chi Minh: The Man Who Deceived the World

Posted in IV. Columns, Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2010 by Ian Pham

The Man Who Created “The System”

Ho Chi Minh, the man who brought Communism to Vietnam, kicked out the French, and liberated the country.  Sounds about right, too bad it’s mostly wrong.  I hope that by now, the positions that I have taken against Ho Chi Minh and Communism has become clear.  All the crimes committed by the Communists over the last 35 years, even up to present day, should paint a clear picture of what Ho Chi Minh has done to Vietnam.  The system created by Ho Chi Minh is autocratic, corrupted, and totalitarian.  Using ingenious methods of deception, Ho Chi Minh would lead the world on to think that he was a patriot, fighting with his heart and soul for the good of the nation.

Ho Chi Minh was a dictatorial, megalomaniacal, and extremely cunning man.  Behind that fatherly smile was a diabolical mind that was capable of deceiving the entire world, leading us to believe that he had the country’s interest in mind.  Ho Chi Minh claimed to live his life with only one goal in his mind: liberating the Vietnamese people from the grips of the French.  Apparently his one and only ambition in life was to free the country and lead it to prosperity.  Whether or not he meant it in the beginning is debatable, but the horrifying outcomes of his actions later on are absolutely undeniable.

The Viet Minh and the “Democratic” Republic of Vietnam

When he returned to Vietnam in 1945, he became the leader of the Viet Minh, a revolutionary organization that was determined to terminate the French invaders.  Despite what certain researchers claim, the Viet Minh was not a Communist organization.  In reality, they were a coalition of the many revolutionary groups at the time, joining forces to defeat the French.  They were freedom fighters who fought in the name of Vietnam, not Marxism-Leninism.  However, many of the leaders in the Viet Minh were slowly purged by Ho Chi Minh, elevating him to the top position.  When they defeated the French at Dien Binh Phu in 1954, it was Ho Chi Minh who received all the glory.  It was by now that the Viet Minh were dominated by pro-Leninist leaders.

In this, Ho Chi Minh established the foundations for his Communist movement, though the west couldn’t understand it at the time.  Under Ho Chi Minh, the northern half of Vietnam was under the rule of the Communists, while the South was under the rule of Ngo Dinh Diem and the republicans/democrats.  However, North Vietnam was not called the “Socialist” Republic of Vietnam as it is known today.  Ho Chi Minh used a different name, one more easy on the ears of Americans: the “Democratic” Republic of Vietnam.  In selecting this name, he gave the impression of a democratic society, though one will find out, his regime will be far from democratic.  Nonetheless, this strategic move, with many others, will give him an sharp edge in the eyes of the world.

The Viet Cong, The National Liberation Front, and the Labor Party

Throughout his entire rule, Ho Chi Minh labeled his forces the protectors of Vietnam, attacking the South on the pretext of “liberating our southern brothers from the American invaders.”  Instead of the name Communist Party, Ho Chi Minh named his group the Labor Party, looking to gain support from the working population.  This worked quite well, not only for the people inside Vietnam, but also to the observers from outside the country.

Besides the People’s Army in the north, Ho Chi Minh created another military force in the south, cleverly labeled as the “National Liberation Front (NLF).”  In creating this alternate force, Ho Chi Minh wanted to simulate the illusion of rebellion and revolt in the south.  Ho’s plan was to make the world think that Vietnam had two separate groups who fought for the same cause, defeating the Republic of Vietnam.  In reality, the NLF (aka Vietcong) were directly under Ho Chi Minh’s command and was not a separate entity in the war.

The Mind of Modern Vietnam’s Greatest Villain

As you can see, Ho Chi Minh was a political genius who fooled the world into supporting his cause.  Through propaganda, terror, and betrayals of his many allies, Ho Chi Minh formed the Communist movement in Vietnam, putting himself at the top of the pyramid.  He incited the patriotism of his soldiers, tricking them into thinking that what they were doing was best for Vietnam.  He used the entrance of the Americans to trash South Vietnam, calling them tools of foreign imperialism, and created anger and hatred in the hearts of his soldiers.

Many of his policies during the war were cruel and atrocious.  The land reform programs resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Vietnamese civilians in the north.  His murderous policies in treating southern civilians was also disturbing and destructive.  One such example was the Hue Massacre in 1968.  His soldiers captured the city of central Vietnam, brutally murdering thousands of defenseless people, simply because they lived under the government of South Vietnam.

Sympathy From the West

Even while he was committing these evil deeds, Ho Chi Minh was able to cultivate a positive image in the eyes of the world.  Throughout the 1960’s, many people in the west bought into his propaganda, protested the South, and praised the North.  They didn’t know of his brutal massacres or his selfish intentions.  They only saw what was on the surface, an elderly smile of a charming old man, backed by thousands upon thousands of biased media outlets.  The “experts” in America believed that he was a saint, comparing him to real heroes such as Gandhi, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King.  Judging by the evidence of all the Communists’ crimes, whoever made these comparisons should feel really stupid now.

Ho Chi Minh was such a devious man, successfully fooling the people of Vietnam and the international community.  There were several who saw past his lies, but the majority got caught up in the show, blindly jumping on the Ho Chi Minh band-wagon.  Today, the evidence of his cruelty has been verified.  He created a system where killing and stealing reigned supreme.  His offspring, the likes of Nong Duc Manh, Nguyen Tan Dung, and Nguyen Minh Triet occupy the Communist Party today, selling land to the Chinese and stealing money from the common folk.  It is clear that Ho Chi Minh has deceived us all.  His legacy has been stained with the blood of his own people.  The sad state of the Vietnam today is the direct consequence of his actions in the past.  Some idiots may still call him “Uncle Ho,” but I just call him a dirty old bastard.

Update: Nguyễn Trãi’s “Bình Ngô Đại Cáo”

Posted in Announcements, Poetry with tags , , on September 14, 2010 by Ian Pham

Not too long ago, I told you readers that I was going to translate the poem “Bình Ngô Đại Cáo” by Nguyễn Trãi from Vietnamese into English.  This project, to my surprise, is much harder than anticipated.  The poetic style of Nguyễn Trãi’s writing, combined with the complexity of the metaphors and wordplay in the Vietnamese language, is quite a challenge to translate fluently.  Though I speak both Vietnamese and English, it is still a tough task to convert one language to the other while still maintaining the same poetic integrity of the original.  As of this time, with the help of an excellent advisor, I have succeeded in translating about half of the poem.  If one wanted a realistic timeframe for when the poem will be completed, my best guess would be two weeks from now.  For anyone who is really waiting on this poem: don’t worry, it will be worth the wait.

La Dalat Motors: A Symbol of Prosperity

Posted in Did You Know?, Economics, Modern History with tags , , , on September 12, 2010 by Ian Pham

For anyone who has doubted the capabilities of the Republic of Vietnam and its leaders, just take a look at one of their many accomplishments within the 20 years of their existence.  La Dalat Motors, an automobile company that was established during the presidency of Ngo Dinh Diem.  That’s right!  During the Vietnam War, the Republic of Vietnam was already developing its own cars!

For verification, please look down!

Even in wartime, the Republic of Vietnam was well on its way to becoming a developed nation with a strong economy.  This motor company is just one example of South Vietnam’s sophistication and potential.  Sadly, all of this talent would be completely and utterly erased in 1975, when the Communists take over the country.  Since then, Vietnam descended from a Southeast Asian powerhouse to an underdeveloped country with a weak economy and an extremely poor quality of life.

It was the 1960’s and Vietnam developed automobiles.  It is now 2010, and what does the country have?  I think it’s fairly obvious what went wrong here: the idiocy of the Communist ideology, the corrupted and cowardly dogs born into the height of this broken system, and the idiots in the west who supported the fathers of this hated regime.

This is for anyone who took sides with the Communists in the past, supporting Ho Chi Minh, and discrediting the South with false information and biased rationalities.  For anyone who ever said that the South never developed anything, calling them corrupted people who just squandered American money, I got two simple words for you: La Dalat.

Nguyen Van Thieu: The Second President of South Vietnam

Posted in Modern History with tags , , on September 10, 2010 by Ian Pham

It has been quite a while since I’ve talked about about the Vietnam War.  The main focus then was on Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of South Vietnam.  Now it is time we talked a little about Nguyen Van Thieu, the man who succeeded him.  After the murder of President Ngo Dinh Diem, the Republic of Vietnam fell into a period of governmental disorder.  During this time, many people vied for the position of head of state.  All of these people would fail, rising to the top but quickly collapsing under the pressure of leadership.

The U.S., France, and several other countries tried to re-establish order in the government, propping up many unworthy people to the top position, only to see them crumble.  This chaotic situation would last for three years.  Finally in 1967, Nguyen Van Thieu, who was chief of state at the time, defeated his competitors in the presidential race and became the second president of the Republic of Vietnam.  Under his leadership, South Vietnam would sustain itself until the collapse of the country in 1975.

As with his predecessor, Ngo Dinh Diem, the government of Nguyen Van Thieu was faced with many obstacles.  Besides the Vietcong, the Thieu government also had to deal with the United States.  The Americans assassinated Diem because of his refusal to bend under U.S. pressures, his successor, President Nguyen Van Thieu, would also create obstacles for the United States.  In the early phases of the war, the Diem government was faced with arrogant Americans who would force their way into Vietnam.  Under Thieu’s time, the U.S. had been beaten humbly and were desperately trying to pull out.

Like Ngo Dinh Diem, Nguyen Van Thieu was also a strong leader whose government was afflicted with corrupted officials.  Many of the people around him, including his advisors, were puppets of foreign powers.  Several of the generals of the ARVN were secretly on the payroll of the French, while some of Thieu’s advisors were working for the CIA. For this reason, he was unable to fully exert his political influence.  Even so, he was able to govern the country and lead it though a time of modest prosperity.

During Nguyen Van Thieu’s presidency, Diem’s also, Vietnam was the strongest economy in Southeast Asia, surpassing all others in agriculture, as well as heavy industry.  Vietnamese farmers benefitted greatly from President Thieu’s agricultural reforms.  The laborers also gained immensely, since Vietnam’s industrial base was steadily on the rise.  It may be hard to believe now, but during the democratic era of Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Van Thieu, the Republic of Vietnam had already established its very own car company, called La Dalat.  Surprised?  I sure was.