Lost chance for the winning side

A scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy told the BBC that the winning side of communist Vietnam lost an opportunity in 1975 when they declined to take advantage of what their opponent, the South Vietnam, had achieved.

Dr. Vu Minh Khuong [Vũ Minh Khương], a Vietnamese lecturer at the Singaporean Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, believed that Vietnam had lost a chance to become a prosperous nation after the war ended in 1975, for they underestimated the achievements attained under the Saigon administration. Their behavior as “the winning side” only caused the unified Vietnam to lose enormous resources and fail to make use of patriotism and nationalism.

In an interview given to the BBC on April 25, Dr. Vu Minh Khuong said the former Saigon government had made remarkable efforts in boosting the economy despite the bloody war they were fighting. Such efforts included promoting the private sector, expanding the national economy yet encouraging integration in the world economy.

In 2012 and 2013, journalist Huy Duc released his two-volume book “The Winning Side”, inciting a harsh controversy among different viewpoints on Vietnam's modern history. The book is considered both as “the best Vietnamese history book since 1975” and “a biased look in history”.

In 2012 and 2013, journalist Huy Duc released his two-volume book “The Winning Side”, inciting a harsh controversy among different viewpoints on Vietnam’s modern history. The book is considered both as “the best Vietnamese history book since 1975” and “a biased look in history”. Photo courtesy of BBC.

“Though I didn’t see how the South Vietnam government implemented their policies, in 1975 I moved to work in HCMC and found enterprises with very high management skills. Obviously that must have originated from positive efforts by the government in building a good market economy,” said Dr. Khuong.

He cited as an example the IBM system left in Saigon at that time, which helped the North a great deal in implementing the Song Da hydropower project and running the entire electricity system in the South. It even helped the government in student recruitment.

He believed, however, that when the communists took power over the unified country, they were too arrogant to learn anything from their defeated enemy.

“Furthermore, we even thought that as an ally of the Soviet Union, we could just learn from them and that would be enough for us to become a successful socialist nation,” he added.

Dr. Khuong said it is an immense pity for all the Vietnamese that the unified Vietnam lost a golden opportunity to create an economic miracle.

Currently Vietnam is celebrating the 40th anniversary of national unification. Though the war ended and the country was unified in April 1975, genuine national reconciliation seems still far away.