Let Saigons Be Saigons

Stephen Kotkin in The New Republic:

Book_2 In Vietnam, the United States lost the war but is now well on the way to winning the peace. Could that be Vietnam’s real lesson for the American involvement in Iraq? A gateway to both northeast Asia and southeast Asia, Vietnam is a hinge country with enormous strategic significance. Much of the credit for America’s positioning to win the peace in Vietnam belongs to communist China. Beginning in 1979, China’s Communist Party leadership under Deng Xiaoping tentatively and (many say) reluctantly opened the economy to legal market transactions. Over time, the market experimentation was allowed to deepen, and it was combined with an opening of China to the world. This colossal turnabout — as much as the collapse of the Soviet Union — has transformed the world.

China’s incredible success on the capitalist road — alongside Vietnam’s desperate postwar poverty through the 1980s and the perceived threat of a much invigorated China on Vietnam’s northern border — induced the Vietnamese communists to launch their own “renovation” (doi moi, in Vietnamese) in December, 1986. Much of the party’s old guard in Hanoi resigned. A decade or so of mixed results ensued, nothing like China’s boom. And then, around 1999-2000, the Vietnamese economy finally did take off when an enhanced law on private enterprise gave the green light to small and medium-size businesses. Also important, in 2004 the Vietnamese Communist Party encouraged its members to amass wealth openly and on a large scale.

More here.