Vietnam and N Korea on contrasting policy planks

21-Apr-2017 Intellasia | Island | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The noteworthy nature of Vietnam’s rise to relative material well being is borne by the fact that she is categorised as being among 20 countries with dynamically growing rural economies that are triggering overall national economic prosperity. A recent study by Indian economist Vijay Mahajan titled ‘RISE of the Rural Consumers in Developing Countries’ (SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd) gives ample food for thought on this score. Vietnam is among China, India, Russia, the US, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Thailand and Egypt, to name a few, who possess a substantial and growing rural economic base that is instrumental in sustaining their respective national economies in no small measure.

If Sri Lanka is eager to cultivate close and mutually-beneficial economic ties with Vietnam, the reasons should be easy to discern. Vietnam is rated as the second fastest growing economy in the Asian region, after China. It is, among other things, a thriving export-driven economy with the added distinction of being second to only Brazil in the growing and export of coffee. While it enjoys a GDP of $170 billion, Vietnam’s GDP per capita rose from $433.33 in 2000 to $1,910.53 in 2013, the World Bank reports. The above few economic statistics hardly do justice to the dynamism, diversity and strength of the Vietnamese economy, but they sufficiently prove that contemporary Vietnam is a far cry from the Vietnam of the sixties and seventies, for example, which was virtually wilting and dying in the slow, unrelenting flames of the Cold War.

The substantive and contrasting economic policy orientation between then Vietnam and today’s Vietnam is evidenced in the fact that Vietnam and the US have normalised their relations following decades of strained ties born of Cold War compulsions and pressures. Top Head of State and government level visits have been undertaken between the countries in recent times, signaling that the countries concerned are now interacting on practical, pragmatic considerations. Political ideology has given way to a spirit of economic pragmatism.

However, it does not follow from the foregoing that Vietnam has veered drastically from the path of socialism; its official political ideology. What it means is that Vietnam, like China long before it, is giving economic pragmatism a strong try and very successfully so, although central planning remains a durable policy plank of the state. It should be also noted that the bulk of the country’s economy is under the control of the state sector.

The advisability of Vietnam following the current economic policy trajectory is borne out by positive ground realities of the kind just mentioned.. These facts speak for themselves. Vietnam is clearly not a repressive, impoverished communist state; a description to which it could have answered some decades ago. Rather than being an insulated, inward-looking state with a population eking out an existence on a ‘starvation diet’, today’s Vietnam possesses a robust economy which has integrated well with the global economy and is on a fast-track of export development.

The noteworthy nature of Vietnam’s rise to relative material well being is borne by the fact that she is categorised as being among 20 countries with dynamically growing rural economies that are triggering overall national economic prosperity. A recent study by Indian economist Vijay Mahajan titled ‘RISE of the Rural Consumers in Developing Countries’ (SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd) gives ample food for thought on this score. Vietnam is among China, India, Russia, the US, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Thailand and Egypt, to name a few, who possess a substantial and growing rural economic base that is instrumental in sustaining their respective national economies in no small measure.

Going by all outward appearances, North Korea, in contrast to Vietnam, seems to be dissipating some of its energies in Cold War-type power games. Its present dangerous missile testing and firing, which is playing a considerable role in triggering regional and global political and military tensions, proves the point.

The condition of the North Korean people is hardly known, instead its political leadership prominently showcases itself. North Korea is the typical, reclusive, inward-looking communist state of which the world outside knows very little. However, Vietnam is on the path of empowering her people as best as she could and these are some of the criteria of development.

North Korea and Vietnam offer themselves as interesting and contrasting case studies because they have kindred roots in the Cold War politics and military tensions of yesteryear. However, Vietnam has evolved and developed from its initial, backward status, whereas, North Korea has, apparently, failed to do so. Vietnam is in a constructive economic and diplomatic engagement with the world, but the same cannot be said of North Korea.

It is unfortunate that the US is yet to come out with a strategy of constructive engagement with North Korea. The latter is likely to welcome a military confrontation with the US because it would enable the North Korean leadership to unite the country’s population behind it by playing on the latter’s security anxieties. Thus, would the North Korean political class prove its indispensability. North Korea’s current dangerous power games are essentially about driving home this indispensability to the country’s public.

However, the US political leadership seems to be blind to these realities on the Korean front because it is itself immersed in an exercise of winning legitimacy from its constituency, which is deeply divided in political loyalties. Therefore, the time-tested tactic of political leaders playing on the security concerns of people is being tested anew in the US, inasmuch as it is being brazenly tried out in North Korea.

The Trump administration, therefore, could very well be setting the stage for a regional military confrontation of considerable proportions by seeking to ‘fight fire with fire’ in the Korean peninsula. Among the major odds stacked against the US is a warning from Russia that the US should not initiate any ‘unilateral’ measures on North Korea. Thus, if the US is contemplating measures of a military kind against North Korea it is bound to come up against Russian opposition. If the US defies Russian warnings we could very well have a confrontation between these powers in the Korean peninsula that could have serious implications for world peace.

www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=163770

 


Category: Regional

Print This Post