Obama, China and Viet Nam

Tran Dong Chan 
Spring, March 2009

China’s recent aggressive attitude on the East sea and Tibet has made the anxiety of threats against the world’s stability. Finding the strategies to avoid this as well as to have the sustainable peace and growth for people around the world is really imperative now.

Freedom or Making Money

The desire for prosperity and the betterment of life is something people look forward to and have been searching for thousands of years ago. But human society has only seen prosperous growth the past few hundred years. People often attribute this great success to the technological revolution. That is not entirely wrong. However, the great leap in science and technology is only an effect; the real cause is the liberation of human freedom and ideas. Having freedom and human rights allows people to research, to understand and unravel the rules of nature; people no longer fear to speak their political opinions in order to find the best solutions. This is an important foundation for the scientific and technological revolution to invent and innovate, to understand the principles of economics, and to create political and philosophical ideologies to change the form of government into something more effective. History has proved that those who start from behind while embracing human rights won and long surpassed those who start in the front but did not respect human rights and freedom.

During the entire 18th century until the beginning of the 19th century, China was the biggest economy in the world, bigger than all of Europe combined. During that time, while the feudal court of China was complacent of its own power and was doing all it could to remain the strongest and richest, the West began the human rights revolution with the top priority given to winning human freedom. Only 50 years later, China became a weak giant to be torn apart by countries from the West and was later invaded by Japan, a small neighbor following the Western model. The Manchurian dynasty was forced to sign numerous, shameful treaties to surrender territories. During that same period, the Western world was growing rapidly and had achieved sustainable prosperity. The prime example was the United States of America, who, in their first constitution, protected human rights and human liberty first and foremost, above all other things that needed to be protected. The US constitution was amended several times but, in it, the sacred human freedom always occupied the first place. The US did not just naturally become a prosperous nation as seen today. Human freedom does not just occur naturally either.

The human rights revolution

When people have freedom and human rights, they will surely make themselves more prosperous, and, at the same time, make society achieve sustainable growth. That is a crucial principle humans have recognized. The West followed that principle and grew at a spectacular rate, generating a total wealth in 200 years of the 19th and 20th centuries worth more than the wealth of the whole world combined many thousand years before that. The human rights revolution not only brought freedom, it also brought an unforeseen amount of wealth to the human race. Before recognizing and understanding this principle, human society was advancing very slowly. The earliest civilizations like Egypt, China all ended in ruins. Despite thousands of years of development, in these societies, human rights have never been fully respected. Human rights were replaced by the greed to expand territory, which really was just the ambition of the individuals in power. Human freedom was deprived in order to carry out such ambitions.

Russia in the 20th century was also ahead of the world in many aspects, but not long after that it collapsed and disintegrated quickly. It achieved a short-lived success not by freedom but by fear of the people. It used force to coerce people to carry out the ambitions of those in power. It thought it was greater than the Creator in denying market economy — an objective principle. Going against the principle undeniably led to its collapse even when its ideals were the desire of equality for all. There will never be equality when people were deprived of freedom and fundamental rights. After the death of Mao Zedong, China recognized the benefits of market economy and its economy grew quickly. Its people had been in poverty for a long time, so they jumped in at all cost and were willing to trade anything they had to gain wealth. With that understanding, the people in power in China easily continued to deprive freedom and kept their political monopoly. For the people of China today, building wealth means no mention of politics. It is not worth the exchange, and it only creates a small benefit for those in power.

One would think that the people as great as China should have a much more deserving place compared to where they are today. That place will never come until freedom and human rights of the people of China are fully respected. On the contrary, the economic development that is happening now will cause a grave social disparity, easily stirring political turmoil and forming a new dynasty, like the rise and fall of those feudal regimes that this country has seen in the past. But before its collapse, it will create major problems for the rest of the world. When an individual or a few holding power feel that they have absolute power with tens or hundreds of millions of people, they have in their hands a great source of power. The greed for hegemonic power will arise. While having political monopoly, they easily incite the narrow-minded nationalist movement to provoke war against other nations. This had happened during the times of feudalism, capitalism and communism.

The catastrophe and the challenge

The fact that the German Third Reich caused the catastrophe of World War II is an experience not yet forgotten. Germany, after World War I, rebuilt and developed at a dizzying rate by following market economy and applying the most novel technological advances in a democratic framework. But since becoming the prime minister in 1933, by dirty tricks and ruthless tactics, Hitler led Germany to become a single-party political system with a law stating: “the National Socialist German Workers Party (i.e. National Socialist Party) is the only political party in Germany.” Individual freedoms, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble were all restricted and prohibited. German people were easily searched and their rights to privacy were violated. Liberty was taken away and fear was imposed over all of Germany. Only five years later, it had caused the greatest destructive war in the history of mankind, killing nearly 70 million innocent people.

But it also quickly collapsed despite the fact that it had declared: “The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years! […] There will be no revolution in Germany for the next one thousand years!” That collapse is unavoidable, but those driven insane by the thirst for power are always blinded by absolute power and cannot recognize the principle, because the responsible voices that could shine light on reality are crushed from the beginning.

The world today still faces similar risks. If globalization fails to redistribute the world economy; China cannot form a democracy to guarantee freedom and fundamental rights, including the right to decide the political destiny by the people of China; Russia cannot make its young democracy more democratic, the risk of war on a global scale to win markets, exert influences and to satisfy the insatiable greed hidden behind a nationalist agenda is unavoidable. This is really a big challenge to mankind in the next 20 years.

Obama’s strategy

After the Cold War, riding on the momentum of victory, the West with the US in the front advocated globalization in the direction in their favor and left other countries at a disadvantage. This was a mistake because it increased instability and risk for the world, and the US faced its consequences with wide-spread terrorism around the world with its peak being the 9/11 attacks. The US was dragged into the war on terror, costing great amounts of money and people’s lives. The American people recognized that mistake and voted for Barack Obama to be their next president. The new president was chosen by the American people because of his strategic views that are audacious, stronger and clearer than those of his predecessors from both the Republican and Democratic parties. One can read about these key strategies in his well-known book, The Audacity of Hope (2006)[1]:

“At times, American foreign policy has been farsighted, simultaneously serving our national interests, our ideals, and the interests of other nations. At other times American policies have been misguided, based on false assumptions that ignore the legitimate aspirations of other peoples, undermine our own credibility, and make for a more dangerous world.” (Page 437)

“Globalization makes our economy, our health, and our security all captive to events on the other side of the world. And no other nation on earth has a greater capacity to shape that global system, or to build consensus around a new set of international rules that expand the zones of freedom, personal safety, and economic well-being. Like it or not, if we want to make America more secure, we are going to have to help make the world more secure… The integration of Germany and Japan into a world system of liberal democracies and free-market economies effectively eliminated the threat of great power conflicts inside the free world.” (Page 466)

“We need to maintain a strategic force posture that allows us to manage threats posed by rogue nations like North Korea and Iran and to meet the challenges presented by potential rivals like China.” (Page 480)

“Our challenge, then, is to make sure that U.S. policies move the international system in the direction of greater equity, justice, and prosperity–that the rules we promote serve both our interests and the interests of a struggling world.” (Page 495)

Therefore instead of using force that poses injustice, he advocates more equal trade relations to create more opportunities for the partner countries; instead of using democracy and human rights as leverage to negotiate in favor of the US like what his predecessors have done, he believes that when the values of freedom, democracy and human rights are realized in countries outside of the US, the American people are still the ones reaping benefits the most. It is not difficult to recognize Obama’s global strategies: advocate peace to avoid war; advocate liberal democracy and human rights to create peace and stability in order to achieve sustainable prosperity.

Opportunities for Vietnam

President Obama, therefore, will set his objective to find a way for China to become democratic, the people of China will have freedom and all of human rights to decide the political fate of their own country in peace. Doing so will ensure stability and equilibrium, which are necessary for world peace in the long run. This is a big plan and is very difficult, but he must make it happen. And the US should choose Vietnam as a strategic location because Vietnam’s paradigm is not much different than China’s. If Vietnam became a liberal democracy, it will solidify the belief among the Chinese people and the world that China would soon join the free and democratic world. People’s belief is a great strength, and the single-party regime of China cannot survive while facing the combined strength from within the abroad. But the most pivotal key to the victory is that doing so will bring great benefits to most of the people of China and peace to the whole world. Such mutual benefits will form a great source of power to guarantee that the final objective is reached in no more than 10 years from now.

Important allies of the US, including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan will be the countries receiving the most benefits when this strategic objective is accomplished, and therefore they will do everything they can to collaborate. There is no better choice than Vietnam, not only because of its similarity in paradigm to China but because its current state is very beneficial to the strategy. The current regime may see it as a risk and a challenge, but it really is a great opportunity for Vietnam. There cannot be a better scenario than the one in which Vietnam itself seizes the opportunity to transform into a liberal democratic state, and to make itself an important link in the chain of these global strategies.

The principle of nature

All the totalitarian and corruptive regimes, either communist or non-communist, eventually collapsed. Indonesia’s Suharto had had to leave power disgracefully because of the financial crisis that led to the collapse of the Indonesian economy after the cleverly covered deterioration was brought to light. While it would be naïve to assume that such a scenario will take place in Vietnam given the similar events that had happened, it would be even less smart if one cannot see that such a law of decadence would not happen in Vietnam in another form, which could be even swifter and more devastating.

The principle of nature is an objective reality that existed since the creation of the world to govern everything in this universe, and is independent of the will of humans – the most intelligent and most complicated beings in the universe. The law of attraction did not start with Newton’s discovery, but rather only since its discovery that people began to understand that law. It would be difficult to imagine a world without such a law to govern how it operates. Similarly, human consciousness and spirit is governed by different laws. It is hard to believe that such a complex world would be able to exist and develop thousands of years without obeying certain laws. In other words, anything that does not obey the laws of nature cannot exist. The extent by which human intelligence has grown determines how much humans are able to understand the objective laws of nature. That which humans have not yet known is because the human intelligence has not been able to grasp, not because such an objective reality does not exist. History has shown that when humans understand and conform to the laws of nature, there is a giant leap forward.

Freedom and democracy

Quite frankly, no one can defeat communism globally if it is good and compatible with the law of nature. It dies by its own design. The appearance of the catalysts from the outside is only a consequence of the cause from within. The Vietnamese Communist regime will decline quickly, and its decline is unstoppable because of its own mistakes. Chinese Communism will follow the same misfortune.

The one thing the Vietnamese and Chinese people need to be aware of right now is how the new age will come, and whether we are able to seize the opportunity to join the world to maintain stability and peace, thereby use the opportunity to achieve sustainable growth. That will all depend on our wish at this moment. If we fall into the trap of poverty or greed such that we will accept any form of society as long as we can make more money, then history has proved that we will never reach our goal. But if we want freedom; we want to have all the rights as a human being that the Creator has given us; we are determined to have the right to decide our own political fate with our votes in choosing the best candidates to lead the country, we will have everything.

We will have the right to become rich and the right not to like wealth, but no one shall have the right to grant and take away those opportunities from us. We will have the right to voice our opinions without fear even if those opinions criticize the leaders of the country. History has shown that such societies always develop prosperously and sustainably, and the people in those societies always live a rich and bountiful life. Righteous businessmen who wish to make wealth for them and for society will only need to serve their customers and investors, not government officials. By looking at the wealthiest businessmen today, who have to bow before government officials, one not only sees the injustice but also realizes how these businessmen humiliate themselves. In the age of globalization today, Vietnam and China needs businessmen with dignity, those who can raise their heads high. The Japanese were indignant when they found out that their own businessmen bowed to the Vietnamese officials while giving them bribes.

Peace and Stability

If absolute power of Vietnam belongs to the people of Vietnam, and absolute power of China belongs to the people of China, it will be certain that the people of both nations will choose to coexist and develop in peace. It is ironic to look at the current state, when power belongs to a small group of people in either nation; the stronger one provokes the narrow-minded nationalism to invade Vietnam, while the weaker one suppresses any expression of patriotism. In a society where the final vote belongs to the people, the evil will of individuals in power to invade and occupy another nation cannot last. Even if it could, it will not be a reality because it is against the will of the majority of the people. The majority of people on this planet want to live in peace; they do not want bloody killing of one another. People only obey to do such things when coerced.

Japan, after 50 years of reform by the ideals of freedom, has seen prosperity more than ever in its history. But because it did not have any effective democratic framework to maintain liberal democracy, Japan fell into the hands of militarism and caused many bloody wars, killing tens of millions of innocent people, including Chinese and Vietnamese, with their sick Great East Asia ideology. The Japanese people were rushed into a meaningless death. Eventually, it was defeated in shame. But the Japanese people were quick recognized that mistake, and they understood the need to respect people’s freedom and the right to decide their own fate. And they successfully built a nation capable of maintaining and protecting democracy. By doing so, they Japanese rose up and developed quickly from ruins. The same Japan has been coexisting in peace with the rest of the world for 65 years. The Germans did the same and was no longer a threat to security for any other nation. The free and democratic United States also experienced times when the expansionist movement in the leadership appeared, but with the power always remaining in the people, it easily changed and returned to an orbit of freedom, equality, humanity, against the absolute power it has been chasing since the day it was founded.

To the Communists

Let history continue its march forward if you do not want to be run over by its wheels. If such catalytic forces do not come from within, they will come from the outside. In his inaugural speech, Obama had said [2]:

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

“… God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

“… to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.”

To Vietnamese and Chinese people

If African Americans only wished to be rich first, it will take much longer for the black people to have an advantage in American economy. But they had wished for freedom, for human rights, and today they have a person becoming the president of the US.

Therefore, instead of wishing each other good fortune, let us wish to one another freedom and human rights. Let’s wish for the democratization for us.


[1] Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Random House, New York, 2006

[2] Barack Obama’s inaugural speech, January 20, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/us/politics/20text-obama.html

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2 Responses to Obama, China and Viet Nam

  1. Pingback: Kỉ nguyên thế giới Xanh bên thủy lưu Dòng Chảy Lạc Hồng (Thư 41A) | Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức

  2. Pingback: Thư 47C – Vì sao phải khép lại quá khứ? | Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức

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