Why Vietnam Must Remember February 17
Danger lies in forgetting a cruel war
By Pham Hông Son Feb 15, 2009
Vietnamese protesters in
in June, 2007. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images) Washington, D.C.
As I write this, only a few days remain before this 30th anniversary of this war, but no articles in
’s official media recall this event. In several recent years, official media in Vietnam Vietnam have maintained a timid behavior towards such China-related issues as the secret border agreement in 1999, and islands or landmarks shared or occupied by . China
Many activists and bloggers who tried to speak out about
’s evil have been imprisoned or intimidated. It is clear that the incumbent leaders of China Vietnam do not want to commemorate such an event as this war; they are keeping silent and attempting to silence others in the face of ’s hegemony. China
The Dangers of Silence
Three dangers result from that silence.
First, a danger occurs inside
. An essential factor that made up the legitimacy for Communist Party of Vietnam’s sole leadership in the last five decades has been its efforts to defend national sovereignty. Vietnam
Whatever the different opinions may be about the two major struggles in the twentieth century in
, one with the French and the other with the American-backed regime, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) took the lead and became the winner. Vietnam
In the long history of
, the nation’s pride lay in never bending before the attacker or invader, especially before the traditional Northern invader. A few Vietnamese leaders in history who went to the Northern neighbor for help against popular uprisings have been condemned severely. Vietnam
Moreover, the CPV’s strategy in struggling for power was always to find every opportunity to accuse opponents of co-operating with a foreign enemy. But, ironically, now it is the CPV who has allowed many of
Vietnam’s lands, seas, and islands to be lost into ’s hand over the last five decades. China
The CPV must have observed that a simmering indignation exists among people who are aware of these concessions. A veteran soldier who fought in the Sino-Vietnamese war in 1979 recently wrote in the private blog Osin: “What we call a ‘victory’ had to be paid for with blood and human heads. … And 30 years have passed since we advanced furiously straight to the northern border, but islands are still lost and the country is still silent.”
The CPV is now trying every effort to hide their concessions to the Northern invader. The CPV may succeed in silencing people to some extent, but over time, with the support of a sophisticated Internet, the truth will come to every person. And the current silence will become as dangerous as a tight lid on a hot steaming pot.
Ambitions of the Chinese Regime
The second danger is to encourage the Chinese regime’s imperial ambitions.
is vast in geography and great in culture and history. In the far past China was for centuries a superpower. So an ambition to bring back the past image of a superpower for a contemporary China is understandable and natural. China
But the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has held sole rule over
since 1949, took several wrong and disastrous ways to achieve this ambition. In the Mao era from 1949-1976, China conducted a series of such paranoid policies as the “Anti-rightist campaign”(1957), the “Great Leap Forward” (1958-1960), and the “Cultural Revolution” (1966-1969). These campaigns only brought the death of tens of millions of people and a huge devastation of China ’s ancient culture and natural environment. China
Deng Xiaoping became Mao’s successor in 1978 and opened up
’s economy and sought modern technology. However, China China contains within itself the seeds of an insidious disaster, such as Japan in the Meiji era or in the post-WWI period encountered. Germany Germany and , which developed powerful economies by applying scientific knowledge and know-how, were both led by authoritarian politics into a catastrophic attempt at hegemony–World War II. Japan
So the silent or compliant behavior of the CPV before
’s hegemony southward has the effect of urging the CCP to venture further on a wrong and disastrous path. China
The third danger is to destabilize the regional and world peace. In the long history of earlier times, war was not a rare phenomenon for the two countries
and its Northern neighbor. Nearly every dynasty in Vietnam China carried out at least one invasion into its southern neighbor . Vietnam
’s leaders, together with their people, were always determined to defend its sovereignty and its honor, though the leaders had to conduct a skillful diplomacy toward their giant neighbor after any victories. So for several centuries, the Vietnamese people’s resistant spirit made an indomitable shield for Vietnam South-East Asia nations against Northern invasion. But now Vietnam’s contemporary leaders, the CPV, have failed to follow their ancestors’ wisdom and the shield historically provided for regional and even world peace is being broken up. Vietnam
A Way Out
In a time of economic crisis, people may neglect to care about anything other than making money. Thus, a brief war like the Sino-Vietnamese war that broke out 30 years ago may no longer draw much attention. However, the attacker’s desire for hegemony remains fierce and appears stronger.
More importantly, the attacker behaves aggressively not just toward the outsider but toward the insider, as democracy activists inside
face suppression. Just as many Chinese are today calling for democracy, so are many Vietnamese. Democracy has proven to be the best solution to settle any dispute or trouble without violence and is the best mechanism to build social harmony and national prosperity in a durable peace. China
One small step toward bringing democracy to
Vietnam and to is to speak out about the meaning of February 17. China
Feb 15, 2009