Vietnam

Cazenove in Vietnam

Paul Cheeseright is a former FT correspondent, and also is a member of the Asian Affairs Editorial Board.

Maurice de Cazenove was in his early 20s when he arrived at Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) as a young career officer of Marshal Leclerc’s Expeditionary Corps aiming to reclaim French control of Indochina.  He was in Vietnam for two years from 1946.  He recaptured some of his memories of that time when we met three weeks before he died, aged 97, in his family home. Continue reading

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Vietnam

Strengthening Vietnam-Australia Trade Relations

Hang Nguyen is a Ph.D. candidate at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Australia. Here she considers the reasons for promoting Vietnam-Australia trade relations.

Vietnam and Australia officially established diplomatic relations in February 1973 and have sought to foster their relationship since then. In 2009, Vietnam and Australia elevated their bilateral relations to a new height: Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Partnership. This is a crystal clear indication of Hanoi and Canberra’s desire to expand and deepen Vietnam-Australia relations on a wide range of areas from economics, politics, security to people-to-people exchange. Among those areas, trade has an increasingly important role in consolidating the Vietnam-Australia partnership.

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Vietnam

Methods of Manipulation: an Analogy between Vietnamese Water Puppetry and State Propaganda

Seb Rumsby is the holder of an RSAA Sir Peter Holmes Memorial Award.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Hanoi’s Thăng Long Water Puppet Theatre, located on the bank of Hoàn Kiếm Lake next to the Old Quarter. Water puppetry has become an iconic representation of nation, and is now seen as an essential part of the ‘Vietnam experience’ for international tourists, myself included. Originally a Punch-and-Judy-esque form of entertainment for children, Vietnamese language comprehension is not a prerequisite to enjoy the show’s pantomime atmosphere, slapstick jokes, and excellent musical accompaniment. It might not be expected that such an innocent and neutral form of art would be within the realms of state propaganda.

‘To manipulate’ literally means to operate, to manoeuvre, or to influence. Tran Van Khe, the prominent Vietnamese ethnomusicologist who recently passed away, wrote an article about Vietnamese Water Puppetry back in 1985. The second section is entitled “Methods of Manipulation” and explains to some detail how puppeteers who stand waist deep in water behind a screen can control and direct the wooden puppets, which appear to move on their own accord through the water from the view of the audience. The simplest way is to attach puppets to long poles which are immersed under the water and operated by the puppeteer (see image); traditionally, the water should be fairly murky so that the poles cannot be seen from above.

water puppets 2

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Vietnam

Letter from Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Richard Fell is a former diplomat; he was latterly British High Commissioner in New Zealand, but served in Vietnam earlier in his career. He is the Book Review Editor of Asian Affairs.

Forty years ago, in April 1975, North Vietnamese forces defeated the army of the South, captured Saigon and ousted the South Vietnamese government. Thousands of South Vietnamese fled the country, Vietnam was reunited and the Vietnam War finally came to an end.

I was in the British Embassy in Saigon at that time. I returned again very recently in the company of one Embassy colleague (Michael Kyle) who was also there in 1975 and another who had left a little earlier. Also in the party were a son, two daughters, one of whom had been born in Saigon, sons-in-law and grandchildren.

Vietnam’s economy is booming. In Ho Chi Minh City/ Saigon, new office buildings and hotels are going up all the time. At the famous Continental hotel where we stayed, and where Andre Malraux, Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene (The Quiet American) had stayed in the past, my restless nights were caused not by memories but by all night pile-driving for the city’s first metro system. Continue reading

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