Mục Lục


Teaching the Love of Vietnam to the Second and Third Generation of Vietnamese-Americans


   Thach Nguyen MD FACC FSCAI*, Timothy Yee**, Lee Farrand***, Dominic Nguyen****


* Department of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine

** Undergraduate program, Notre Dame University, South Bend IN

*** World Class University Major in Biomodulation, Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea

**** Arnord O. Beckman High School, Irvine California 92602



Introduction             In 1998, when I was preparing a trip to China for Professor Eugene Braunwald of Harvard University, he asked me what I would arrange for him to see during his first trip to the ‘Middle Kingdom’. The problem was that Professor Braunwald was very well traveled. He had already visited and taught extensively in Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East. Now in Beijng and Xian, what could he see besides the imperial palaces, the Confucius temples or the underground terra-cotta warriors of Qin Shi Huang? The answer was that during a trip to the most populated country on Earth, it can be enlightening to see its government, citizens and foreign policy from the perspective of political history. One of the overlooked aspects of modern China, is that the questions of 2000 or even 400 years ago are still relevant:

(1) How to have a strong central government without being a dictatorship, and

          (2) How to feed 200 million people under the Chien-Lung Dynasty or more than 1 billion people today?

This is what I focused on during my numerous teaching trips to Asia in the last 20 years.

Since then, over many academic gatherings in China, Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and in the US and Europe, I have been an enthusiastic participant in many frank and friendly discussions on a sensitive topic: the relations between China and Taiwan, between China and Singapore, between China and Vietnam, between China and the US, or between the intellectual and medical communities of China and of other countries in Asia, the Americas or Europe.

Recently I was asked to give the English version of my speech delivered at a Hanoi Medical University ceremony where I was conferred an honorary professorship (December 2010). The reason is that the Vietnamese parents who live in the US would like to talk to their children who are all-American boys and girls, about the love of their country of origin, Vietnam. How can we get these messages across to these young, intelligent, straightforward and very inquisitive minds? It remains a difficult task.

The American way of teaching is to show the facts and then invite the children or young men and women (by age or at heart) to think and let them draw their own conclusions. The art lies on allowing them to develop a rationale for their conclusion rather than offer them a well-digested opinion to adopt: To persuade rather than to preach. So in this paper, which aims for the Vietnamese American readers, the facts and statements are written in soft terms to avoid the absolutes (even though the absolutes can be correct.) The reason is that a softer stance is often better for persuading those who are undecided. This is the American way of teaching.

         One short reminder to the readers is that Imperial China refers to the period after Qin Shi Huang united China in 221 BC and lasted until Sun Yat-Sen founded the first republic in 1912.                


Midwest, August 2nd 2011, on the day a Good Wind brings new and fresh air to Vietnam, China, the US and the world by  Thach Nguyen MD FACC FSCAI                   (published on http://ykhoahuehaingoai.com)



The IMPERIAL COURT: An Oppressive Power Center based on a Culture of Fear and an Environment of Distrust          


During imperial times, from the capitals of Louyang, Chang An (now Xian), Nanjing or Beijing, under the pretense of a mandate received from heaven (Phụng Thięn Thừa Vận), Chinese emperors governed through edicts and demanded total submission of the Chinese people. However, instead of focusing their immense resources and manpower on developing a fair and just society, history has shown that the Chinese imperial courts were overwhelmingly focused on their own interests, fed by greed and selfishness: to have a luxurious life for themselves and their family at the expenses of the Chinese people. The imperial courts achieved little progress in improving the daily life in the provinces. Instead, the emperors and the imperial courts expended a great amount of their resources ensuring that the provinces remained docile and subjugated under an iron fist of control. 

 Minh Thánh T (Yongle), the Ming Emperor who ordered the invasion of Vietnam in 1406.


When dealing with foreign countries, a favored strategy by the Chinese emperors has been to create fear toward their imperial military machine while simultaneously instilling distrust between other countries.  When it became evident that their verbal threats were not working, the Chinese emperors would often change tactics and utilize their second weapon: money to bribe foreign governments. The Chinese imperial emissaries favored working with corrupt local governments, which were much easier to be controlled and manipulated once bribes were accepted.

Today, the same mentality and management style persists in the administrative, financial, economic, educational, and business world. In Beijing, as well as in capitals of the many Asian countries, plenty of people have become the new, self-proclaimed emperors or empresses whose attitudes are reminiscent of the Ching Dynasty of the 1800s. In parallel with the emperors, empresses and concubines in history, the favored strategy of the new ‘privileged class’ is to manage corporations, businesses or departments with edict; to create fear of the system and to instill distrust or division in the employees so they can be more easily manipulated and exploited.


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The Demeaning Act of Kowtow

The Rule of Law and the Principle of “From The People and For The People  

In order to counteract the false claim that Chinese emperors received their mandate from heaven, ambassadors of some foreign countries to Beijing could have been unshakably confident in their negotiations if and because they represented nations that upheld the Rule of the Law, with their government receiving its mandate “From the People and For the People” who selected or elected them.

In the past dealings with imperial China, diplomatic missions sent from Vietnam were often confident, proud and firm because they came with the strong patriotic support of a united nation. From the court in Beijing, the Chinese emperors expected to see a proud Vietnam, defiant in front of all adversities, proven by a history of 2000 years of fighting against imperial China, and defeating without exception all imperialist aggression.

If the Vietnamese leaders had exhibited subservience, they would have been viewed as a suspect by Beijing. So the Vietnamese leaders should behave in strength with straight back and in dignity, for it is expected. A too servile position could make the Chinese emperor suspicious of a fake Vietnamese or provoke a false alarm among the security details of the possible presence of a disguised hitman.


Political Transparency and Civic Education            

As the Chinese emperors over the dynasties tried to instill fear in the minds and hearts of the people of China and its neighbors, the only antidote was to have confidence in one’s own country and to stay fearlessly in the face of threats from the imperial court. History has proven that the most effective method to counteract a culture of fear and an environment of distrust is to educate people about their basic human rights and duties. and most importantly, how to exercise them. Once the people know well their rights and duties, they will not let themselves be abused by the police, the army, any no-name bureaucrat or by citizens turned vigilante. In this way, the people will participate more actively in the selection of the leaders of their country, in the discussion of which directions the country should take and also be more united in the fight for independence and sovereignty of their own nation. When confronting incompetent and corrupt government leaders, the self-confidence, the courage and the unity of the people can neutralize military threats and nullify illegal police abuses.

In a civilized world, to lead is to empower others so that they can do their job more efficiently. For a great leader, there is no need to shout, use physical force or verbally threaten anyone. Likewise, for a young graduate from school, there is no need to kneel in front of anybody for a job, no need to bend one’s back to win a promotion and no need to steal to make a living. There is also no need to exploit anybody for a few dollars. These are the realities of many free countries and the aspirations of the new, young and educated contemporary Chinese generation. 


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The self-proclaimed emperor or empress without clothes


The Greatest PARANOIA: Reaction of the Oppressed People   

What did the Chinese emperors fear the most? It was the violent reaction to the oppressive machine of the imperial court. These reactions presented as the social unrest from the Han people in the rural areas, the poor Han domestic migrant laborers, as well as the oppressed people of Mongolia and Xinjiang. The threats from Tibetan, Mongolian or Uyghur rebellion were the real daily problems and were obsessed about by the imperial leadership in Beijing. The Vietnamese question was often a small and faraway headache.

Demonstrations in Hebei and in Xinjiang


The Greatest Fear in the Vietnam Question            

How did the Vietnamese react to the oppressive imperial strategy? Throughout the history of China, Chinese generals learned to avoid a war with Vietnam because they would either be defeated, or the short victory was not worth their sacrifice or their career could be cut short like the one of Ma Yuan. Among the military circles in Beijing, there was a secret belief that it was bad karma to deal with the Vietnamese headache. History had been repeated time and time again, as multitudes of Chinese armies were defeated in the hot, humid muddy fields or on the rivers with treacherously fast high and low tides of Northern Vietnam. Most of all, the Chinese military strategists were most afraid of the strong patriotic unity permeating through all levels of Vietnamese society.

During a demonstration against imperialist China, the presence of all demographs of Vietnamese citizenry, from the very young to the very old, together with intellectuals and laborers showed that anti-imperialist feelings were deeply entrenched in all layers of society and in its basic unit, the family. This was a bad omen against any Chinese military campaign with the will of the people united against imperial intrusion.


In the same way, when dealing with the imperial court in Beijing, it was only the fierce patriotic passion of its citizens that brought strength to the Vietnamese missions going abroad for negotiation. It was this strength that enabled these diplomats to stand straight, not to bend their back and not to walk on their knees, whether they went north, east or west. When the strong support of the whole country was lacking, these diplomatic missions ended with further land loss (as in the case of Phan Thanh Giản after the secession of the 3 eastern provinces in 1863), or with a mercy plea for the current dynasty and their dependents (as in the case of Mạc Đăng Dung in 1537), or with the invitation of the imperial army to enter Vietnam in order to restore the reigning monarchy (as in the case of Trần Di Ái in 1281 or Lę Chięu Thống in 1787).


The Failed Mission of Phan Thanh Giản in France (1863)


What Did Imperial China NOT Fear?         

When invading a foreign country, the easiest strategy was to assassinate, poison, bribe, or blackmail the 14 officials of the Council of Regents and force some of them to betray or to surrender secretly. In this way the imperial court could effectively seize and control a country without sending a costly expeditionary army.

For a high ranking mandarin working in the imperial court in Beijing, it was a dirty job to receive these cowardly people who betrayed their own country, sold their soul to Beijing and came to pay tribute to their imperial boss on their knees. After all, if these people could betray their own country, how much allegiance would these people have for Beijing when adversity arose? NONE. These people would most likely be ready to betray again when there a shift of power occurred in Beijing, Moscow, Paris or Washington DC. So for Beijing, if rumor came about hinting at new unrest or rebellion, these cowards would be eliminated first because they could have come to Beijing as a mole, and they would have been ready to strike when a new emperor entered Beijing.

A Taiwanese cartoon ridiculing the politicians who advocated negotiating with Beijing on their knees at Tiananmen Square


What is the Greatest Today’s Paranoia?       What is the great fear of the new self proclaimed emperors and empresses, the new ‘privileged class’ in many of today’s Asian capitals? It is the free flowing exchanges of data and ideas among all levels of society. This has arisen through the fast and widespread communication methods created by the electronic media, seen on the screen of laptops or mobile communication devices. Within the virtual world, news and facts spread quickly so societal actions start spontaneously before bureaucratic reactions take place. These chains of events are uncontrollable by even the most obsessive imperial powers.  



On the Path for a Free and Democratic Society

At the beginning of the 20th century, there was an ongoing struggle against French colonial administration by the Vietnamese as well as against the imperial court by the Chinese people. Over these years, many Chinese intellectuals went to Vietnam to prepare an armed uprising on the other side of the border. One of the best known examples of these activities is that of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the founder of the Republic of China. In 1902 Dr. Sun arrived in Hanoi to mobilize people and resources, to assist the Tong Meng Hui, movement in the fight against the imperial court in Beijing.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen with French officials in Hanoi in 1902


The goals of Dr. Sun Yat Sen were to fight for freedom and democracy. At first, his efforts lead to the failed Huanghuagang uprising in April 1910, then eventually led to the successful fall of the imperial court in October 1911. The ideal of freedom and democracy in the revolutionary movement of Dr. Sun is symbolized in the replica of the Statue of Liberty on top of the memorial monument for the 72 Martyrs who died during the Huanghuagang uprising, in Guangzhou, China.


Replica of the statue of the Liberty (New York) at the Huanghuagang Memorial Park,

Guangzhou, China (Hoŕng Hoa Cương, Quảng Châu Trung Quốc)


Following the foundation of the republic, in a long tradition of fighting for freedom and democracy, Chinese intellectuals and student groups continued as pioneers in the demand for further social and political reform. These activities culminated in the first heroic demonstration in Tiananmen Square in protest of the humiliating responses of the government to the demands of foreign powers.

 A depiction of the Tiananmen Square demonstration of May 4th, 1919 against an

incompetent government which buckled to the demands of foreign powers


In the second half of the 20th century, there were many incidents involving border disputes between China and its neighboring countries. In 1962, there was a dispute between China and India. In 1969, it was the Zhenbao Island incident with Russia. In 1974 and 1988, the Chinese Navy seized the Paracel Islands from Vietnam. In 2008, 2010 and continuing in 2011 there is the Senkaku Islands dispute. From 2010 there has been the Spratly Islands dispute, claimed by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Republic of China (Taiwan) and Malaysia.

 Looking at the cyclical pattern of the appearances of these incidents, there is a suspicion that the imperial court created political incidents abroad in order to divert the attention away from corruption in the central government, rights abuses or economic mismanagement. How should a foreign country react to these strategies from Beijing?  What are the expectations of the Vietnamese people from other nations when confronting territorial disputes and the events near the Paracel and Spratly Islands?


‘Speaking Up Loud and Clear against the Neocolonialist Activities’ has always been the best way to send a strong message to Beijing. To have a demonstration against Chinese claims and presence in the Paracel and Spratly Islands in the Eastern Sea would have been a normal reaction expected from the imperial court in Beijing. To not have demonstrations would have been an anomaly.

Recently, the TV station ‘Phoenix’ from Hong Kong interviewed Mr. Vu Cao Phan a Vietnamese expert on China affairs. Mr Phan identified clearly the illegal and unethical activities of the Chinese Navy. In broadcasting this interview, some independent minded people in Hong Kong wanted to show to the Chinese audience that not everything televised from Beijing was true. The islands in the Eastern Sea no longer hold their strategic military value as they did centuries ago. However, to justify its presence or to emphasize the need for modernization, based on an obsolete geopolitical concept, perhaps a hawkish faction in the Chinese Navy created and inflated the incidents of the Paracel and Spratly islands.

In this situation, when the sovereignty of country is in jeopardy, the Vietnamese people need to speak up and defend the truth. The old and new emperors were not accustomed to dissent; they instead expected people to kowtow. Today there are no more emperors; however, there are many who think to be one. The will of the people needs to be voiced, to wake up these fake emperors and empresses from their daydreaming.


The New Frontline: Neocolonialism

            Today, in the second decade of the 21st century, the former colonial systems have been supposed to be dead for a long time. However, upon closer inspection, there are subtle new forms of slavery (human trafficking), economic exploitation, as well as cultural and political dependence.  The colonial system is still alive and well under the banner of neocolonialism. Instead of a political coup or military invasion, the new strategy of neocolonialist power is to use financial and trade policies to dominate other countries at the expense of their people. Natural resources are extracted from dependent countries and flow towards the imperial states in order to sustain the latter’s economic growth and wealth. In the form of agricultural neocolonialism, poor states produce foods for the rich countries at the expense of their own biodiversity and hungry people. (1) One of the best examples is the case of South Korea. In 2008, the South Korean multinational Daewoo Logistics secured 1.3 million hectares of farmland in Madagascar, half the size of Belgium, to grow corn and crops for biofuels. Roughly half of the country's arable land, as well as rainforests of rich and unique biodiversity, are to be converted into palm and corn monocultures, producing food for export from a country where a third of the population and 50 percent of children under 5 are malnourished. (2)  

This form of ‘agricultural imperialism’ has been largely ignored as a topic of debate by the Korean press, as Korean controlled multinational corporations continue to purchase land in developing countries such as Indonesia, Cambodia and Mongolia. Multinationals are the new sources of political dominance, protected by institutions like the International Monetary Fund. Economic imperialism disguises itself as development, but is often exploitation under legal protection.

Another form of neo-colonialism is the control of other nations' values and perceptions through cultural means, such as media, language, education and religion, ultimately for economic reasons. (1) The prominence of cultural activities from a specific imperial power, be it American, European or Chinese is a form of long term cultural indoctrination of the new neocolonial power.  The extensive showing of Chinese movies on Vietnamese TV channels is an effective mean of soft propaganda and reprogramming into the hearts and minds of the younger generation of Vietnam.


The Country is the First and Greatest Love           In my 20 years working in China, one of the authors (TN) observed that the national flag of China can be seen everywhere. Even the emblem of the Republic of China (Taiwan) can be seen and preserved after 60 years under the Communist regime at Dr Sun Yat Sen’s mausoleum in Nanjing, China.

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The Blue Sky White Sun serves as the National Emblem of the Republic of China (in Taiwan) seen here on the ceiling of the main atrium and of the rotunda above the funerary chamber in the Mausoleum of Dr Sun Yat Sen in Nanjing, China.

 Last month, the Chinese Communist party (CCP) celebrated its 90th birthday. On the main flagpole in Tiananmen square, a large flag of China was prominently displayed. A large emblem of the CCP flag was seen below it. The flag of the CCP is never seen positioned at the same level with the Chinese national flag at any national scientific meeting in China or inside the Great Hall of People (National Chinese Congress), inside the National Guesthouse Diao Uy Tai, or inside the main auditorium of the Central People Liberation Army hospital 301 (where the political leadership of China and many Asian countries receive medical care). In this understanding, the CCP never positions itself as equal to the country, China which the CCP serves. In the US, the flag of the Republican or Democratic parties is never seen. Everywhere is the national flag which unites all the people of one country. So the love of the country is the first and greatest love. Nobody in Vietnam should put the flag of a party at same level of the flag of the country. 

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During the celebration of the July 1 Chinese Communist Party's 90th anniversary at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, the national flag of China was seen prominently on top of the main flagpole. The emblem of the Chinese Communist party is seen below it, because the goal of the Chinese Communist party is to serve China. June 29, 2011. Photo: AP / AP



Throughout every page of history, the Chinese intellectuals and people from all walks of life have wanted to build a better, fairer, and more just society. China is great not because of its population. China is great because of its extensive contribution to the world’s civilization, culture and sciences.

What is Vietnam great for? Vietnam is great because it has a long tradition of overcoming adversities, be it natural or man-made. In the past, imperialist attitudes have revolved around the dogma of 'dominate or be dominated.' However, Vietnam has successful resisted this flawed assumption and repeatedly asserted its independence. During peace time, Vietnamese intellectuals and members of society have tried and built a better, fairer, more just Vietnam. Vietnam is great because of its contribution to the world civilization as a meeting point between the two great civilizations of China and India. Vietnam is also a symbol of resilience over human tragedy, for more noble aspirations and for the victory of the good over the bad.

When discussing many different subjects with the second or third generation of young Vietnamese-Americans, a frequent question is usually raised by these intelligent young men and women who like to ask the intellectuals and elders of Vietnam: What are the signs of Vietnamese identity in the literature, culture, art, music and traditions of Vietnam?


The decorations on the top of the Ngoc Lu bronze drum represent the best

 achievement of Dong Son civilization which is originated from north Vietnam


When dealing with foreign countries, the Vietnamese people aspire to promote peace between neighboring countries.  As in any country, the Vietnamese people inherit their country from their ancestors. They have to defend and protect it for the past, present and future generations. We must remember that freedom is not free. It has to be fought for. The Vietnamese leadership and people have to stand up and fight for the independence and sovereignty of their own country. Our land and the seas of our ancestors are not for sale or lease. Nobody in any country has the right to sell or give away the land and the sea of their ancestors on behalf of a governing party or sitting government. To sell the lands and seas of a country or lease them for the benefits of a small number of people in a leadership position, greedy multinational corporations, or governing party is a sacrilegious act.

In the struggle to build a fairer and more just society, China, Vietnam and each country can only prosper when all members of society benefit from the results of economic success, not just a privileged few. More importantly, the success of any economic miracle does not depend on cheap labor, on the expenses of disabling diseases, on the pollution of rivers and rainforests, or on the contamination of millions acres of grassland from the industrial wastes.  The development of a strong economy does not require the exploitation of natural resources from other countries.


In an effort to build a just and fair society for everyone, the people of every country, including Vietnam, have the dignity to exercise their freedom and opportunities in participating in the business of government, in speaking their mind, and in contributing greatly to the peace and prosperity of their communities. People of all countries, including Vietnam, should be able to speak up against any imperialist elements or military fascists threatening the independence and sovereignty of other countries.

To fight against the abuses of neocolonialism and threats of exploitation toward the livelihoods of each nation is a noble contribution for every citizen. By remembering the lessons of history and the importance of social concern and activism, a brighter future opens for Vietnam, China, and each country of the world.

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           The Can Tho Bridge over the Mekong: Aim higher and farther for a brighter future because the sky is the limit




1.      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neocolonialism

2.      http://koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2009/12/123_56697.html

3.      All photos are downloaded from the Internet


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