Op-Economica, 13-11-2013 — A book review appearing in Vietnam Economic Times published in November 2013.
Title: What We See, Why We Worry, Why We Hope: Vietnam Going Forward Paperback – October 3, 2013; by Nancy K. Napier, Vuong Quan Hoang. Boise, ID: Boise State University CCI Press. ISBN-13: 978-0985530587.
Vietnam Economic Times Book Review
(Published in Issue of November 2013)
Why should US readers know more about Vietnam? Because Vietnam is no longer a war and it will probably become a major business partner of the US in the future.
At over 100 pages, What we see, why we worry, why we hope – Vietnam going forward written by Dr. Nancy Napier from Boise State University and Dr. Vuong Quan Hoang, a well-known Vietnamese scholar, contains various short stories from different Vietnamese generations, presenting a valuable insight into the Vietnamese mindset and providing an insider’s view of traditional Vietnamese culture and its possible impacts on the country’s role in a dynamic region.
The book’s title raises three questions that appear deceptively simple. What people may see in Vietnam, what worries them and why they are hopeful. They may sound, simple, but as the authors discovered they are actually not. As they asked others these questions they found that even some of the most brilliant minds, who are about Vietnam’s fate, grappled with such questions.
The authors open the book with some observations about Vietnam. It may be an old country with 2,000 years of recorded history or even 4,000 years, as some believe, but it is still a young country in many ways. And, naturally, a country in transition like Vietnam provides readers with both hope and concern, but presenting these by weaving the facts – sometimes seemingly unrelated – flesh out critical dilemmas and behind them truths that are “stylised facts”.
The authors use true stories from their personal experience and from their early childhood days and how those experiences shaped their lives. By cleverly weaving these simple story lines, Dr Napier and Dr Hoang also raise some thought provoking questions for readers, who behind each story gain a vivid impression of the actors’ inner thoughts, his emotions, his vision, his laughter, and sometimes his tears. Their stories mirror the aspirations and hopes of ordinary Vietnamese people that readers may come face-to-face with on the street in the country.
One problem with the book is length, or lack of it, as writing about a single country in a short tome is no easy task. Given its slender 100 pages the authors had to think about how to save time for businesspeople by using short and insightful stories. Yet that’s not all. To avoid dry prose they also use humour while retaining their humility in their narrative.
The book has received good reviews from the public and academics, perhaps because it explores the essence of Vietnam in simple but compelling snapshots that provide critical insights into Vietnam’s future, according to Mr George Friedman, Chairman of Stratfor and the author of The Next Decade and the Next 100 Years.
For Professor Junichi Mori from Kyoto University, Japan, this is an excellent book from which to learn about the real changes happening in Vietnam, a country that is experiencing one of the most rapid economic growth periods in the world and is undergoing a radical change in its society. “The book includes a vivid description of the ‘bridge generation’, the group that bridges the old communist era and the free market era of the current transition economy,” he said. “This generation knows both war and the ‘doi moi’ economic reforms, which began in the 1980s.”
Meanwhile, Professor Olav Jull Sorensen from Aalborg University in Denmark said: “It’s so rich in real life stories that the book makes you ‘live Vietnam’. It elegantly weaves the past with the present, daily life with reflections, and the local with the global through the sharp observations of the authors.”
For her part, Ms Anya Schiffrin Stiglitz from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs believes the book will be of great use to anyone wanting to understand Vietnam today. “A cogent and compelling look at contemporary Vietnam with all its complexities and contradictions,” she said. “Vuong Quan Hoang and Nancy Napier have given us a well-written and accessible guide to understand the changes that Vietnam has gone through in the last decade.”