Inside the Capitol

Monday, November 19, 2012

11-21 Chinese and Vietnamese seem proud

112112 Communists

SANTA FE – To the casual tourist, communism in China and Vietnam seems to be working well enough to survive a long time. The teaming masses of young people in the cities seem happy with their lot.
They all have jobs and a well-organized life. Even the tour guides, receive a regular government paycheck even if they have nothing to do during low seasons. The normal routine is to save enough money to rent an apartment, buy a car, find a mate and have one child. The one-child rule now has an exception. If both husband and wife are only children, they are allowed to have two children.
Back in the days when nearly everyone was a farmer, couples wanted to have as many boys as possible to help with chores. Now customs require families to help a son buy an apartment and provide for the family. Parents of the bride have no such obligation. So daughters now are preferred.
Husbands and wives nearly always are from the same town. The government discourages moving around. The labor force is not especially mobile. There are plenty of people in each city to fulfill every job need. Rural highways are uncrowded. Cities are a mass of cars.
Since cars have replaced bicycles many seem a little new at driving. A driver education course is required for a license but the first rule of the road is that there are no rules. Honking horns fill the air constantly.
In Vietnam, bicycles mainly have been replaced by motor bikes. "No rules" is an understatement. Cars inhabit the middle two lanes of a road. Motor scooters have the two outside lanes in each direction. Crossing the street with two lanes of cars and four lanes of motorcycles coming in both directions is an act of faith.
The rule in Vietnam is not to dodge them. Let them dodge you. All six lanes of vehicles will gauge your speed. If you maintain a steady pace, they will miss you. If you suddenly slow down or speed up, you throw off their timing and the result is messy.
In both China and Vietnam, two of the four remaining countries that call themselves communist, people proudly talk about "when we all were poor." That was before they became communist. Now that their lives are structured, they seem quite happy. They know there are many rules, but there are in neighboring democracies also.
The Chinese and Vietnamese also know there are subjects they can't speak about. A Chinese guide told a bus full of us that he would answer any questions we had. But he cautioned us not to ask about student protests. "You know more about that than I do" he said. "The protests were not covered on our news casts."
The Vietnamese would prefer to sell us as many curios as possible rather than hassle us about the war, which they refer to as "the American War." They have a different interpretation of the war but then they won and it has long been said that the winners write history.
One of our stops in Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City, better known to us as Saigon. Since the capital of the combined nation is Hanoi, no one in Saigon complained about us continuing to call it Saigon.
We sensed only good will from our Chinese government tour guides. Back home we see commercials about how China now owns us. But the prevailing mood in China appears to be that China has invested in us and if America goes under, China is left with a worthless investment in our country's treasury notes. And treasury notes aren't like stock with voting rights.
China still has a long way to go. The vast rural sections of the country still have to be brought along. China has preferred to invest in our nation and others than with finishing the job quickly in its own country.


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