Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education
SPICE Publications


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Understanding Vietnam in the 21st Century: Political, Economic, and Security Issues in the Asia/Pacific Region

Full Unit

Published
1997 (178 pages)

For Secondary - Community College students.

Hardcover - $49.95


It is hardly surprising that most Americans of the past generation came to see Vietnam through the lenses of anti-communism, a failed war, and the POW/MIA problem.

These lenses now are of no use. The Vietnam of 1995 is not the Vietnam that American helicopters left when they took off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon in 1975. It is a new Vietnam.

On the other hand, the potential of Vietnam has long been more highly appreciated by the Japanese. The integration of Vietnam into the Southeast Asian community has been a central objective of Japanese foreign policy since the announcement of the Fukuda Doctrine in 1977.

The Cambodian War frustrated that purpose and caused Japan to suspend its aid. Even after the war was brought to an end, sensitivity to American attitudes during the prolonged POW/MIA negotiations caused Japan to restrain its interest.

The American announcement on July 11, 1995 (the day that President Clinton announced his intention to establish full diplomatic relations with Vietnam), therefore, was doubly welcomed in Japan. It enables Japan to pursue its interests in Vietnam, with the possibility of moving in parallel with the United States. If we are each to realize the possibilities that this new situation presents, it is imperative that we grasp the realities of the new Vietnam as quickly as possible. (Morley, James W. "The Vietnam Opportunity: American and Japanese Perspectives," Forum, Vol. 10, No. 4, Summer 1995, p. 1)

Understanding Vietnam in the 21st Century: Political, Economic, and Security Issues in the Asia/Pacific Region is part 3 of a three-part curriculum series. Parts 1 and 2 focus on U.S. and Japanese relations with China and the Korean Peninsula, respectively. This curriculum series introduces students to policy options for the United States and Japan in various Asian countries at the turn of the century. Many scholars and business leaders are referring to the 21st century as the "Pacific Age." The rapid economic growth and the accompanying changes unfolding in Asia merit thoughtful atten-tion. The Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly has recently noted that by the year 2000, Asian economies will exceed those of Canada, the United States, and Mexico combined. It also notes the following:

  • Asia controls two-thirds of all consumer electronics manufacturing and nearly half of the world auto production.
  • The GNP of Pacific Rim economies will total an estimated $13 trillion by the year 2000-twice the GNP of a unified Europe.
  • In less than ten years, six of the ten largest cities in the world will be on the Pacific-none will be in Europe.

 

The future of countries such as the United States and Japan is inextricably tied to that of Asia. It is important that as young people study contemporary world issues they develop a knowledge of Asian countries and the issues affecting relationships between their own country and Asia. Working with primary source materials including policy studies, news articles, political cartoons, textbook excerpts, speeches, and/or interviews, students consider the complex interaction of historic, political, economic, and security issues through specific case studies. The students identify and examine these issues and consider important policy questions.

Each of the three parts of this curriculum series can be taught independently. A strong effort has been made to include perspectives from each of the countries under study. For example, in this curriculum unit, Understanding Vietnam in the 21st Century: Political, Economic, and Security Issues in the Asia/Pacific Region, perspectives from U.S., Japanese, and Vietnamese scholars, political leaders, business leaders, and journalists are included. Because of this, we feel that this three-part series, taught in its entirety, can add an im-portant element to a high school or community college class in social studies, contemporary world issues, or international relations.

Understanding Vietnam in the 21st Century: Political, Economic, and Security Issues in the Asia/Pacific Region seeks to introduce students to policy options for U.S. and Japanese relations with Vietnam at the turn of the century. By identifying and examining these options during Vietnam's growing liberalization and integration into the world community, students will gain an awareness of U.S., Japanese, and Vietnamese perspectives on political, economic, and security issues.

Lesson One of the unit sets the historical context for the study of contemporary U.S. and Japanese relations with Vietnam. The lesson focuses on the plight of refugees from Vietnam and their experiences in the United States and Japan.

Lesson Two focuses on Vietnam's politics in transition. Since South and North Vietnam were officially unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 1976, Vietnams political situation has been in a state of transition. How the communist party-state can liberalize its economic system without weakening the dictatorship of the Party is a central question facing the government of Vietnam. In this lesson, students will be introduced to this transition through a series of small group activities.

Lesson Three examines Vietnam's economy in transition. This lesson introduces students to some challenges, obstacles, and achievements of Vietnam's economy in transition. Vietnam's reform policy of doi-moi (intended to reduce the role of the state in the economy, respect the market, favor private enterprise, and welcome global traders and investors) is examined through a simulation.

Lesson Four introduces students to issues related to U.S. policy toward Vietnam, with a focus on normalization. On July 11, 1995, President Clinton announced his intention to establish full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Issues (e.g., MIA/POW, trade, human rights, security) affecting these diplomatic relations are explored.

Lesson Five introduces students to issues related to Japan-Vietnamese relations, with a focus on foreign aid. Japanese foreign aid to Vietnam serves as a case study. Students learn about Vietnam's position on Japan's official development aid and the priority areas of Japan's official development aid, as well as analyze projects in Vietnam funded with Japanese aid.

Finally, Lesson Six examines important future areas of cooperation and competition in U.S. and Japanese relations with Vietnam, specifically related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Vietnam is ASEAN's seventh and newest member. This lesson introduces students to U.S. and Japanese perspectives on Vietnam's entry and role in ASEAN.

Unit Goals

Each of the six lessons in this curriculum unit has specific learn-ing objectives listed. These objectives have been divided into knowledge, attitude, and skill objectives for students. The following reflect larger goals for the curriculum unit as a whole.

In this curriculum unit, students will:

    • learn to recognize multiple perspectives presented in the media
    • learn to recognize, evaluate, and see beyond cross-cultural stereotypes that have existed historically between the United States, Japan, and Vietnam and that continue to be perpetuated
    • examine how historical legacies continue to affect international relationships and events between the United States and Vietnam and between Japan and Vietnam
    • develop a basic understanding of Vietnam's political situation and an appreciation of the multiple U.S. and Japanese perspectives on this situation
    • become familiar with Vietnam's reform policy of doi-moi and some international economic controversies between the United States and Vietnam and between Japan and Vietnam, including conflicts related to trading and investment practices, and analyze the complex issues contributing to these controversies
    • learn about issues surrounding the U.S.'s normalization of relations with Vietnam
    • learn about Japan-Vietnamese relations through an examination of foreign aid and investment
    • become familiar with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the importance of its member nations to the United States and Japan

 

  • learn to think critically and make informed opinions
  • evaluate different opinions and generate alternative perspectives on an issue
  • learn tools to enhance awareness and communication
  • work effectively in small and large groups
  • organize and express opinions in a debate