The emergence of diehard Vietnamese patriots
When Chau Bui, an influential Vietnamese actress and model, expressed her condolences upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II in a Facebook posting, she was met with heavy criticism  from many social media users.
In her social media post, Chau, who has more than 2 million followers on Facebook, quoted a saying from the late monarch, “The true measure of all our actions is how long the good in them lasts.” The actress concluded her post with a comment, “Farewell to Your Majesty.”
A vast wave of Vietnamese online critics lashed out at Chau Bui following the farewell post. They accused her of “favoring foreign things” and “neglecting Vietnam’s history,” while claiming, without any supporting evidence, that Queen Elizabeth II had “twice supported the French in its invasion of Vietnam.” After receiving many objections, the media influencer removed her post and apologized for her “reckless” statements.
“For us the Vietnamese, there is only one individual deserving to be called ‘His Honor,’ and that is President Ho Chi Minh,” wrote the administrators of Tifosi, a pro-government Facebook page notoriously known for its promotion of radical nationalism in Vietnam, in response to Chau Bui’s address to the Queen. “You have the right to mourn, honor or cherish someone. But don’t overreact. And best of all, don’t take advantage of the death of a celebrity to earn your fame.”
The page continued by comparing the Queen’s passing to the tragic deaths of more than 30 Vietnamese people in a karaoke bar fire last September, implicitly indicating that it’s ignorant for a Vietnamese citizen to mourn a foreign figure but remain silent towards the suffering endured by her countrymen. The page, however, conveniently ignored the local authorities’ responsibility  in failing to carry out regular fire inspections in high-risk facilities and their failure to uphold fire safety standards, which potentially resulted in the deadly incident.
On September 13, Tifosi published another post titled “Queen Elizabeth II and the medals that caused suffering for the Vietnamese people,” claiming that the British monarch had directly authorized the awarding of “The Vietnam Medal,” which was dedicated to Australian and New Zealander troops who allied with South Vietnam in the Vietnam War. The page has consistently touted the Vietnamese government’s stance that the Vietnam War was a fight against foreign intervention instead of a civil war over ideological differences.
Tifosi’s unsubstantiated claim was later debunked by an explanatory post from Nguyen Quoc Tan Trung, a curator from Hoi Dong Cuu (Council Of Sheeps). Trung argued that “The Vietnam Medal” was, in fact, independently issued by Australia and New Zealand, not by the British monarch. Hoi Dong Cuu is a Youtube channel established by scholars aiming to provide Vietnamese audiences with scientific and trustworthy information on international law, philosophy, and history.
Tifosi has not corrected or taken down its post following the revelation.
Despite having only around 240,000 followers on Facebook, accounting for a mere fraction of over 65 million Facebook users in Vietnam, Tifosi is gaining a substantial influence on Vietnamese youth owing to its quick delivery of popular and trendy content. Other pro-government pages with an overtly jingoistic posture, such as Beatvn and Theanh 28 Entertainment, are also emerging as popular entertainment platforms for young people in Vietnam.
The worry is that a fusion of extremism, propaganda, and fabricated information fuels the sense of nationalism promulgated by these platforms.
The Vietnamese government seeks to keep all online discussions under its thumb regarding cyber control. To achieve this end, it has mobilized an army of “public opinion shapers” to distribute state propaganda and to defend the regime in social media. These forces often target social media accounts of local democracy activists, as well as fan pages of international human rights organizations and foreign embassies in Vietnam, especially after the country is criticized for the arrests of political dissidents.
While there is no evidence proving that the Vietnamese government is behind such forums, the rise of these groups, nevertheless, has signalled the emergence of a toxic form of nationalism in Vietnam in which patriotism is narrowly defined as blindly committed to preserving the nation’s culture from foreign influence, defending its poor human rights record from outside criticisms, as well as nurturing hatred against the United States and its allies for their interference in Vietnam in the past century.
The South is also pink
Some similarities  could be observed between Vietnam’s zealous nationalistic youth and China’s young digital warriors, known as the “little pinks,” who are viewed as fervent defenders of the image of the Chinese nation and the Chinese Communist Party against criticisms and negative news from the outside opponents.
The term “little pink”  refers to members of a Chinese literature website called Jinjiang Literature City, whose webpage has a pink background. What first started as a forum for young women to discuss writing and literature significantly expanded into politics and current affairs  following the riots in China’s remote cities of Lhasa and Urumqi and after Beijing hosted the summer Olympics in 2008.
One slight difference between the Chinese little pinks and Vietnamese nationalists is that while a majority of China’s little pinks, around 83 percent, identify as female, there is no distinct demographic pattern regarding Vietnam’s cyber nationalists.
Also, while the Chinese little pinks reside both  in China and abroad, with more than half of them living in smaller cities on the mainland, around two-thirds of the people who positively interact with social media posts published by Vietnam’s nationalist pages live in the country’s capital, Hanoi, and several of its northern provinces and Central Highlands, according to an examination by The Vietnamese Magazine.
The most common subjects covered by these nationalist pages, such as Tifosi and Beatvn, include the support for the Vietnamese government’s guiding policy on international and domestic issues, praise for the superiority of its communist governance and socialist market-oriented economy, the historical role of North Vietnamese soldiers and its leaders in “liberating the country from foreign domination,” the rejection of foreign culture and influence and the preservation of Vietnam’s “traditional values,” and criticism of the atrocities committed by the United States and its allies during the Vietnam War.
These pages also played a significant part in the disinformation campaign against the Ukrainian government after Russia invaded the sovereign state.
In March 2022, Tifosi and a handful of other nationalist bloggers in Vietnam published a misleading post  targeting the Ukrainian government and accusing the country’s news outlets, 24TV and the Pravda news outlet, of calling the Communist leader Ho Chi Minh a dictator who killed millions for his “Bolshevik ambition.” Since Ho Chi Minh is a figure of patriotism generally revered by the Vietnamese public, this post aimed to steer the public’s opposition from targeting Russia, the aggressor, towards Ukraine, the victim.
The disinformation campaign was in line with the Vietnamese government’s abstention from voting in favor of the UN General Assembly resolution condemning the Russian aggression in Ukraine last March.
When Vietnam voted against another UN resolution to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council on April 7, Tifosi defended the government’s decision in another article published the next day, claiming that the suspension of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council for its massacre committed in Bucha  “is a hasty action” and “not in accordance with the legal process.”
When it comes to domestic issues, Tifosi, along with other jingoistic influencers, appeals to the general Vietnamese public by posturing itself as a diehard defender of the country’s “image and traditional values.” It frames the Vietnamese calling for the abolition of outdated traditions to adopt more modern and civilized ideas as those who are “self-shaming” and “have lost all self respect, courage, and dignity.”
For example, in a commentary published in May 2020, Tifosi defended the country populace’s consumption of dog meat and lashed out at those who advocate for a total ban on the selling of dog meat due to ethical reasons.
“Judging a person based on whether or not they eat dog meat is a messy and baseless kind of behavior, which shows a narrow, selfish soul that only knows about itself without caring for the others,” slammed Tifosi. “Westerners cannot judge Vietnamese as barbarians for eating dog meat because Western society has standards that cannot be applied to Vietnamese people,” added Tifosi.
According to an estimate from Humane Society International (HSI), an advocate for animal welfare, Vietnam ranked second in the world in the consumption of dog meat, only behind China.
HSI also noted that annually, around five million dogs are slaughtered for meat in Vietnam. Meanwhile, the country’s main supply of dogs killed for meat are stolen pets and stray animals, says Dr. Karanvir Kukreja,  head of companion animal campaigns in Southeast Asia at Four Paws, an Austrian-based animal welfare organization.
The setbacks of aggressive nationalism
While censorship and forced removal are often utilized by the Vietnamese government to take down online content it deems unfavorable, the fact that these Vietnamese jingoistic influencers continue to thrive on social media “indicates a certain degree of tolerance from the government,” writes  Tan Trung, the Hoi Dong Cuu curator, on The Conversation.
However, the emergence of these hostile groups and their “us versus them” mentality could derail Vietnam’s foreign policy agenda and its diplomatic relationship with other countries, especially when the Vietnamese government is seeking to portray itself  as a reliable trade partner and a responsible contributor to the maintenance of a rules-based world order.
“Vietnamese leadership would be wise to remember that they’re intent on being part of the international legal order,” added Tan Trung.
Peter Kammerer, a columnist at the South China Morning Post, wrote in an op-ed  published in 2021 that although China’s cyber warriors appear wholly committed to the nation, they, in fact, are “also damaging China’s image, harming its interests and causing divisions.”
“Nationalism can also lead to instability, causing rifts among the chosen ones and those who are considered outcasts,” writes Kammerer, adding that the Chinese hawkish patriots “are treading the same path as Trump supporters – with Beijing’s blessing.”
In a rare development, Vu Quang Minh, deputy minister of foreign affairs, criticized the Vietnamese cyber warriors in a Facebook post after learning about disseminating fabricated information about Queen Elizabeth II.
The deputy minister claimed that it was thanks to the British rule of law that Ho Chi Minh, a Communist revolutionary known by his Cantonese pseudonym Sung Man Cho, was freed in 1931 after being arrested in a collaboration between French colonial authorities and the Hong Kong Police and tried. Ho could have faced the death penalty had he been deported back to French Indochina at the colonial authorities’ request.
“I believe the people who are responsible for disseminating information about the policies of the Party and the State won’t be incompetent and lack political knowledge to damage the diplomatic relations and friendship between Vietnam and other countries,” Minh writes in a comment, referring to Tifosi and other similar nationalist groups.
“Only people who are either too ignorant, or who are reactionary figures, will deliberately divide Vietnam’s diplomatic friendship [with other countries], and [therefore seek to] defy the Party, the State and the Vietnamese people,” he added.
 RFA Vietnamese. (2022, September 12). Vietnamese influencer deletes comments after backlash against Britain’s queen. Radio Free Asia. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/vietnamese-influencer-deletes-comments-09122022005759.html
 Trung Khang. (2022, September 9). Safety violations likely caused high death toll in Vietnam karaoke bar blaze. Radio Free Asia. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/fire-09092022222446.html
 The Economist. (2016, August 13). The East is pink. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.economist.com/china/2016/08/13/the-east-is-pink
 Capelli, N. (2021, May 26). Little Pink, the New Shade of Chinese Cyber-Nationalism. European Guanxi. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.europeanguanxi.com/post/little-pink-the-new-shade-of-chinese-cyber-nationalism
 Pinghui, Z. (2017, May 26). The rise of the Little Pink: China’s angry young digital warriors. South China Morning Post. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2095458/rise-little-pink-chinas-young-angry-digital-warriors
 Ibid., 
 Nguyen, Q. T. T. (2022, May 3). How Vietnamese ‘Putinistas’ are spreading disinformation about Ukrainians. The Conversation. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://theconversation.com/how-vietnamese-putinistas-are-spreading-disinformation-about-ukrainians-181131
 Yousur Al-Hlou, Masha Froliak, Evan Hill, Malachy Browne, & David Botti. (2022, May 19). New Evidence Shows How Russian Soldiers Executed Men in Bucha. The New York Times. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/19/world/europe/russia-bucha-ukraine-executions.html
 BBC News Tiếng Việt. (2021, November 12). Việt Nam tiêu thụ thịt chó nhiều thứ 2 Châu Á, chỉ sau Trung Quốc. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam-59218031
 Ibid., 
 Vũ Thị Phương Dung. (2021, December 29). Việt Nam tiếp tục phát huy vai trò là thành viên có trách nhiệm trong cộng đồng quốc tế. Tạp Chí Cộng Sản. https://www.tapchicongsan.org.vn/web/guest/quoc-phong-an-ninh-oi-ngoai1/-/2018/824715/viet-nam-tiep-tuc-phat-huy-vai-tro-la-thanh-vien-co-trach-nhiem-trong-cong-dong-quoc-te.aspx#
 Kammerer, P. (2021, November 3). Patriotism gone awry: China’s fragile ‘little pinks’ are on a dangerous Trump-like warpath. South China Morning Post. Retrieved October 6, 2022, from https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3154434/patriotism-gone-awry-chinas-fragile-little-pinks-are-dangerous