Why Vietnam’s National Reconciliation Policy is a Failed Project

Why Vietnam’s National Reconciliation Policy is a Failed Project

In 2022, overseas Vietnamese sent home $19 billion in remittances [1]; the number positioned Vietnam among the top three biggest recipients in the Asia-Pacific region. Ho Chi Minh City is the country’s largest receiver [2] of this financial inflow, accounting for around 40 to 50 percent of the total. Last year, the city expected to receive an estimated $6.8 billion in remittances, a 4.4 percent increase from the previous year.

For comparison, Vietnam’s 19 largest State-owned enterprises (SOEs) earned [3] a pre-tax profit of $3.5 billion in 2022. Although these corporations recorded an increase of 23 percent in profit compared to the previous year, their revenues were only half the amount of the remittances Ho Chi Minh City received. These SOEs account for nearly 25 percent of Vietnam’s state investment capital.

The Vietnamese Communist Party and State-run media blustered over the figure. In an article [4] published in January this year, the official Vietnamese Communist Party newspaper recognized the importance of the financial reparations sent back home by overseas Vietnamese, adding that they are one of the crucial resources to the country’s economic development. It urged the government to develop new policies to encourage “kiều bào,” a term devised by the regime to refer to the Vietnamese diaspora, to return and invest in the economy.

However, economic cooperation is the only thing related to the Vietnamese diaspora that has not provoked the regime’s usual hostility.

“Kiều bào” or “Việt kiều” (overseas Vietnamese) are the terms used by Hanoi to call the Vietnamese people who previously left the country and who are now settled in a foreign country. An essential attribute of the Việt kiều community is that it is mainly comprised of South Vietnamese refugees who left their homeland to escape Communist persecution following the collapse of Saigon in 1975.

It was not a coincidence that Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, the capital of the former Republic of Vietnam in the south, was the largest beneficiary of this financial reparation.

For decades since the reunification of Vietnam, war victor North Vietnam has slandered and deprived South Vietnamese communities of national representation. Party lingo denounced [5] the southerners who left the country in rickety boats as those manipulated and lured with false promises by “the enemies” and “reactionary factors.” The regime still refuses to apologize for its discriminatory attitudes and failed economic policies in postwar Vietnam, which directly led to this humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, those who chose to remain in the country have been subjected to multiple forms of discrimination, [6] most notoriously the practice of background checks (xét lý lịch).

The Communist regime only relaxed its discrimination and hostility towards the southerners and their overseas relatives following the introduction of đổi mới, an economic plan developed to rejuvenate Vietnam’s ailing Soviet-style economy in the late 1980s. It was followed by the issuance of resolution 36/NQ-TW, [7] introduced by the Communist Politburo in 2004. The resolution invented [8] new rhetoric, “national harmony and reconciliation” (hòa hợp, hòa giải dân tộc), which implicitly acknowledged the Party’s missteps in its postwar policies. It seeks to appease the South Vietnamese who had to flee the country in the past by recognizing their existence and contribution to Vietnam’s international image and domestic economy.

Nevertheless, such calls did not gain considerable support from those former refugees.

Although the Party lifted its discrimination against the southern population, regional divisions and the legacies of its postwar policies are still visible in Vietnam today.

First and foremost, we observe the State’s unequal infrastructure investment between the country’s northern and southern parts. The Mekong Delta is a prime example of this inequality. [9] The region is falling behind other parts of Vietnam as legal bottlenecks and insufficient government funding effectively hamper its economic prospects, despite the Mekong Delta producing about 90 percent [10] of Vietnam's total rice export.

At the same time, South Vietnamese symbols, including politics, culture, language, and history, remain taboo in every discussion in modern Vietnam. The country’s national flag, which embedđe with three red stripes on a yellow background, symbolically featuring three streams of blood running through northern, central, and southern Vietnam, continues to be redacted and vilified by the regime’s censors and propagandists. Annually, on April 30, Hanoi still tapped into this unbearable pain with victory celebrations and impassioned speeches about its revolutionary achievement instead of using this holiday to console people about the past and reunite the people.

It is not hard to understand why overseas Vietnamese, especially the southern population, are the fiercest critics of the Communist Party and its propaganda.

Despite the Communist Party’s empty rhetoric and triumphant propaganda, Vietnam’s “national reconciliation” agenda is, in fact, a failed project.

In March, Vietnam’s State-run media ignored [11] the grueling journey of Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan, a Vietnamese American actor, who had to flee Vietnam on a boat and who spent time in a refugee camp after North Vietnamese forces took over the South. And earlier this year, government mouthpieces and pro-regime jingoistic “little pinkshumiliated and launched a public boycott [12] [13] against Hanni, a Vietnamese Australian K-pop idol, simply because of her maternal family’s supposed links to South Vietnam and their support for the Saigon regime.

In reality, it is the Vietnamese people who actively carry out the reconciliation project. The Vietnamese government, on the other hand, is the project’s obstacle, not the conductor.

The main reason explaining Vietnam's failed reconciliation efforts is that the Hanoi regime never wanted to reconcile and heal the wounds of war in the first place. They neither wanted to deliver the truth nor allow overseas Vietnamese to participate in the country’s policy-making and political decisions. In their eyes, the regime merely views the Việt kiều community as cash cows while weaponizing nationalism to use them as a bulwark against China’s ambitions. This is because overseas Vietnamese are among the most vocal critics of Beijing's maritime claims in the South China Sea.

If the Hanoi leadership truly wanted to reconcile with the overseas Vietnamese community, they should first provide the Vietnamese public with historical facts and formally apologize to the southern communities for their controversial policies. Nevertheless, doing so will undermine the regime’s propaganda as the sole patriotic force. How Hanoi carries out the reconciliation process in the future will reflect its genuine intentions.


[1] VNA. (2023, February 3). Vietnam among world’s 10 biggest recipients of remittances. VietnamPlus. https://en.vietnamplus.vn/vietnam-among-worlds-10-biggest-recipients-of-remittances/247814.vnp

[2] Online T. T. (2022, December 20). Kiều hối đổ về TP.HCM năm 2022 dự báo khoảng 6,8 tỉ USD. TUOI TRE ONLINE. https://tuoitre.vn/kieu-hoi-do-ve-tp-hcm-nam-2022-du-bao-khoang-6-8-ti-usd-20221219151955067.htm

[3] VnExpress. (2023a, January 25). Vietnamese businesses earn billion-dollar profits in 2022, despite challenges - VnExpress International. VnExpress International https://e.vnexpress.net/news/companies/vietnamese-businesses-earn-billion-dollar-profits-in-2022-despite-challenges-4563356.html

[4] P. Hong (2023, January 3). Thu hút và phát huy hiệu quả hơn nữa nguồn kiều hối trong xây dựng đất nước. https://dangcongsan.vn. https://dangcongsan.vn/hiep-hoi-doanh-nhan-viet-nam-o-nuoc-ngoai-ket-noi-doanh-nhan-kieu-bao-voi-doanh-nghiep-viet/nghien-cuu-trao-doi/thu-hut-va-phat-huy-hieu-qua-hon-nua-nguon-kieu-hoi-trong-xay-dung-dat-nuoc-629150.html

[5] Dụ, K. M. (2019, February 1). Chớ có xuyên tạc sự kiện - Báo An ninh thế giới. Báo an Ninh Thế Giới. https://antg.cand.com.vn/Su-kien-Binh-luan-antg/Cho-co-xuyen-tac-su-kien-i509084/

[6] Le, D. (2022, April 30). Reunification Without Reconciliation: A Glimpse Into The Social Conflicts And Integration Process In Postwar Vietnam. The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2022/04/reunification-without-reconciliation-a-glimpse-into-the-social-conflicts-and-integration-process-in-postwar-vietnam/

[7] Nghị quyết số 36/NQ-TW ngày 26/3/2004 của Bộ Chính trị về công tác đối với người Việt Nam ở nước ngoài | Hệ thống văn bản. https://tulieuvankien.dangcongsan.vn/he-thong-van-ban/van-ban-cua-dang/nghi-quyet-so-36nq-tw-ngay-2632004-cua-bo-chinh-tri-ve-cong-tac-doi-voi-nguoi-viet-nam-o-nuoc-ngoai-2102

[8] 47 năm thống nhất đất nước: Hòa hợp, hòa giải và lợi ích dân tộc cốt lõi. https://moha.gov.vn/nghi-quyet-tw4/gioi-thieu-nqtw4/47-nam-thong-nhat-dat-nuoc-hoa-hop-hoa-giai-va-loi-ich-dan-toc-cot-loi-47449.html

[9] VnExpress. (2023b, March 1). Infrastructure, the government’s “debt” to the Mekong Delta - VnExpress International. VnExpress International – Latest News, Business, Travel and Analysis From Vietnam. https://web.archive.org/web/20230302115415/https://e.vnexpress.net/news/perspectives/infrastructure-the-government-s-debt-to-the-mekong-delta-4575215.html

[10] K. V. (2017, July 4). Đồng bằng sông Cửu Long cung cấp 90 lượng gạo xuất khẩu. https://dangcongsan.vn. https://dangcongsan.vn/kinh-te/dong-bang-song-cuu-long-cung-cap-90-luong-gao-xuat-khau-444408.html

[11] Chan, Y. (2023, March 22). Ke Huy Quan, Sinophobia, and the Controversy Surrounding His Vietnamese Cultural Identity. The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2023/03/ke-huy-quan-sinophobia-and-the-controversy-surrounding-his-vietnamese-cultural-identity/

[12] Nguyen, J. (2023, January 17). The Dangerous Rise Of Vietnam’s Jingoistic “Little Pinks.” The Vietnamese Magazine. https://www.thevietnamese.org/2023/01/the-dangerous-rise-of-vietnams-jingoistic-little-pinks/

[13] Nguyen, Q. T. T. (n.d.). Backlash against K-pop star Hanni shows Vietnam still struggles with the legacy of the war. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/backlash-against-k-pop-star-hanni-shows-vietnam-still-struggles-with-the-legacy-of-the-war-200493

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