News / Asia

In Vietnam, Anti-China Protests Get Creative

At the Hanoi market, many consumers are more interested in quality than politics, Vietnam. (M. Brown/VOA)
At the Hanoi market, many consumers are more interested in quality than politics, Vietnam. (M. Brown/VOA)
TEXT SIZE - +
Marianne Brown
— In the face of growing constraints on freedom of speech by Vietnamese authorities, protesters who oppose Chinese policies and trade practices are finding inventive ways to express themselves.

With stories of carcinogenic bras and toxic apples from China prevalent in the Vietnamese media, many people try to avoid buying Chinese goods. However, a few have taken it one step further and are using consumer choice as a way to express their political views.

Paulo Nguyen Thanh manages the website No China Shop, which allows reputable local producers to sell strictly made-in-Vietnam products ranging from handbags to organic vegetables. He says he has two kinds of customers, those who are concerned about the ill effects of substandard goods and those who want to express their patriotism.

The site is one-of-a-kind in Vietnam, Thanh says, but is already proving popular. In two days he says the website sells around 4,000 items.

Thanh says Chinese products account for 95 percent of goods on the Vietnamese market. He says many people would rather buy products that are not made in China but they cannot find an alternative.

One of his latest offerings is a special kind of envelope, known as "bao li xi", which is filled with money and given as a gift during the Lunar New Year festival.
 
Along with the traditional new year message, the design includes a map of Vietnam and the words: “Hoang Sa, Truong Sa, Vietnam,” - the Paracel and Spratly islands belong to Vietnam. China claims the islands and much of the surrounding sea.
 
Thanh was among a group of people who took part in anti-China protests in June.

He says while shopping in supermarkets he noticed that nearly all of Tet envelopes were imported from China with Chinese lettering. He says Tet is a Vietnamese holiday so the design should be in Vietnamese.

Jonathan London, Vietnam expert and assistant professor at City University Hong Kong, says complaints about Chinese sabotage of Vietnam’s economy are literally thousands of years old. However, part of the recent boycott movement has been inspired by aggressive Chinese foreign policy.

In recent months authorities detained protesters at an anti-China rally, jailed 13 Catholic activists and arrested high profile activist lawyer Le Quoc Quan, moves interpreted by some as part of an increasing crackdown on freedom of speech.

London says in this restrictive atmosphere, consumption is one way for Vietnamese people to express their views.

"Essentially the state cannot manage people’s consumption as tightly as they can manage people’s open expression of ideas...the Vietnamese populace has been pushed to a point where the consumer-based movement is one of the only options that’s available to them," London said.

Most consumers are more concerned about quality than foreign policy.
 
At a busy open market in Hanoi, 32-year-old stallholder Ngoc says many Vietnamese people do not like buying Chinese goods, particularly poultry, fruit and vegetables, but she adds she and her friends do not have an opinion on political issues.

She says in the past Vietnamese people would buy Chinese goods but they know better now. Many are concerned about dangerous chemicals used to preserve fresh goods.

China is Vietnam’s biggest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $41 billion in 2012, up from nearly $36 billion a year earlier. The country’s reliance on China economically puts it in a difficult position politically. A consumer backlash in China over Japanese products following another territorial dispute cost Japanese firms substantial profits. However, London says it is not likely a boycott of Chinese products in Vietnam would have a big impact.

"If this boycott were to gain momentum and gain wide notice in China then I think it could be significant but my sense is that at present it is mainly an expression of dissent," London noted. "And outrage at China’s foreign policy within Vietnam."

London says the existential conditions of Vietnam that have always existed and will always exist is the need to cope with China. Despite pressure from authorities, many people are likely to continue to find inventive ways of expressing their views.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid