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David Lamb: A Reporter Returns | The Next Generation | Doing Business in Vietnam
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Hong Nhung Sings

The Next Generation

Vietnam’s younger generation, is made up of people who were born well after the last American helicopter left Saigon, for whom the Vietnam War never happened.

Vietnam is a country caught between ideologies. Red banners glorifying the values of communism hang in city centers next to flashy billboards featuring products from Toyota and Coca-Cola. The juxtaposition underscores the double life that Vietnam now leads. No longer truly communist, but not yet democratic or free, Vietnam is remaking itself - and the country’s Gen-Xers are at the forefront of its renaissance. While their elders weigh the opportunities and evils of private enterprise, Vietnam's urban youth have embraced it. Theirs is a world of cell phones, mopeds and coffee shops. They are focused on their careers and have ambitions of making it to the top.

For those young people who want a role in drafting the changes that will drive the nation forward, membership in the Communist Party is still the only choice. They realize that to have a voice and by extension an impact on Vietnam's future, they must embrace the current system, and that's a socialist model. While tremendous changes have occurred, real systemic change will not happen overnight. Until the older party leaders, mostly men in their 70's and 80's, hand over the reigns of government to the next generation, a massive overhaul of communism's sluggish bureaucracy is improbable.

Vietnam may have handed the United States its most humiliating military defeat of the century, but the youth whose parents successfully drove out invading American armies now embrace American culture and products with open arms. Despite their ideological differences, one thing remains constant: Vietnam's youth share the same resilient spirit that got their elders through years of foreign occupation. It's this same spirit that will carry the nation into the future - with its young people leading the way.