There is a view that the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), with the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, has won the hearts of the people since Vietnam went through a war to restore peace.
Southeast Asian political journalist David Hutt commented: “In the recent crisis caused by the corona virus pandemic, the CPV has acted responsibly and placed people first on the list.”
“The Vietnamese government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is almost like what politics really should do,” he said. The government, and the ruling party, as well as the legislators, should do everything possible to protect their citizens. And people, with a trusted government, can feel they are being protected. Vietnam has never done that.”
Comparing the Vietnam Government’s COVID-19 war against the Vietnam Communist Party-led war against France and the US in the 20th century, Mai Truong, a post-graduate student in the US, in a recent article on The Diplomat argues that the CPV once again relies on a strategy of total mobilization, mobilizing the whole society, including military forces, security, authorities at all levels, and every individual, to combat the pandem.
Author Mai Truong wrote on ‘The Diplomat’: “In many areas, police and neighborhood leaders (or village leaders in the countryside) go to every house asking if anyone has recently returned from abroad. Neighbors pay careful attention to families with members who appear to have symptoms or have recently traveled to foreign countries, then report their observations to the government for potential quarantine.”
The website of the French newspaper Le Monde (Lo Mong-đ) on April 20 in the article “The success of the spring offensive of Vietnam against COVID-19” stated that there was a “Vietnamese exception” in this global health crisis.
This exception is no secret, it is the result of an effective policy: to identify and monitor infected people and groups, or at risk of infection.
This strategy is based on the population control system, one of the hallmarks of the totalitarian regime that has been leading the country since the Communist troops invaded Saigon in 1975.
A French-Vietnamese recently arrived in Ho Chi Minh City from Paris said: “When the test found that I was positive for corona virus, I was immediately asked to answer a questionnaire, which must include: Write down the names of all the people I have met and contacted. All passengers and crew of the flight that I traveled from France were tested and quarantined.”
Anonymous overseas Vietnamese, often traveling between Paris and Vietnam, said: “In Vietnam, the police do not hesitate to wake you at 1am to notify one of the people you have a relationship with positive for the virus. It’s a deep intervention system but most people follow it.”
The blockade surveillance is also very strict, those who violate the regulations are severely punished: recently a citizen who did not wear a mask and also beat officials of the anti-epidemic control guards, was given 9 months prison.
A former French Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr. Jean-Noël Poirier, has just been hospitalized in Hanoi due to being positive for the virus, in an article posted on the magazine’s website Causeur said that “Vietnam’s anti-epidemic strategy is simple, somewhat invasive of private life.”
Confusion of Confucian philosophy with political authoritarian seems to have yielded good results: Vietnam is one of the three Southeast Asian countries, along with Laos and Cambodia, with no deaths from the coronavirus. If the credibility of the Lao and Cambodian figures is still to be revised, the normal Vietnamese regime that censhored information, this time, is likely transparent.
Author Mai Truong also confirmed another success of the CPV in the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the media success.
The author wrote: “On the media front, the state-controlled press reported an uncontrolled increase in the number of infected people in other countries, especially in Europe and the US, while the situation in Vietnam was under control.”
“Vietnamese media also reports that even overseas Vietnamese run home to avoid pandemic in other countries and be treated.”
“Articles with headlines that evoke emotions like ‘I have survived in the end,’ and ‘thank my country for saving my life’ are widely shared in mainstream newspapers and social networks. This campaign has aroused national sentiment and attachment to the Communist Party and the country. On the social network is full of the slogan ‘Pride in Vietnam,’ ‘I am so proud to live in Vietnam,’ and ‘I am proud of the Vietnamese government.’”
“Anyone who criticizes the conditions of the isolated areas or the Party’s policy will face the risk of sparking anger in the online community and being labeled as a pro-Western or unpatriotic. For example, a video showing a Vietnamese woman living in Poland arguing with police at Noi Bai airport has received more than 500 comments. Many comments demanded that this person be grateful for the country that was willing to take her back while Europe abandoned her.”
“In a response to complaints by some overseas students about the conditions in a quarantine area, a high school teacher composed an emotional poem that asks complainers, “What have you contributed to your homeland?” The poem has been vigorously shared on social media coupled with an image of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, and the chairman of the capital city of Hanoi with the slogan “Vietnam leaves no one behind.”
The armed forces of Vietnam are also the beneficiaries of the corona virus. PhD student Mai Truong said: “The COVID-19 epidemic also gives the military an opportunity to improve its image. State media and social media are full of images of police and soldiers on duty. Internet users began to call them ‘uncle soldiers.’ Perhaps many people have forgotten that just a month ago, these same ‘soldiers’ may have been deployed to enter Dong Tam village in a land dispute outside Hanoi.”
The American journalist reiterated that the Vietnamese government has long been perceived as corrupt and opaque by the people, being criticized as “China’s henchmen“. Therefore, the CPV has for years lost its legitimacy as the organization of reunification of Vietnam after decades of war and separation, the only organization of nationalism and is to represent the people. And it no longer has monopoly over the national spirit.
Journalist Hutt doubted whether the belief that the Communist Party had just struggled to regain from the people would last after the epidemic ended
The journalist commented: “If the CPV can maintain the current level of virus testing and anti-COVID-19 results, it will be one of the best than any other country in Asia (Vietnam seems to be recovering faster than most other Southeast Asian economies.) I think the reputation of the CPV will grow across the country.”
However, the journalist warned: “I would say that as shown in this outbreak, the CPV must abide by policies of transparency, openness, and fair governance – which are not special characteristics of this party’s symbolism – and do not go back to a way of ruling authoritarian and opaque.”
David Hutt’s concerns are based on the fact that despite the recent recovery of people’s confidence, the current leadership of the CPV, headed by General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong, still carries “an old ideology from the old elite of Hanoi.”
The journalist concluded: “But to see if the newly-gained faith will last, we have to wait until the National Party Congress in January next year to see who the new leadership is.”
In a way, the COVID-19 pandemic was a rare “chance” that helped the CPV regain a little bit of people’s confidence.
But recent incidents such as erecting a statue of a king as a symbol of justice in the People’s Court; raise the price of a COVID-19 test device; manipulating the export of rice, etc. will be the slightest belief that the Party has tried to build in the fight against COVID-19 in the last few months will still survive at all. Or in the end, it still leads to the collapse of the final backward dictatorship on this earth.