Since I’ve lived in Japan for over 4 years now, I often wonder what the country would be like if it hadn’t radically reconstructed after the destruction caused by World War II. Of course the US military including General MacArthur was responsible for political and social reforms in Japan, and eventually the economy stabilized, but what if the country had been left to ruin and was forced rebuild itself from scratch like Cambodia? I believe it is thanks to the hard work of Japanese people and the influence of the pre-existing constitutional monarchy that Japan was able to modernize itself. Whether you agree with Japanese politics or not, the way this island country restored itself is incredible.
Then I look at countries like Vietnam who also went to war against the US but are controlled by a Communist government. While I was in Hanoi I visited the Hỏa Lò Prison and learned about the history of the Vietnam War. Unlike what happened during World War II, the North Vietnam military still wanted to overtake the South. Let’s take a look at what happened in Vietnam after Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords…
“By the early 1980s, Vietnam’s government was coming to realize that communism would not provide a miracle cure for rapidly modernizing the country and growing its economy.” Goscha, The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam, pp. 398-99
Since Communism is clearly flawed, a new market reform called “Doi Moi” was introduced to the country. This type of market revolves around supply and demand. This means sometimes people receive more than others, but essentially the work you put forth will eventually pay you back. Thanks to the farmers and exporters, Vietnam was able to gradually rebuild its economy. Additionally this type of reform helped Vietnamese citizens fight poverty:
“At the end of the war, 70 percent of the people in Vietnam were living below the official poverty line. Today, that number is estimated to be less than 20 percent.”
– Asia Pacific Curriculum
As of right now, many people in Japan are beginning to live on the verge of poverty, and work motivation lower than most developed countries around the world. Though they make less income on average, you’ll notice that citizens in Vietnam have a much more positive outlook on life. And it’s not just due to cultural differences. You have to stop and think, why is this?
In my next article, I will be highlighting some of the places I visited in Hanoi including the prison and exploring these ideas now. Thank you all for reading!