With that provocative title, you might expect that the Chinese government have clamped down in a purge on me, or perhaps the Vietnamese secret police have chased me across electronic borders. Not quite, this is self-censorship. And, no, I don’t mean the unconscious “censor” from psychology, or the very conscious way that I select which things to talk about so publicly.
In Vietnam, I talked to a few other people who I haven’t mentioned in my accounts. I would like to write up what they said, although none of it is particularly surprising if you have read the literature about the Vietnamese government. Which you probably haven’t. Basically, the communist government are scared. They are as a group afraid of other sources of power, and as individual bureaucrats are trying to preserve their own position. They also try to gain advantage for themselves, whether manipulating perks and resources their way, or through outright corruption. This all leads to excessive, complex, and ever changing paperwork, which requires bribes to slice through it. Control-freakery due to fear.
People in the south are perhaps more resentful of this than people in the north, the post-WWII division of the country still haunts a little. What’s sad is that a lot of the fear isn’t really needed any more. Until quite recently, US citizens weren’t allowed into some ethnic minority areas, in case they were hard-right wingers or CIA agents trying to recruit locals. But Vietnam doesn’t need to be scared of this, it’s opened itself up to trade and become a very capitalist communist state, one which I am sure the American Empire approves of immensely.
I don’t want to either over or under emphasise all this. When bribes become sufficiently codified and understood locally they take the role of taxes, and cause much less of a problem than grinding poverty and hard work. On the other hand, as a tourist I’m sheltered from this view of the government, so naturally am inclined to end up with a rosy view. The only time I spotted the negative side of the government was when doing quite non-touristy things.