Fighting China Inside and Out

Tranh kỹ thuật số của Hoàng Ngọc Biên - Digital artwork by Hoàng Ngọc Biên.
Tranh kỹ thuật số của Hoàng Ngọc Biên – Digital artwork by Hoàng Ngọc Biên.

—– Đọc bài tiếng Việt —– 

Without pride to anchor in life, we are lost.

Vietnam is a small country next to China. That is one reason it is still bullied by China in the games that China plays with its two other counterparts, America and Russia. Frustrating. Mad. Raged. I would not indulge in these emotions. Whether the war between China and Vietnam escalates or not, whether World War III would be in sight or not, and no matter who loses and wins, my commitment is to a long-term goal of building a stronger and more prosperous Vietnam, a situation that is made possible by Vietnamese in the homeland essentially, unfortunately for me. As someone who already left the country, I am limited to not endorsing nonconstructive criticism of Vietnam, at the same time consciously serve as a Vietnam advocate who provides factual information about Vietnam and its culture for non-Vietnamese. This way, I have chosen one road to walk on. For myself and for the vindication of my soul: I chose the cultural battle.

To move strategically in this battle, I am constantly reminding myself everyday to do the following:

1: Be proud of Vietnam.

For thousands of years, China has not stopped plotting to invade Vietnam. As a tiny country, Vietnam, on its own, has survived. The existence of Vietnam as an independent country is fascinating, if not already a miracle. This is enough to reassure me of its future and make me proud of my origin as a Vietnamese.

2: Be proud of the Vietnamese.

With no fuss, I would make a simple comment that it is much easier for people to live in a comfortable environment to grow up to become useful citizens. Vietnamese people live in a much more challenging situation, yet they continue to be a hard-working and skillful and friendly and peaceful people, with dignity and integrity. I am proud of them. It is as simple as that.

3: Boycott Chinese products.

Global media has been reporting on contaminated products made in China for more than a decade now and it is not news anymore. For the past eight years, therefore, I have been boycotting anything made in China. I break the rule two to three times a year in the name of fashion, yet this will become a thing of the past soon for I have set up plans to cover my shopping policy to make it a hundred percent bullet proof. Also, as the relation between China and America is more and more intense and talks about taking jobs back to the US to help the ten percent unemployed Americans are gaining momentum, the likelihood of boycotting Chinese products will become a piece of cake, for everybody.

4: Boycott Chinese culture.

Boycotting Chinese products is not enough, I boycott Chinese culture as well. Whatever is borrowed from the Chinese by my ancestors, it already turned rusted ages ago and the only thing it does is to spread tetanus to Vietnamese culture. To me, borrowing is never an intelligent solution. Besides my belief that Chinese culture is a barbarous one (where baby girls are still killed in preference of baby boys), I also strongly believe that cultural identity becomes all the more significant as the mold of globalization insidiously spreads. The ability to remain oneself is what keeps one sane. As Vietnam moves forward into the twenty-first century, the only burden that pulls it back is its own historical baggage, including the borrowing elements that many still hang tight on. Lose the baggage, my friends.

After a few years living in the US, I was determined to cut the tie to my past to move forward. I cleansed my mind of any knowledge about Chinese culture, from poetry to stories and anything else in between. Just a switch, and my mind cleared. I would never quote a Chinese saying or story ever again. I suddenly realized I had big space in my mind that I have happily filled up with Vietnamese stories: Trạng Quỳnh, Tú Xương, Hồ Xuân Hương, Nguyễn Trường Tộ, Phan Chu Trinh, Phan Bội Châu, Hồ Chí Minh, Võ Nguyên Giáp, Kim Định, etc. What is more interesting is that the moment the tie to the past was severed, I started to look at Vietnamese culture in a new way, from the point of view of someone who lives in the twenty-first century, and in the positive and creative spirit. It then dawned on me that the Vietnamese culture that I have been looking for is always there, right in front of my eyes. It is in the people who surround me and whose stories have not been told from their own perspectives. Not many people have cared enough to look and see them. But I do now. My writing and creating this blog, in general, and the series of article in the Portraits of Vietnamese in 21C column, in particular, came to life from such a realization. There are other things I have been doing that I wish I could share with you right now. But their time will come.

Borrowing is not a wise solution. Creating is.

(to be continued)

–> Read the Vietnamese version