Made in Vietnam

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryRecently, I had bought a new flip phone. My old one was 14 years old, and according to Verizon Wireless, this phone I had was about to be retired. The phone I had used for so long was made in South Korea—making it a dinosaur compared to what was made over the years. I am amazed my model was not retired years before. Because my old flip phone was going to be retired, the signal that made it operate would be discontinued and it would go dead. I had no choice but to get a new cell phone. I got myself another flip phone. I never wanted a smart phone, or any phone more advanced than what I had before (of course, even a flip phone today will still be much more advanced than what I had. There was no way out of it). The flip phone, from the Nokia Corporation, was made in Vietnam.

The irony was not lost on me. Once little more than a poor agricultural country at the end of World War II, Vietnam had been divided into two lands; the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). South Vietnam was allied with the West, while North Vietnam had been allied with the Communist bloc. The United States had sent millions of American soldiers to fight for South Vietnam in what became known as the Vietnam War, but in the end North Vietnam won and the two Vietnams were united. At first, the newly established Socialist Republic of Vietnam tried to go down the path of socialism, only to sink lower into poverty, shortages in every category, and diplomatic isolation.

Seeing that this path got Vietnam nowhere, the Communist Party of Vietnam started to open up the economy to corporate investment, and allowed its people to become either workers in the new burgeoning factories dotting the land or become small entrepreneurs. The effect has been astounding as Vietnam’s economic growth has been in the double digits for the past two decades. More than that, Vietnam is now becoming a hub for the West’s factory of its latest technological innovations. As international corporations are beginning to pull their investments and supply chains out of China (due to the growing expenses of being in China, the Chinese government arbitrarily confiscating their assets and even threatening western corporate personnel being in China), Vietnam has become one of the best places for corporate business to go and make the electronic devices we come to depend on.

One of the reasons why I got a phone made in Vietnam is because the parts I might have needed for a phone made in China might not be replaceable. As more companies are getting their supply chains out of China, it means that the parts needed for phones made in China might not be there. Phones made in Vietnam, on the other hand, is a safe bet that parts for phone made in Vietnam will most likely be there (and they would be cheaper for corporations to make, an added bonus). But it is going further than electronics. Vietnam is beginning to make a whole array of consumer goods from clothes to toys to furniture to decorations to medical equipment and maybe someday even cars. In so many ways, Made in Vietnam will be part of the future that will not be known as the China century.

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