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'American dream' lives on in Vietnam despite the past

'American dream' lives on in Vietnam despite the past
From Al Jazeera - November 10, 2017

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Dao Le Quynh Nhi still vividly recalls the festive mood she and her friends were able to soak up when they interacted with Barack Obama at a town hall meeting here as part of his Vietnam trip last year.

"I had high hopes that his visit, among other things, would result in a positive outcome for the TPP," she said, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a mammoth US-led 12-nation trade deal that Donald Trump nixed right after taking office.

According to a Pewsurveyin 2015, 89 percent of Vietnamese believe the otherwise controversial trade deal would be good for their country.

As Trump touched down in Vietnam on Friday for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit and a state visit, Nhi said, however, she could not care less about his trip. A native of the central Vietnamese resort city of Da Nang, the host city of the APEC gathering, she was asked by many of her friends whether she would come back home for the chance of seeing the new US president in real life.

"My answer is a resounding 'no'," said Nhi, a 25-year-old office worker. "I have no interest in Trump. He is not as inspirational and charismatic as Obama. Above all else, he killed the TPP."

But despite Trump, Nhi said the influence of American culture and values on Vietnamese millennials such as herself has remained as strong as ever. "They have set an idealistic bar for a democracy and a civilised society that Vietnamese youth are yearning for."

In a country where young people between 10 to 24 years represent almost one-third of Vietnam's total population of nearly 93 million, Nhi finds herself the embodiment of the findings of another Pewsurveyin June, which corroborated the unwavering favourability among Vietnamese towards the United States - no matter who reigns over that country.

According to the survey that spanned 37 nations, the image of the United States has deteriorated sharply across the globe under the Trump presidency. It showed US favourability ratings in the rest of the world slumping to 49 percent from 64 percent at the end of Obama's eight years in the White House.

Against that backdrop, popularity ratings have only increased in Vietnam and Russia. In Vietnam in particular, 84 percent of the respondents said they now have a very or somewhat favourable view of the US, up from 76 percent in 2014.

"Publics in the Asian-Pacific region are generally more positive toward American ideas and customs," according to a report released along with the survey.

Seven-in-10 Vietnamese say the spread of such American attributes is a good thing. Sixty-nine percent of Vietnamese surveyed like American democratic ideas, the highest rate after South Korea (78 percent).

"I do not speak for everyone," Nhi said. "But I believe few Vietnamese would disagree with me that we are still very much in awe of the US as a country. Just around me, many Vietnamese parents keep sending their kids to study abroad with the US remaining the most-sought destination."

Awash with Americano-philia

There is further damning evidence of the continued American Dream in Vietnam. The country has broken into the top 10 on several significant indexes that encapsulate people's desire to live, study, and settle down in the US, despite the fact it is one of the poorest and most faraway countries on those rankings.

Vietnam sent nearly31,000 studentsto the US, ranking 5th among countries with the most students at American educational institutions. Vietnamese investors arrive secondafter Chinain the race for green cards issued under the expensive EB-5 visa scheme, which offers foreign investors a fast path to a green card by investing at least $500,000 to finance a business employing at least 10 American workers. (To put things in perspective, Vietnam's average annual income was about $2,200 last year.)

Most recently, Vietnam ranked amongtop 10foreign buyers of residential properties in the United States.

Major Vietnamese megacities such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh are awash with Americano-philia. A get-together at Starbucks, a weekend treat for children at McDonald's, or an overnight queue just to get the latest iPhone version, all is considered an emblem of chic Americanisation and a tech-savvy lifestyle here.

Outside observers have always grappled to decipher the lack of bitterness towards the US among Vietnamese, even when their country was in the throes of a brutal war that cost more than three million Vietnamese lives - and even when Vietnam bore the brunt of the US' trade embargo that crippled the country until 1995.

'I feel bad for my countrymen'

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