Maybe if you are old enough to remember “The Ugly American” (novel and a movie with Marlon Brando, set somewhere in Southeast Asia) you will also recall that the “face” of America at that time was feared and met with disgust in that faraway corner of the world. Brando played the American ambassador who had little concern for strengthening diplomatic ties as much as protecting U.S. commercial and military interests there (my interpretation). Now, at least in Vietnam, there seems to be a new perception of mutual benefit in stronger bilateral ties. One American who has lived in Ho Chi Minh City for a few years, now says “You know, they still look at us here the way we want to be looks at. America equals opportunity, entrepreneurship and success. That’s not true in so many places anymore.”
As I mentioned in a post last week, about one-third of the Vietnamese are on Facebook. Arguably they are mostly the “younger” Vietnamese who are now able to connect with the rest of the world. Unfortunately, their peers in China can not, and although there is some connectivity in India, the Internet is not as easily accessible as in Vietnam. China and India are not signatories to President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership. Facebook, of course, may not be the most educational or “broadening” experience for the rest of the world to learn more about America, but to the extent that younger Americans might see the “international” value, we should all be enriched. It may all be about “social networking” with peers at first, but at least the opportunity will be there for a larger world view.
And maybe the political systems we live under will be more open to contrasting governmental and economic differences. One size doesn’t really fit all.