Thanks to Tyler Lloyd for this opportunity to revisit my Peace Corps years. Please visit his site, mypeacecorpsstory.com, where he has posted our interview, and his conversations with many other Volunteers, who have served or are currently serving in tin different parts of the world. Thanks to technology, he is able to reach out across the globe to record his stories and share them on the web.
The connections available to us during our time in India were very limited. If there were family emergencies back in the States, Peace Corps country headquarters could assist through resources available through the American embassy in New Delhi. In most instances, we were left to our own devices which, for me, largely consisted of sending international aerogrammes through the local post office (they actually did reach the States in most instances, some friends saved them). I am not sure they would be very interesting reading for anyone now, but they were our basic means of staying in touch over our two years of service. Some friends would also send tape recordings of messages and popular music. At that time we were also getting a steady dose of new British rock groups’ music; the Beatles were on the top of the list. I think I heard “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” almost every day for two years. We also had a short-wave radio and were also able to listen to the BBC and Voice of America on occasion. No TV.
I hope you will enjoy listening to “My Peace Corps Story.” And thank you, President Kennedy.
I was in Vietnam about this time last year. President Obama also happened to be in Hanoi at the same time, working to enhance America’s internationally presence and improve trade relations with twelve Pacific Rim partners. Vietnam and the other countries rejoiced at his arrival after a torturous past of wars and corruption that was crippling the economies of Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Obama helped broker the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Many trade experts saw TPP as the single most valuable tool America had for shaping the geo-economic future of the region our way and for pressuring China to open its markets.
TPP also included restrictions on foreign state-owned enterprises that dumped subsidized products into our markets, intellectual property protections for rising U.S. technologies – like free access for all cloud computing services. Like any trade deal, TPP would have challenged some U.S. workers but it would have created opportunities for many others, because big economies like Japan and Vietnam were opening their markets. For decades we had allowed Japan to stay way too closed because, because it was an ally in the Cold War, and Vietnam, because it was an enemy. Some 80 percent of the goods from our 11 TPP partners were coming into the U.S. duty free already, while our goods and services were still being hit with 18,000 tariffs in their countries – which TPP eliminated.
We could have even helped the economic reformers in China. They were hoping that the emergence of TPP “would force China to reform its trade practices more along American lines and to open its markets . . . We failed the reformers in China.”
P.S. Happy Fourth of July weekend. Enjoy. Back on Wednesday, July 5th.
So everybody knows that Obama was here last week, and it seems like the Cubans are now very interested in forging some deeper science-technology ties with their comrades here in Vietnam. Maybe technology can really help the world become smaller, reaching across oceans and continents that share some common economic goals. Obama actually helped us reconnect with Cuba, and now both these Communist countries see technology as a tool that will help them establish new commercial partnerships. Or as the Vietnamese Prime Minister said: “enhance comprehensive ties with the Caribbean country.” “Comprehensive” will do.
Similarly, the Cuban Minister of Science, Technology and Enviroment said “her visit aimed to consolidate the co-operation in science-technology and natural resources between the two countries.” I don’t think that Obama actually intended to bring these two countries closer economically as part of opening the diplomatic and commercial doors with the U.S., but it could have played a role? Call it an unintended consequence if you will, but increasing and consolidating trade cooperation can be a mutual benefit to all trading partners on a bi-lateral or multi-lateral basis.
It doesn’t always have to be about political ideology, but that could be a beginning to expand economies on a more global basis. And technology may be the unintended tool that creates such an environment.
Somehow I never thought of Vietnam as embracing that old American entrepreneurial spirit, but I have been wrong before. President Obama says that it is now a happening place for venture capitalists. Now I really don’t know many of those people in the venture capital world, but I’ll take his word for it. I think what I like most about how he sees technology being a growth area is his conviction that people are still the most important part of this enterprise.
And there are a lot of people here that traditional approaches in education and training have failed. If they are lucky enough to connect with a start-up like Dreamplex in Ho Chi Minh City they might find newer opportunities of their own making, or in collaboration with others. Mr. Obama told young entrepreneurs at Dreamplex yesterday that next month he would welcome eight Vietnamese entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley so that they can learn from the best entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the world.
So it’s a new kind of foreign aid, I guess you could call it. With the hope that these American-trained entrepreneurs will return home and work to expand opportunities for others in the place of their birth.
Just wanted to keep you posted on the daily celebrations here in Vietnam. This is all new to me as well, but I would like to share with you a little bit about what I am learning. Let’s start off with the national holidays which you probably didn’t know about before. Today is Ho Chi Minh’s 126th birthday. Well, he is not really around to celebrate with us, as you know, but there are special exhibits and performances throughout Vietnam especially in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). If you are so inclined, you can refer to him as “Uncle Ho.”
Yesterday was Buddha’s birthday. Like Ho Chi Minh, he is not around to celebrate with us either, having died 2,560 years ago. Buddhists are still very much a minority in Vietnam, but they are being encouraged by their Supreme Patriarch here to make more contributions to national construction and defense, environmental protection and climate change efforts. I am not really sure how you can improve your contributions in these areas. I am just reporting on what I read in the papers here FYI.
Now for some technology news. May 18th is also Vietnam’s Science and Technology Day. I don’t think there are any planned national celebrations related to the implementation of educational technology in the schools, but if I hear of anything else, I will pass that information along as well. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.
It’s only been five years, or five springs ago, but the flowering of a more democratic society in that part of the world has apparently “died on the vine.” Perhaps the most obvious example of the return of autocratic governmental control is in the largest of these countries, Egypt. Press coverage of the government’s repressive actions has resulted in increased censorship and scrutiny of the media’s activities. The current Interior Minister is now providing “guidance” that a stronger hand needs to be used to stop political protests from growing. Of course this stronger hand also includes the monitoring of social media and anti-governmental postings on websites.
The Interior Ministry has taken the position that the Egyptian police should seek to undermine the credibility of the journalists’ union by deploying retired police generals to the country’s influential, and mostly pro-government television programs to explain the Ministry’s point of view. And if that doesn’t work, why not raid the reporters’ offices and hold some of them for questioning. This has already happened with the reporters being accused of illegal possession of weapons, and being held for questioning for fifteen days.
Spring seems to be rapidly moving into winter in a part of the world where there appeared to be such a promise of new freedoms and opportunities for a younger generation. Let’s hope that springtime can come again.
So this past week and a half I have written about government intervention in the operations of Facebook in India and Egypt. Now it looks like we have a trifecta with China’s regulators raising new questions about Microsoft’s business practices there. Of course, we do not yet know what those questions may be, but I am sure that Bill Gates and company are not looking forward to being on the answering end. Over the past several months Microsoft has appeared to have mounted a charm offensive, such as hosting a prominent meeting of Chinese and American tech leaders in Seattle in September. During that meeting, Microsoft announced several partnerships including a cooperative effort with the China Electronics Technology Group (mostly in support of the Chinese military).
Interestingly, the PC maker Dell has now begun shipping more machines to China that come with a Chinese-made operating system, NeoKylin, installed on them. Some experts have termed this Chinese strategy as “de-U.S.A” in an effort to dethrone Windows from PCs in China. In 2004 Chinese officials with the State Administration for Industry and Commerce stormed four Microsoft offices in China, questioning executives, copying contracts and records, and downloading data from the company’s servers, including email and other internal communications.
Maybe this is all about how businesses operate in two very different economic systems, capitalism vs. communism. No one can really be sure how this will all end, but clearly China is not ready to experiment with free enterprise, preferring to play by their own “rules?”
Bonjour, mes amis! Okay, that may be enough French for purposes of this posting. But it seems as if the new French ambassador to the U.S. likes to tweet! C’est vrai . . . enough already! While we still may have the overused, overclassified diplomatic cables bouncing across the Atlantic, this ambassador has decided to join the twenty-first century and let his “bon mots” (last time, I promise!) fly into cyber space. His name is Gerard Araud.
Quite a new day in international diplomacy, but I am sure M. Arauc is very much the exception to the rule. Who else would you have expected to lead the way – the Russians? once again the French have started a revolution in the name of individual liberty, just as they did a few centuries ago. N’est-ce pas, sorry.
Speaking of Twitter, I hope everyone reading this will continue, or begin, to follow TechtoExpress on Twitter: @RaymondMyers. Merci, fini!