Cablegate: Influence Analysis - Vietnam
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000908
STATE FOR EAP/PD; EAP/BCLTV
HO CHI MINH CITY FOR OGBURNR
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO OIIP VM DPOL
SUBJECT: INFLUENCE ANALYSIS - VIETNAM
REF: SECSTATE 033359
1. Per Reftel request, Post provides an Influence Analysis
statement on Vietnam.
2. The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has a monopoly on
political power. A hierarchy topped by the Politburo sets
its policies. The decision-making process is opaque to
most observers and usually slow. Input for discussion is
provided by government think-tanks, party councils, etc.
The research capacity of these institutions is usually
weak; ideology and obsolete thinking often predominate. The
National Assembly, however, is changing from a purely
rubber-stamp institution to one holding limited discussion
of policy. Public opinion does not guide government
policies except as expressed through "grassroots democracy"
exercises within the CPV and its "mass organizations" under
the Vietnam Fatherland Front.
3. Vietnamese media carries no overt criticism of State or
Party policies. The media positively covers GVN leadership
and policies, international development support for
Vietnam, and other indications of Vietnam's increasing
political and economic integration with the world.
Ideological attacks on the U.S. and USG policies, fairly
standard throughout much of the Socialist Republic of
Vietnam's history, have virtually disappeared over the past
year. Use of international wire service reports for
international news has increased.
4. Every newspaper, magazine, journal, etc. is sponsored by
a CPV or government entity, which is responsible for its
content. Editorials in major newspapers such as "Nhan Dan"
("People") are clearly ideologically driven and generally
lack balance, credibility, and domestic readership. The
press is sold in stores, on the street, and by
subscription. Despite the GVN's media monopoly of
information, a wider variety of newspapers and programming
has emerged, catering to market tastes (i.e., sports
newspapers, fashion magazines, non-ideological soap operas,
etc.). Since the economic reform policies began in 1986,
advertising has become commonplace, magazine formats have
brightened up, and new periodicals are sold which are more
useful commercial marketing tools. New news periodicals
are being published. Compliance to GVN dictates remains
enforced through censorship, self-censorship, and legal and
extra-legal government actions. Press distribution outside
the major cities is limited to local newspapers and major
national dailies such as "Nhan Dan,""Lao Dong," and "Quan
Doi Nhan Dan."
5. A national TV broadcast system has four channels with
assigned thematic areas. One predominantly covers current
events, another entertainment, another education, and a
fourth mixed themes for the overseas Vietnamese audience.
These channels are broadcast throughout the country, with
spotty provincial coverage. City and provincial TV
channels feed news to national TV for rebroadcast and carry
national TV's coverage. The broadcast network provides
current events reporting and commentary, sports and
entertainment, including U.S. and other foreign films, and
educational programs appropriate for a predominantly rural,
agricultural economy. National and local TV occasionally
cover USG assistance programs and other Mission activities
in Vietnam, but Mission broadcast media placement is very
difficult. Foreign films and international news footage
are sometimes broadcast without permission.
6. There is a national radio broadcast system and
provincial and city stations as well. A system of public
address systems in towns and villages continue to provide
local news and commentary. Internet is presently found in
cities and towns, but not countryside. Slow access speed
has discouraged web research, but speed is increasing
rapidly. Laws controlling domestic and foreign websites and
downloading "sensitive" information may discourage internet
use to disseminate foreign ideas to domestic audiences,
although these regulations are rarely enforced.
Authorities, however, have punished activitists who have
used the internet to share critical opinions under the
charges of espionage or "damaging national solidarity."
7. Limited foreign press is available by subscription and
at outlets catering to tourists and expatriates such as
hotels and the very few, small English-language bookstores.
Articles on GVN's vaguely defined "sensitive issues" have
been censored. Cable access to international channels such
as BBC and CNN is limited to major cities. On rare
occasions movies on these channels have been censored by
the GVN. The government limits the import, publication,
and sale of foreign books to the Vietnamese, particularly
in Vietnamese translation.
8. Press and even broadcast placements concerning Mission
and USG humanitarian and economic development activities in
this constricted media environment are possible. Broader
discussion in the media of political and foreign policy
issues or other USG policies that differ from GVN views is
not yet possible. Mission's media placements, however, do
provide the public and target audiences a picture of the
USG's supportive involvement in Vietnam. As Vietnam
economically thrives and the government loosens
restrictions on its citizens, new social and economic
groups will coalesce from the general public and seek
influence over government policies and activities. Press
activities address these future groups, yet undefined
within the general public.
9. A positive media picture of ongoing U.S. support for
Vietnam's integration and increased bilateral mutual
understanding is necessary and useful. It is the backdrop
to public diplomacy programs aimed at target audiences that
now or will have influence or input within Vietnam's
political system, as well as to private discussions between
Mission members and their counterparts on U.S.-Vietnam
10. Post Public Diplomacy goals include:
Goal 1. Economic Growth and Development: Post will create
a media backdrop for economic discussions with interviews
and other placements, which repeat USG support for
Vietnam's transformation into a market-oriented economy
integrated into the international economic system, clarify
free-market principles, and support US commercial
interests. It will provide briefings on economic issues to
engage and educate journalists. It will also support
speakers and exchanges with university educators,
government and CPV officials, and private entrepreneurs on
Goal 2. Close Ties with Allies and Friends: PAS will
address the general public and target audiences with
placements highlighting US support for regional stability,
and U.S. Armed Forces engagement through humanitarian
projects, etc. DOD and State Dept. will target GVN's up-
and-coming military leaders and foreign policy thinkers
with exchanges, speakers, and representational events.
Goal 3. Proper Visa Adjudication: PAS will support
Consular Section briefings to academic and business groups
on student, exchange, commercial, and tourist visas
application procedures to help applicants assemble and
present proper information for adjudication, reducing
misunderstandings. PAS also will seek media placements
explaining new NIV visa procedures protecting U.S.
Goal 4. Universal Human Rights Standards: Generally only
the foreign press carries Mission media statements
supporting human rights. Statements to the VOA and BBC
Vietnamese Service, however, do reach Vietnamese listeners,
political activists, and members of the domestic media,
some of whom are sympathetic to human rights issues, even
though they may not cover these issues to our satisfaction.
Post will disseminate information on democracy and human
rights by mail and the internet to receptive audiences in
academia, government, and the CPV. PAS translates important
documents such as the Human Rights Report, the
International Religious Freedom Report, and other IIP
material for use by Mission officers.
Goal 5. Global Health: Post will address the general
public and target groups through the media with information
on HIV-AIDs and education programs as well as other health
programs, FAS and DAO's humanitarian programs, and USAEP's
Goal 6. Mutual Understanding. Government and CPV
officials are directly targeted in the hope that better
understanding will result in economic, political and social
policy adjustments that the USG would welcome. Academics
exchanges will add to our understanding of Vietnam's youth.
Broader youth audiences will be targeted through press
placements, through exchange and cultural programs, and
through American Corners.