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Cablegate: (Sbu) Deputy Secretary Negroponte's Dinner with Vietnamese

VZCZCXRO2711
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1056/01 2590847
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 150847Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8452
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH IMMEDIATE 5108
RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001056

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OVIP NEGROPONTE JOHN PREL PGOV PHUM OPRC ECON ETRD
EAGR, SCUL, SENV, VM

SUBJECT: (SBU) Deputy Secretary Negroponte's Dinner with Vietnamese
Civil Society leaders.

HANOI 00001056 001.2 OF 002


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. FOR INTERNAL USG USE. NOT SUITABLE FOR
INTERNET POSTING.

1. (U) September 11, 2008; 19:00 p.m.; Hanoi, Vietnam.

2. (SBU) Participants:

U.S.
The Deputy Secretary
Amb. Michael Michalak
Amb. Scot Marciel, EAP DAS
DCM Virginia Palmer
D Special Assistant Kaye Lee
D Special Assistant Ted Wittenstein
Press Officer Angela Aggeler (Embassy Notetaker)

VIETNAM:
Benjamin Wilkinson, Fulbright Economic Teaching Program
Mr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, VietnamNet founder
Dr. Hoang Ngoc Giao, Vietnam National University School
of Law
Mr. Huy Duc, Blogger and Editor Saigon Marketing
Dr. Do Duc Dinh, President, Economic & Social Research
Foundation
Dr. Le Danh Doanh, Senior Economist

3. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Deputy Secretary led a lively and unusually
frank discussion with civil society leaders from around Vietnam
during dinner at Ambassador Michalak's residence on September 11.
The group, including a renowned economist, a legal reformer, two
respected journalists and academic experts, covered the waterfront
on Vietnam's rapidly evolving socio-economic environment and the
challenges it faces. The group discussed tensions with China,
environmental concerns, media freedom focusing on the internet, and
the economy as areas that need particular and immediate attention.
The Deputy Secretary's experiences as a young officer in Saigon in
the 1960s, his work on the Paris Peace Talks and continuing
engagement on Vietnam issues framed the evening, and the openness of
the guests highlighted the gap between those committed to bringing
about crucial reforms in Vietnam in areas like climate change,
investment and education and the hardliners in the Communist Party
clinging to the status quo. END SUMMARY.

-------------------
CHINA TOPS THE MENU
-------------------

4.(SBU) The first issue the Deputy Secretary's Vietnamese
interlocutors wanted to raise was China. They called the
appearance on a number of Chinese blogs of a 31-day plan to invade
Vietnam, "psychological warfare," but, the journalists noted, most
Vietnamese believe these Chinese sites were acting with the approval
of the government in Beijing. The ongoing neuralgia over the
Spratly and Paracel Islands is another source of enmity towards
China and one guest noted that while relations with China are
officially good, that "informally, and under the surface, they are
bad." Another asked what President Bush had meant in his joint
statement with Prime Minister Khiem on Vietnam's "territorial
integrity" and if that was a direct reference to the dispute in the
South China Sea. DAS Marciel pointed out that the East Sea dispute
(as it is termed by the Vietnamese) is an ideal subject for ASEAN,
though with several members also claiming portions of the area, it
was an unquestionably complicated one.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMY, AND EDUCATION - ISSUES OF URGENCY
--------------------------------------------- ----------

5. (SBU) Vietnam has ignored the environment, observed one guest,
and will suffer in all sectors unless it takes immediate action.
From major urban areas simply burying solid waste in the
countryside, to industrial run-off and resulting dead rivers,
neither the government nor the private sector has paid attention to
the consequences of rapid growth and development on the environment.
The costs of implementing protective measures that would allow
foreign, particularly U.S. companies, to meet their environmental
standards, may slow investment. But such as pollutants coming
downstream from Burma and Laos, the damning of upstream water
sources, or the rising sea levels in the Mekong Delta also pose a
threat. The Ambassador noted that the Mekong Delta is very similar
to the Mississippi Delta and that a group from the U.S. will be
coming in the next few months to work with experts at the University
of Can Tho to assist the Government of Vietnam in addressing the
threat of rising sea levels.

6. (SBU). The Deputy Secretary asked the group if Vietnam could

HANOI 00001056 002.2 OF 002


survive a free trade agreement and all heartily agreed that, while
such an agreement would be difficult to achieve, it would have an
extremely positive long-term effect. Currently, one expert
observed, a small and under-funded private sector creates most of
the jobs while the State-owned sector absorbs over 50% of funding
while producing few jobs or exports. The agricultural sector is an
area in which expanded commercialization has reaped great rewards,
noted another. Vietnam is now the largest exporter of pepper and
cashews in the world, and second largest exporter of coffee.

7. (SBU) Some problems that Vietnam faces, including several
economic ones, can be solved with the stroke of the pen, said one
academic. Education is not one of those. The GVN is clearly
committed to growing its economy, but is it equally committed to
taking the steps necessary to fixing its dysfunctional education
system, creating the conditions necessary to keep students returning
from overseas study in academia and ensuring graduates have skills
needed in the economy? The group welcomed the Ambassador's
initiatives on education, including creation of the bilateral task
force. The Deputy Secretary emphasized that U.S. participants came
not only from the government, but from academia and business, and
that such a combination was necessary to creating a workable road
map for enhanced education cooperation, increased academic
exchanges, and possible creation of an international standard
American model university in Vietnam. It all boils down to
governance, observed one academic, and whether American partners
would be allowed a merit-based system with autonomy and
accountability. The Ambassador reiterated that all these issues
would be addressed by the task force when it met in two weeks.

---------------------------------------
CHALLENGES OF RESTRICTING THE INTERNET
---------------------------------------

8. (SBU) The Ambassador asked the journalists about a draft order
being reviewed at the Ministry of Information and Technology that
will seek to place restrictions on the internet and which
particularly targets blogs. One journalist said that any new
directives would not change the current situation in any way,
because the GVN can only be reactive in its efforts against internet
content of it disapproves of. "The only way the Communist Party can
control the internet," this former Party official observed, "is to
eliminate it from Vietnam. The Party lost its monopoly on
information with the introduction of the internet and it is far too
late to turn back now." Too many Vietnamese rely on it every day,
observed another, including the Government.

Michalak


CLASSIFICATION 4

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