News & Articles

Việt Nam Notes – Compiled by Chuck Searcy (Sunday, 19 July 2020)

Another medical miracle: twins joined at the pelvis are separated successfully; 100 Vietnamese medical staff on the team

The surgical team’s happiness was shared by all when the operation was concluded successfully on July 15.  Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Acting Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long telephoned to congratulate the Ho Chi Minh City doctors who separated ischiopagus tetrapus twins Truc Nhi and Dieu Nhi.

Twin baby girls cojoined at the pelvis, Truc Nhi and Dieu Nhi, 13 months old, were separated successfully this week at Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital in a near repeat of a miraculous surgery that was conducted in 1988 on twin boys at Tu Du Hospital.  For the medical team of 100 doctors and specialists, the conclusion of this week’s 12-hour successful surgery was a “miraculous moment” that opened up a new life for these two young citizens, reported Nhan Dan newspaper.  The parents of the two girls and the entire medical team shared tears of joy and happiness when the operation was concluded successfully.

One of nine key physicians who provided consulting services for the surgical team, Professor Dr. Tran Dong A, a senior specialist and professional advisor at the National Children’s Hospital 2 in Ho Chi Minh City, expressed with understated satisfaction that the surgery to separate the twins had “proceeded as expected”.  It was 32 years ago when Professor Dong A was the coordinator, commander and chief surgeon for the first operation cited above, to separate Vietnamese twin boys Nguyen Viet and Nguyen Duc, born in 1981, who were conjoined at the pelvic abdomen. That internationally renowned medical success 32 years ago still resonates with Vietnamese and the international medical community, and is still imprinted in the mind of the leading professor on the team, who recently turned 79 years old.  [MORE]

Parents and baby sisters Truc Nhi and Dieu Nhi now turn to a bright, new chapter in their lives.  Photo:  Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Dong A said that 32 years ago, the medical capacity in Vietnam and around the world was very different compared with that of today. The only similarity between these two twins is the pelvic abdomen being stuck together. However, Truc Nhi – Dieu Nhi still possess all four symmetrical legs, while Viet – Duc had only three crossed legs.

“In the case of the twin boys, Viet suffered from cerebral palsy. In the history of world medicine, no one had ever performed surgery on a child with cerebral palsy for more than ten hours,” Professor Dong A said.

Truc Nhi and Dieu Nhi were born conjoined at the pelvis, the rare ischiopagus twin-type. The twins’ medical phenomenon affects only 6% of all conjoined twins worldwide.  The twins are now 13 months old.  Photo: Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital.  
At that time, the world had only six conjoined twins like Viet – Duc. Among them, there were two pairs living, two pairs had died and two twins had only one survivor. In particular, there has been no case involving cerebral palsy like that of Viet – Duc. Vietnamese doctors at that time overcame the difficulties caused by trade embargoes in order to become the first country to conduct such a complicated separation surgery.  [MORE]
The twins’ parents burst into tears of happiness when they learned that their babies’ separation surgery had been successful.  Photo: Ho Chi Minh City Children’s Hospital.

According to Professor Tran Dong A, no surgeon is as happy as a paediatric surgeon, because saving a baby with a serious illness is like saving an entire lifetime.  The journey to help Truc Nhi – Dieu Nhi is still very long, especially the period of resuscitation ahead. However, with the spirit of determination to give birth to the twins once again, doctors at the Ho Chi Minh Children’s Hospital will continue to accompany the babies through many important stages to help them enjoy the complete happiness everyone deserves.  [MORE]

Vietnam responds to US remarks on South China Sea

In its typical balanced and temperate fashion, Vietnam says it hopes countries will settle disputes over the South China Sea “through dialogue and other peaceful means under international law,” as reported in Japanese newspaper NHK.  Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesperson issued a statement on Wednesday in response to a US announcement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that said China’s maritime claims across most of the South China Sea are “completely unlawful.”  The moderate but firm response from Viet Nam is not unexpected after 75 years of Viet Nam’s balancing act, protecting the nation’s sovereignty through a combination of military and “people’s” defenses of the country, combined with skillful diplomacy and keen understanding of underlying motives of potential friends and potential enemies.  Vietnam’s statement said it hopes countries “will try to do their best to contribute to the maintenance of peace, stability and cooperation in the South China Sea.”  No surprise.  A measured contrast to the response of Mr. Pompeo and the U.S. government which is sending warships into the area for “exercises.”  [MORE]

What’s behind rising tensions in the South China Sea?

James Pearson, based in Ha Noi with Reuters, noted that Pompeo’s statement was the first time the United States had called China’s claims in the sea unlawful.  Pompeo also accused Beijing of a “campaign of bullying” – hardening the U.S.’s position on the South China Sea.  The rivals have accused each other of stoking tension in the strategic waterway at a time of strained relations over everything from the new coronavirus to trade to Hong Kong.  China claims a large maritime area with a vague, U-shaped “nine-dash line” that includes swathes of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ, as well as the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. It also overlaps the EEZs of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.  A tribunal at The Hague, based on a suit brought by the Philippines, ruled in 2016 that China has no “historic title” over the waters, and that its line was superseded by the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. [MORE]

China is ‘greatest long-term threat’ to the US, FBI director Christopher Wray says

China is seeking to become the world’s only superpower by usurping the United States with a government-directed “campaign of theft and malign influence,” the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director said this week.  In a wide-ranging attack on Beijing’s behavior on the world stage delivered at the conservative think tank Hudson Institute, Christopher Wray said that the counter-intelligence and economic espionage threat from China represented the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality”.  The South China Morning Post reported that what Wray called China’s “generational fight” – intended to usurp the US – was playing out in fields ranging from local politics to industries including aviation, agriculture, robotics and health care.  Wray accused Beijing of working to compromise American institutions conducting “essential” Covid-19 research. [MORE]

Is China the ‘greatest threat’ to the United States? Alex Lo answers his own question

“Americans, Washington is a far greater threat to your own health and life, your wallet and your children’s future than anything we Chinese can do to you,” writes Alex Lo, columnist for the South China Morning Post, a leading Hong Kong newspaper.  Lo goes on, “Washington never gets tired of painting China as the greatest threat to the United States. The latest comes from FBI director Christopher Wray,” says Lo, referring to the article above.  “China is engaged in a whole-of-state effort to become the world’s only superpower by any means necessary,” Lo said, and then adds, “Wow, really? It’s hard to think of a more meaningless but inflammatory statement from the head of a national security agency.” [MORE]

Pat Buchanan:  Is America up for a naval war with China?

Conservative columnist and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan asks the timely question, “Is the U.S., preoccupied with a pandemic and a depression that medical crisis created, prepared for a collision with China over Beijing’s claims to the rocks, reefs and resources of the South China Sea?”  Buchanan goes on, For that is what Mike Pompeo appeared to threaten this week.  [MORE]

No More Free-Lunch Bailouts

With governments spending on a massive scale to save industries and mitigate the economic fallout from COVID-19, they should be positioning their economies for a more sustainable future, argue Antonio Andreoni and Mariana Mazzucato, both professors at research institutes in London and Johannesburg, respectively.  Mazzucato is author of The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy.  They say that far from remaining taboo, using state aid to change private-sector behavior has become common sense, and the COVID-19 crisis and recession provides a unique opportunity to rethink the role of the state, particularly its relationship with business. [MORE]

Reimagining global value chains after COVID-19

COVID-19 is exposing the vulnerability of global value chains (GVCs). GVCs contribute to rapid economic growth by enabling multinational corporations to increase their efficiency through fragmented, task-based specialization, says author Shujiro Urata, Waseda University in Tokyo.   But they are now quickly spreading the negative economic impacts of COVID-19 from China to many other countries, including Viet Nam.  [MORE]

Vietnam poised for quick recovery once the global economy reopens

Although Covid-19 threw a spanner in the works for Vietnam’s thriving economic growth story, McKinsey & Company suggests that the country could resume pre-crisis growth levels by next year.  Two factors have combined to cushion the blow of Covid-19 on Vietnam’s economy, at least in comparison to other economies across Asia and the world. For one, the country was successful in containing the virus. In fact, reports highlight that the last report of community transmission of Covid-19 in Vietnam was two months ago. Lockdown in Vietnam lasted only three weeks, and the country has been among the first to open for business. The second conducive factor is the state of Vietnam’s consumer market. Vietnam has been a bright spot in Asia from an economic growth perspective for a number of years now. A growing middle class with money to spend has led to a boom in the country’s consumer market, to the extent that domestic spending accounts for nearly 70% of Vietnam’s GDP. [MORE AND DATA CHARTS]

How McKinsey Is Making $100 Million (and Counting) Advising on the Government’s Bumbling Coronavirus Response

For the world’s best-known corporate-management consultants, helping tackle the pandemic has been a bonanza. It’s not clear what the government has gotten in return for more than $100 million paid to McKinsey.  Ian MacDougall reports in ProPublica, a “nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.”  [MORE]

The U.S. is turning away the world’s best minds – and this time, they may not come back 

A risky bet: For decades, US policymakers have bet that the world’s best and brightest will endure a dysfunctional immigration process for a chance at the opportunities the country offers. And for decades, they have been right. But as the Trump administration creates a slew of new barriers to skilled immigrants in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, it assumes that America will continue to be uniquely attractive to foreign talent. But the odds on this bet are changing. The latest move: Last week, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) decreed that foreign students must leave the country if their schools operate entirely online next semester. Researchers Tina Huang and Zachary Arnold, with Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, note that it’s part of a wider effort to make it slower, costlier, and much less certain for immigrants to come to the US.  America’s universities, research labs, and tech companies have watched these developments in disbelief. Research has shown that immigrants are critical to science and technology in the US, fueling techological innovation, job creation, and growth that benefit US citizens and noncitizens alike.  But it could backfire. [MORE]

Vietnam begins coal imports from U.S.

Well, this should make the fossil fuel advocates in the White House happy, the announcement that a ship carrying the first shipment of coal from the U.S. has arrived in the northern province of Quang Ninh, home of Ha Long Bay which is a magnificent setting or more than 1,000 limestone karsts jutting up from pristine jade waters, a favorite tourist destination in Viet Nam.  That is another topic for discussion, however, the conflict between environmentalists and capitalist developers who want to squeeze another Viet Nam Dong out of burning fossil fuels, while Viet Nam has made encouraging progress in adopting major wind and solar projects for alternative energy sources.  The conflict will continue.  Meanwhile, VNExpress reports that it is likely that coal shipments will continue as well, since Viet Nam has ceased being a net coal exporter and is now importing coal to power increasing demand for electricity.  [MORE]

The MV NORD YILAN ship carrying the first shipment of coal from the U.S. arrives in the northern province of Quang Ninh, July 2020. Photo courtesyof Vinacomin.  

Wildlife snares empty forests in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam

Snaring an animal is easy, reports Ashley Lampard in this Southeast Asia Globe article about the continuing illicit wild animal trapping and trading practice in areas including Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos.  “You hook up a cheap loop of wire, nylon rope, or twisted cable to a tree and leave it sitting on the jungle floor,” Lampard writes.  “It snags the animal as it steps through the loop and traps it there, tied to a tree, waiting for the hunter to come back. They’re so efficient, in fact, that there are now around 12.3 million of them littering forests in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Vietnam.  [MORE]

Masked palm civet (Paguma larfata) found trapped by snare set in the Thua Thien Hue Saola Nature Reserve in Viet Nam by Forest Guard of WWF-Viet Nam.  It was later released back to the wild.  Photo:  Le Thanh Tuan / WWF-Viet Nam.  

A northern treeshrew.  Photo: Duong Van Danh / WWF-Viet Nam.

Vietnam working with foreign authorities to restore air links

Planes of some airlines at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi (Photo: VNA)

Under the direction of the Prime Minister, ministries and agencies are actively working with foreign counterparts on the restoration of air transport links between Vietnam and a number of countries and territories, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang has said.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she said, has informed a number of foreign agencies in Vietnam about plans to resume flights to Seoul (Republic of Korea), Tokyo (Japan), Taiwan (China), Guangzhou (China), Vientiane (Laos), and Phnom Penh (Cambodia) from mid-July, on the basis of ensuring compliance with prevention measures to ensure the coronavirus does not spread in the community.  Vietnam will prioritize people currently allowed to enter the country, including Vietnamese citizens, foreign experts, investors, business managers, and skilled workers, those entering for diplomatic and official purposes, and a number of other special cases, she said.  I think it is safe to assume that, once again, American travelers will be at the bottom of the priority list given the pandemic situation in the U.S.  Nhân Dân newspaper has more details.  [MORE]