Monday, March 28, 2011

(Not) Understanding Vietnam

If you want to understand why Vietnam is mired in economic instability, I'd urge you not to read this story on the state-owned Voice of Vietnam news website.

The story - an interview with a national assembly member headlined: "Why are gold and USD strictly controlled?" - meanders around the subject, adding new layers of confusion with each paragraph.

Perhaps it's just a bad translation - I know official Vietnamese can be very tough to render into crisp English.

After circling round and round, the report climaxes with a richly and - I suspect - accidentally ironic ending, which merits full quotation:

Dr Kien: The bottom line is that people have lost their trust in the value of the domestic currency due to one-sided information in the media.

Reporter: Thank you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Western pop music in Vietnam: from “social evil” to status symbol

My latest post for the Financial Times' Beyond Brics blog:

Throaty song-writing legend Bob Dylan and 90s teen favourites the Backstreet Boys might not have much in common as far as most music fans are concerned.

But both are playing big gigs in Vietnam over the next few weeks as music promoters test out the appetite for expensive, international standard entertainment.

Communist Vietnam has opened up rapidly over the last twenty years and Western pop music has been off the list of “social evils” for some time. But the live music market remains relatively undeveloped and only a handful of international artists have played in Vietnam thus far.

In a country where many would count themselves lucky to earn $100 a month, you might wonder who will be willing to pay $50-$120 for a ticket to the Dylan and Backstreet Boys gigs. But that’s well within the reach of status-conscious urbanites, who have been splashing out on iPhones, fancy cars and sleek scooters for a number of years.

Read the rest of this blog post over at the FT's Beyond Brics, which is free to all comers.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Financial Times is recruiting a News Assistant in Hanoi

Vacancy – News assistant for the Financial Times, Hanoi

The Financial Times, one of the world’s leading business news organisations, recently opened a bureau in Hanoi in order to expand its coverage of Vietnam.
We are looking to recruit a Vietnamese national to work as a news assistant alongside our resident foreign correspondent.
The successful candidate will be a dynamic and enthusiastic self-starter, with experience in journalism and strong news judgement.
You will help the correspondent to cover a wide range of stories involving economics, investment, politics, climate change, health and social issues. As we are a new and small bureau, you must be flexible and able to work independently and as part of a team.
When covering breaking news, you will have to work under pressure to tight deadlines.
This is an exciting opportunity for an ambitious individual to gain experience working at a leading international news organisation and to help shape our coverage of Vietnam.

Job description

Setting up and carrying out interviews with government officials, business leaders and others
Scanning the Vietnamese press for important stories and monitoring other news sources
Generating and developing story ideas
Carrying out in-depth research
Translating and interpreting
Some travel within Vietnam will be required

Essential Qualifications/Experience/Qualities

Bachelors degree or higher
Experience in journalism
Fluent in Vietnamese and English
A good understanding of economics, business and politics
Confident and good at making new contacts
Able to find information quickly


Good existing contacts among government officials and in the business community

Competitive salary

To apply, please send your CV and a covering letter explaining why you're the right person for this position to Ben Bland at