Vietnamese today are questioning ends and means, particularly as they relate to human security. Thirty years after the country’s communist leadership decisively embraced market integration policies, poverty is declining, incomes are rising, and lives and livelihoods are being transformed. However, as regional tensions create new uncertainties, citizens are preoccupied with trust, accountability and control as they grapple with widening social disparities, opaque governance, environmental insecurity and increasing life complexities. As debates rage about how best to safeguard the nation’s wellbeing, Vietnamese show that they thirst for transparency, fairness and reliable ways to assert control over life. Increasingly, questions are being asked as to whether life might be lived in a better way.
The 2017 Vietnam Update is dedicated to examining the politics of life. During a two-day public workshop in Canberra on 20-21 November 2017, sixteen academic specialists will analyse significant developments in Vietnam’s society, politics and international relations. Presenters will document the challenges to life posed by regional power disparities, social inequalities, environmental destruction and state incapacity. They trace new varieties of political activism and examine the strategies citizens utilise to mitigate risk and suture gaps through mutual assistance and security from below. As Vietnamese people confront new threats, the papers show that they also endeavour to wrest control over life through deliberative modes of living and being.