Should or should not the 1979 border war be in textbooks--is what’s attracting public attention. You have met with many Chinese. How do Chinese people think about this event?
30 years ago, right after the 1979 event, I wrote the article “Idealism of a conception of territory”, trying to explain the war. In 1980, the article was published in the Philosophy Journal. Recently, when the issues between Vietnam and China are more interested, I posted this article on the Internet, because of its topicality.
I used to be a guest lecturer at a Chinese university, so I had the opportunity to meet with many Chinese scholars and people.
I would say that Chinese intellectuals are divided into two groups, who have different cognition and behavior. The first group is the ruling people who stay informed and are responsible for making decision. They have relatively comprehensive information and understand the nature of the issue. The second group is influenced by public information, including the people and officials of various levels, even many scholars.
Part of Chinese intellectuals have a more comprehensive perspective; they have information and more accurate understanding about the nature of the problem. But I think the rate of people who do not have access to accurate information is higher. Chinese people who I met, including many scholars still have negative and inaccurate attitudes about the relations with Vietnam.
In China, the gap of thinking between different social classes is huge, especially between ordinary people and people of the upper class.
What do you think about the 2012 Literature Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan and his book “Comrade-in-arms Reunion”?
I’m sure that Mo Yan did not lack information. He was not confused or mistaken about the border war because at that time he was a propaganda officer for the General Political Department of the Chinese Army. He wrote “Comrade-in-arms Reunion” based on the political direction. Besides, through his works like “Sandalwood Death,” “Big Breasts & Wide Hips” etc., we also can feel the nationalism quite clear.
What should Vietnam do to have independence and its own values?
China is always near to Vietnam, with available knowledge, an organized social system and the long-existed ideology... How can Vietnam escape from that large shadow? Historically, Vietnam has always tried to find its own way.
Vietnam’s innovations often arise when it is under pressure or collides with counterparts that have the equivalence of power.
China has a vast territory, with massive history and culture and China always treat others with the posture of a big country.
Vietnam has to develop its own model, which is invented based on Vietnam’s experience and internal elements. It cannot borrow the development model of other countries. This is true for many countries and territories, not only China and Vietnam.
Among the countries in the region that are influenced by China, Japan is the most successful in maintaining its independence and its own values. Japanese people have exerted efforts to create and maintain the core value - Shinto.
The Japanese believe that Japan was created by a God. All Japanese are descendants of a God – the Sun Goddess. This belief appeared since the founding of Japan and it has been maintained as core national spiritual value. Thanks to that original value, Japanese can retain their independence of thought.
Thanks to that core value the Japanese can keep their independent values. How can we create our own values?
We have the creativity that brought about great efficiency, but we do not review our own history. The dual administration model of the Le – Trinh dynasty is an example.
The dual ruling regime is the model that contains both the Emperor and the Lord, which is different from China.
Throughout its long history, China has never had the coexistence of two dynasties. But in Vietnam, Lord Trinh survived for eight dynasties, totaling 200 years. In some aspects, Vietnam used to have bipolar model of power, unlike China, Japan.
What do you think about the change in Myanmar? What can Vietnam learn from this country?
Just a few years ago, in some standards, Myanmar was considered as one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. The positive change in this country recently has turned it into a hot spot, a focus of attention of the international public opinion. I certainly do not see negative reviews, disbelief or blame for the tremendous progress in this country.
There are several questions: Why can Myanmar get those changes? What pressure forces them to change? Is there any mistake and deviation in their ruling authorities? What does the government benefit and lose from these reforms? Where do these reforms lead them to? How about the hostile and the supportive forces? etc.
If seriously looking for answers to those questions, we will have great lessons for Vietnam. And who is the subject of the greatest responsibility to seek answers to these questions? Of course the people who are holding the national destiny!
In my opinion, there are too many lessons for Vietnam which can be drawn from Myanmar. And it is important that I see the change in Myanmar does not harm any group of that country. It is the manifestation of the "win - win" theory.