Vietnamese are upbeat about future, poll finds

By Ben Stocking
Associated Press / April 29, 2010

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HANOI — Thirty-five years after the end of the Vietnam War, the people of this country are optimistic about the future, bullish about the free market, and rarely think about a conflict that still ignites political passions in America.

A new Associated Press-GfK Poll, one of the most exhaustive surveys to date of contemporary Vietnamese attitudes, underscores how rapidly life has changed in Vietnam. Under a single-party Communist government, the country has embraced market-oriented reforms and lifted tens of millions out of poverty.

Eighty-five percent said the economy is stronger than it was five years ago, and 87 percent said they expect it to be even stronger in another five years. Eighty-one percent said the country is moving in the right direction.

“The country has changed so much in so many ways since the end of the war that you can’t imagine,’’ said Luong Trung Thanh, 72, a retired teacher from Hanoi. “It changes every day, right in front of your eyes. There are tall buildings going up everywhere.’’

The war ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City, to communist troops from the north.

Initially, hunger was widespread as the government launched a centrally planned economy and the West imposed an economic blockade. But two decades ago, the communist leadership began opening up the economy, sparking a boom.

Economic growth has averaged more than 7 percent annually over the last decade, and the share of the population living in poverty has fallen from 58 percent in 1993 to 11 percent last year.