Libmonster ID: VN-1201
Author(s) of the publication: P. TSVETOV


It's no secret that many domestic Vietnamese tourists would like to visit China. The interweaving of cultures and historical destinies of the peoples of these two countries is so great that this desire does not weaken over the years, but on the contrary increases with the study of history and culture. Much is said about the similarity of the two peoples, and French scientists of the colonial period even believed that the power structures, legal and moral norms, writing and other elements of civilization appeared among the Vietnamese solely due to their neighbors from the north-the Han. Today, when both countries - China and Vietnam-are making the transition from a command-and-control system to a market economy, many authors argue that Vietnam repeats the Chinese experience on this path.

Vietnam-China relations have never been easy: Vietnam historians estimate that the Vietnamese have repelled aggression from the north at least 10 times in the last 22 centuries. And how many intrigues, hidden grudges and behind-the-scenes maneuvers remained little known to the general public?! And even today, the issues of border demarcation between the two states cannot be called completely resolved.

My senior colleagues, who took up the path of Vietnamese studies in the mid-1950s, could easily see China. At that time, most Soviet people came to Vietnam by rail, crossing the entire territory of China from north to south. I was unlucky in this regard - my student years were spent during the American aggression against Vietnam, and my first career began during the confrontation between Vietnam and China, which, as you know, led to the border war of 1979. In those years, as today, most of our compatriots traveled to Vietnam by plane, bypassing China.

My first attempt to cross the Vietnam-China border ended in virtually nothing - at that time it was far from good neighborliness, although the checkpoint called " Friendship Gate "was already functioning, and border trade was gaining momentum (as I told the readers of the magazine" Asia and Africa Today", 1992, N 12).

A good decade has passed. In November 1991, officials from Vietnam and China announced the normalization of relations, and in December 2000, they signed a Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Cooperation between the two countries in the new Century. In 2005, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Vietnam, the two sides agreed that their relations would now be characterized by "four good ones": good neighbors, good partners, good friends, and good comrades.

At present, Vietnam-China relations are at a very high level, and the parties cooperate in the field of party building and international relations. China occupies one of the first places in Vietnam's foreign trade (in 2008, the trade turnover between the two countries is expected to reach $ 15 billion, while in 1991 it barely exceeded $ 32 million). Several years ago, the parties signed an Agreement on the land border, an Agreement on the delimitation of the water area, special Economic zones and the Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Tonkin. These agreements do not remain on paper, they are consistently implemented. The installation of border signs on the land border is expected to be completed in 2008. The Vietnam-China border has truly become the border of peace, good neighborliness and mutually beneficial trade. It is mostly crossed today by tourists and businessmen.

I was convinced of this by making a short trip from Hanoi to the Chinese city of Nanning, the capital of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (GCHAR). I bought a family-friendly tour from a Hanoi company and took the bus north to Lang Son, where the main crossing point of the Vietnam-China border is located today.


This route has a rich past: it was followed from north to south by Chinese troops when they wanted to conquer the Vietas, but it always ended in the same thing - the aggressors were driven home. Only once did the movement go in reverse order - in 1075, the Vietnamese commander Li Thuong Kiet introduced his troops into the territory of China in order to prevent the impending aggression with a preemptive strike. For almost six months, Vietnamese troops were stationed in Guangxi, where they were greeted with joy by the population, a significant part of which was then Vietnamese.

In addition to the military, the road from Hanoi to Langshon also remembers diplomats - it was also used by Vietnamese ambassadors to the Chinese emperor, and key-

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Thai officials were on their way to visit the rulers of Vietnam. And therefore, there are many places that are legendary or stories from the real life of historical characters. Today, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the province of Langchon are connected by such a good highway that we reached the border in less than two hours, and we did not have to look at historical monuments.

At the border, there is a cluster of cars, mostly trucks loaded with goods that the Vietnamese import from China. On my previous visit to the border, goods were carried by barefoot porters with bales and rockers. There are a lot of cars loaded with apples - they practically don't grow in Vietnam, and residents of Vietnamese cities love them.

We had to walk several hundred meters (the same route is done by Vietnamese tourists traveling to China), first to get a mark in their passports from the Vietnamese border guards, among whom several people quite tolerably spoke Russian (it turned out that they studied in Moscow), and then from the Chinese.

Here, at the Chinese checkpoint, there was a hitch. Local guards, it turned out, did not know what kind of country it was - the Russian Federation. For some reason, our coat of arms was particularly perplexing. No one in my family speaks Chinese, and the border guard officer had great difficulty understanding English. I had to strain my memory and remember what I had heard in the corridors of the ISAA* from Chinese students. "Sulyan, Sulyan, Sulyan," I said several times, changing my intonation to guess the Chinese tones and make the border guards understand that we were from the former Soviet Union. This trick worked. The officer became kinder and went to call Beijing: he understood where we were from, but he did not know whether we could be allowed to enter the PRC. Apparently, we were the first Russian citizens in his memory to enter his country from Vietnam. Less than an hour later, the border service gave us the go-ahead. We have entered the Middle Kingdom.

An employee of a local travel company was already waiting for us there. She didn't have a guide with both Russian and English (as we noticed, there are very few people who speak foreign languages in this Chinese province, and the inscriptions are almost all in Chinese). Fortunately, a way out was found - given that I speak Vietnamese, we were assigned a local Vietnamese guide. His name was Wu Ti Hung, but we addressed him simply by the name of Hung, as is customary among the Vietnamese.

A young, by local standards, guy (he is 26 years old) - a representative of one of the small national groups living in this multinational region. Today, the 49-million-strong Guangxi Zhuang Region, in addition to the Han, which make up 62% of the population, has almost 15 million inhabitants. the Zhuans (a people of the Sino-Tibetan language group) and 20 thousand Vietnamese people. And once, 2 thousand years ago and more, the Viet and Chuang were the main inhabitants here. This area, like the Red River Delta, was part of the area of the birth of the Vietnamese nation and the Vietnamese state. Having come to these lands, the Han largely pushed the Vietnamese to the south, and assimilated some of them. Until recently, the Vietnamese and other non-Han peoples were ignored by the Beijing authorities. As a result, many ethnic Vietnamese in Guangxi have forgotten their native language. This is what happened to Hyng's family: his parents, being Vietnamese by blood, did not know Vietnamese, and he himself learned the language of his ancestors at a local institute for national minorities, and then improved his knowledge during a two-year internship in Vietnam. "China's current leadership,"he explained to us," is committed to preserving and developing the country's cultural and national diversity."

The fact that this is so, we were able to make sure by visiting the local museum of local lore. At the entrance, there were giant replicas of the bronze drums of the Dong Son culture. Bronze objects found in Dong Son County, Vietnam, with distinctive ornaments depicting iconic animals, warriors and farmers, are common in a fairly large area of Southeast Asia, up to the Indonesian islands, but their creators were definitely the ancestors of modern Vietnamese. In Vietnam itself, bronze drums are a highly respected artifact, one might say, a subject of special national pride. One of the drums was even donated to the UN headquarters in New York. The sacred bird "lak" (heron), depicted on Dong Son drums, is often reproduced today on Vietnamese souvenirs. In Nanning, the emphasis on Vietnamese roots is not made, ornaments

* Institute of Asian and African Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University.

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the bronze drums that adorn parks and many buildings in the city are served as a local flavor.

The museum, in fact, turned out to be an ethnographic park with samples of residential and outbuildings of local residents, primarily Zhuans.


No less than the history and ethnography, I was interested in the present day of this region and its capital. If China, with its huge population and enormous economic potential, is compared to a continent, then the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is quite comparable to a large state. In terms of population, the GCHAR can be compared with the Republic of South Africa, and in terms of territory it is slightly smaller than the United Kingdom. The district's GDP exceeded 33 billion rubles in 2004. It is growing by 10 percent or more per year, and is currently growing at a rate of more than RMB (US $ 4 billion). The region is rich in various types of natural resources. It contains the largest reserves of manganese in China. In addition to rice, export crops such as coffee, pepper, and rubber are grown in rural areas. Guangxi is the most important sugar producer in China. Industry in the GCHAR is represented by metallurgy, mechanical engineering, chemistry, and processing of agricultural products. The district has 49 universities, 408 technical schools and vocational schools, 96 public libraries, 100 palaces of culture, 41 museums. These are figures that many countries may envy.

Nanning is a large modern city with a population exceeding 1.3 million people. It is more than 17 centuries old. It is clear that the city, like the whole province, like the whole of China, is in the process of modernization. The center, where administrative buildings are located, has already been built to resemble such cities as Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. High multi-storey buildings with large darkened windows are a tribute to globalization. New streets and avenues have a wide roadway and sidewalks. Residential areas are being intensively rebuilt - multi-storey and multi-apartment buildings appear clearly according to the general plan on the site of chaotic one-and two - story houses that once appeared. The old ones are mercilessly demolished by whole blocks, while residents receive compensation, which, according to Hung, allows them to buy an apartment in a new building in installments.

In Hanoi, which is comparable in size to Nanning, the construction of new housing is less subordinated to the planned beginning. Over the years of renovation in the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, many new private pencil houses with a narrow facade have appeared, looking up at the sea. 2 - 3 - 4 floors. With such a development, it is difficult to imagine how transport, sanitary and other problems associated with the steady growth of the population will be solved in the city. However, the Hanoi authorities are in no hurry to change anything, carefully protecting the interests of private homeowners.

One of the days of our stay in China fell on a weekend, and we realized what a country with a population of more than a billion is like. If the streets of Nanning are free on working days (hence the conclusion about the high labor discipline of the Chinese), then on weekends the entire million-plus Nanning residents leave their homes, filling the streets, squares, department stores, markets. At one point, to cross the street, we got in line and so, without hurrying, crossed to the other side, feeling the shoulders of Chinese brothers and sisters who were walking side by side in the same direction. And another human river flowed towards them, just as silent and disciplined.

Nanning's parks are devoid of intricate entertainment and cool rides: a shooting gallery, boats, a fun room, carousels - that's all. People come here to interact with wildlife, which is clearly not enough in the workplace and in residential areas. Newfangled entertainment, apparently, are fast food outlets of world-famous chains. In the city, these are McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are a lot of visitors in them, adults and children, but it is clear that the purpose of going to these restaurants is not to satisfy hunger, but to introduce something outlandish (at one time Muscovites treated this institution the same way). If you want to eat delicious and inexpensive food, then you need to go to completely different places. Nanning has a whole street with small but cozy restaurants where you can enjoy roast duck, seafood, and special dishes of South Chinese cuisine, which is reminiscent of Vietnamese (again, the intersection of cultures).

Over the past 4-5 years, it has become a tradition to hold trade and economic fairs and business forums in Nanning, where guests from Southeast Asian countries participate along with Chinese politicians and entrepreneurs. Apparently, Beijing is trying to turn the GCHAR into a kind of balcony overlooking Southeast Asia. Relations with this region have always been important for the Chinese, and it is no coincidence that there is a Chinese diaspora in all Southeast Asian countries. The Autonomous Region actively trades with Vietnam - the bilateral trade turnover recently reached almost $ 1 billion.

The South China province is also establishing ties with Russia. In 2007, the Voronezh Region was visited by a delegation of GCHAR headed by Chairman of the People's Government of the district Lu Bin, and a delegation of the Liuzhou Chamber of Commerce and Industry visited Volgograd.

...We were returning from Nanning to Hanoi by the same route: by train to the border, then on foot through two checkpoints, and on the Vietnamese side our family was waiting for a bus. Hanoi was no more than two hours away...


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