Vietnamese agog about US election

By Long Nguyen   November 3, 2020 | 07:40 pm PT
Vietnamese are keenly following the U.S. presidential election, and seemingly favor the current incumbent in the White House.

On the evening of November 3 Trinh Hoang Ha, a banker who lives in Hanoi’s Long Bien District, came home late since he had been busy making a bet on the U.S. presidential election and discussing it with colleagues.

"We have talked about this election every day and wait to see the fate of America after November 3," he said with excitement. "The U.S. is important for our country, especially in economic and geopolitical terms."

Like Ha, many Vietnamese are eager to see who will helm the country for the next four years. They are keen to discern clues to the U.S. foreign policy over the next four years, especially in regard to its stance on the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.

The election has been a hot topic among young urbanites. News about the election, candidates’ policies and others are finding their way into the daily conversations of many people.

American voters queue up for early voting at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on October 30. Photo by Reuters.

American voters queue up for early voting at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on October 30, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

Newspapers have been carrying a lot of stories about pre-election polls, projections and other stories about the polls in the last few days. On VnExpress, more than 63,000 readers took part in a poll asking who will win the race to the White House.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Thanh Nhan, 28, said he and his colleagues have been reading news about the election every day since mid-October and discussing it during lunchtime.

"I enjoy talking about the differences between Trump and Biden, and many of our discussions ended up in arguments," he said.

He personally feels another Trump presidency can have adverse impacts, since his America first policy will increase protectionism and make it difficult for international goods, including those from Vietnam, to enter one of the largest markets in the world.

But many of his friends say Trump’s policies on protecting domestic products will help Vietnamese products adapt to international standards and make them more exportable, the banker said.

No matter how much Ha argued with his colleagues, he thinks that either Trump or Biden will benefit Vietnam-U.S. relations in different ways.

On various groups on Facebook, netizens express their opinions about the election. "This year's presidential race is fun because it is a fight between two old men," a member commented under the post.

Many Vietnamese said the viral information about this year's election and its candidates on social media has caught their attention, which is much more than the 2016 election.

"We all thought Hillary would win and did not pay much attention, so this time, we keep our watchful eyes on the race," said Nhan.

Another reason the presidential race is a hot topic in Vietnam is that many people have family or friends living in the U.S.

"If Trump wins and it becomes more difficult to live in the U.S. with visa (restrictions) and an unsafe atmosphere, I might to return to Vietnam," said Hoang Thanh Tung, working in Virginia. "To stay or not to stay in America... this is a lifetime decision, so I am keenly interested in this election's results."

Some 25,000 Vietnamese students spent nearly $1 billion last year to study in U.S. colleges and universities, over 2.1 million ethnic Vietnamese live in the U.S., mainly in California.

Vietnamese wave flags during Trump’s visit to Hanoi in February 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.

Vietnamese wave flags during Trump’s visit to Hanoi in February 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.

Trump vs. Biden

Trump has been a more familiar face than Biden to Vietnamese in the last four years.

Carlyle A. Thayer, professor emeritus at UNSW Canberra, said Trump's popularity in Vietnam rises from his two visits to the country as president, including the high-profile second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

"Trump has a higher media profile in Vietnam than Joe Biden," Thayer said. Others find his early morning tweets "entertaining."

A Vietnamese page, Hoi Nhung Nguoi Yeu Thich Donald J. Trump (Group of People Who Love Donald J. Trump), with more than 140,000 members often posts videos and photos of the president during his campaign and his tweets. Another such group has told its members to stay up on the night of November 3 to watch the election and voters' projections.

Some people think Trump will benefit Vietnam economically, especially with his trade war against China, by causing multinationals to shift their factories to Vietnam to diversify their supply chains.

Ha said: "We will have more phones and other products made in Vietnam, thanks to President Trump. I see no reason to hate him."

Economist Can Van Luc said it seems that a victory for Trump would benefit Vietnam economically since his administration has been focusing on promoting diplomatic ties with India and the Asia-Pacific region.

In a VnExpress poll, 78 percent of 63,500 respondents think Trump will win.

Biden also has his fans in Vietnam because of some of the things Trump has done or failed to do.

"More than 200,000 people have died of Covid-19 in the U.S. because of Trump’s failure, and Biden is the only choice they have," Le Thi Quynh Vi of Saigon’s District 2, whose sister lives in Texas, said.

Many Vietnamese living in the U.S. prefer Biden because of Trump’s immigration policies, which have ranged from bans on worker visas to restrictions on new green cards.

In July the administration announced it would strip international college students of their visas if their classes were entirely online amid the pandemic. So many Vietnamese students in the U.S. are watching the election closely and hope Trump will be defeated so that they will be free of worries related to their immigration status.

"He is unpredictable. I cannot be at ease as long as he is in the White House," Tran Thi Ha My, student at Georgia State University, said.

Many young Vietnamese with dreams of living in the U.S. hope Biden will win the race because the Democratic Party is more liberal in terms of immigration and employment policies, which could help them to achieve their dream in the future.

Last week a presidential adviser said a second Trump administration would focus on "limiting asylum grants, punishing and outlawing ‘sanctuary cities,’ expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants and slapping new limits on work visas."

On the other hand, Biden said he wants to expand opportunities for legal immigration, including family and work-based visas as well as access to humanitarian visa programs.

My refused to predict the election outcome, saying she is mentally prepared for "any scenario" on November 3 and will keep nursing her American dream.

Agreeing about the unpredictability, Ha said: "All in all, even when Americans do not agree with one another on the candidate they choose, I hope they will not be hateful or overreact after this election. We all want peace and love."

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