By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
According to the communist and state-controlled media of Vietnam, Vietnam won a contract this week to export 300,000 tons of rice to the Philippines.
Great news, right?
“Just try to buy a bag of rice in the Central Highlands,” a recently arrived immigrant from Vietnam to the U.S. said to me. “You cannot afford it because it is not there. One grain of rice must be shared five ways.”
Vietnam sold one million tons of rice abroad in January.
Vietnamese rice has been exported to more than 70 countries and territories around the world including demanding markets such as the EU, the US and Japan. In 2007, Vietnam was second among the world’s rice exporters, trailing only Thailand, with an export volume of 4.3 million tons and grossing more than US$1.4 billion in export turnover, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
And in Vietnam, due to industrialization, the amount of land devoted to rice production goes down each year. According to the communist controlled state media, Vietnam has recently lost 300,000 irrigated hectares of rice fields.
Consequently, in much of Vietnam rice is scarce — driving up the price and contributing to double-digit inflation in December alone.
In China, just a few weeks ago, all the news was terrific. Beijing was preparing for a gigantic self-love-in called the Summer Olympics, said the communist state-controlled media.
Then a man was killed in a construction accident at the Olympic site. China has historically ignored worker safety.
Then a few other things went wrong.
A huge snowstorm brought China to its knees. Produce prices doubled and inflation set in. Cities have been without electricity, coal for heat and other necessities for more than ten days.
A crowd bigger than the entire population of Boston was stranded at a railroad station without adequate water, food or sanitary facilities. When the crowd surged forward they stampeded a rail worker to death.
A passenger walks past Chinese soldiers controlling access to the railway station in China’s southern city of Guangzhou. China’s chief meteorologist has admitted the country was not prepared for the severe winter weather that has stranded millions of people struggling to get home for Lunar New Year.(AFP/Liu Jin)
And we discovered something: China is a winter wonderland without modern snowplows. Over one million soldiers we called out to shovel. Military vehicles like armored tanks were used instead of plows. Snipers tried to remove ice from electric power systems.
And something like 20 million migrant workers – the people that are the engine of the booming industrial economy – were unable to return home for the New Year. They were left in the snow and cold during their only opportunity to return home during the year.
The Prime Minister and President Hu Jintao did something for their people. They said they were sorry.
The lesson is easy and stark.
When the media controls what the world largely hears about your nation; the “truth” is often a long way from the headlines.
“Spin” isn’t something invented or perfected by American Hollywood or sports teams. China and Vietnam know something about “spin,” where it is managed by the central government.
Nguyen Kim Hung cooks a rat at his home in Dinh Bang Village, Bac Ninh Province, vietnam, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008. In Dinh Bang village, just outside Hanoi, rat meat has been eaten for centuries. Rat can be prepared into many dished, most commonly to boiled and fried rat to Dinh Bang villagers.
(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)
Rat hunter Nguyen Tien Phat, top, and his brother Nguyen Kim Hung, left, drink rice wine in front of rat cuisine, boiled rat and fried rat, which is Phat caught and Hung cooked, at Hung’s home in Dinh Bang village, Bac Ninh Province, Vietnam, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008. In Dinh Bang village, just outside Hanoi, rat meat has been eaten for centuries. Rat can be prepared into many dished, most commonly to boiled and fried rat to Dinh Bang villagers.(AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)
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