I’m delighted to introduce this collection of stories and lives, a collection which covers the 25 years of the British Council’s engagement in Vietnam.
Much has changed in the last 25 years. In 1993, when the British Council was established in Vietnam, the World Wide Web was just being born at CERN, and there were only 34 million mobile phone subscribers worldwide, over half of whom were in America. The European Union was officially founded with the Maastricht Treaty coming into force, and Vietnam was yet to join ASEAN. There was a sense of order across the world, as the recent end to the Cold War led to greater stability in many regions. There was no Google, no Facebook, and the world’s population stood at about 4.3 billion.
In 2018, we face a very different world, where over 5 billion global citizens are connected through the internet, and 7.1 billion have mobile phones. The global order is being challenged from many sides, and while the EU faces the prospect of the UK’s exit in 2019, a stronger and more confident ASEAN of 10 countries increases cooperation. The world’s population has almost doubled in the last 25 years, as it now approaches 8 billion, and people around the world have become more conscious of environmental and social challenges that affect us all.
In Vietnam, perhaps more than in any other country, we can see incredible change since 1993. The Đổi Mới reforms launched in themid-1980s have driven development in Vietnam at an incredible pace, with GDP per capita increasing by almost 500 per cent since 1993, and average GDP growth of over 6.8 per cent per year – one of the fastest and longest sustained periods of successful growth in world history. There is now almost universal literacy, and the number of higher education institutions has quadrupled from around 100 in 1993 to over 400 in 2018. Vietnam is now one of the most dynamic, vibrant, and creative countries in the world, and the British Council is proud to have supported and worked alongside Vietnam through this period.
The period has also seen ever stronger ties between our countries, ties that have grown and deepened dramatically in the last few years with the first ever visit of a sitting UK Prime Minister and reciprocal visit to the UK by the Vietnamese Prime Minister. Trade between the two countries is growing faster than between the UK and any other country in Asia, and the cultural and educational links through our arts organisations and our education institutions grow stronger and more plentiful every year.
This publication brings together stories of the impact of cultural relations between our two countries since 1993. It tells the stories of those who have worked to bring our countries closer, and those who have benefited from the impact of that work. It highlights the power of cultural relations – of cooperation and collaboration in the arts, education, and languages, and of partnerships between our people and our institutions – to build trust, create opportunities, and to engender a friendly knowledge and understanding between the UK and Vietnam.
The publication is also a forward looking light, and a beacon for the next 25 years and beyond. We look forward to sharing that journey with all our friends, partners, colleagues, and stakeholders in the UK and Vietnam for many more years to come.
I hope you enjoy and are inspired by the stories.
Hanoi, November 2018