Vietnam/ 1. Historical perspective: cultural policies and instruments  

Author: BUI Hoai Son

Basically, Vietnamese cultural policy has been divided into three periods which are as follows:

1.1. Before 1954

During this period, the cultural activities undertaken were, in fact, propaganda drives for the resistance movement. The values of patriotism and struggle for national independence were given highest priority. The image of the person–soldier became the basic inspiration for all artistic creations.

In the process of leadership of culture and arts, Vietnam’s communist party had always been interested in setting up theoretical activities. Based on them, the party directed practical activities. The 1943 Cultural Outline had proposed three principles: nation, science, popularity.

In 1948, at the second national cultural congress, Comrade Trường Chinh read his report on “Marxism and Vietnamese culture”. It was seen as the extended version of the 1943 Cultural Outline of the party.

In 1951, President Hồ Chí Minh sent a letter to Vietnamese artists to raise a very important viewpoint: “culture and arts are also a front. You are soldiers in that front”.

The major feature of resistance culture is the performance art movements of the masses. These movements promoted an exciting atmosphere in communities, and became a joyful source for revolutionary movements such as competing for patriotism, improving productions to support the frontier, and contributing to the victory of the nation.

1.2. Period 1954–1986

All ideas of building culture with socialist and nationalistic ideals were centrally expressed in the documents of the party’s fourth and fifth national congresses. That is:

a. Culture and arts as part of the revolutionary works led by the party;

b. Nationalist viewpoints on building culture and arts;

c. Mass viewpoints on building culture and arts;

d. Class and communist characteristics on culture and arts;

e. Arts need to closely link with life and the realistic characters of socialist arts;

f. Viewpoint on building new socialist persons;

g. Viewpoint on the positions, roles and functions of culture and arts;

h. Viewpoint on the freedom of the creation of artists;

i. Viewpoint on the organisation of building grass-root cultural life.

In 1955, Ministry of Culture was established. Some institutions of former regime in Hanoi such as Opera House, museums, National Library, stadiums, cinemas, broadcasting offices, etc. were retained by the revolution, and then transformed into new institutions of the new government.

After that, new art schools for fine arts, music and theatre emerged one after the other which directly trained culture workers and artists to be key personnel of the cultural sector.

National cultural congresses were held to mark important milestones in the development of culture and arts in the whole country (the second congress was in February, 1957, the third was in November, 1962, and the fourth was in January, 1968). Other professional associations were also established around this time such as the Association of Architects (1948), Association of Writers (1957), Association of Fine Artists (1957), Association of Theatre Artists (1957), Association of Musicians (1957), Association of Photographers (1965), and Association of Cinema (1968).

The establishment of cultural institutions also took place similarly. The system of institutes on culture and arts studies, art and culture schools and networks of institutions on cultural dissemination from the central to grass-root level such as: cultural houses, clubs, museums, libraries, cinemas, etc., were always built according to the Soviet model.

1.3. From 1986 to present

Directly leading the Reform (Doi Moi) from 1986, there are some changes in the Party in terms of its view on culture. The culture that the party aimed to build up was the culture based on the characteristics of nationalism, modernity and humanity. A system of cultural theories has been synchronised with general theories in the process of reform of the whole society.

Some documents were put forward by the party to deal with culture and arts such as the fifth resolution of the Party Central Committee (eighth tenure) on building and developing an advanced Vietnamese culture imbued with national identity, approved in June 1998; the conclusions of the politburo on culture and arts in November 1988;  Directive 52-CT/TW of the party’s central secretary committee on the reform and strengthening of the quality of culture and arts criticism in August 1989; Directive 61-CT/TW of the party’s central secretary committee on the management of culture and arts in June 1990; Resolution 04 of the party’s central committee on the short-term duty of culture and arts in January 1993; and the document of the fifth party’s central committee meeting (eighth tenure) that put forward a very important resolution on building Vietnamese culture of advance and rich national identity in July 1998.

The spirit of the fifth resolution has drawn the whole picture of Vietnam’s culture, i.e. culture with the role of the spiritual background of society. It is both the aim and motivation of socio-economic development. It hinges on to the industrialisation and modernisation of the country and other issues that rise in a global economic market.

The government has been managing culture through the institutionalisation of guidance and policies of the party by laws, ordinances, decrees, regulations, other policies, and so on. It has been using these action plans, movements and cultural institutions to motivate people; turning guidance, policies and resolutions of the party into movements; creating certain results to improve the cultural and spiritual life of people, and promoting socio-economic developments; and directly building the spiritual background for the society.

In the tenth national congress, the party had identified the need to continue to develop a deeper and wider, as well as improved quality of Vietnamese culture with advanced and rich national identity; to closely link culture with socio-economic development; to integrate culture into all aspects of social life; to develop and assimilate the values and dignity of Vietnamese identity; to safeguard and promote national identity in the context of industrialisation, modernisation and international integration; to foster cultural values such as healthy ideals, life styles, spiritual capacity, virtues and Vietnamese cultural identity amongst youngsters, students and pupils; to invest in the preservation and restoration of revolutionary heritage sites, tangible and intangible heritage elements; harmoniously combine safeguarding, promotion, inheritance, development and preservation of heritage sites with the development of tourism industry, volunteerarism and self-management amongst people in building cultural life; and diversify the activities of the movement such that “all people are united to build cultural life”.


Chapter published: 30-11-2013


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