Vietnam propaganda posters: then and now

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Life in Vietnam has radically changed since the end of the Vietnam (or American) war. However, one thing that has remained constant is the government's attempts to influence the population through eye-catching propaganda. Whatever the social issue du jour, these persuasive posters provide an excellent insight into the priorities of those in charge. Here is a collection of some of the most striking pre and post war examples showing that although the message may have changed, in Vietnam, the art of influence still remains strong.

Battles to be won: then

Throughout the Vietnam (or American) war the Hanoi government attempted to inspire the Vietnamese people to fight against the invading American forces. Between the 1955 and 1975, between 1 and 3 million Vietnamese people; 200,000-300,000 Cambodians; 20,000-200,000 Laotians and 58,220 US service members were killed as a result of the conflict. In 2006 the Vietnamese government estimated that 4 million of its people suffer from dioxide poisoning although the US government denies there is any scientific link with the 45 million litres of Agent Orange that were sprayed over the country as part of the war.

Poster of vietnamese warrior attacking US aircraftVietnam Propaganda Poster by travelmeasiaCreative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Battles to be won: now

The Vietnamese National Supreme Court reported that 274 individuals were prosecuted for sex trafficking cases in 2010, although these numbers include smuggling children for adoption. In January 2012 the Vietnamese government implemented a five-year Plan of Action on Human Trafficking in an attempt to combat criticisms around a lack of progress (source). 

Sign in Vietnam warning against human traffickingShame by Joe GatlingCreative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Farming: then

Today, since relaxing the state monopoly on rice exports, Vietnam is the world's second- or third-largest rice producer. This is an amazing turnaround considering Vietnamese farmers suffered decades of command and control agricultural policy that consistently reduced labour productivity. Agriculture currently accounts for around 22% of Vietnam's economy and about 60% of employment, according to the World Bank's 2010 Development Indicators report (see here).

Poster of Vietnamese person feeding pigs and chickensVietnam Propaganda Poster by travelmeasiaCreative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Farming: now

Avian flu remains endemic in Vietnam and fears of a new mutant strain that can survive vaccination have triggered the Vietnamese government and the international community to spend $23 million extra dollars to strengthen monitoring, research and prevention (source).

Roadside sign in Vietnam warning of the dangers of Avian fluBird Flu by Joe GatlingCreative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Building a better future: then

The Communist Party of Vietnam of the past believed that a strong socialist country was built on investment in large scale projects and strict management of workers and resources. Once, this would have meant centralised planning with bureaucrats choosing and directing activity often on a political rather than economic basis.

Poster of vietnam workersVietnam Propaganda Poster by travelmeasiaCreative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Building a better future: now

These days, five-year plans are a relic of the past and modern Vietnam is firmly wedded to the idea of capitalism. Plugging into the global economy, including joining the World Trade Organization in 2007, has allowed Vietnam to join the list of the 50 most economically powerful countries in the world but that doesn't mean the government can't still give its workers the odd nudge in the right direction. 

Street sign of Vietnamese workersPolitical Poster, Saigon by Matthew WilkinsonCreative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Tom Hewitson is lonelyplanet.com's Destinations Editor. Follow him on Twitter @tomhewitson.