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The government chooses economic growth over xenophobia and greenery


IN A one-party state where people are routinely jailed for criticising government policy, it is rare for all but the most brave or foolhardy to speak out. But a government plan to allow a Chinese company to start mining some of the massive reserves of bauxite lying beneath Vietnam's verdant Central Highlands has provoked an unprecedented backlash from an unlikely assortment of critics. They include a nonagenarian war-hero, Vo Nguyen Giap, a dissident monk, Thich Quang Do, and a slew of leading scientists and environmental campaigners.

在一党制国家,人们常因批评政府政策而入狱,人民谨慎微言,只有最勇敢或最鲁莽的人才会大声疾呼(2)。但是此次越南政府计划让中国企业开采位于越南树木繁茂的中部高地下大规模储量的铝土矿,却导致前所未有的反弹,引发来自社会各界的批评。其中包括九十多岁的战争英雄Vo Nguyen Giap,持不同意见的著名僧侣Thich Quang Do,还有诸多著名科学家和环保人士。

Vietnam is blessed with the world's third-largest reserves of bauxite, the raw material for aluminium, and the communist government is keen to reap the benefits. Under a plan that the prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, has called "a major policy of the party and the state", the government is seeking to attract $15 billion or more of investment to develop bauxite mining and aluminium refining projects by 2025. It has already signed a contract with a subsidiary of Chinalco, a state-owned Chinese mining group, to build one mine and agreed with Alcoa, an American aluminium giant, to carry out a feasibility study for another.

越南得天独厚地拥有世界第三大铝土矿(其原材料是铝)资源,而共产党政府一直热衷于用他们谋利。在一个被总理Nguyen Tan Dung称为"党和国家的重大决策"的计划中,越南政府将在2025年前吸引150亿美元甚至更多的资金投资开发铝土矿矿井及铝冶炼项目。它己与中国国有矿业集团中铝公司一家下属子公司签约,同意中方建立一个矿井。同时,它愿意与美国铝业巨头美国铝公司进行另一项可行性研究。

Critics say the arrival of large-scale bauxite mining in a region that currently grows coffee and other crops could cause irreparable damage to the environment and displace the ethnic-minority groups who inhabit the Central Highlands. Bauxite is usually extracted through open-cast mines, which leave vast scars on the landscape. The process by which it is refined also produces a toxic "red sludge", which can cause serious pollution if it washes into streams and rivers.


As if that were not enough, the involvement of a Chinese company in such a controversial project has rekindled latent anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam, which was colonised by its larger neighbour for 1,000 years and fought a short but bloody war against it in 1979. Thich Quang Do, the leader of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church, claims that Vietnam is "under threat of invasion" because "whole villages of Chinese workers have mushroomed on the plateau, and 10,000 Chinese settlers are expected in the coming year." His comments have been echoed by Vietnam's enthusiastic army of bloggers, and an anti-bauxite-mining group set up on Facebook, a popular social-networking website, has attracted nearly 700 members. Chinese bloggers are not, it seems, the only ones to resort to inflamed xenophobia. And though much of the opposition is no doubt driven by that feeling, there are also genuine concerns about the lousy environmental records of many Chinese mining companies.

如果这些还不够严重,那么我们还需重视的是:(3)此次中方公司参与这极具争议的项目己使得越南反华情绪死灰复燃。越南曾被他的大个子邻居殖民统治了1000年,且在1979年发生过短暂但血腥的对华战争。被取缔的统一佛教会领导人Thich Quang Do声称越南"处于入侵的威胁下",因为"在整个越南地区,中国农民工像杂草一样疯长,预计明年还将有10,000农民工来此定居。"他的评论在越南热情的军队博客中受到追捧,在热门社区网络Facebook上,一个名为反对铝土矿开采的社区成立,吸引了近700位成员。看起来中方博客并不是唯一一个诉诸激动的排外情绪的地方(4)。虽然有不少反对者是由这种情绪驱动的,但也有许多人对中国开采公司极端差劲的环境表现表示担忧。

Whatever the motive, however, the Vietnamese government is nervous about public criticism of China. It recently banned a bi-weekly newspaper called Du lich (Tourism) for three months for running a series of articles about territorial disputes between the two countries. The explanation is that China is Vietnam's biggest trading partner. Vietnam also runs a massive trade deficit with its neighbour and has been pushing China's government to invest more in the country to offset the deficit. With foreign direct investment 40% lower in the first quarter of 2009 than it was a year before-and most rich nations short of cash-Vietnam needs Chinese money now more than ever.

Much to the chagrin of the anti-China lobby, Mr Dung, the prime minister, spent a week this month touring China, trying to drum up investment and pledging to make it easier for Chinese companies to operate in his country. Following a meeting with China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao, Mr Dung said that the two countries would strive to expand bilateral trade from $20 billion in 2008 to $25 billion by 2010 and try to tackle the trade imbalance.

相比于国内恼人的反华游说(5),越南总理Mr Dung在本月访问中国,为期一周。他试图游说增加投资以及向中方承诺会使中国公司在越南的运作顺利。在与中国总理温国保会面后,Mr Dung表示两国将争取使双边贸易由2008年的200亿美元在2010年前增长到250亿,并努力解决贸易不平衡问题。

Hoang Trung Hai, a deputy prime minister, recently told a conference of scientists concerned about environmental damage that Vietnam will not pursue the bauxite mining plan "at any cost". But the reality is that in straitened economic times, beggars cannot be choosers.

副总理Hoang Trung Hai最近召开科学家们担心的环境污染问题会议,表明越南政府不会"不惜一切代价"实施铝土矿开采计划。但是,现实是:在经济困境时代,穷光蛋是没有选择的。