Dystopia or Development?

Today we woke up early and headed to VSIP (Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park) and II-VI Vietnam (Two-Six Vietnam.) With about an hour and a half ride out of the city to get to VSIP, I took some time to read and get some more sleep on the bus.

I got off the bus at the VSIP front office, and waited around for a few minutes as we had arrived a few minutes early. Once they were ready for us, we headed upstairs for an overview of the company. VSIP is a joint venture between the Vietnamese government and a Singaporean industrial development firm. This kind of deal, with either foreign governments or companies, seems desirable to the Vietnamese government since it brings in capital and cash. For example, the Japanese government is helping develop and construct a subway system in Ho Chi Minh City. VSIP definitely has the most impact in that it provides more and more jobs as time goes on, rather than temporary construction jobs.

The business model of VSIP is to house everything a company, and its workers, need all in one large, aesthetically pleasing park. Inside VSIP parks, of which there are 9, there are McMansion type empty factories for companies to come in, lease, and make a profit. Also in the parks are housing and lifestyle amenities for those who work for companies within the park. The whole business model kind of crept me out. I had concerns that could not really be addressed that those who work and live in the park would never be able to leave. On one hand, why would they since everything, like malls and soccer fields, is housed within the park. On the other hand, the reason companies produce in Vietnam is the low labor costs and the woman who presented us with information said anyone who could afford to live in VSIP housing could. Overall the system seems to be working currently, especially within the culture and values of Vietnam, but I can see how it is susceptible to corruption and human rights violations. (For anyone who has seen it, the place gave me WorryFree from Sorry to Bother You vibes.)

Once the presentation finished, we got on our bus with the representative from VSIP and we drove around the industrial park. It felt more like a neighborhood with lots of warehouses and factories taking up as much, if not more, land than the houses. There are many international companies that rent space and produce within the park, including Nike, Toyota, Xerox, and II-VI. Once we had a brief driving tour, we got off the bus at the shopping mall within VSIP, which was across the VSIP golf club.

The mall was like any upper-end, new mall. 3 floors, gigantic, with tons of food. Not really yearning to go to a mall in a foreign country, I walked around looking for other ways to waste time in the mall, a favorite american pastime. I found a crazy Asian arcade with ridiculous games and attractions. I played a few rounds for super cheap, and then looked around for more to do. Eventually I found myself in what felt like a Barnes and Noble and a Michael’s all at the same time. I took some time to read some really funny mistranslated notebook covers and stumbled upon some really cool Vietnamese versions of book series like Harry Potter.

We got some food in the mall and headed to II-VI, “a global leader in engineered materials,” according to their website. They produce small electronics, such as electronic component coolers, and sell them to Microsoft and other companies. They also produce things for the US government’s defense projects, aka military electronics. My favorite fun fact was that they produced a part of the motion sensor that went into the Xbox Kinect. The reason the Pennsylvania based company has production facilities in Vietnam is the cheap labor and IP protections, 2 major bottom line costs that are better covered here than in China. Their production line model consists of breaking down the entire production process into many small, simple, repetitive tasks for one person to get really good at. They train employees from anywhere from 3 months to 2 years, depending on the skill involved in making things. Some things, such as medical components and .1mmX.1mm microscope lenses, take a very long time to train, which is one downside of the cheap and unskilled labor provided in Vietnam. None of the products produced in Vietnam are designed here, as all R&D is done in Dallas, TX. II-VI really intrigued me as a company, as they are working on many interesting problems that can be solved with good computer engineering.

Now its time for some Korean Barbeque, I’ll update my fans tomorrow on how it was and how the Buddhism Theory and pagoda visit goes. Tạm biệt!

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