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Monday, 24 September 2018 17:22
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Challenges in creating a cultural value system and standard for Vietnamese people nowadays

(LLCT) - Vietnamese culture is the achievement of people’s creative labour, preservation and defense of the Fatherland throughout history, establishing a unique cultural identity and a lofty value system. Nowadays international integration has brought many opportunities to create positive values, contributing to enriching the nation’s cultural identity, and at the same time posing many challenges. The identification of challenges in the creation of a cultural value system and standards of Vietnamese people nowadays is an urgent task to make culture become a real driving force and important internal strength during the sustainable development of the country.

Cultural values reflect and crystallize the material cultural life and spiritual cultural life of the people. Through out history, each nation creates its own cultural value system. “It is a system of people’s objective evaluations of nature, society and thinking towards what is necessary, what is good or beautiful. In other words, it is what people consider as truth, goodness and beauty, which helps assert and increase human nature”(1). The cultural value system plays the role of orienting, ruling over and regulating goals and action methods of people. This value system is not immutable but changes with time and age. Backward and old elements are removed from it while new values are being added to it.

Throughout history, the value system and standards of the Vietnamese nation and people have been formed and reinforced to become a “red thread” or “lodestar” for enlightening and leading the nation to success. When discussing the cultural values of traditional Vietnamese people, many researchers affirm the qualifications which have become common values of the Vietnamese people such as: “patriotism, diligence, heroism, creativeness, optimism, compassion and devotion”(2). “Nowhere in the world is there a people as diligent as the Vietnamese. Their tolerance capacity is extremely high and they rarely complain about their pains”. “Having a strangely pragmatic mind, this decides their mentality”. “Vietnamese people have better artistic nature than scientific nature. They have better sensitiveness than physical properties”(3). The Resolution of the 5th Plenum of the 8th Party Central Committee in 1998 stressed: “Sustainable values and quintessence of Vietnamese ethnic groups’ community have been cultivated through thousands of years of fighting for the construction and defense of the nation. They are deep patriotism, a national self-strengthening spirit, a sense of solidarity and of individual-family-village-Fatherland connection; compassion and tolerance, respect for morality and gratitude; diligence and creativeness in working; sensitiveness in behaviours and simplicity in lifestyle...”(4).

Nowadays, Vietnamese traditional cultural values are being constantly cultivated and promoted. The formation and completion of a traditional cultural value system in the new age is considered to be one of the central and long-term tasks of socialism construction in an effort to create a wholesome spiritual life, with humanism and advancement for the happiness and comprehensive development of the people. “Perfecting the cultural standards and values of the Vietnamese people, creating an environment and conditions for developing their personality, morality, intelligence, creative capacity, physical health, soul, social responsibility and civic duties, and a sense of obeying the law; highlighting the spirit of patriotism, national pride, conscience and responsibility of each person towards himself and his family, community, society and country; developing culture for the perfection of human characters and building humans for developing culture. In building culture, it is central to develop people with personality, good lifestyle and fundamental characteristics involving patriotism, compassion, faithfulness, honesty, solidarity, diligence and creativeness”(5).

Besides the outcomes achieved during the creation of the nation’s cultural value system, there remain many difficulties and challenges to overcome in the current context.

1. Challenges from the trend of cultural globalization and information muddle on the Internet

Cultural globalization is the common development trend of humankind in the context of information technology and the explosion of the Internet, opening favourable opportunities for sharing exchanges, cooperation, knowledge and experience among cultures. However, the other side of the globalization process also challenges the preservation and creation of national identities and cultural value systems of many countries including Vietnam. The trend of cultural integration and globalization with the Euro-centric viewpoint and the strong pervasion of popular US mass culture are affecting the preservation of cultural identities of many nations. The negative side of the integration process and economic and cultural exchanges is that many alien publications are attacking and occupying the domestic cultural market. There was a time when the import and dissemination of Korean, the US and Chinese movies on the national television channels had negative impacts on the awareness, behaviours and lifestyles of the young generation, leading to the danger of cultural saturation and “dilution” of traditional cultural identities.

The strategy of disseminating “cultural soft power” of those countries through the influence of cultural products, mainly through culture of consumption, food, fashion and cosmetics consists of encouraging and “involving” the young generation to believe and use these products as well as to follow that culture and indulge themselves in it. This strategy associated with the psychology of fondness for foreign things and love for vainglory of a portion of Vietnamese youngsters causes “collusions and conflicts” in people’s awareness and behaviours when it is difficult to distinguish and identify the relationship between tradition and modernity, traditional cultural identities and international integration.

The forth industrial revolution with the core of Internet of things (IoT) eliminates the gap among nations for sharing, cooperation and development. However, it is the open space of Internet that makes many countries promulgate laws on network safety and that causes dangers of terrorist attacks and network wars. Taking advantage of the Internet, many hostile forces are constantly disseminating and scattering counter-revolutionary ideology and destroying the country’s cause of socialism construction; deepening issues of separatism, race and religious conflicts; distorting history, sullying famous men, the Party and State leaders; and causing agitation among the masses. “Currently there are about 400 counter-revolutionary organizations in exile, 380 newspapers and magazines, 60 radio stations with Vietnamese-language programs, more than 80 publishing houses and thousands of websites that public articles and print publications with counter-revolutionary and extortion contents against the Party and State”(6). At present, thousands of websites, blogs and social networks of hostile individuals and organizations are operating and inputting news, articles, commentaries and interviews with hostile ideology against the State such as “The People’s Journal”, “The Officials’ Journal”, “The People’s Opinion”, “Viet Tan”, etc.” The number of network users in Vietnam is big. “By January 2017, there were 50.05 million Internet users in Vietnam, accounting for 53% of the population, an increase of 6% in comparison with that of 2016. The number of social network users was 46 million people, making up for 48% of the population. On average, a Vietnamese person spent 6 hours and 53 minutes on browsing websites on PCs and tablets, 2 hours and 33 minutes on mobile phones and 2 hours and 39 minutes on social networks per day”(7). This hinders the ideological and cultural work of the Party on network space. Apart from official and positive information, every day and every hour counter-revolutionary information and ideologies attack, manipulate and penetrate into the thinking and lifestyles of many people. Information muddle on the mass media confuses and puzzles receivers in finding their own directions and future as well as making their own choices. Imitation behaviours in virtual space cause unintended consequences, worsening the image of the people and national culture. Therefore, the orientation and formation of the Vietnamese people’s value standards is critically necessary to help each person become fully aware of his own obligations and responsibilities towards the community and society.

2. Challenges in the context of restructuring the economic model

After more than 30 years of national renewal, Vietnam has gained many achievements in many fields. For culture, the renewal and integration process has brought many opportunities to create positive values, contributing to enriching the national cultural identities. However, in the context of the restructuring of the economic system and thinking from the model of a centrally-planned economy to a socialist-oriented market economy as well as the “transition” period with the “clash” and conflict between the old and the new, many complex phenomena are occurring. That context causes many good values to fall into oblivion or to a secondary position, while creating bad habits and a crisis in belief, as well as breaking the cultural value system.

Many corruption and gambling cases relative to many cadres and Party members holding high-level positions in agencies and sectors of the Party and State have been detected and trialed. In 2017, 300 Party organizations with 18,600 party members including over 700 party members accused of corruptions and intentional law-breaking were disciplined. The Party Central Committee, the Politburo and Secretariat disciplined 3 Party organizations and 11 cadres; the Central Inspection Committee focused on examining and executing the punishment within their authority regarding 18 cadres, including many particularly serious cases relating to high-level party members and State cadres as well as some Party committees and organizations. This situation has set alarm bells ringing for degeneration in the ideology, politics, ethics and lifestyles of a part of cadres and party members, seriously losing people’s faith in cadres and public agencies. “The degeneration in the political ideology, ethics and lifestyles of a substantial portion of cadres and party members has not been checked and it is developing in a more complex and sophisticated manner in some aspects and parts. Corruption, waste and negativeness remain serious with focus on some party members holding positions in the State apparatus”(8).

Vietnamese culture highlights the practice of setting examples and personality models for leaders. Cadres and party members who are empowered to take leadership by the people but who display behaviours against the interests of the people and collectives make people’s wishes, inspirations and faith “shaken” and agitated. Besides, offensive and uneducated behaviours going against the civilizational trend and advancement of mankind such as school violence, superstitions, struggling for lucky items in traditional festivals and the “envelope culture” reflect the loopholes in the formation of cultural foundations and a crisis of the value system and human conduct standards in the current context of many temptations and challenges.

3. Challenges from the cultural creator

People are cultural creators and at the same time, beneficiaries therefrom and influenced by the culture they have created. Through language, gestures, the habits in the material and spiritual life of the community, the signs and characteristics of a nation’s culture can be recognized. Therefore, culture and people have a close relationship, mutual influence and regulation, manifesting the relationship between the general and the particular, the individual and the community.

Cultural researchers like Dao Duy Anh, Nguyen Van Huyen, Tran Trong Kim, and Phan Ke Binh have identified Vietnamese traditional cultural characteristics via the psychology, characters and virtues of humans in the interrelation with the natural environment, geological conditions and historical situations. Hence, in an attempt to create a traditional cultural value system, it is necessary to pay attention to the creative role of people, educate and train the new man with dignities and values such as “having human personality and good lifestyle with the fundamental characteristics such as patriotism, compassion, devotion, honesty, solidarity, diligence and creativeness”; “having respect for law and a profound understanding, pride, and sense of historical honour and traditional culture; having a scientific world outlook towards truth-goodness-beauty; having a lifestyle such as “each for all and vice versa”; living and working in accordance with the Constitution and law, protecting the environment; combining harmoniously personal positiveness with social positiveness; highlighting the individual’s responsibility towards himself, his family and society; affirming and honouring righteousness, goodness, positiveness and nobleness; expanding lofty and humanist values”(9).

In order to reach the given goals, simultaneous solutions should be implemented, among which the fundamental and comprehensive renewal of education and training should be an urgent task. Great importance should be attached to building healthy cultural environments in families, schools and society. The building and development of virtuous people who are useful to society is a long and difficult process which requires long-term strategy. However, the current social context is radically challenging the “cause of cultivating people”.

With over 70% of the population living in rural areas, the habits of “petty peasantry” (such as arbitrariness, patchy production) still exist even in urban areas and civilized cities. The failure of regaining pavements for pedestrians in many urban areas, cooking on charcoal stoves, raising poultry and planting vegetables on upper storeys in high-class apartments, methods of season cultivation and production running after movements causing difficulties to many farmers because of lost price while having bumper crops-are tremendous barriers to the people’s awareness and thinking, and hindering the process of building and forming the new advanced man. Urbanization and industrialization on the background of traditional agricultural society with “respect for affection, age and experiences” deeply rooted in people’s minds is a challenge when backward habits and customs still exist, and the effort of getting used to new values thus becomes difficult.

Modern society requires people to behave according to civilized standards in the spirit of the rule of law and respect for the right to freedom and democracy. However, behaviours contradicting the common principles and standards of society in many urban areas and cities such as “messes in festivals”, disorder and unscrupulousness in traffic, cold-heartedness and indifference to unjust situations and lack of protection for fellows being attacked, lack of spirit of struggling for justice and righteousness, etc. still exist. In the national educational system, the problems are the tendency of running after accomplishments and not taking the learner as the center, widespread extra-curricular learning and teaching, the inadequately respected voice of learners, one-way imposition, over-collection of fees and abuse of power are causing people’s trust in education to be undermined. A portion of teenagers, school pupils and students has one-sided and deviated awareness due to lack of life ideals, thus having off-standard behaviours and leading a “quick and hurried” life. Many youngsters fall into social evils like drug addiction and gambling.

In order to educate and form new humans with opinions, knowledge, good human personality and dignity, the cultural foundations of the older generations must be handed down, including culture, knowledge, experience and lifestyles. This helps young generations live in a healthy environment, making a “filter set” to prevent them from evils and enable them to proactively and confidently receive a new value system of the world and to master the future.

In order to build and complete the standard value system of Vietnamese people, it is necessary to reach a consensus on the awareness, ideology, and action as well as its simultaneous, appropriate and effective implementation method; respect for the spirit of freedom and creativeness of people, guarantee of citizens’ rights towards noble values of truth, goodness and beauty; promotion and expansion of good values and dignities of traditional Vietnamese people while constantly studying advanced and civilized values of humankind. The creation of a standard value system, particularly in aspects of culture, human personality and lifestyle, will facilitate the socio-economic development of a prosperous and happy country.

The value system is a fundamental element in identifying the cultural identities of a nation; a goal, ideal and inspiration that people strive to reach. Therefore, the completion of a cultural value system and a standard value system for the Vietnamese people in the current situation is an urgent task, requiring the engagement of all levels of administration and sectors and every individual to make culture really become an internal strength together with other resources and strengths, soon turning Vietnam into a modern industrialized nation.


(1) Ngo Duc Thinh: Research on traditional cultural value system, vanhoahoc.vn.

(2), (3) Some issues of Vietnamese value system, vanhoahoc.vn

(4) Resolution of the 8th Party Central Committee’s 5th Plenum, dangcongsan.vn.

(5) Resolution of the 11th Party Central Committee’s 9th Plenum, baochinhphu.vn.

(6) Vigilant and proactive fighting against distorted and fabricated information, qdnd.vn.

(7) Digital in 2017: A study of Internet, Social Media, and Mobile use throughout the region of Southeast Asia, We Are Social.

(8) Resolution of the 12th Party Central Committee’s 4th Plenum, dangcongsan.vn.

(9) Resolution of the 11th Party Central Committee’s 9th Plenum, dangcongsan.vn.


Dr. Nguyen Huy Phong

Institute for Culture and Development,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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