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Human and cultural elements in sustainable development of the country
21/10/2016 9:39' Send Print
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1. Dialectical materialism is both succession, development, and great progress compared to the whole of the dialectical perspective and theory of dialectics which existed since the time of ancient philosophers until the time of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel-an objective dialectical idealistic philosopher of classical German philosophy. Dialectical materialism also known as dialectical Marxism is considered the research theories “about development” of the entire natural world, the whole of human society and human thinking. Thus, we can see, the scale of research and application of dialectical materialism is vast and no field stay outside the scope of its impact.

Mastering the basic principles and the rules of dialectic materialism is to understand what is the core of the fundamental principles of the review, studies, assessments and forecasts of all things as well as all processes taking place in natural objective world, human society and human thinking. This is extremely important, especially when we apply theoretical dialectical materialism in practice, namely in making lines and policies to harness resources, both internal and external, especially human resources for the construction and development of the country, and avoid lagging behind other countries in the region and the world. Only grasping some superficial and dogmatic knowledge, or understanding eclectically dialectics, it is not possible to determine where the key element is, what the fundamental and decisive factors are for development of a thing, or even just to carry out specific task with highest effectiveness within a certain period of time.

The Party and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, when developing socio-economic development tasks, have always been aware that we carry out these tasks in the context of a country with limited resources in technical material and science and technology. Therefore, building the technical material is entirely reasonable and necessary for countries which have not gone through capitalism. That is why Karl Marx once said that it was sufferings to have capitalism, but it is also sufferings without capitalism. Without technical material produced by capitalism especially modern technology with corresponding qualified persons for development of less-developing and poor countries have been and will encounter numerous difficulties. In order to avoid lagging further behind and to catch up, let alone surpassing developed countries, we must accelerate industrialization towards modernization, at the same time, it's good to use internal resources, primarily the human factor for development, especially for sustainable development.

However, different from previous centuries, in the present conditions, there is a need for a long-term, holistic and comprehensive vision. Unfortunately, so far, in Viet Nam, as the 12th Party Congress noted: “Many aspects of sustainable development have not been fully studied... orientations and holistic and comprehensive tasks have not yet been clearly identified.”(1) Therefore, more than ever, in the current conditions, “cultural and human factors must be promoted in all economic, political, and social activities.” Thus, for the country's sustainable development, in addition to economic, social and environmental sustainable development, special attention should be given to sustainable development of culture and people, the fundamental factors of rapid and sustainable development. Human is the center of development strategy, and also the subject of development. When aware that human is the subject of development, human will show all of their capacities from thinking to action as well as awareness of their citizen responsibilities so as to make contribution to renovation and national development.

2. During the renovation, we have made great efforts to harness all available resources, such as natural resources, science and technology and human resources for development. The resources have brought about remarkable achievements, lifting the country out of severe socio-economic crisis in the late 1970s and 1980s of the twentieth century, regaining once-shaken confidence among the population and increasingly strengthening that trust, creating excitement for everyone and winning world people’s admiration.

However, frankly speaking, though the Party and State have always required to link economic growth with environmental protection, we have failed to do so in the implementation of national development policies. We “have not been fully aware of and handle well the relationship between economic growth and cultural development, building of people, making progress, exercising social justice, protection of natural resources and environment, and response climate change.”(3) In addition to achievements, we have made the same mistakes that many advanced countries already did despite early warnings from many scientists. Sometimes, in some places, some decisions focused on economic growth and investment attraction, but paid less concern to natural environment protection and sustainable development. Although the government had to annul series of hydropower projects of different sizes across the country, including projects in the core zone of national parks, there are still hydropower projects, mining projects, projects with changed purposes which have made “forest exhausted,” or have been taken advantage of for illegal logging and forest destruction. In particular, many investors conducted perfunctory and irresponsible environmental impact assessments, misleading public opinion. After that they were exposed and strongly criticized by society.

Given greater attention to economic growth, environment protection has not been properly set great store by. Thus non-renewable resources have been wasted, exhausted and sold at dirt cheap prices through both official channel and illegal border export. We can not fail to mention that the living environment and water resources in many regions, both rural and urban areas are seriously polluted, leading to a significant number of people of a village suffering from cancer, bronchitis, severe pneumonia caused by dust, smoke, toxic gases or asbestos, dust from rock mining, and cement dust. So, it is easy to see that, despite consistent economic growth in several years Viet Nam is not in the state of “sustainable development in terms of economy, culture, society and environment.”(4)

There are many causes to this situation. First of all is one-sided vision which focuses on a sector of a big picture vision without looking into other sectors or areas, so when implementing plans, there are no joint impacts. Misconceptions about wealth and natural resources, failure to see the limits of non-renewable natural resources of the country, ambiguous legislation, poor law enforcement and lack of control from the outset when investment licenses are issued also lead to unsustainable development.

Delegation of investment licensing in order to promote local economic development is a correct policy but lacks inspection and control of central specialized agencies. Some localities issued licenses out of competitiveness, as they want their localities can attract investment like other localities. They intentionally lowered the environment protection standards which led to wanton and heavy environmental pollution. Several rivers have been or are becoming “dead rivers” due to untreated toxic waste water discharged from factories. Land slides from sugar cane fields, and fertile land into rivers due to sand exploitation. These irresponsible actions have not been dealt with by competent agencies or local authorities or perfunctorily handled. Rivers’ death not only leads to the death in the agricultural land but also destruction of cultivable land as well as riverine and coastal aquatic production. It is human who has been and will bear the burden of severe implications. The incidence of dead fish in the sea areas from Ha Tinh to Thua Thien-Hue recently was not by natural causes, but certainly a direct effect of hazardous waste discharge from industrial zones in this area.

Besides, of no less dangerous is the pressure to fill industrial parks already set up. So hazardous industries have been placed along side other industries in the same place which leads to unpredictable consequences. Obviously due to short vision and environmental culture only short-term and immediate benefits are taken into account regardless of massive and long term damage to nature and human health.

There are other causes to unsustainable development that have been pointed to by recent Party Congresses as well as many researchers. For example, “group interests” of negative and illegal interest groups, and abuse of power to corrupt and make illegal profits in investment licensing (5). However, the overall cause is culture, including behavioral culture towards nature, and state management culture of different levels is low and does not meet requirements.

So far, when it comes to development or sustainable development three pillars have often been mentioned. They are economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Due attention has not been given to another pillar of extreme importance in development, that is sustainable development of culture. It is cultural sustainability, including behavioral culture towards nature and natural environment is the pillar that ensures sustainable and long-term development of the country. Therefore, there should be new understanding about sustainable development in which sustainable development of culture must be considered as one of the main pillars for sustainable development. Socio-economic development will not be sustainable if is it not associated with sustainable development of culture, and culture is found only in humans, and in human society.

It is the low cultural level, particularly behavioral culture towards nature, has left and will leave unwanted and unimaginable consequences.

Prompted by serious environmental incidences in several places across the country for a long period of time, the 12th National Party Congress confirmed: “There remain constraints in management and use of resources, and environment,”(6) “There are weaknesses in culture, social affairs, and environmental protection which have been slowly rectified,”(7) “Resources have not been effectively and sustainably managed, harnessed and used; some types of resources have been overexploited thus depleted and exhausted. Environmental pollution has increased, and has become serious in some places.”(8) So the task now is “to prevent and gradually overcome the degradation of the natural environment caused by human, especially economic development projects. Limit and gradually put an end to destruction and exhaustion of resources and, environmental pollution in production facilities, industrial parks, and urban areas.”(9)

Given low level of understanding ecological culture, not everyone is aware that human society and human can only exist and develop by using material resources provided by nature; when these resources exhaust or are not available, there will be no social and human growth development. When it comes to ecological culture and behavior towards nature, one must remember what F. Engels advised over a hundred years ago: “We can not be too proud of our victories over nature. For every such victory will come back on us again.”(10) It is the revenge of nature that has destroyed several countries which were once very prosperous or has made a civilization totally disappeared. The lessons are appropriate to recall and think of!

3. Another thing worth mentioning is that not only the culture of human behavior toward nature is low but human behavior both at home and in society is alarming. There are many manifestations of moral and lifestyle degradation. Besides good examples of kindness and tolerance, and precious traditional values of the nation, there are also too many urgent alarming behaviors in the relationship between people and people. Aggression and brutal, uncontrollable, inhuman actions in some people of different age groups, especially young people resulting in heart-rending murders, even of relatives, and parents tend to increase. Without timely and effective prevention measures, this criminal situation at some point will become an unpredictable catastrophe and threat to the security of each people and society as a whole. Therefore, there will be no national sustainable development if there is not sustainable development of culture. However, as noted above, culture is only vested with human, so in order to achieve national sustainable development, sustainable development of human beings must be attained to bring up potential of human beings to the highest extent.

Once the good values of all ethnic groups in Viet Nam’s ethnic communities in terms of ethics, history, traditional culture gradually degrade or are replaced by external culture and ethics, by scenes of violence, unreasonable murders shown everyday in modern media, newspapers, books, comics for young people and especially by the bad examples of corruption, bribery, and “run for higher positions, run for power, run for lower age and run for diplomas,”(11) it will cause an unprecedented disaster for society, for the people, for generations at present and in the future.

If human from the early to the old age is not taught and equipped with humanities, tolerance and many other good values by schools, families and community, a fertile land will be created for inhumane actions to flourish, spread and hinder the formation of desired human good characters, especially among young people. Therefore, besides the need to “have a solution to prevent and reverse the degradation of social morality, and overcome the undesired characters of the people of Viet Nam,”(12) the “building of comprehensively developed Vietnamese man must becomes an objective of strategic development,”(13) including “building the people of Viet Nam with beautiful personality, morality and soul, high intellectual capacity, creative skills, physical health, high social responsibility, civic obligation, sense of respect for the law and ownership for national construction and defense,”(14) should be regularly and continuously attached importance to by the whole of society.

This desired profile of the Vietnamese people in the strategic objectives of the 12th Party Congress can only be realized and developed in a healthy socio-cultural environment. Because, only the healthy socio-cultural environment can create necessary conditions and important basis for building man with morality, personality, and lifestyle and enhancing intellectual capacity as well as physical fitness of each people. Only in that environment can people feel at ease to concentrate on their work and not be distracted by unwanted impacts from surrounding environment.

Besides, it is necessary conduct radical and comprehensive renovation of education and training. Only by renovating education and training methodology can the above-mentions important qualities be formed. Gone are the days when only imposing methodology is used with “rhetoric and lip-service words,” when words do not match deeds, and when only ethical advice is provided without criticism and analysis of causes to negative phenomena in practice. So it is necessary to scale up good role models and practices, examples of good ethics, personality, renovation and high sense of responsibility. At the same time, society must strongly condemn and firmly combat negative behavior, uphold strict observance of law, and expose anti-social, inhumane and counter-culture behavior.

We are living in an information society where information is both sold and provided free. Information of all kinds are flooding social network. So if information about bad habits, vices, even corruption, and bribery, among others are sealed off and handled unsatisfactorily, it will cause great negative impacts; people’s confidence will decrease; and political, educational and ideological work will encounter numerous difficulties. Therefore, it is extremely effective for education to be carried out by means of solid science-based persuasion without rude imposition, creation of democratic environment and “democratic practices, respect for and promotion of freedom of thought”(15) to promote positive characteristics of which man is subject. Only self-convincing, and self-consciousness of people can help them reach decisions to right actions, and creativity and express their aspirations and their potential to develop the country.



(1), (2), (3) Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Party Central Office, Ha Noi, 2016, pp. 134, 29, 86

(4) Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Ibid, p. 67

(5) See:

(6), (7), (8), (9) Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Ibid, pp. 61, 265, 140, 31-32

(10) K. Marx and F. Engels: Complete Works, The National Political Publishing House, Ha Noi, 1995, Vol. 20, p. 654

(11) Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Ibid, p. 194

(12), (13), (14), (15) Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Ibid, pp. 126, 29, 122

This article was published in Communist Review No 885 Communists (July 2016)

Prof. Nguyen Trong Chuan, PhDViet Nam Academy of Social Sciences