If Donald Trump’s ghostwriter Tony Schwartz is mulling a sequel to “Art of the Deal,” he may find inspiration in Hanoi.
There, Schwartz will encounter a group of leaders running circles around his earlier muse, dating back to that 1987 bestseller. And, in the process, reminding investors everywhere why Vietnam’s Covid-19 economic bounce back is no fluke.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s government was doing its best to keep a low profile. All that changed earlier this month when President Trump’s Treasury Department formally labeled Vietnam a “currency manipulator.” Though Team Trump gave China a pass, it brought the hammer down on a nation with gross domestic product comparable to Louisiana, about $262 billion.
The reason: Trump is irked that Vietnam won a trade war he thought would prompt CEOs to move millions of factory jobs from China to America. Instead, much of that labor migration favored Vietnam.
Between July and August alone, Washington’s trade deficit with Hanoi jumped 11% to $7.6 billion, a roughly 39% increase from a year earlier. By October, it had risen to $8.74 billion. Trump already had lots of explaining to do over the tens of billions of dollars of bailouts he’s had to extend to U.S. farmers ruined by his China tariffs.
That’s billions borrowed from China to aid agricultural interests slammed by Trump’s trade war. Seeing tiny Vietnam reap the benefits adds insult to injury. And it has Trump lashing out, targeting Vietnam’s exchange rate.
The good news for Phuc’s government is that Trump will soon leave the scene. Joe Biden’s White House is more likely to prioritize Vietnam’s friendship, diplomatically speaking, over petty score-settling. What, after all, does America’s ginormous economy get from antagonizing a small one destined to be a significant power in Southeast Asia?
Vietnam is often seen as a “mini-China” of sorts. A gross oversimplification, of course. Comparisons stem from Vietnam’s locale, 97 million-plus population and its reasonably similar governing system. Amid the trade war fallout, Hanoi wisely positioned itself as an ideal hedge against Trump and China’s Xi Jinping going toe-to-toe.
This dynamic is partly why Vietnam is likely to grow at least 6.5% in 2021, while Biden inherits a pandemic-decimated economy. Nor is Vietnam’s moment in the spotlight likely to be fleeting. It has a relative wage advantage in sectors from garments to furniture to the manufacture of consumer goods. Though South Asia, particularly Bangladesh, is making a run at factories fleeing China, Vietnam boasts better infrastructure and geographical placement within regional supply chains.
Vietnam’s boom is Phuc’s to lose. There’s much his government needs to do to raise its economic game and sustain the gains of recent years.
It matters that Hanoi appears to have handled the coronavirus well so far. Officially, the nation has reported only about 35 deaths. Even so, Hanoi must intensify efforts to root out corruption. It must strengthen the banking system, internationalize corporate governance and raise its stock market game.
Vietnam must shrink the size of the state sector to create more space for private enterprise. It must diversify growth engines away from exports toward services, innovation and tech startups. It must up investments in education and training to increase productivity.
Vietnam’s leadership also must embrace a freer media and internet. Clamping down on social media outlets is counterproductive in the long run. It’s hard to argue, decades on, that China’s “Great Firewall” has helped Beijing achieve any of its economic objectives. President Xi’s tenure is making China more opaque.
For now, though, Vietnam is teaching a masterclass in the art of the deal at which Trump was supposed to excel. And in ways ghostwriter Schwartz, in a series of recent interviews, now says must drive the president crazy as tiny Vietnam outmaneuvers the mighty Trump Nation.
One of Schwartz’s most interesting Vietnam-related Trump observations came out of a February 2019 interview with Politico. “Weakness is Trump’s greatest fear,” Schwartz said. As such, he said, Trump’s takeaway of the war in Vietnam was viscerally unsettling, “his worst fear writ large—that the enemy, with far less money and resources, would figure out a way to outwit the Goliath.”
Vietnam, let’s face it, did a far better job putting out the welcome mat for multinational companies, negotiating deals to create new jobs and raise wages and coming out on top from the soft-power marketing standpoint. As this dawned on Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin fired a shot across Hanoi’s bow.
Trump’s 11th-hour Vietnam broadside seems at once Freudian and a bit Shakespearean, too. As Schwartz and many a Trump biographer point out, Trump has always been sensitive to the perception of him as a Vietnam draft-dodger. Now Vietnam is piecing the myth of Trump’s art-of-the-deal reputation, too.
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Visit the city's tiniest art gallery: Five things to do in Saskatoon this weekend – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E.
Whether you’re interested in art, a virtual party, some outdoor activities or cleaning up around the house, there’s a little bit of something for everyone this weekend in Saskatoon.
1. Visit the Free Little Art Gallery
In an effort to help Saskatoon residents share art with one another, Suzy Schwanke has created the Free Little Art Gallery YXE outside her home at 332 Hilliard St. E. Designed in the style of community libraries and kitchen boxes, visitors to the gallery can take a piece of art, leave a piece of art, or do both. You can check out some of the artwork on Instagram @Freelittleartgalleryyxe.
2. Hit up The Bassment’s virtual party
Featuring the music and talents of eight Saskatoon bands, The Bassment presents InTune 2021 — a free online party playing from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The shows will be streamed live through the Bassment’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
3. Check out local performers
Watch as some of Saskatoon’s performing artists share their work in Episode 1 of Persephone Theatre’s Open Stage, which was published earlier this month. The episode is available to watch whenever you want at persephonetheatre.org and features Peace Akintade, Kathie Cram, Amanda Trapp, Sketchy Bandits, Carla Orosz and Ellen Froese.
4. Have some family fun
The Fuddruckers Family Fun Centre (2910 8th St. E) is open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Sunday, weather permitting. Families can practice their skills on the 18-hole Putt N’ Bounce miniature golf course, reach new heights on The Rock climbing wall or take a swing at the Grand Slam batting cages. More information is available at fudds.ca or by calling 306-477-0808.
5. Drop off your hazardous waste
The City of Saskatoon is holding its first Hazardous Household Waste Drop Off of the year on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Civic Operations Centre (57 Valley Rd.). The drop off is open to Saskatoon residents from residential properties only. Products eligible for drop off include aerosols, automotive fluids, batteries, cleaners, light bulbs, yard chemicals and more. Learn more at saskatoon.ca/hazardouswaste.
The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.
YK ARCC celebrates 10 years by pushing for NWT art gallery – Cabin Radio
Its trailer doubles as one of the NWT’s only art galleries. Now, the Yellowknife Artist-Run Community Centre is turning 10 years old.
The group, YK ARCC for short, formed in 2011 in a downtown Yellowknife church scheduled for demolition. “There was always something going on,” recalled Métis artist Rosalind Mercredi, owner of the city’s Down to Earth Gallery, who was YK ARCC’s first president.
“I think it was so good to be able to have a space where people wanted to work on stuff and, if they had bigger projects they wanted to do, there was a space to do it. It was pretty vibrant times, I would say, for art.”
Though the organization stayed in the church for less than a year, it has brought art and shows to Yellowknife since. Temporary homes have included an apartment above a Vietnamese restaurant and empty spaces in the Centre Square Mall.
Casey Koyczan, a Tłı̨chǫ artist from Yellowknife pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Manitoba, held some of his first shows with YK ARCC’s help.
“It really helped to be able to show work within an environment that was conducive to more of a fine arts aesthetic as opposed to … a coffee shop, or a pub, or something like that,” said Koyczan, who was on YK ARCC’s board.
“YK ARCC felt like it was getting to more of a formal-exhibit kind of feel.”
‘We need a territorial gallery’
The group made headlines shortly after opening a mobile art gallery in a trailer. At the beginning of the pandemic, the team took art to residents by accepting reservations through Facebook then driving the gallery to make house calls in different neighbourhoods.
“Because it’s so small, we might be the only gallery in Canada that didn’t have to close,” said longtime board member Sarah Swan. “It has a limited capacity. We knew we could still operate it safely.”
Yet the trailer’s success simultaneously illuminated what YK ARCC’s members believe is a glaring deficiency in the NWT: the absence of a territorial gallery.
The cost of rent makes it difficult for the non-profit to hold on to one space for any length of time. Many of the spaces that are available in Yellowknife don’t work well for art shows.
“We need a territorial gallery,” former board member Dan Korver said.
That doesn’t mean a commercial gallery geared toward profit, he clarified. Instead, Korver wants a space where artists can show their work and engage with an audience “for art’s sake.”
The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is the only large-scale, non-commercial, gallery fitting that bill in the NWT. It hosts two fine art exhibits a year.
“It’s just simply not enough,” said Swan. “There are so many more artists and so much more work out there to show, so many more ideas.”
“We created the mobile gallery in the first place to feel that exhibition gap, but also, we created it to be a piece of agitation in itself. That’s why we called it the Art Gallery of the Northwest Territories.
“It’s really pathetic that our territorial gallery is a trailer. We all joke that if there ever is a real gallery of the Northwest Territories that’s not in a trailer, we’ll happily give the name back.”
Koyczan described obstacles in establishing his career that stemmed directly from the lack of a territorial art gallery.
“Back when I was showing at YK ARCC, it wasn’t recognized by the Canada Arts Council,” he said. “Therefore, when you go to apply for grants and funding … and you provide your CV saying that you showed work at YK ARCC, they check their records and say the show basically didn’t exist because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate gallery.
“I’ve had to work really hard on exporting myself and making artwork that is impactful so that, regardless of where I was located, it would be recognized by people in the south, or around North America, or internationally.
“The NWT needs a contemporary gallery. It’s just holding us back, not having that space.”
‘No GNWT mandate’ for a gallery
In a written statement to Cabin Radio, the territorial Department of Education, Culture, and Employment said it has no plan to create a territorial gallery.
The department said it “does not have a mandate to create physical infrastructure for the arts.”
“However,” the response continued, “the GNWT would be happy to work with regional organizations to see how the GNWT can support their plans.”
Korver believes government involvement in creating an artist-run centre or non-commercial gallery should be limited to provision of funding, so any gallery can remain community-driven and independent.
“We need that physical space, but how do you run it?” he wondered. “Is it better to just provide a grassroots organization – or organizations, maybe there shouldn’t just be one – with stable funding so they can provide those spaces and run those spaces?”
More spaces that can host art are on the way.
Makerspace YK moved into the old After 8 pub this January and is planning workshops and exhibits. The City of Yellowknife expects to open a visitor centre in the Centre Square Mall that would include art displays.
Meanwhile, the territorial government is set to release its updated NWT Arts Strategy this June. The previous territorial arts strategy, released in 2004, had identified a need for more arts spaces.
As a gallery owner, Mercredi said she is curious to see how the strategy is implemented.
“You can make a strategy but if the plan doesn’t have an implementation idea behind it, then really just sits,” she said. “How do you implement it when most of the arts organizations don’t have enough infrastructure or people to put those things together?”
Swan said YK ARCC will continue to run its mobile gallery while celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Members have applied for funding to run a series of “emerging curator workshops.”
“Art is our passion,” Swan said. “I think there’s just this drive to share.
“Because we know how good art can be, or how amazing and fully developed it can be, we want to fight for that. We want to try to grow the art community in Yellowknife.”