Unearthing Politics: Environment and Contestation in Post-Socialist Vietnam.

AuthorSang, Huynh Tam

Unearthing Politics: Environment and Contestation in Post-Socialist Vietnam. By Jason Morris-Jung. Singapore: Springer, 2021. E-version: 241pp.

Due to its complex entanglement with politics and its transformative potential, the environmental protection has been considered a "global symbol" for collective action that historically inspires social movements, especially in socialist societies. Vietnam is no exception to this. Jason Morris-Jung's Unearthing Politics: Environment and Contestation in Post-Socialist Vietnam provides a compelling analysis of environmental politics in Vietnam, focusing on a bauxite mining project that used Chinese technologies and contractors in the country's Central Highlands.

After the Second World War, wealthier nations tended to mine bauxite in poorer countries due to cheaper costs and less political resistance to their projects. Despite the government's assurances about the safety of the mining projects, Vietnamese scientists, activists, professionals and community leaders were worried about their potential social, environmental and economic impacts. Such worries were understandable as Vietnam had generally prioritized economic growth and development over environmental protection since the country started market-based economic reforms in the late 1980s. In narrating public opposition to the bauxite mining project in early 2009, the author reveals how this movement prompted politically diverse groups within the communist state to band together and form activist coalitions that sought to work towards a more democratic and liberal Vietnam.

The book comprises six chapters. Chapter One outlines the author's methodology and provides an overview of the controversy over the bauxite mining project. It also explains the political ramifications of the controversy and helps readers understand the alternative political futures of Vietnam. Chapter Two discusses how the government's plans to mine bauxite shaped shifting political alliances after the Vietnam War. Since it lacked the infrastructure and finances, the government constantly sought the cooperation of its international partners to develop the bauxite mining industry before finally coming to rely on China.

Chapters Three and Four articulate how the controversy started, its political implications, and how opposition to the project subsequently turned into something more radical. They also offer insights into the efforts of anti-bauxite activists, including the...

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