As Hanoi Marks 1,000th Birthday, Some Are Cynical





HANOI, Vietnam — A musical refrain blared from a loudspeaker as this weekend began — “Hanoi, Hanoi, Hanoi” — and on the sidewalk below, Nguyen Thi Thuy was selling red heart-shaped decals printed with the gold star of Vietnam’s flag....

With parades and concerts and flamboyant propaganda kitsch, Hanoi is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary on Sunday, and much of city life has stopped to make way for it....

A target of American bombing in the 1960s and 1970s, then a moribund postwar cityscape of poverty and rationing, Hanoi is now experiencing some of the ills of urbanization — overcrowding, traffic jams, pollution — more quickly than its benefits.

Its population is more than six million, with some of the most expensive and most densely populated real estate in the world.

For some people here, weary of propaganda and cynical about the country’s leaders, the gaudy and expensive celebrations were an occasion for discontent.

“I keep asking myself, a thousand years of what?” said the writer Vo Thi Hao in a widely quoted essay. “The whole country is flooded with flags, but people remain poor, and corruption is widespread along with many other social evils.”...


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