Culture should be a torch to light up nation’s way forward: Expert

It is vital that Vietnam build a “normative cultural value system” for its people to take as a reference and avoid deviant behaviors that harm the development of society and tarnish the national image.


Associate Professor and Doctor Bui Hoai Son, Standing Member of the National Assembly’s Committee on Culture and Education, talked with The Hanoi Times about cultural value on the occasion of the National Cultural Conference taking place on November 24.

Associate Professor and Doctor Bui Hoai Son, Standing Member of the National Assembly’s Committee on Culture and Education. Photo: VICAS

Culture is considered one of the important pillars of a country’s sustainable development. However, there is an opinion that “Vietnam’s culture development has not been commensurate with its economic growth”. What is your opinion on this?

I agree with this statement. Culture is a vast field. Building and developing culture is a long-term cause of the entire people led by the Party and managed by the State. The people are the creators, and the intelligentsia plays an important role.

There are both objective and subjective reasons for this disproportionate development.

On the objective side, culture is always a field that requires a certain time-lag for values to be shaped. While economic and social changes can take place and show immediate effects, culture is different. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, only when people have satisfied their material needs will they pay more attention to spiritual aspects.

On the subjective side, although the Party and State always attach great importance to the role of culture, the perception of culture’s position and role is still underestimated by local governments. Culture is regarded as a “mere entertainment” need of humans, which is often the last investment item subject to be cut first when the national economy is in trouble. This has caused a lot of “bottlenecks” for cultural development, from investment in resources (finance, facilities, and manpower) to policy systems to support cultural development.

A cultural festival was held in Hanoi before the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Pham Hung

The above-mentioned cultural disregard will leave consequences for the development of society. So what is the solution to this problem?

As many recent social problems have shown us, the main problems behind societal morality degradation, corruption, deviant behaviors, dissolute lifestyle, among others are all related to culture. In the new social context, culture must still be the guiding torch that leads and enlightens the development of each individual and the whole society.

It is crucial that Vietnam urgently builds three “universal cultural value systems”: the National Value System, Vietnamese People’s Normative Value System; and Vietnamese Family’s Value System. These are the essential value systems to unify the perception and orientation of the country’s cultural development. Also, they would regulate the behavior of each individual.

The three value systems have been put forth and discussed for more than a decade, but this is a difficult and complex topic. To date, scientists still owe the country the building of these value systems. The main reason is that the value systems of Vietnam and Vietnamese people are so diverse that we are confused in determining the specific contents. The ideal for one person may not be necessary for another. Only when we can identify universal issues but still be specific to each occupational group and social class can the building of value systems come to life.

The 2019 Ao dai Festival took place in Hanoi. Photo: Minh An

The 2021 Culture Conference emphasizes that “culture contributes to arousing the aspiration to build a strong country” among the people. From your point of view, can culture take on this task?

In the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, culture is one of the most important pillars. Culture will create spiritual motivation for people to have more determination to build the country.

So far, culture has strengthened the spirit of Vietnamese people, helping them to be optimistic to overcome difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. More than ever, Vietnamese people’s inherent spirits of solidarity, “mutual support” and “common joy and suffering” are maximized.

Besides, culture brings more than just spiritual values. Building “a cultural industry” is becoming a worldwide trend. Diversifying cultural products and attracting tourists will contribute to the economic development of the country.

Therefore, culture is fully capable of “arousing the aspiration to build a powerful country” by becoming the spiritual foundation and regulatory system for socio-economic development.

What do you expect from the ongoing 2021 National Cultural Conference?

The 2021 National Cultural Conference is considered as a Dien Hong conference [which was a historic meeting held by Emperor Tran Thanh Tong, asking the elders for their advice if the Tran Dynasty should draw or fight against the Mongols when they were about to attack the country for the second time], and an opportunity for the opinions of the whole society to be heard, as well as for the Party and State to give important and firm messages related to culture.

After the conference, there will certainly be positive and profound changes in the perception of culture’s position and role, thereby shaping the actions of all levels, sectors, and localities in developing culture. This is a great opportunity for culture to grow, contributing to the sustainable development of the country.

Thank you for your time!