(HANOI, Vietnam) — In Hanoi, Vietnam, remnants of its centuries of colonialism and war are scattered among the city’s more modern structures.
An ancient gate hides amongst urban noodle stalls, a statue of Russia’s Communist forefather Vladimir Lenin overlooks a skateboard park, and a decaying French colonial apartment building still stands as cars pass by on a bustling street.
But Vietnam’s most recent history is its bloodiest. Less than 50 years ago, more than a million people died in the Vietnam War, both soldiers and civilians. Almost 60,000 Americans also lost their lives as they fought forces allied with the Communist government in the country’s south.
But just a generation on, relations between the two countries are dramatically different. Last month, President Joe Biden visited Vietnam as the Communist nation elevated the U.S. to its highest diplomatic status, nearly five decades after the war ended.
Welcomed amidst national fanfare, observers see the president’s interest in Asia as an attempt to counter China’s looming influence over the region.
Still, many Vietnamese people have mixed feelings about building closer ties with their former foe. Entrepreneur Nguyen Thanh Nam, who narrowly survived the brutality of the Vietnam War, said he doesn’t necessarily view America as a reliable partner.
“You never know what will happen tomorrow,” he said. “So we have to learn to rely on yourself.”
Nam co-founded the online education platform Funix, which helps Vietnamese students learn tech-related skills. He said his father lost two-thirds of his relatives in the daily bombing campaigns by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
“I very much would like to hear something from President Biden that he was sorry for what happened. But nobody said anything. I think it’s unfair,” Nam told ABC News’ Selina Wang.
“Did your father harbor hatred towards the Americans?” Wang asked.
“Difficult to say. At least he never told me about that,” Nam said.
But others see opportunity in America.
A grandfather told Wang that his grandchildren have a better future than he did because of the new alliance.
“Absolutely, [a] better future because of the relationship with America,” he said.
Linh Nguyen just graduated from an IT course on the online education platform Funix that Nam created. She’s now planning to pursue her American dream in Texas, telling ABC News she wants to move there for a master’s course.
“There are more opportunities for me, so I can make money and travel the world,” she told Wang.
But while Nguyen is looking to America to secure her future, she said she will never forget her past.
“I will stay there, but when I’m older I will come back to Vietnam because I love my country,” Nguyen said.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.