VietNamNet Bridge – Kermis, the traditional cultural activity in northern
provinces, has gradually lost its character, since Chinese goods, not locally
made craft goods, have been flooding the markets.
“Strange” goods have been available at the kermises, while more and more
“strange” merchants have appeared there, while local specialties have
disappeared from many kermises in northern mountainous areas.
Rushing to “duty free market”
The Sam Pun border gate market in Dong Van district of Ha Giang province was
relatively bustling on pre-Tet days. A commune people’s committee’s official
told reporters that the kermis has been opened to create the opportunities for
the Vietnamese and Chinese local residents in the border areas to exchange goods
and improve living standards.
However, it seemed that there has been no “goods exchange” here, because there
were only Chinese goods available, while the so called “Vietnamese goods” were
just some products made manually by the minority people.
Chinese goods were the main products displayed at the market. One could find
everything needed for his daily life here, from consumer goods, clothes to
electronics. Nguyen Van Thang, lieutenant from the Sam Pun border post, said the
Chinese goods here are always profuse and dirt cheap.
“Vietnamese seemingly do not think of distributing Vietnamese goods here. Is it
because the area is too far from the central region?” he questioned.
There were two separated areas for Vietnamese and Chinese goods at the A Pa Chai
border kermis. However, there were only some goods items seen displayed in the
Vietnamese goods area.
The kermis here gathered three times a month, on the third, 13th and 23rd day of
the months. People go there just to buy Chinese goods to carry to other areas
for reselling for profits.
Chinese goods have been easily penetrating the kermises in the mountainous
areas. The goods do not have to go through any quality examinations at the
border gates. Vietnamese local residents call these the “duty free markets”
where they can buy everything for themselves and for reselling at low prices.
The same situation can be seen in the biggest kermises in Dong Van and Meo Vac
in Ha Giang province. Except farm produce and agricultural implements which are
made in Vietnam, the other goods available, including medicine, are also sourced
The danger of being culturally taken over
Reporters all said they could not imagine before that even the cultural products
advertising Vietnamese tourist sites, such as Sa Pa, Ha Long Bay, are also
labeled with Chinese letters. 80 percent of film and music CDs, VCDs available
here are sourced from China, while the other 20 percent from Thailand.
Nguyen Van Bac from the Culture Information Division of the Bac Ha district
has expressed his worry about the risk of the northern areas losing their
traditional character because of the domination of the Chinese cultural goods.
Bac said that even the specialty products of the local areas have disappeared
from the market. The Ban Pho maize alcohol has been counterfeited with alcohol
and water. The liquor sellers at the Bac Ha Market now import a kind of alcohol
from China which can be mixed with water to create liquor, the Ban Pho brand has
been severely hurt. As a result, visitors to the kermis dare not look to buy Ban
Pho liquor any more.
Chinese have been selling their products in Vietnam and have been collecting all
kinds of Vietnamese specialties. Local residents have noted that Chinese have
been seeking to purchase all the products they can.
Chinese merchants come to the Can Cau animal market in Simacai district to
collect buffalos. Vietnamese farmers rush to sell buffalos for money, and then
lack buffalos for rice field works and keep hunger because they cannot cultivate
on their fields.