Waking Up the North

Until recently, the billboard alongside Highway 1 in Bac Ninh province offered only empty promises. "Applying Unity and Creativity Will Speed Up Industrialization," it stated, portraying happy factory workers staring rapturously at a hammer and sickle. But Bac Ninh, like most of northern Vietnam, had been largely left out of the country's economic growth in the past decade. When Pham Thi Nhan, 19, graduated from high school last year, she saw few work prospects other than helping her family grow rice, an occupation that earns them about $400 a year. Nhan thought of moving south like her uncle, who last year...

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