Border markets and livelihood transformation of Hmong people at the Vietnamese Chinese border: a case study of Can Cau cattle market

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Ta Thi Tam


Since Vietnam implemented its reform policy in 1986 and normalized relations with China in 1990, the network of border markets along the Vietnamese Chinese border has witnessed greater bustle and development. Several of the local ethnic people’s marketplaces have been expanded and became trading hubs for various goods with other localities and Chinese markets across the border.
This paper aims to study the impacts of these border marketplaces and the transformation of local people’s livelihoods, as well as analyze the benefits of these border markets to local ethnic minority groups. The research has been conducted with both qualitative and quantitative approach, including in-depth interviews, group discussions, participatory observation, and questionnaires distributed to 100 petty traders residing in Can Cau Commune, Si Ma Cai District, Lao Cai Province, where one of the Hmong people’s well-known cattle markets is located. The study results found that Can Cau-based Hmong people, who have been making good use of their location, have succeeded in grasping various livelihood opportunities, also by profiting from their social and cultural resources such as their ethnic relations, lineages, languages, and cross-border networks. This is a good example of the successful participation of an ethnic minority group within the borderlands’ economic integration process, although they are faced with market competition and the common instability of border markets.


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