Yet that sentiment is not as common as it once was. As recently as five years ago, many wealthy Vietnamese officials took pains to disguise their net worth; they rode motorbikes to work and turned assets into gold bars that were hidden in their modest homes. "Society was not in favor of rich people," says Pham Chi Lan, an economist in Hanoi. "They did not dare expose their wealth." Today, BMWs and Mercedes are frequently seen on the streets of Hanoi, and there's a construction boom of luxury villas. The annual publication of a list of the country's richest people seems like just another capitalist milestone for a modernizing economy. After all, "in the world of business, people need to know where they stand," says Truong Dinh Anh, a division director for FPT Corp., a Hanoi-based telecommunications and Internet company.
Then again, Truong is hardly a disinterested observer. Not only did he rank 20th on the VNExpress list (his stock is worth $35 million), but FPT is the parent company of the news site that published the list. And who is Vietnam's richest person, according to VNExpress? Truong's cousin, FPT Corp. CEO Truong Gia Binh, pictured, whose shares in the tech conglomerate are worth nearly $200 million. Call it the Vietnamese Dream.