Navigating the Crisis: The VCP’s Efforts to Restructure the Economy and Fight Corruption

[Southeast Asian Affairs 2013] This chapter focuses on the Vietnam Communist Party’s (VCP) efforts, especially in 2012, to promote its political legitimacy. In particular, the chapter will analyse Vietnam’s recent endeavours in restructuring the economy and intensifying its fight against corruption. These two measures have been adopted by the VCP as a major part of its wider response to the perceived decline in its performance-based legitimacy due to the country’s enduring socio-economic difficulties over the past few years. The chapter will argue that although both the economic restructuring and the fight against corruption have achieved certain progress, the actual results still leave much to be desired mainly because of the VCP’s unwillingness to embrace radical measures to reform the economy and to make its fight against corruption truly effective. As a result, although the two measures tend to help the VCP gain more popular support in the short term, whether or not they are sufficient to significantly improve the VCP’s political legitimacy in the long run is still unclear. Continue reading “Navigating the Crisis: The VCP’s Efforts to Restructure the Economy and Fight Corruption”

Vietnam’s Domestic–Foreign Policy Nexus: Doi Moi, Foreign Policy Reform, and Sino-Vietnamese Normalization

[Asian Politics & Policy] This article examines the link between Vietnam’s adoption of the Doi Moi (renovation) policy and transformations in its China policy in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a case study of the domestic–foreign policy nexus. The article argues that during this period, changes in Vietnam’s foreign policy in general and its China policy in particular originated first and foremost from the Vietnamese Communist Party’s (VCP) domestic agenda of promoting economic reform and protecting the regime’s survival. As the VCP considered hostile relations with China as detrimental to both its economic reform and regime security, it strived to mend relations with China as quickly as possible. Against this backdrop, Vietnam made a number of important concessions to China regarding the Cambodian issue in order to accelerate the normalization process, which eventually concluded in late 1991. Continue reading “Vietnam’s Domestic–Foreign Policy Nexus: Doi Moi, Foreign Policy Reform, and Sino-Vietnamese Normalization”

The US–Vietnam comprehensive partnership: key issues and implications

[East Asia Forum] On 25 July President Truong Tan Sang had his first official White House visit, where both leaders announced the establishment of the new US–Vietnam comprehensive partnership.

The diplomatic venture looks at three central issues: Vietnam’s intensifying rivalry with China over the South China Sea, its gloomy economic conditions, and the communist regime’s human rights record. Continue reading “The US–Vietnam comprehensive partnership: key issues and implications”

South China Sea disputes strain Vietnam–China relations

[East Asia Forum] Since 1991, comprehensive Vietnam–China relations have developed but remain constrained by the South China Sea (SCS) disputes.

What makes the disputes highly relevant for future bilateral relations is that they have proven intractable, leaving the possibility of an eventual solution a matter of almost infinite uncertainty.

The intractability of the disputes is rooted in their complicated nature as well as setbacks in possible settlements. Continue reading “South China Sea disputes strain Vietnam–China relations”

South China Sea Disputes Keep Vietnam-China Relations Cold

[ISEAS Perspective 22/2013] Despite recent significant improvements in bilateral relations, a number of problems still exist which can threaten Vietnam’s relations with China in the long term. Disputes in the South China Sea [Biển Đông, or East Sea, in Vietnamese] stand out as the single most challenging one. Resurfaced recently, the disputes have not only remained the most serious sticking point in bilateral relations but have even pitted the two countries against each other in deadly armed confrontation on a number of occasions as well. The management and resolution (if ever) of the disputes therefore bear significant implications for the future relations between the two growing economies.

This paper provides an analysis of how the South China Sea disputes have been a constant irritant to Vietnam—China relations. Accordingly, the paper will first be examining factors that make the disputes intractable. Next, it will review joint efforts to manage and resolve the disputes, their successes as well as limitations. Finally, it will discuss some recent developments which show how serious a challenge the disputes have been to bilateral relations. Continue reading “South China Sea Disputes Keep Vietnam-China Relations Cold”

Vietnam’s balancing act

[American Review Magazine – Nov 2012]  In early 1833, a United States delegation led by Edmund Roberts arrived in Vietnam on the sloop-of-war USS Peacock, which anchored in Vung Lam Bay, off modern Phu Yen province. As a “special confidential agent” of President Andrew Jackson, Roberts proposed to sign a treaty of commerce with the Nguyen Dynasty but failed in his mission due to misunderstandings caused by language barriers and Vietnam’s isolationist policy. It took the two countries another 166 years to conclude a bilateral trade agreement. Roberts’s failed mission was one of the many missed opportunities that, right from the early days of their interaction, prevented Vietnam and the United States from establishing a stronger relationship. Continue reading “Vietnam’s balancing act”

Pre-Colonial Vietnam’s Development under Sino-Vietnamese Cultural and Economic Interactions

[International Studies] This article seeks to provide an analysis of how cultural and economic interactions with China affected Vietnam’s course of national development and its perception of China in the pre-colonial period. The article argues that due to geographical proximity, a far more powerful China had long been a permanent and major source of military threat for Vietnam. Nevertheless, in the domain of cultural and economic interactions between the two asymmetric powers, China’s influence on Vietnam appeared to be mixed, sometimes threatening but sometimes beneficial for the smaller power in certain aspects. Therefore, a more balanced account of Vietnam’s relations with China in the pre-colonial era should take into consideration not only the antagonistic rivalry perpetuated by the ‘tyranny of geography,’ but also the resilient cultural and economic symbiosis made possible by the condition of geographical proximity between the two countries. Continue reading “Pre-Colonial Vietnam’s Development under Sino-Vietnamese Cultural and Economic Interactions”

The Dominance of Chinese Engineering Contractors in Vietnam

[ISEAS Perspective 4/2013] 


Since bilateral normalization in 1991, Vietnam-China economic relations have been developing rapidly. One particular change is the dominant position in Vietnam that Chinese engineering contractors have managed to attain. According to China’s Ministry of Commerce (2010), Chinese engineering companies were by the end of 2009 involved in projects worth US$15.42 billion, turning the Vietnamese market into their largest in Southeast Asia. Various Vietnamese sources also confirm that these contractors are strongly outcompeting contractors from Japan, South Korea, and Western countries. On occasion, Chinese contractors have accounted for up to 90 per cent of EPC (Engineering/Procurement/Construction) contracts for thermal power plants in Vietnam (Nhat Minh, 2012). Continue reading “The Dominance of Chinese Engineering Contractors in Vietnam”

Vietnam’s fight against corruption: a self-defeating effort?

[East Asia Forum] Vietnam’s National Assembly will pass the revised Law on Anti-Corruption in the next few weeks to try to intensify the fight against corruption. This is an important move against the backdrop of widespread and enduring corruption, which has undermined the legitimacy of the country’s communist regime. For example, a 2010 report by Towards Transparency, a local anti-corruption NGO, shows that 62 per cent of ordinary urban Vietnamese citizens surveyed perceived corruption in the country to be getting worse and 18 per cent said it remained the same. Meanwhile, in 2011 Vietnam was ranked 112th out of 182 surveyed countries in the expert-polled Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Continue reading “Vietnam’s fight against corruption: a self-defeating effort?”

Performance-based Legitimacy: The Case of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Doi Moi

[Contemporary Southeast Asia]  Abstract: This article examines the link between the legitimation process of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and its adoption of the Doi Moi (renovation) policy. It argues that socio-economic performance emerged as the single most important source of legitimacy for the CPV in the mid-1980s as its traditional sources of legitimacy were exhausted and alternative legitimation modes were largely irrelevant or ineffective. The CPV’s switch to performance-based legitimacy has had significant implications for Vietnam’s domestic politics as well as its foreign policy and has served as an essential foundation for the Party’s continued rule. At the same time, however, it has also presented the CPV with serious challenges in maintaining uninterrupted socio-economic development in the context of the country’s growing integration with the global economic system which is experiencing instability. It is in this context that nationalism, couched in terms of Vietnam’s territorial and maritime boundary claims in the South China Sea, has been revived as an additional source of legitimacy in times of economic difficulties. Continue reading “Performance-based Legitimacy: The Case of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Doi Moi”