Renovating Politics in Contemporary Vietnam

Renovating Politics in Contemporary Vietnam

Renovating Politics in Contemporary Vietnam

Renovating Politics in Contemporary Vietnam

Synopsis

Moving from the 1950s to the present, Zachary Abuza explores Vietnamese politics and culture through the lens of the internal debates over political reform. Abuza focuses on issues of representation, intellecutal freedom, the rise of civil society, and the emergence of a loyal opposition, assessing the prospects for change. He finds that, while some mildly dissident groups may add impetus to the effort, internal party protest remains the most legitimate - and most likely - form of political dissent in the country. His analysis offers a compelling portrayal of the extraordinary contradictions that are at the core of contemporary Vietnam. Abuza explores contemporary Vietnamese politics through the lens of the internal debates over political reform.

Excerpt

The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) has ruled continuously in the northern half of the country since 1954 and throughout Vietnam since May 1975. In that time, it has tolerated no dissent, monopolizing all political power and decisionmaking. In the twenty-five years since the end of the war, the standard of living for the vast majority of the population has improved negligibly, though Vietnam is situated in the heart of the most economically dynamic region in the world. The VCP has survived the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and its former patron the Soviet Union. It has embarked on a program of limited economic reform in an attempt to raise the standard of living to regain its tarnished legitimacy, but it has countenanced no political liberalization or reform.

Since the onset in 1986 of the economic reform program known as doi moi (renovation), there has been a growing chorus of dissent directed toward the party and its policies. That any dissent has emerged in the authoritarian, one-party state of Vietnam is surprising, but there is something even more extraordinary. Most of the dissent comes from an unlikely source: within the party's own ranks. Although opposition has been voiced by former members of the Republic of Vietnam regime and by the historically political clergymen of the many religions and sects in the country, the most vociferous criticism has come from senior members of the party who are upset at the country's development or lack thereof. Despite twenty-five years since achieving national unification, Vietnam at the turn of the century remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world.

Vietnam is a paradox in many ways. It is a richly endowed country, but average per capita GDP has remained at $300 per year for nearly a . . .

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