Changing Political Economy of Vietnam: The Case of Ho Chi Minh City

Changing Political Economy of Vietnam: The Case of Ho Chi Minh City

Changing Political Economy of Vietnam: The Case of Ho Chi Minh City

Changing Political Economy of Vietnam: The Case of Ho Chi Minh City

Synopsis

The book explores the way in which the state has become comercialized under reform as party and government officials have gone into business and considers the impact that this has had on politics relations within Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The book charts the way in which power has been decentralized to the lower levls of the party-state but argues that the central state retains significant power. These issues are explored through a variety of case studies including the implementation of different reform policies, struggles over political and business activity, and the prosecution of two major corruption cases. Particular emphasis is placed on piecing together the myriad of informal practices which dominate business and political life in Vietnam.

Excerpt

The gestation of this book now stretches back some years. At the heart of it lies three exciting and enjoyable years in Vietnam (1996-9). When I began field research in Vietnam, I had a general sense of the direction I wanted to travel, including a curiosity about the 'informal sector' in Vietnam, which for reasons that were rather ill-defined at the time I thought was important. However, I could never have imagined where my research would take me, the areas I would delve into and the conclusions I would draw. Research in Vietnam was never easy - on the contrary. The struggle involved in learning the language, the often sensitive nature of the kind of things I was trying to uncover and probably the weather, all combined to make it one of the more challenging periods of my life. Nevertheless, as insights came, they were inevitably the more rewarding for it.

Although it adopts a post-1975 perspective, Changing Political Economy of Vietnam is primarily about the 1990s in Vietnam from the vantage point of the country's business centre and second city, Ho Chi Minh City. While it is too early to be sure how the 1990s in Vietnam will be viewed by future generations, there is perhaps the beginnings of a sense in which, compared with subsequent decades, it may prove to have been a rather lawless one. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Vietnam scholars are already starting to talk about there being a greater sense of 'order' in the country. Although its precise origins and make-up remain to be fleshed out, 'rule by law' as opposed to 'rule of law' seems a fruitful way to proceed. For this author, the term 'primitive accumulation' comes to mind as capturing something of the 1990s in Ho Chi Minh City. Certainly, there seemed to be a fair number of members of the elite - and others - getting rich on the back of such things as the emergence of the land market, the craze to establish banks, or generally exploiting their public positions in state enterprises and the bureaucracy for private gain. Some people also made spectacular losses as well. While officially regarded as exceptional, the Tamexco and Minh Phung-Epco corruption cases, which are explored at length in Chapter 5 of the book, epitomise much that lay at the heart of the 1990s. At the same time, the prosecution of these cases may in time be regarded as a turning point, when the central state sought to re-establish order over the activities of the lower levels of the party-state. This

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