The Nation State in the Region
Vietnam, like the other countries in Southeast Asia, has been subjected to both global economic pressures to stabilize, liberalize, privatize, and decentralize and international political pressures to actualize political pluralism and democratization. These pressures have not been unproductive. The Vietnamese state is acutely aware that its continued legitimacy is dependent on its ability to reproduce economic growth, which in the present context will mean engagement with global capitalism through liberalized trade and investment and through membership in various regional organizations such as ASEAN, APEC, and the WTO. It is clear from protests in Indonesia against the former Suharto government that an economic crisis fuels latent political discontent.
Nevertheless, the Vietnamese state is attempting to engage with the global economy on its own terms: to increase foreign investment but also to maintain state ownership in strategic sectors, to maintain overall control of the economy, and to resist at all cost the pressures for pluralism and the emergence of a self-determining civil society, which is a development threatening the southern part of the country. In the view of the Vietnamese leaders, the state is best prepared to accommodate the casualties of global engagement and rapid economic growth, such as the increasing inequality in income distribution, increasing disparities between rural and urban standards of living, the deteriorating position of women in decision making and income earning, and the growing income disparity and ideological tension between the generations.
In Vietnam, as in many parts of Asia, the impact of globalization is not confined to the economic and political spheres, but has pervaded all corners of Vietnamese society -- much to the preoccupation of the state. In