Vietnam Communists' new challenge: managing capitalism
As inflation rises and currency weakens, observers will be watching the Communist Party Congress for clearer signs about the government’s determination to stabilize Vietnam's economy.
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Analysts say party delegates, who represent the party’s 3.6 million members, will likely grill Mr. Dung over his economic record. He has publicly acknowledged that mistakes were made at VinaShin, the indebted shipbuilding company, whose default has hurt Vietnam’s credit rating. Large state-owned companies like VinaShin enjoy access to cheap credit but critics say their rapid expansion has crowded out private companies and saddled taxpayers with the bill.Skip to next paragraph
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But the party’s powerful central committee is unlikely to shift from its state-led model of industrialization. Documents presented in the run-up to the congress suggested a fine-tuning of policy rather than a serious review, say analysts.
Nor is there any appetite for rethinking Vietnam’s one-party system, which imposes strict limits on public debate. Last week, the US government complained after an attack on a diplomat who visited a dissident Catholic priest in central Vietnam. Human rights groups say detentions of democracy activists, bloggers, and other critics have risen ahead of the party congress.
At a press conference Monday in Hanoi, Dinh The Huynh, a central committee member, defended the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. “Vietnam has no demand [for] – and is determined not to have – pluralism or a multiparty system,” he said, according to Agence-France Presse.
Experiments with democracy
However, the party has experimented with internal democracy and allowed local members to select their delegates to the five-yearly congress. Vietnam’s National Assembly, for which elections will take place in May, has also become more assertive under its current speaker, Nguyen Phu Trong, who is expected to move to the more powerful post of party secretary-general. In contrast, the position of president is seen as largely ceremonial in Vietnam.
Members of the party’s central committee compete for seats on the politburo, whose line-up is normally announced at the end of the congress. In 2006, the names of those chosen were read out in descending order of the votes cast for them, which revealed their standing in the party, says Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia.
“Younger delegates are demanding a choice. The system is becoming more responsive,” he says.
But Mr. Pincus points out that the generational divide in Vietnam doesn’t always correspond with political viewpoints. Some of the government’s most prominent critics are party elders, including military veterans, who have highlighted issues such as corruption in the ranks. In 2009, war hero General Vo Nguyen Giap lent his support to a public campaign to stop bauxite mining in the central highlands.
“Some of the most rigid, doctrinaire party hacks are young people. I don’t see a clear dividing line between young and old in terms of ideology,” he says.