Home Asian News The Great Debate of Vietnam's Democracy - The Diplomat

The Great Debate of Vietnam’s Democracy – The Diplomat


Vietnam’s economic reforms and reforms since the late 1980s have created economic opportunities to lift millions of people out of poverty. However, driven by three decades of economic growth, Vietnam is currently facing consequences related to environmental degradation, inequality and a loss of state resources due to corruption. Furthermore, Vietnam’s reliance on foreign investment without taking advantage of the spillover effects of technology and management has not reduced the economy’s dependence on cheap and unskilled labor. This severe situation is exacerbated by demographic changes, mainly due to the aging population. Many fear that the middle-income trap will make Vietnam lag behind as innovation drives other developed economies to compete globally in the information age.

Inspired by the development stories of East Asian countries that have experienced the benefits of applying democratic principles, there are many formal and informal views that Vietnam needs a Doi Moi. new for the second time. focus on political reform. If new political institutions and practices are allowed to emerge and lead to new ways of governance and new policy ideas, the economy may turn to more open and innovative activities based on on science and technology. It would be appropriate to question how the current system of government can usher in a new era of economic transition when so many people benefit from the old paradigm based on the exploitation of labor and wealth. natural resources.

Institutional reform is underway but usually only at the administrative level, promoted by simplifying regulations and laws to avoid overlap and duplication. Concepts such as three separatist powers (ie the three branches of government) or civil society are still considered taboo by government. Although the concept of democracy has been formally mentioned as one of the country’s strategic priorities – along with “justice” and “civilization” – “democratization” is still a sensitive term for political side because it is assumed (and feared) that it will lead to political pluralism and thus threaten the stability of Vietnam’s one-party system. The government firmly believes that the current (clear) political unity regime is preeminent and cannot be changed.

During the 1970s and 1980s, democratic countries like South Korea and Taiwan showed how political pluralism can overcome economic bottlenecks. At the same time, the models of social democracy found in Scandinavian countries show how socialist values ​​and democratic systems are compatible and even effective in certain circumstances. However, many Vietnamese authorities believe that Vietnam has a unique historical, political and cultural context that almost no external model can apply. Indeed, radical intellectuals speculate that the Vietnamese communist government has no model other than the one implemented by the Chinese Communist Party.

This has led to an ideological divide. One side adopts the current model and consistently points out the flaws and failures of democratized countries. The other faction defended the pluralistic political model that was dismissed by its ideological opponents as unsuitable for Vietnam. What can be learned from this debate?

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Static versus dynamic view of democratization

It can be said that both sides of this ideological division have limitations in thought. That is, both see institutional change as a static rather than a dynamic process. Since Vietnam is a country in transition, adaptive political institutional reform is needed to maintain the movement towards a democratic system that fosters economic growth – such as seen in the history of many developed countries in the world. At the same time, democratic models are not flawless, as the election of leaders and parties on the edge of ideology has shown in countries around the world in recent years (e.g. United States, Brazil and some Eastern Europe).

As such, the Vietnamese people must accept a shared responsibility to balance power and continually adjust direction. Democracy is a universally accepted value because, at its purest level, it is the best system to ensure a fair and equal society through the “government of the people, by the people. , for the people, ”as Abraham Lincoln said.

In essence, a government is and needs to reflect the interests of the people to protect the right of any individual to participate in political and public life. In a just and equal country, the state protects democratic values ​​and institutions. To achieve this ideal, society must be determined and determined to overcome the barriers on the path to democracy and do so through peaceful, productive and fair means.

Therefore, one dynamic way of thinking about governance reform is to accept and facilitate people to participate in the affairs of the country, whether directly or indirectly. Along that path, every civilized nation advances on its historical, cultural and economic circumstances. Adherence to the present system (including the benefits currently benefiting from it) and the rigid application of a certain model based on coherent economic ideologies and relationships The social-state is a static, self-defeating and undeveloped approach, incapable of providing the flexibility needed to modernize economic institutions and structures. In Vietnam, both the government and their staunch rivals fall into two opposite extremes.

The real way forward is consensus-based understanding of progress, recognizing many benefits, and providing space for performance without negative consequences. Under such circumstances, the logjam of visual thought can be broken and all new ideas can be considered. This approach resolves the characteristic contradictions of ideology, directing the debate from whether to choose one regulatory model or another to how a new system can be created incorporating given aspects. is helpful and fair. This kind of effective conversation helps parties talk to each other more honestly and effectively – a stabilizing force focused on the common good rather than protected ideologies and self-service interests. Issues related to the isolating trilogy, civil society and the possibility of political pluralism need to be discussed openly and sympathetically based on Vietnamese practice. Vietnamese intellectuals and state actors can share their views globally on both the uncertainties and opportunities in democracies as well as the democratization process in general.

Implications of the Chinese case

Despite a progressive trend in the application of democratic principles, the Chinese communist state increasingly strengthens its political power through the legitimacy of economic achievements (an approach also full of defects). China is also taking advantage of its unique global size advantage, an option not available in Vietnam. In China’s global positioning efforts, Chinese intellectuals – whether accidentally or intentionally – are forced to abide by ideological directives in the name of patriotism. They often choose to support government efforts to consolidate state power and limit public participation in political and policy matters. Calls for modestization of democracy in the Chinese context are easily muffled through information control and limited political organization and related activity.

Therefore, China’s stability depends on restricting people’s participation in political life and the government’s control of information over the people, with the legitimacy of the main party. comes from decades of economic growth and more recently through geopolitical attacks (particularly in the South China Sea, Hong Kong and Taiwan). This approach can now stabilize the domestic political environment but only increases the likelihood of instability abroad. As such, the state must continuously strengthen social and political control in the country to prevent any loss of power or perception of a threat to power.

Vietnam cannot, nor does it need to, fall into such uncertainty and tension.

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On the contrary, with Vietnam opening up and accepting the path of democracy, intellectuals, the government and the people can together accept the virtues of citizen participation as a governance principle, in which People’s power is paramount. At that time, Vietnamese intellectuals and the government will regain their own advantages – the advantage of open and practical discussion, considering every opportunity possible. This will differentiate Vietnam from China. The two countries’ approaches to state power are completely different, driven by different historical, political and cultural backgrounds, as stated by the governments.

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