Vietnam remains in the grasp of a war-hardened Communist Party. It has the second highest restrictive Internet censorship, only North Korea exceeds it. A free press and a free judiciary are not planned for any time soon.
Yet, it’s semi-capitalist economy is chugging along well with investment capital transferred out of China, a younger and better educated workforce than most, a large diaspora send remittances and renewed expectations, a freer labour movement, and there is history. Vietnam was a democracy of sorts for a generation between French colonial rule and the last helicopter off the U.S. Embassy roof on April 30, 1975.
The Diplomat ran an insightful piece in 2021 on the background to the hidden debate about democracy in Vietnam.
The Fulcrum, the journal of the Yusof Ishak Institute, recently published an article by Le Hong Hiep, their Vietnam analyst, about the political drama surrounding the replacement of President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Politics in the Poliburo does not portend liberalization. It does show all-too-human disagreement and indecision. To quote the Leonard, himself, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”