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In this article, the author aims to find out how much the perception of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as a socialist state corresponds to the real state of affairs. The main characteristics and contradictions of "Vietnamese socialism", the transformation of local society in the course of market reforms carried out in the country, the impact of globalization and other factors on its development are considered. An attempt is made to classify this phenomenon in the context of modern theoretical constructions.

The 10th Congress of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam in April 2006 confirmed its commitment to the ideas of socialism. At the same time, Vietnam is characterized by a feature that few countries in the world possess - for a long time there were two different socio-economic systems on its territory. To better understand how capitalism and socialism were formed and what they represented here, and what influence they have on each other, we will make a brief historical digression.

In the southern part of the country, from the end of the 19th century, a capitalist model of development was implemented within the framework of the colonial regime (Cochin Hin), and in 1955-1975 - a separate state (the Republic of Vietnam). Typical phenomena of the RV period were the destruction of traditional structures and the way of life of the population, the scale of corruption, the struggle for power of various elite groups and faiths, and the militarization of civil life. The main support of this state was the army and police apparatus created by the French and reformed by the Americans, while the social base was made up of large landowners and the Comprador bourgeoisie (for more details, see Mazyrin, 1979). The urban centers of the South, especially Saigon, which were included in the world capitalist economy under the French rule, were integrated into the process of proto-globalization.

After the Communist military victory in 1975, the Saigon regime was completely dismantled, and the former elites emigrated to the West, primarily to the United States. The new government, led by immigrants from the North, launched a large-scale socialization of private property in the South, undermining the foundations of the market economy, but not achieving its full integration with the socialist North. This "colonization", in the terms of Western researchers, led to a deep economic crisis and social paralysis of South Vietnamese society, which lasted until the late 1980s [see: Tonnesson, 2001, p. 244].

At the same time, the South gradually - not in the form of state policy, but with the beginning of regular communication at the family level - is advancing to the North economically and spiritually. As the Vietnamese themselves admit, in this "revanchist" movement, it carries with it many attributes of a quasi-Western way of life, alien to mass culture, and corrupts more than half of the world's population.

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ascetic North and even "absorbs" it [cit. by: Murasheva, 2001, p. 183]. Indeed, the deep-rooted traditions and skills of private entrepreneurship in the South, and more broadly, the mechanisms of the capitalist economy and its inherent openness and freedom in society, have spread to the North. Thus, the southern heritage turned out to be a kind of" time bomb " for the social system in the North, giving the so-called delayed effect. This circumstance, in our opinion, proved to be decisive in the development of the renewal policy ("doi moi"). We believe that the experience gained in South Vietnam before 1975, carefully studied and used by the modern leadership of the country, helps to determine the forms of development of capitalism, outside of which negative aspects begin to prevail, and internal processes become unmanageable.

Today, what remains of the South Vietnamese state is a large expatriate community ("Vietkieu"), which in the second half of the 1970s and in the 1980s played an important role not only in maintaining contacts with the Western world, but also in providing material assistance, as well as ideological influence on its relatives in Vietnam. Since the beginning of the 1990s, these connections have been legalized and intensified, helping to use family channels for the development of private business and partially return financial savings to the homeland, transfer the latest knowledge, technologies and experience.

In the North of the country - in the DRV from 1955 to 1975 and in the united Vietnam until almost the end of the 1980s, the system of "barrack socialism" (or "war communism") prevailed. This system, which was formed in the context of the almost 30-year struggle for independence, was based on a militarized state with a subsidy-distributing, planned economy controlled by strict administrative methods. Nominally, it was built on the Soviet model and was strongly influenced by the USSR, but in terms of the level of economic development, the paternalistic nature of public relations, it remained essentially semi-feudal, inheriting in a slightly modified form many mechanisms, behavioral stereotypes, values of previous eras and acting as a guardian of national traditions.

The class interests of the poorest majority began to determine the policy of the state and its relations with society. This affected the order of distribution of material goods and the place of other population groups in the social hierarchy. The state apparatus has become a direct supplier of goods and services, freeing workers from worries about their future and personal responsibility, but demanding unquestioning obedience in return. The State has established control over all resources, choosing who can use them and to what extent [see: Koh, 2004, p. 7]. This situation, along with large and often uncontrolled aid from the countries of the socialist camp, gave rise to an extremely negative phenomenon - the psychology of dependency, including low productivity of social labor and economic stagnation.

During the period of severe trials and hardships, due to its geographical remoteness and ideological proximity to the camp of socialism, this mobilization model of development with a strong element of "self-reliance" was fully implemented and fulfilled its task. It was determined by the deep economic backwardness of North Vietnam, the absence of serious pockets of capitalist development in the previous stage, and the strength of the foundations of the rural community.

A military victory over the strongest enemy would seem to have confirmed the effectiveness of this model, but objectively required other conclusions. Without taking this into account, the communist leadership of Vietnam overestimated its own forces, as well as the capabilities of the allies, and as a result made serious mistakes. The leaders of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam relied on the rapid implementation of the program of socialist industrialization and economic recovery within the framework of the previous system, with the help of other members of the commonwealth.

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At the same time, the calculation was based on the fact that an experienced and popular Communist Party would be able to translate the patriotic enthusiasm that fueled the "anti-American war" into peaceful creation. According to the guidelines of the IV Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1976), in 20 years the country was supposed to basically complete the construction of the material and technical base of socialism [CPV, 1977, pp. 48-49].

However, it soon became clear that the previous mechanisms do not work. Not only did ordinary citizens not want to continue making sacrifices without receiving adequate material compensation for their hardships, but the revolutionary cadres were also unable to cope with the new state tasks. Former partisans and army commanders who were suitable for war had little knowledge of economics and administration. The people's government did not live up to the hopes of improving the life of the masses after the onset of peace. The state, which used authoritarian methods in its relations with society and a commanding style of economic management, emerged extremely exhausted from a long war, proved incapable of functioning. 1 Only Soviet support, until its sources dried up, and the high ability of the authorities to keep their own population under control, while maintaining an equal distribution of social benefits, mitigated the consequences of ill-considered actions.

But already in the late 1970s, the CPV was forced to start market-oriented experiments, and by the mid-1980s, it became impossible to hide the general crisis of the planned economy and the administrative-command system. These experiments made it possible to launch more radical and successful reforms after the declaration of the renewal policy at the Sixth Congress of the CPV (1986). A turn was made to a decentralized mechanism of free market forces under the control of the state, to a policy of openness instead of the previous isolationism. This helped attract large foreign investments, experience in economic development and macroeconomic regulation, loans and assistance from the advanced countries of the West and East Asia.

The Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (1991), adopting the "Program for Building Socialism in Transition" as a long-term concept for the development of Vietnamese society, formally confirmed the CPV's loyalty to the socialist choice. The foundations of "Vietnamese socialism", according to this document, are still the development of the economy on the basis of public ownership of the means of production, the elimination of exploitation and social injustice, and the equality of all ethnic groups and religions in the country. As further analysis shows, none of these provisions have been implemented at the moment and have no objective prerequisites for their implementation in the short and medium term.

However, the active use of socialist phraseology, the emphasis on preserving the "commanding heights" in the economy for the state during the transition to a market economy, does not seem to be accidental. Success in overcoming the crisis phenomena in the economy and society, along with conservative views, began to restrain the scrapping of the previous order. Since the early 1990s, some party leaders have been noticeably reluctant to expand the scope and depth of reforms. These sentiments dominated almost until the end of the decade.

After the eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) (1996), the decisions of which were again half-hearted, the issues of Vietnam's adaptation to the process of globalization under the influence of the regional economic crisis became acute. The country's leadership recognized that Vietnam has no choice but to "continue its integration into the global and regional economy while maintaining its independence and relying on its own development resources" [see: Thayer, 2000, p. 28]. As a result, a number of overdue and long-debated reforms were adopted.-

1 A similar analysis of the economic situation in Vietnam during this period is provided by Western researchers [see, for example, Fforde and de Vylder, 1996].

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shen'iy. Moderates in the CPV were forced to agree that without accelerating market transformation and increasing Vietnam's openness to the outside world, it would not be possible to ensure high rates of economic growth and public confidence in the government.

Proponents of further transformations advocate the widespread use of world experience and connections, and take more radical positions. Vietnam's reformers are primarily pragmatic, but they are making rapid changes to catch up with at least the most advanced countries in Southeast Asia. The social base of the reformers is an unformed coalition of intellectuals and some party and state figures who have managed to use the policy of renewal to their advantage, as well as ordinary supporters of a market economy represented by the emerging middle class. With the progress of reforms and the development of civil rights, raising public awareness, and strengthening the legal character of the state, this base began to grow.

The opposition to them consists of so-called conservatives, who understand national interests in their own way. Conservatives in the CPV leadership and among party members are orthodox socialists in Vietnam. Having spent their lives following the teachings of the classics of Marxism, they find it difficult to put up with new trends and demand to remain "loyal to socialism". The Orthodox want outside help, but fear that liberal ideas will infiltrate Vietnam and undermine the CPV's dominance. In general, the market economy, even with socialist guidelines, is considered by the most orthodox leaders to be a destructive force, and reforms are a way to undermine the manageability of society. Conservatives, according to many Vietnamese researchers, are represented by a coalition of senior party ideologues, security officials, military personnel, and heads of state-owned enterprises. They have a foothold among the marginal, poorest strata of the population, in the most backward areas of the country, who have lost out from market reforms, so they objectively have a social majority.

The discussion around the methods and pace of transformation of society, in fact, reflects the struggle to choose the future path of its development in the period after the collapse of the bipolar world. Liberal reformism objectively leads to the construction of capitalism, that is, the natural return of Vietnam to the general civilizational channel, and rigid conservatism tries to preserve the gains and values of Soviet-style socialism, in other words, leads the country to a historical impasse. In practice, the process of liberalization dominates, although sometimes it is slowed down, even goes backwards. In view of this objective contradiction between the transitional society and the influence of traditions, reforms cannot be too fast here, much less conform to Western models and models.

The division in the party environment, as well as in society as a whole, is not an accident. When the party assumed full civilian power and attracted new members from the former military, they became a privileged stratum of society - high-ranking officials, business leaders. The result of this was the weakening of ties between all levels, especially the upper ones, with ordinary citizens, the separation of the party from life, and the loss of transparency in the work of elected bodies. The tendency to transform the composition and priorities of the CPV itself has further intensified under the influence of market processes. By leading the reforms and not giving power to its political and ideological opponents, the party was doomed to such a result. Leading the national democratic revolution as the vanguard of the working people and the disadvantaged strata of society, the CPV gradually turned into a party of the military-bureaucratic elite and state capital.

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Social composition of CPVS in the 1990s

Chart 1


Source: Nhan dan (Ha-noi), 11, 15.01.1990; Ha-noi moi( Ha-noi), 22.06.1991.

As can be seen in Figure 1, the total share of active civil servants and military personnel among Communists in the early 1990s was 42%. Taking into account the retired functionaries, this figure reached 57%, i.e. the majority. At the same time, the workers 'and peasants' stratum was reduced to 38%. We can assume that this trend will continue to develop in the future. Thus, the representation of workers among the delegates of the X Congress of the CPV was significantly lower (2.8%) than at the VIII Congress (8.3%) [Nong Due Manh, 2006]. Apparently, the question of expanding the working core and strengthening the proletarian character of the party has lost its relevance due to the new definition of the role of the party as a representative of national interests.

It is the change in the social composition of the CPV that, in our opinion, is the root cause of the change in the real priorities and attitudes of the party. It moved from an orthodox communist position (with the slogans of "the dictatorship of the proletariat" and "the struggle of two paths of development as the key contradiction of the epoch") to actually protecting the interests of the middle class and the more affluent strata. The leading slogan adopted by the CPV with the beginning of reforms is also indicative: "Rich people, strong country" [Nhan dan, 16.03.1990].

If we compare the policy of "three representative offices" in the Communist Party adopted in China, then a similar course is also being formed in Vietnam. After long bans, party members are officially allowed to engage in private entrepreneurship, although the CPV still condemns capitalist exploitation [Doan Duy Thanh, 2002, tr. 17]. It is obvious that this decision, finalized at the tenth Party Congress, only recognized the actual changes that have occurred in the CPV and in the country since 1990.The hidden meaning of such a radical turn, in our opinion, is much deeper, and the political context is more subtle than it may seem at first. The CPV, like the CCP, seeks to prevent representatives of large private capital from reaching the heights of command and, accordingly, from joining its ranks, but it willingly nurtures a business elite of this scale within itself, i.e., it anticipates the "seizure of power" by the former class enemy.

Offering in this form, as well as under the slogan "close combination of state, collective and personal interests", virtually classless harmony, the CPV stands for the preservation of national unity. In this way, it seeks, in particular, to hide the contradictions between the main social strata and groups. In a market economy, these political technologies allow us to reduce the-

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Chart 2

Structure of GDP by form of ownership in 1996 and 2004 (as a percentage of the total volume at current prices).


Источник: [Statistical Yearbook..., 2000, p. 21; Statistical Yearbook..., 2005, p. 74; Vietnam's Economic Development..., 2004; p. 15; Chuyen dich co cau ..., 2004, P. 83 - 84].

reduce the acuteness of conflicts between labor and capital through a compromise of interests, opening the way for classes without their own political parties to official representation.

The policy of renewal of Vietnamese society, although it provided only for some modernization and improvement of the previous system, led to a change in the vector of development of the country as a whole. The implementation of market reforms affected not only the nature of economic relations, but also the internal political situation, the situation of certain social strata and classes, and the external orientation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, for which the main partners were developed capitalist states.

With the declared course of building a socialist market economy, the positions and role of non-socialist structures are strengthened. The country has established institutions based on market relations and factors of production, such as capital, labor, and land. The capitalist mode of production is becoming more widespread every day, while preserving the vast area of subsistence farming. At the same time, the transformation of the Vietnamese economy from a centrally planned to a market economy has a number of features.

In general, the private sector here, unlike other countries with a market system, has not yet taken a leading position, which reflects the structure of GDP and especially investment. The growth of national wealth is largely dependent on the operation of state - owned enterprises and new public investment [Vo Tri Thanh and Pham Hoang Ha, 2004, p. 75-77]. In the first half of the 1990s, the public sector's contribution to gross domestic product production increased from 31% to 40%, and then, according to the data of the DAG. 2, stabilized. Large foreign capital is becoming an increasingly visible part of the economic complex, and its share in GDP has doubled over the past decade (from 7.4% to 15%) - almost to the level of its investment contribution. While the position of the cooperative sector has been declining due to the collapse of the collective economy, the number of enterprises with private and mixed forms of ownership has accelerated since the early 2000s.

These facts, according to our assessment, show that the authorities are trying to prevent the strengthening of national capital from below and at the same time ensure the concentration of economic wealth in the hands of the bureaucracy, including by linking up with foreign owners that are large by local standards. Considering that in years

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Figure 3

Changes in the structure of industrial production in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam by form of ownership (share in gross output,%) in 1996-2003


Source: [Statistical Yearbook..., 2000, p. 168; Statistical Yearbook..., 2005, p. 259].

in the struggle for independence, the foreign bourgeoisie was the main target of sanctions, was deprived of property, all privileges and channels of influence, such a turn in politics speaks for itself.

The role of the public sector is most noticeably declining in the most important sector of the economy - industry. As is clear from diagr. 3. in 1996-2003 alone, the contribution of this sector to industrial production decreased from about 50% to 30% , and enterprises with foreign capital moved to the leading positions-their contribution increased from 27% to 43%, and taking into account local private enterprises, the share of which also increased (from 8% to 18%), by The capitalist and small-scale modes of production already account for 2/3 of industrial production.

The reduction of state ownership occurs through the corporatization of mainly small enterprises that were under territorial administration. In 2003-2005, 1/3 of the remaining state - owned enterprises were supposed to undergo restructuring. It is significant that, despite the extremely slow progress of this process, 70% of corporatized enterprises have sold 65% of their shares to private hands since 2001 [Viet Nam thuc hien cam ket..., 2002, tr. 24]. In fact, small-scale industry is being privatized and ownership is being transferred to local power elites.

These statistical calculations allow us to speak about the formation of an influential state-capitalist structure in the country, both at the grassroots level and at the top - relying on leading state-owned and mixed enterprises, which are dominated by foreign capital, and a part (usually up to 30%) belongs to the local administration. In such a system, private national capital plays a subordinate role, serving the first two and performing the function of a social damper in terms of ensuring employment and maintaining the standard of living of the population.

The private sector has been given opportunities for free development mainly in small forms and has noticeably intensified since the early 2000s. In 2000-2004, more than 100 thousand new private enterprises were opened (for the entire 1990s - 45 thousand) with a total authorized capital of about $ 16 billion. This amount of internal data is

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Table 1

Structure of employment in Vietnam by form of ownership in 1991-2004 (% of the total number)







Total (thousand people)






Public sector, including:






state-owned enterprises






Companies with foreign capital






Other sectors, including households







Source: [Statistical Yearbook..., 2005, p. 54-55; Data from the Ministry of Labor, Disabled People and Social Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (MOLISA), author's calculations].

The amount of funds attracted to the economy was significantly higher than the inflow of foreign direct investment over the same period and several times higher than the contribution of new private enterprises over the previous decade [Vietnam's Economic Development..., 2004, p. 23].

This situation is reflected in the employment structure of the working-age population. The public sector did not actually increase its share - it remained at the level of 9-10% (Table 1). Foreign enterprises have attracted some of the labor force, but together these two leading sectors provide only 12% of total employment, although they generate 3/4 of investment in the country's economy.

The rest of the working-age population is employed in small private farms, primarily in the agricultural sector. By the end of 2003, about 17% of all employees were employed in private industry and the service sector, which is almost twice as much as in state-owned industry [Vo Tri Thanh and Pham Hoang Ha, 2004, p. 78]. Consequently, over the years of reforms, there has been a radical redistribution of the economically active population. If earlier more than 90% of it was employed in the public and collective sectors, then there was a natural overflow to the private sector, which is able to provide and raise employment without additional investment from the state.

The opening of the country to the outside world, the access of the population to information flows, expanded human contacts, and the demonstration effect dramatically increased the penetration of Western ideas into the country, especially in the minds of young people. Marxism-Leninism, even in the national shell of Ho Chi Minh's ideas, became less and less suitable for justifying practice, and the task of integration with the outside world took priority over the previous values. According to many researchers, with the declining role of Marxist ideology in its local interpretation, young leadership cadres in Vietnam are increasingly committed to Western values, including material values, although the North and South of the country are still very different in this regard [Apter, 2001, p. 302].

Despite all the changes that have taken place, Vietnamese leaders are extremely cautious about revising and even classifying the development model of their own country. In Vietnam, as a country with an eastern tradition of statehood, sharp and hasty movements in politics are not accepted, especially in the case of transformation of social foundations. This tradition protects the authorities from wrong actions, leaves a certain freedom of maneuver. In the country's political leadership, the practice of making decisions based on consensus remains, which is expressed in balancing and coordinating the interests of representatives of various strata and groups of society. They form temporary alliances so that they don't miss out on an unwanted candidate or re-

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They act as an important safety valve, determine the content and dynamics of public administration and the party line.

The leadership of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is not inspired by either the Russian way of development or the Western democratic model. It believes that the democratic institutions characteristic of classical capitalism are not able to overcome differences in society and ensure the effectiveness of administrative management. Despite understandable doubts about the economic advantages of socialism, the highest echelons of power have little faith in the superiority and inevitability of a different social system. Although they are suspicious of capitalism, they nevertheless consider its main element-the market-to be an adequate lever for achieving socialism, believing that this stage in Vietnam is equivalent to a period of bourgeois revolution without liberal democracy.

Thus, market forces are largely given over to the regulation of business and property relations, financial and monetary flows, and the state party performs the highest functions of management, supervision, education and punishment.2 It provides the process of lawmaking and law enforcement, representation of citizens and administration of power. Using as an alternative to Western-style democracy a set of stable moral and cultural values, high moral principles and ideals understood as the main strength of socialism, the party acts as their main guardian.

The CPV declares that it remains in charge of the country "to ensure the rights of the people and protect the gains of the revolution"2. While categorically rejecting multiparty and political pluralism, the Vietnamese leadership believes that there is no need for opposition parties in society, since they will only serve the interests of forces hostile to Vietnam. On this basis, some Western researchers conclude that the former socialist system is preserved here. For the same reason - from the point of view of the ideological concept and methods of its implementation - the CPV is considered a party based on the classical scheme of building socialism in a single country [see, for example, Tsuboi Yoshiharu, 2001, p. 302].

But the CPV really acts as the only mechanism capable of developing a national policy, coordinating the action of various forces and historical traditions in state governance, and taking into account new requirements. This role is particularly important in the context of the emergence of civil society and public channels that would allow various stakeholders to discuss and adopt a national development strategy on the basis of compromises. The Communist Party, having monopolized the political arena, objectively needs different trends and platforms that would reflect the main spectrum of public opinion, ensure actual pluralism, and offer alternative development options.

It is no coincidence that the Communist Party leadership decided that the CPV should abandon its uncharacteristic functions of a state administration body and act as the "governing core", the intellectual leader of society. It began to focus more on long-term strategies and tactics for social development, shifting the focus from administrative efforts to ideological and educational work, monitoring the implementation of decisions made, and staffing reforms. Consequently, the position of the CPV in society is also changing, different from that which was inherent in the Soviet model of socialism.

2 The Communist Party, which has always occupied the position of the ruling party, has become an integral part of the state mechanism. This tandem gave rise to the concept of "party-state", which is typical for countries with similar political systems.

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A number of Western theorists, who take into account the fact of the evolution of Vietnamese society during the period of renewal, speak of "socialism with capitalist features." They refer to socialism as that which has remained without profound changes in the sphere of superstructure, and to capitalism as new economic relations.3 The stability of such a" hybrid " system, based on the successful development of a market economy, is ensured by preserving the former institutions and holders of power, especially the Communist Party itself, as well as the socialist ideology.

Actually, the combination of socialism with the market called NEP was first tested, but did not take root in Soviet Russia in the 20s of the XX century.and is often referred to by the leadership of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as a role model. It can be assumed that Hanoi, not recognizing the futility of the socialist system, is trying to implement the theory of convergence of two social systems and combine the acceptable aspects of each of them. Some political scientists call this model "Asian", characteristic of the "third world" countries, considering it a dead-end path of development, since the economic gap does not decrease, but rather increases relatively.4

Vietnamese communists define the society they are creating as "socialism with local characteristics", but they are rather vague about its content and future. Therefore, it is difficult to understand what the system created here consists of and where it leads in practice, and not in the decisions of the CPV congresses. Objectively, this reflects the transitional nature of Vietnamese society, the only question is what type of system it is transitioning to and how long it will last. This question has not yet found an answer either in the scientific community or among party theorists. In our opinion, it is difficult to predict whether the form of capitalism that is being established in Vietnam will be legalized without losing its socialist entourage.

One of the main development goals of modern Vietnam is modernization, which is interpreted as an accelerated overcoming of backwardness, including the creation of advanced industry and science, and ensuring sustainable development. Globalization is considered one of the most important conditions for modernization, although its economic content is mainly perceived positively, while many political aspects are declared unacceptable for Vietnam. As far as the author knows, both the party and scientific literature of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam does not yet provide a theoretical justification for the modernization program, but only a meaningful description of it, and in the usual ideological way, as a set of measures for building socialism. In other words, the concept of "modernization" is interpreted more empirically than theoretically, although the need of the CPV for new conceptual approaches with the collapse of the world system of socialism and the transition of the country to the path of market transformation seems obvious.

In Vietnam, the neo-traditional development theory, which is popular in East Asia and is based on the Confucian version of society (also called neo-Confucian), is becoming increasingly applicable in practice. Vietnam, like China, Singapore and a number of other countries in the region, is trying to combine conflicting elements of tradition and modernity. These attempts to preserve spiritual values and at the same time develop an advanced economy are often successful, which, apparently, is the main "know-how" of catching up with the previously backward countries of the East [see: Vlasova, 2006, p.75]. According to Western experts, Hanoi is guided by the modern development model of Singapore and Malaysia. Singapore

3 S. Huntington calls this order socialism in the political sphere [see: Huntington, 1993].

4 Although some Russian economists argue that this model hinders the policy of economic freedom [see Illarionov, 2006], the high rates of development of the NIS countries in the 1970s - 1980s and Vietnam itself in the 1990s and 2000s refute this relationship.

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Vietnamese politicians genuinely admire the combination of political authoritarianism and free-market economics [see: Tonnesson, 2001, p. 299]. Vietnam shares a number of factors with its advanced neighbors in the region, including such an important block of cultural traditions as the corporatist social structure. The East Asian countries are interesting to Hanoi because they show examples not only of the achievements of capitalism, but also of the successful adaptation of its classical model to local conditions.

"Vietnamese socialism", as many Western researchers believe, is being built today on a neo-corporatist basis. How does this manifest itself? The administrative systems of governance here and in the capitalist countries of the region are not very different in practice. Both are compromises, since they provide stability and control over the course of social development by limiting democracy [see Apter, 2001, p. 270]. Despite the high rate of economic growth, political change is extremely slow. At the lower administrative level, power is exercised by the leaders of local clans, who would be "at the helm" regardless of the nature of the existing regime. Along with the recognition of the right of entrepreneurs to economic freedom, a de facto similar right is delegated to government representatives.

Active state intervention in the market economy has led to the creation of an influential and self-interested lobby in the commercial part of the public sector. Under this regime, the bureaucracy plays an important role in economic life and forms a link between the state and the economy (as is the case in the South Korean chaebol or clan economy of the Malaysian type), as well as with international development assistance agencies and TNCs, and with Chinese networks of entrepreneurs [Painter, 2003, p. 20].

There is a process of blurring the boundaries of public and private property, the differences between them become hardly distinguishable - their separate segments merge. The peculiar features of the merger of government and business are the inflating of the non-market sector, the preservation of state regulation, and the establishment of restrictions on the market economy for "strategic reasons".

Corporatism is also central to the public sphere. It "freezes" the natural forms of political life, blocks the development of social institutions that are aimed at identifying, formulating and protecting the political interests of citizens. Instead, the public space is structured according to other criteria - professional, religious, regional, etc.

"Vietnamese socialism" in such forms and content carries objective contradictions. For example, nationalization and privatization are carried out simultaneously, the plan and the market are used, there is centralization and decentralization in decision-making and control of execution, bureaucratic rigidity and institutional improvisation. At the same time, one side of the contradiction tends to prevail, which makes any compromises unstable.

The desire to combine opposites reflects attempts to develop the market without expanding social inequality and without increasing unemployment as a consequence, to continue liberalizing the economy without allowing the South to dominate over the North. Vietnamese leaders are ready to give more independence to the emerging civil society, without opposing it to the state, to expand transparency, while maintaining party control. They also want to improve the work of the legislative and judicial branches of government without ensuring personal rights and freedom of political choice, and manage authoritarian methods without abusing them.

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Indeed, the leadership of Vietnam seems to be "walking on a razor's edge", choosing between efficiency and political compromise, moral values and personal interests, ideology and economic growth, international integration and stability of society, the ideals of older generations and the expectations of young people. At all levels of government, party and state officials try to strike a balance between these alternatives and temptations, but often fall short.

Along with the contradictions and vagueness of its external appearance, the social system of Vietnam has, according to some foreign researchers, certain advantages. It is able to combine the efforts and interests of the private and public sectors, combine violence with the expansion of freedom and information, and use administrative and military resources to counter external threats. Moreover, "Vietnam socialism" makes coercion through bureaucratic tricks more tolerable, and uses freedoms to fend off populist demands by manipulating patriotic symbols. Under such a regime, as the experience of a number of Eastern countries shows, political liberalization does not necessarily follow immediately after economic reforms.

An important distinguishing feature of "Vietnamese socialism" is the application for ensuring social equality, the social orientation of the market economy. The strategy of social and economic development of Vietnam in 2001-2010 and for the period up to 2020 provides for measures to overcome the uneven development of regions, limit poverty, and boost rural development, which indicates Hanoi's attempts to combine economic growth with social justice. However, this has not yet been achieved. Thus, the broad transfer of education and health care to private services has created an advantage for a well-off minority that is able to pay for quality services. Due to high economic growth rates in 1993-2002, the share of Vietnamese citizens living below the poverty line has already decreased from 58% to 29%, although more than 20 million people still belong to the category of poor [Vietnam News, 20.02.2004; SRV..., 2003]. With success in the fight against the so-called absolute poverty (per capita income of less than $ 1 per year). US $ per day) relative poverty remains high. In practice, the transition to a market economy is accompanied by a deepening gap in the income and living standards of the upper and lower strata of the population. In addition, the changes achieved are not sustainable - several million citizens of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam can become poor again due to illness, death of loved ones, natural disasters (and the resulting loss of crops, livestock, and other property), since these threats are permanent.

The country's leadership is concerned about the growing trend of social inequality. Some Vietnamese politicians consider such phenomena negative, fueling class contradictions and reflecting the exploitation of workers. Opponents of this approach consider property stratification as a natural result of market development that does not require state intervention [Vietnam Human Development Report..., 2000, p. 180]. At the heart of this process, along with economic reasons, is the arrival of urban civilization to replace rural one and the decisive role of the former in determining social values and cultural leadership. The Confucian and Communist ideals of a modest lifestyle for the masses and strict rules of conduct are rejected by the"nouveau riche".

The development of commodity-money relations changes the correlation of class forces and their appearance. For example, in the Mekong Delta, where the market economy has dominated since French colonization, the peasantry is once again polarized. The land that was more evenly distributed during the agrarian reforms of the 70s of the XX century is again concentrated in the hands of local rich people. Social differentiation is accompanied by a threatening scale of crime, unprovoked violence, corruption, etc.

page 132

Indeed, structural reforms and increased incomes for certain groups of citizens have serious class implications. Modern development associated with scientific and technological progress and information technologies significantly affects the composition of the labor force, changes the position of the intellectual elite and the marginal stratum, and transforms social relations and institutions. The economic positions of the objective opponents of socialism - capitalist entrepreneurs-are gradually strengthening. In state-owned enterprises, the process of erosion and marginalization of the working class - this "blood" of socialism-has intensified. There is a relative reduction in the personnel core, professional qualities, and with them the "ideological maturity" of workers. Since the mid-1980s, the transition from collective to private farming in rural areas has significantly changed the views and behavior of the other mass support of the Communist Party - the peasantry. In the poorest part of society, disillusionment is growing, crime and other social evils are spreading, which serves as a ground for political discontent and unrest.

Of course, Vietnamese society was not completely egalitarian in the 1950s and 1980s, but it was still characterized by great social equality. The differences were then deeply hidden, determined by the degree of access to education, proximity to power. Wealth and privilege depended on class background. The Communist Party gave preference to those who came from the poorest families, limiting the well-to-do people or those who served anti-popular regimes. The state policy was aimed at eliminating the poverty of some citizens at the expense of expropriating the wealth of others, leveling the differences between the city and the countryside, and overcoming the legacy of the past. The egalitarian character of society in Vietnam during this period was ensured by the ideological line of the Communist Party and was based on traditions that denied the value of individual enrichment. But today, this approach has come into conflict with the changed social practice. The ethic of sacrificing personal interests for the sake of collective interests gives way to individualism, the priority of the private, and paves a new path to prosperity based on market mechanisms.

The rapid growth of social differences can be judged by the income and expenditure indicators of different population groups. If in 1996 the representative of the wealthiest stratum of society (the first decile) had a monthly income 10.6 times higher than that of the poorest (the last decile), then in 2002 it was already 12.5 times higher [Nguyen Mann Hung, 2003, tr. 125]. According to the UNDP, the richest quantile (20% group) now accounts for over 44% of all household consumption. The share of the lower quantile in consumption in 1993-2002 decreased from 8.8% to 7% [Taylor, 2004, p. 3; United Nations..., 2003, p. 5].

The picture is complemented by the dynamics of the Gini coefficient, which shows the difference in income between rich and poor. Its increase in the country as a whole from 0.33 to 0.37 over the period 1993-2002 indicates the concentration of wealth in the hands of an increasingly small part of the population. The difference is especially noticeable by region. Table 2 shows that the coefficient ranges from 0.30 in the northern part of the central coast and the Mekong Delta to 0.36 in the Red River Delta and 0.38 in the southeast (the Gini coefficient in Vietnam is still lower than in its neighbors in Southeast Asia, for example, Thailand and Indonesia, which is not surprising, since there per capita income and market maturity are significantly higher).

The uneven territorial distribution of income is particularly evident along the city-village line. A dangerous gap has emerged and continues to grow in the standard of living of urban and rural populations (figure 4). This contrast is all the more serious because urban dwellers, despite their growing numbers, make up only a quarter of the population of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. According to a 1998 survey, the average per capita income of urban and rural families was twice as high. The 2002 survey showed further negative changes: 95% of the people in the poorest quantile no longer lived in rural areas.

page 133

Table 2

Growth of income inequality (Gini coefficient) in urban-rural areas by region in 1993-2002









- City




- Village




Mountainous areas of the North




Red River Delta




North Coast of Chungbo




South coast of Chungbo




Central Plateau








Mekong River Delta





Source: [Vietnam Living Standards..., 2003].

in rural areas (79% were engaged in agricultural labor), while 63% of the most affluent were employed in urban areas and only 10% in rural areas (Do Thien Kinh et al, 2001, tr. 39-54). The growth of social stratification is more clearly traced when comparing the indicators of education, health care, child mortality, etc.

Figure 4

Differentiation of living standards by geographical and ethnic characteristics (percentage of families living below the poverty line, 1993-2002)


Source: [Vietnam Living Standards Survey..., 2003].

Most of the population living in rural and remote areas from economic centers mainly struggle for survival, preservation of land plots and social mutual assistance, and access of their children to education. These people can hardly bear the changes caused by the development of a market economy, and they cannot join foreign aid programs and investment projects.

The relative deterioration in the lives of many ethnic minorities has become a worrying phenomenon. Being located in mountainous and foothill areas, far from markets, centers of political life, cities, small ethnic groups in the new conditions were subjected to rapid economic marginalization. This is due to their poor access to education, lack of knowledge of the Vietnamese language, erosion of cultural traditions, and low participation in political and economic decision-making. It is significant that one-

page 134

The largest and most developed ethnic groups, such as the titular majority of Kinis and Chinese - born Vietnamese Huaqiao, have temporarily consolidated their privileged status, i.e., they have managed to take advantage of the fruits of economic reforms.

Thus, nationality turned out to be one of the most important factors of social differentiation in Vietnam, which the authorities avoided in every possible way during the pre-reform period as a phenomenon that contradicted the classical theory of socialism. Such differences are fraught with the most serious troubles for the ruling class, as the events of the early 2000s in the mountainous regions of the North and on the Central Plateau have already proved (the growth of the Gini coefficient is the most noticeable here-see figure 4).

Gender inequality is also increasing, even though women make up half of the working population. It manifested itself in the feminization of peasant labor, the rise of informal employment in the service sector, the development of a subcontract system in light industry (especially textiles and footwear), the rapid growth of prostitution, and the decline in women's participation in public life. According to 2002 data, the hourly wage of women did not exceed 78% of the level of men. There are significantly more women among those engaged in unskilled and manual labor, and fewer among senior management personnel. Women are 11% less represented among those who have completed secondary education and 27% - higher education, adult illiteracy among them (13%) is twice as high as among men [Taylor, 2004, p. 4-5].

So far, Vietnam is coping with social problems more successfully than Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines managed earlier at a similar stage of development. But it is difficult to say what will happen when Vietnam catches up at least to the level of Thailand and Indonesia. Similar imbalances that have already emerged - a narrow stratum of very rich families, uncontrolled urbanization, a high concentration of land ownership, and cultural inequality - may well mature here, which, as the experience of neighbors has shown, are fraught with mass uprisings and ethnic violence [see, for example, Taylor, 2004, p. 10-11].

Thus, paradoxically combining the features and mechanisms of the two social systems, creating a kind of hybrid system, the leaders of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam manage to pursue a policy of renewal and modernization, giving the transition period a manageable character, adapting to external adverse influences, maintaining stability, territorial integrity, and state sovereignty. What appears contradictory from the outside is seen by Hanoi as a balanced strategy for managing a potentially chaotic process of change.

The analysis carried out makes it possible to attribute modern Vietnam to the type of at least post-socialist states. The social system in this country is not a permanent authoritarian pyramid headed by the Communist Party, but is undergoing significant liberalization. In place of the planned socialist economy, a capitalist one is being formed, although it is impossible to speak about its free character, the creation of a society of general welfare and civil liberties. Vietnam has followed a path of development that draws on the political traditions and recent experience of East Asian states, leading to the formation of a corporatist neo-Confucian state. Despite the apparent economic success and political stability of the current regime, serious social contradictions are accumulating in the country, which have already begun to break out and may take on a dangerous character for the regime due to the deepening of market reforms and Vietnam's growing involvement in global geopolitical and economic processes.

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