Vietnam’s top-level leadership which has just been “released” is a sign that the Communist Party overwhelms the government faction.
On Monday, the Vietnamese National Assembly conducted a formal vote to elect Pham Minh Chinh, a former head of security intelligence and head of the Central Organizing Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam as the new prime minister.
Observers from outside said that Mr. Chinh had no experience in running the government.
In the article “The odd couple: Vietnam, Laos get new leaders” published in Asia Times on April 6, author David Hutt stated that in Vietnam and Laos, a number of politicians were arranged in positions not related to their experiences.
“Round pegs have been placed in square holes,” David Hutt said in English about the case of Mr. Pham Minh Chinh in Vietnam and Mr. Thongloun Sisoulith, Lao Prime Minister took the government leadership position.
In Laos, Phankham Viphavanh, like Vietnam’s Chinh, “has no experience in government administration but becomes prime minister,” said David Hutt.
As observed by David Hutt, Pham Minh Chinh spent most of his career in the Ministry of Public Security, up to the position of deputy minister. After that, he was head of the Central Organizing Commission, a powerful position.
Although Chinh’s time at the Ministry of Public Security technically means he is a member of the government apparatus, the ministry strictly abides by the instructions of the party apparatus.
Mr. Chinh is also one of the only Vietnamese prime ministers who has never held the position of deputy prime minister before, often a prerequisite for this role.
However, Mr. Hutt’s article does not mention the period of Mr. Chinh’s working as Secretary of Quang Ninh.
David Hutt also mentioned the case of Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc who thought he had to be promoted to head of the Communist Party (CPV). But just now he was elected to the state president.
Meanwhile, the right hand of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Mr. Tran Quoc Vuong, was eliminated by the Party and failed to be re-elected to the Politburo.
That means Mr. Trong needs to sit for a third term to maintain power for his faction, David Hutt analyzed.
“By handing over the government apparatus to Chinh, the communists clearly decided to impose the will of the Party on the government apparatus,” wrote the article by David Hutt.
“Partitions” and “government factions“?
Referring to “partisan” and “governmental faction,” Professor Carl Thayer, University of New South Wales in Australia acknowledged that while the “coterie” always emphasizes the importance of ideology in legalizing institutions of single-party and constantly warned about the peaceful development plot of the opposition and foreign forces to seek to change the socialist regime of Vietnam, the “government side” supports Vietnam’s integration with the global economy.
According to David Hutt, at least until the 2000s, it was relatively easy for the Communist Party of Vietnam to formulate the policies that the government apparatus is expected to enact. As the old slogan of Hanoi stated: “The Party leads, the state performs, the people check.”
But as Vietnam’s economy and society became more and more complex, thanks in large part to major economic progress in the early 2010s, the CPV had to hand over greater autonomy to the government apparatus, This means that ministers often make decisions without Party directives.
This, naturally, created two streams of opinion from the “party’s faction” and “the government side.”
Both sides have separate boards debating every policy, and not always reaching the same conclusion.
For traditionalists like Trong, whose primary concern is to keep the CPV’s power, the rise of technocrats poses a major problem; Policies may be necessary for economic or social progress, but not for the interests of the Party.
For example, some analysts argue that in order to maintain high economic growth, Hanoi must accept real rule of law and private property rights. However, such reforms mean that the CPV has to give up its dominance over the courts and the legal process, significantly undermining its ability to control society, according to David Hutt.
At least in the case of Vietnam, it seems the ‘coterie’ decides that the process will be safer with the supervision of personnel from this political party. If left in the hands of the government, these transitions can be done too quickly or too forcefully.
That might explain why Mr. Phuc, the ‘leader’ of the government faction, was mobilized to hold the position of President – a ceremonial political affair. And Mr. Vuong Dinh Hue, who is ‘sponsored’ by Mr. Phuc, one of Vietnam’s recent economic architects, was appointed Chairman of the National Assembly, the weakest of the four major political bodies. head of Vietnam writes David Hutt.
On The Diplomat, author Sebastian Strangio, the appointment of a professional police officer as prime minister proves that the Communist Party of Vietnam will continue its hard-line of fighting corruption and opposing dissent.
‘Surprised’, but not much of a forecast for policy change
The appointment of Mr. Pham Minh Chinh to the position of Prime Minister is also considered to cause great surprise among domestic and foreign observers.
Mr. Pham Quang Minh, the former rector of Hanoi University of Science and Technology, quoted on SCMP (Hoa Nam Morning Post Office), said, “Only a small part of the people know Mr. Chinh. That’s why most Vietnamese people are surprised to learn that he will be the new prime minister “.
But with ‘collective leadership’ still the norm in Vietnam’s one-party communist state, Minh added that he did not expect Mr. Chinh, 62, to reform national policies.
The retired economic advisor of the five prime ministers, Le Dang Doanh, told SCMP that as prime minister, Mr. Chinh will run the country based on collective decisions under the leadership of General Secretary Trong.
Mr. Doanh said, “if you want to pursue your own policy, you must first convince your colleagues to agree. The Prime Minister has the duty to actively propose and persuade the Politburo to accept and approve [the policy],” said Doanh.
Previous generations of prime ministers, such as Vo Van Kiet and Phan Van Khai, ‘made a lot of effort’, and sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed. Chinh himself, previously ‘tasted failure’ in 2018, when he pushed the Special Administrative Zone bill to allow foreigners to lease land for up to 99 years.
This bill has sparked anger across the country. Some protests broke out. That is what Mr. Chinh did not foresee, Dr. Le Dang Doanh said.
Regarding relations with the US and China, Mr. Pham Quang Minh stated that Chinh is not able to introduce innovations in foreign relations, instead will choose a “pragmatic and pragmatic” approach to promote international relations. pushes increasingly warm relations with Washington while avoiding excessively China, amid Hanoi’s conflict with Beijing in the South China Sea.
However, Pham Quang Minh said that from a personal perspective, Chinh may be more skeptical of the United States than his predecessors due to his years as intelligence at the Ministry of Public Security.
“He can see things in the mentality of the Cold War,” Minh commented on SCMP.
However, Zachary Abuza, a professor at National War College in Washington, specializing in Southeast Asian security issues, argues that US cooperation has become too attached to Vietnam’s policy goals so that Mr. Pham Minh Chinh cannot do anything to damage this bilateral relationship, according to SCMP.