Title: Vietnam in 2013: Domestic Contestation and Foreign Policy Success
Author: Carlyle A. Thayer
Source: Southeast Asian Affairs 2014, pp. 353-372.
The year 2013 marked the mid-way point in the tenure of the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) Central Committee elected at the eleventh national party congress in 2011. During the year the Central Committee began to assert its prerogative as the party’s executive authority between national party congresses. The Central Committee’s new political assertiveness has been at the expense of party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong and his supporters in the Politburo. The Central Committee’s assertiveness also strengthened the power and influence of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
Outside party circles, as events in 2013 illustrated, Prime Minister Dung was widely criticized for his handling of the economy. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet did poorly in the first vote of confidence conducted by the National Assembly.
During the year political activists, bloggers and journalists became more vocal in criticizing corruption and the party’s efforts to entrench further its role as “the force leading state and society” in the state Constitution.1 The state responded to these challenges by stepping up repression against its critics.
In contrast, Vietnam’s external relations went from strength to strength. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung played a high-profile role internationally delivering major addresses to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Senior Vietnamese leaders paid visits to all the major powers and Vietnam hosted official visits by government leaders from Japan, South Korea, China and Russia. Vietnam also forged strategic partnerships with five countries. Vietnam increased the number of strategic partnerships from nine to fourteen.