One of the five remaining communist countries in the world, contemporary Vietnam is undergoing rapid changes. The public recently demands for a closer relationship with the West and for the democratization of the oppressive and corrupt political system.
Vietnam’s economy is growing relatively fast thanks mostly to foreign investment that takes advantage of the country’s cheap labor and abundant resources. Labor productivity remains low; the private sector is strong whereas the huge state-owned sector is notoriously inefficient and corrupt. This is why growth is unsustainable.
Vietnamese society remains young but the number of old people is increasing rapidly. So is the gap between the rich and the poor. Politically, Vietnam is under the dictatorial rule of the Vietnamese Communist Party whose members account for about 3 percent of the population. Neither opposition parties, nor private media, nor independent civil society organizations are tolerated by the regime. Not only does the current political system not meet Vietnam’s developmental needs, but it is also restraining the country’s potentials.
China’s rise and its assertive stand on territorial disputes have created an acute dilemma for Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has maintained a cozy and even deferential relationship with China since the early 1990s out of ideological solidarity, regime security, and economic calculations. But this policy is increasingly challenged by anti-China nationalist sentiments and by popular demands for a closer relationship with the West and for the democratization of the oppressive and corrupt political system.