Q5. Since 2011, there has been a crackdown on internet users and activists, thegovernment is planning new constraining laws on the use of internet. How serious isthat issue in Vietnam?
ANSWER: From the point of view of security authorities and party conservatives, theuse of the Internet by bloggers and social networks to raise political issues andcriticize the government is a major threat to their ability to control information andits dissemination. The Internet led to the emergence of a national pro-democracycoalition network known as Blocs 8406, named after its founding date 8
April 2006.Key activists were arrested and imprisoned. Bloggers became active in a major socialmovement opposed to bauxite mining in the Central Highlands, a pet project of theprime minister and involving Chinese investment. More recently, bloggers and socialactivists have begun agitating against China over the South China Sea dispute. Thistaps a deep vein of anti-Chinese nationalism. The party-state feels threatenedbecause this undermines nationalism as the basis of legitimacy for one-party rule.Despite the fact that the US has repeatedly warned Vietnam that their bilateralrelationship cannot go to the next level unless human rights issues are addressed,Vietnam continues to crackdown on bloggers. In other words, the issue is viewed bysome party conservatives as so serious they are willing to jeopardize ties with the US(and thus Vietnam
s ability to counter balance China) in order to meet the internalthreat. The collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union two years later remain vivid lessons that one-party socialism isvulnerable to change. The later
and Arab Spring only adds tothese concerns.
Q6. How well has Vietnam dealt with the economic slowdown and rising inflation?Do you think that economic pressure might push people into the streets similarly towhat the Arab world has witnessed?
ANSWER: Vietnam has had mixed results. It has a reasonably high economic growthrate, just under 6%, and inflation has been brought down from a high of 23% in2008. Vietnam exports to markets in Europe and North America that have ceased to
grow at previous rates. Inflation mainly affects the urbanites and the party’s new
rich as well as state cadres. Grievances have built up over continual traffic jams,pollution, power brown outs and the cost of living. But there is no real evidence thatthose dependent on the regime will take to the streets. They have benefitted from
the system. The system is not all that oppressive from their point of view. Vietnam’s
political system brings about an orderly generational transition. Party and state
leaders must retire at 65 and can only stay in high office for two terms. Vietnam’s
regime propagandists latch on to unrest overseas as an object lesson to their citizens
too much change will lead to chaos and instability and undermine their hard wonliving conditions.
Q7. How much has Vietnam’s foreign policy evolved in recent years and more
particularly towards the US?
ANSWER: Taking a very broad view, Vietnam’s foreign policy has changed radically.
Vietnam once had a binary view of the world
the forces of socialism versus
imperialism. It was a do or die struggle captured in the slogan “who will win?” After
the collapse of the Soviet Union Vietnam adopted a policy of diversifying and