This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Briefing: Vietnam: 14the Plenum Extended by a Day Carlyle A. Thayer December 21, 23, 29 and 30, 2010
[client name deleted] December 21: So, the plenum was supposed to have ended yesterday, but there was no word about it on the 7pm news last night and there’s zip in the papers today. Don’t they usually trumpet the successful closing of such meetings? It’s been an interesting week in terms of leadership rumours. From what I can tell the PB put forward a list and the CC had (or continues to have) a serious discussion about it. ANSWER: Birds of a feather… I too have tried to squeeze the electronic media for any outcome from the plenum and turned up empty. When I was transiting Singapore after leaving Hanoi for Canberra, I was contacted by a newswire with what they claimed was an exclusive from a highly reliable source on leadership approvals and changes at the 14th plenum (4 days before the plenum ended). I gave a quick comment. On the following day the BBC contacted me with greater detail and I gave a long interview which is being broadcast in two parts (part one has appeared). Even if the Central Committee reached agreement it is only a recommendation to the delegates. Then after the congress, it is up to the new Central Committee to approve the government leadership line up including the prime minister’s nominations for Cabinet. Then the Prime Minister has to get approval from the new deputies to the National Assembly. At the last Congress all of the recommendations by the outgoing Central Committee were eventually approved. The Prime Minister has only failed to get two of his nominees approved, the first was the Minister of Public Security and the second was the Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam. So far what has leaked out hasn’t been specific on whether party delegates will be given a choice of candidates for the top positions. In other words will Truong Tan Sang and Nguyen Phu Trong find they will have to contest their nominations? And who will stand against them? It get more and more curious… [client name deleted] December 21: I saw the Dow Jones and Asahi Shimbun stories last week. From what I gather, they were a bit premature. (DJ said the CC had “endorsed” the list, which hasn’t
2 happened as far as I can tell.) There has been increasing chatter in recent days that the CC discussion has been serious and that there may be doubts over the suggestion constellation. I hear age is a factor (as always, perhaps) and Vinashin may still be in play. I don’t know much more at this point, but not having any official news after the plenum was supposed to have ended seems to strongly suggest that things are still in a serious state of flux. Apparently they are holding an extra day of meetings. Is there precedent for this? ANSWER: Yes, they even have held meetings up to the 11th hour, especially at the 9th Congress. Either the plenum was extended or the Central Committee passed outstanding issues to the Politburo/expanded Politburo (mo rong is the expression) for resolution. An expanded meeting would include Politburo members and additional members from the Central Committee (or elsewhere it that is what was decided). This extra day does not preclude even more meetings or even another Central Committee plenum. [client name deleted] December 21: I heard from one source it was the full CC meeting again today. Broadly speaking, what would you say it means? ANSWER: The original 14th plenum was about par for the course in length. An extended session may mean that an attempt is being made to resolve those issues on which consensus is lacking now rather than prolong the process up to the congress. The congress is supposed to be a short 4‐5 day set piece affair that demonstrates party unity (the last congress went for 8 days). In the past it was not unheard of for the congress dates to be shifted as well. You are the only person to suggest what the issues in question might be and they seem reasonable to me. I would also speculate that the leakage of who has been “approved” for top positions may also be an issue. As I noted earlier, the outgoing Central Committee passes its recommendations/nominations to the Congress for consideration by party delegates. They will elect the new Central Committee. It is the new Central Committee that will elect the Politburo and party Secretary General and make clear which Politburo members will hold state posts (president, prime minister, chair of the National Assembly). Party delegates in January 2011 may once again demand a greater say in the process such as another straw poll with a choice of 2 or 3 candidates rather than just one. [client name deleted] December 23: No doubt you’ve seen the official statements on the 14th plenum. Have you gleaned or heard anything interesting? ANSWER: Yes I have read the materials released after the 14th plenum. It is typical – a summary of the closing speech (not sure I saw the opening speech), and a summary of the work completed. Sometimes extracts from the resolution are released. Nothing earth shattering has emerged.
3 The Congress dates were released and it looks like an 8‐day congress. From the 4th congress (1976) to the 9th congress (1996), congresses averaged 4‐5 days. The tenth congress was 8 days. This suggests that congresses, while designed as set piece affairs, and now more engaged in leadership selection and policy‐making which takes more time. The Central Committee ritualistically took note of the input from various bodies, mass organizations and society. Now the draft policy documents can be polished and ‘word smithed’ for presentation to the congress. There is no indication yet what major changes if any were made. But the news media suggest a higher profile for natural disasters and climate change. The Central Committee unanimously approved the nominees for the new Central Committee. But since more are nominated than the targeted size of the new Central Committee, all factions can be satisfied for the moment. Left unstated was what other leadership recommendations were made. I should point out that although delegates may demand a choice, there is no mechanism to force an individual to run. Nguyen Van An withdrew last congress as a nominee for party secretary general once the feelings of delegates were known in a straw poll. I also note that 12 international organizations based in Hanoi will be invited to send representatives. These are not listed. Foreign diplomats will attend the opening and closing ceremonies as usual. There will be a media frenzy with 150 foreign journalists present. My bottom line is that much is being withheld for the moment. [client name deleted] December 29: For a story I’m writing today, have you been able to draw any conclusions from the 14th plenum in terms of personnel and economic policy issues? One line in the communiqué after the event seems to have caught the eye of people here – that the plenum agreed that some issues were unresolved and that they would be taken up after the Congress. The personnel issues (at least at the top) don’t seem to be the problem. So, what issues have they not worked out? ANSWER: Yes it is clear from the resolution issued at the end of the 14th plenum that there were a number of unspecified complex problems on which it was unable to achieve consensus despite prolonged consideration and that further research would be undertaken and provided to the 11th congress for consideration. The final wording of the basic draft policy documents, however, has been approved. These unresolved complex problems are likely to be dealt with at the congress and passed on the new leadership but not released in public. On unresolved issues: these relate mainly to internal party administrative and organizational affairs – policy and implementation mechanisms – on a number of issues related to dealing with which party echelon has the power to discipline party members and party branches; the procedures for resolving internal complaints made by party members against party officials and administrative procedures; the expanded role of party delegates at party congresses; election procedures for the forthcoming 11th party congress; and the demarcation of powers and responsibility
4 between the Central Committee, Politburo and Secretariat as spelled out in new work regulations to be adopted. There are hints that consensus has not been achieved on other major issues that are dealt with only in general terms in draft policy documents to be put before the 11th congress. It seems that the congress will consider and approve specific policies in the following areas but that implementing resolutions may not be made public: defence, security and foreign relations; economic and social policy; “party‐building” and reform of the government political system. Each of these categories would include – but would not be limited to – the following issues: first, relations with China and the United States; second, Vietnam’s economic model and reform of state‐owned enterprises; and third, a reduction in the number of government ministries and streamlining the number of advisory bodies. [client name deleted] December 30: And a follow‐up, if I may: Would you agree with a comment from another analyst here that with Trong as party chief, Sang as president and Nguyen Sinh Hung as parliament chief (which appears to be a very likely outcome now), Dung’s power as PM may be checked? (The idea being that Sang and Hung are not allies and both wield considerable clout on their own. Also, Trong is a compromise candidate. Relatively weak.) (By the way, I’ve heard from a few people that Ho Duc Viet is going to resign from the Central Committee. Some scandal that’s got everyone surprised. Not sure of the details. May be using health problems as a cover.) ANSWER: Pham Quang Nghi, party boss of Hanoi who has served the maximum of two terms, is also rumored to be in line as chair of the National Assembly. Your information would suggest this is no longer the case. Nguyen Sinh Hung has been a conservative break on Nguyen Tan Dung. Dung sought to oust him as first deputy prime minister in 2006 and failed. Kicking Hung upstairs to the National Assembly would free Dung’s hand to reduce the number of deputy prime ministers and appoint his own supporters. This would enhance the Prime Minister in his office. As for the larger picture, the Vietnamese system is always been one of balance. I have long argued that the era of the party strongman ended with the death of Le Duan in July 1986. Until Nong Duc Manh, no secretary general has served two complete 5‐year terms in office. Nguyen Phu Trong has impeccable ideological connections, is a party man through and through and will be in the mould of past secretary generals. If Truong Tan San were party secretary general there would be the potential clash of two strong rival personalities Sang –v‐ Dung. My bottom line is that Dung retains substantial if not slightly enhanced power in his role as prime minister. If he had lost to Sang, Dung would command little authority. The office of state president which Sang is likely to occupy carries some legal but little substantive power. Nguyen Tan Dung will always be answerable to the Politburo. Dung will be constrained by Truong Tan Sang and Nguyen Sinh Hung in their roles as Politburo
5 members. It is not clear that Trong would side with this duo. It looks like the new Politburo will be enlarged to 17. It is still too early to see what the balance of power will be until new members are announced. The real measure of Dung’s power will be revealed after the elections for the National Assembly. Dung must receive Central Committee endorsement for his nominees as ministers. He won the right to make his own personal nominations this past term. Of the 22 current ministers about 5 (I would need to consult my notes) will be retired due to age. The test will be how free Dung is to nominate his deputy prime ministers and ministers. Once Dung has his Cabinet in place, his power will be determined by the extent to which the Politburo plays a proactive role in economic policy making. These dynamics are subject to the separate dynamics of a new Central Committee to which all Politburo members are responsible.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.