The Diplomat, 10 July 2015. Vietnam After 2016: Who Will Lead? Who is most likely to emerge from the next party congress as general secretary?, by Chanh Cong Phan.

An edited extract of the original article is reproduced below.

Every five years, the Vietnamese Communist Party holds its National Congress. Among other important policy issues, the party congress chooses the central leadership teams, to govern both the party and the country. If the 11th party congress (2011) is any guide, the new Central Committee, which will be elected by all delegates at the coming 12th party congress (to be held in 2016), will select a new general secretary (Tổng Bí Thư), a new Politburo (Bộ Chính Trị), a new Secretariat (Ban Bí Thư), and a new Central Commission of Inspection (Uỷ Ban Kiểm Tra Trung Ương).

Of particular interest is this: Who will emerge from the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam as the new general secretary?

Political Context

To answer this question, we must first identify the most influential leaders of the party establishment and, second, consider who among them is likely contending for the post of general secretary. Close observation of those leaders sitting at the central table at each of the recent major party meetings yields five familiar names: Lê Hồng Anh (Politburo Standing Committee Chairman), Nguyễn Tấn Dũng (Prime Minister), Nguyễn Sinh Hùng (National Assembly Chairman), Trương Tấn Sang (President), and Nguyễn Phú Trọng (General Secretary).

Backed by strong support from party elders, Anh and Trọng are seen as having led the pro-Chinese conservative faction in direct opposition to Dũng (who leads the pro-Western reformist faction). Between them le the reform-oriented moderate faction led by Sang and Hùng. All operate within a fairly recent party oligarchy (guarded by its military, security, and political elites, who have their own particular interests)…

What is thus shaping up is the final phase of a power struggle for party-state leadership between Dũng and Trọng, representing the pro-Western reformist faction and the pro-Chinese conservative faction, respectively.

The Rise of Dũng

Within this context, I argue that Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng will be the next general secretary, barring a major upset. I offer six reasons for this…

I would not go as far as Lê Hồng Hiệp and call Dũng “Vietnam’s most powerful politician over the past thirty years.” Like Carl Thayer, I would suggest that the prime minister is presently the most capable of all the top Vietnamese Communist Party leaders, and the one best able to lead Vietnam and safeguard its sovereignty.

However, if Vietnam’s next leader is to be truly effective and powerful both at home and abroad, the next Central Committee should unify the current separate party-state positions into one politically unified leadership post, by electing Nguyễn Tấn Dũng president of Vietnam, commander-in-chief of the Vietnamese armed forces, and general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party. The party should also begin work to create a modern republic with features such as a presidential democracy, a bicameral congress, two-party system, and a free press. This will avoid the rise of dynastic rule or dictatorship of whatever type, and enable it to better manage sociopolitical ills such as corruption.

Chánh Công Phan, Ph.D. (University of Chicago), is an assistant professor of humanities and philosophy at the San Jose State University, San Jose, California, and editor of The Eastern Paths to Philosophic Self-Enlightenment (Kendall Hunt, 2002). 



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