Reinventing Vietnam

The ongoing National Congress is uncharacteristically shrouded in palace intrigue.

The Vietnamese Communist Party is holding its 13th National Congress this week. These semi-decennial conclaves are typically carefully scripted, spiritless affairs where the party sets forth long-term goals and formally anoints new leaders. But this one is particularly important and, curiously for a party completely obsessed with stability, shrouded in palace intrigue. All of Vietnam’s top leadership posts appear to be up for grabs, despite typically being decided well in advance. This is, in part, because the generational transition of power scheduled to take place at the last congress in 2016 never did, leaving a major power struggle unresolved and the country in political limbo. (If pre-congress leaks prove true, it looks unlikely to be resolved this go round too.) The political paralysis reflects Vietnam’s deep-rooted regional, ideological and generational divides, ones that in recent years have bred an inability to make decisions at inopportune moments in Hanoi. The VCP traditionally governs by consensus, which it considers sacred. But given the mounting pressures on the country from both inside and out, the inherent problems of this model have become ever more apparent. How forcefully Vietnam resists China over the next decade, and how closely it integrates with the West, will […]

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Phillip Orchard
Phillip Orchard is an analyst at Geopolitical Futures. Prior to joining the company, Mr. Orchard spent nearly six years at Stratfor, working as an editor and writing about East Asian geopolitics. He’s spent more than six years abroad, primarily in Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he’s had formative, immersive experiences with the problems arising from mass political upheaval, civil conflict and human migration. Mr. Orchard holds a master’s degree in Security, Law and Diplomacy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he focused on energy and national security, Chinese foreign policy, intelligence analysis, and institutional pathologies. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He speaks Spanish and some Thai and Lao.