Political Legitimacy of Vietnam’s One Party-State: Challenges and Responses

Carlyle A. Thayer


This article focuses on the challenges to the authority of Vietnam’s one-party state that emerged in 2009 and state responses. Three separate challenges are discussed: opposition to bauxite mining in the Central Highlands; mass protests by the Catholic Church over land ownership issues; and revived political dissent by pro-democracy activists and bloggers. The Vietnam Communist Party bases its claims to political legitimacy on multiple sources. The bauxite mining controversy challenged the state’s claim to political legitimacy on the basis of performance. The Catholic land dispute challenged the state’s claim to legitimacy on rational-legal grounds. Revived political dissent, including the linkage of demands for democracy with concerns over environmental issues and relations with China, challenged the state’s claim to legitimacy based on nationalism. Vietnam responded in a “soft authoritarian” manner. Future challenges and state responses will be debated as Vietnam moves to convene its eleventh national party congress in 2010.

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