New Leadership Takes Charge in Vietnam: Challenges and Prospects
By Vinod Anand
On 5 April, Vietnam’s National Assembly officially elected Pham Minh Chinh, member of the Politburo as the Prime Minister of Vietnam, replacing the erstwhile Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. The National Assembly resolution was passed with the support of an overwhelming majority of the legislators (462 out of 466) voting for Chinh.
In the ruling quartet of four key leadership appointments Nguyen Phu Trong was elected to a third term as General Secretary of the Vietnam Communist Party on 1 April, while previous Prime Minister Xuan Phuc was appointed as the new President and Hanoi’s Communist Party Chief Vuong Dinh Hue was elected as the Chair of the Vietnam National Assembly, that is, Vietnam’s Parliament. The key leadership of Vietnam comprising of the aforementioned four leaders comes with a wide variety and range of experience.
Trong has now considerable experience in Communist Party of Vietnam’s party work, as well as in Presidential duties, whereas Xuan Phuc, the new President has rich experience in governance after serving as Prime Minister for five years. Further, both Trong and Xuan Phuc would serve as a bridge between the old and new administrations, thus ensuring a degree of continuity between the old and new using as also their wisdom and experience while imbibing the enthusiasm and innovative outlook of the new PM Chinh and Vuong Dinh Hue, new Chair of the National Assembly. Notwithstanding these leadership changes, Vietnam is expected to continue to follow its economic policies of opening up in addition to adhering to its multidirectional foreign and security policies. The installation of a new Government is unlikely to result in any disruptions in Vietnam’s existing relationships with global or regional actors or for that matter with international or regional groupings/organisations.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh who was earlier the Chair of the party’s Central Organisation Committee and who has also served in the Ministry of Public Security is well known for his administrative acumen and organisational work. As the Secretary of the Quang Ninh Provincial Party Committee he was instrumental in improving the overall management and administrative structures in the province in addition to enhancing its competitive index to number three among all the provinces. However, lately Quang Ninh has reached the top in the competitive index, which has improvement in socio-economic development as the most important element of measure. This achievement has been widely attributed to Pham Chinh’s contribution during his tenure in Quang Ninh Province. Further, he takes interest in environmental issues and has been credited with turning Quang Ninh’s ‘Brown Economy’ into ‘Green Economy.’ Thus he is not only a technocrat, but also an effective leader.
PM Chinh’s tasks and priorities have already been laid down in the Resolution of the XIII Congress of the Party, which focuses on six key tasks and three strategic breakthroughs which include national digital transformation, developing a digital-based economy, greater stress on science and technology development, and creating a more conducive environment for business development, as well as for manufacturing concerns. Ensuring national defence, security, sovereignty, territorial integrity and social order and safety would be the top most tasks in his mind as he faces an uncertain and unstable situation in the South China Sea.
Vietnam, during the tenure of the previous Government headed by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, made great progress in strengthening the economy, as well as in enhancing Vietnam’s position and stature in the international arena. This was despite the negative impact of COVID-19 not only on the Vietnamese economy, but also on regional and other economies worldwide. In recent years, Vietnam’s economy became one of the fastest growing economies in the South East Asian region, with a growth of 7.08 per cent in 2018; Foreign Direct Investment in 2018 was US$ 30 billion, which was an increase of 44 per cent compared to the previous year. In 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam, with its efficient and effective anti-COVID-19 measures, was able to mitigate the negative effects on the economy, while it continued to integrate its economy with the world. According to the General Statistics Office (GSO), Vietnam’s economy expanded 2.91 per cent in 2020 with a trade surplus of over US$ 19 billion, whereas many regional economies have contracted, showing negative growths in their GDPs.
Most challenging task
The most challenging task for the new Prime Minister would be to lay down a firm foundation in the next five years based on which Vietnam can develop into a modern State with a fully developed economy in league with countries like South Korea, Japan and the Western countries. Vietnam could aspire to reach such a stage in next two to three decades aided by suitable economic and social developmental policies guided by the vision of the political leadership. 2021 marks the commencement of the Five-Year Economic and Social Development Plan (2021-2025) and the Ten-Year (2021-2030) Economic and Social Development Strategy. It would be the new political leadership’s task to successfully implement the plan and strategy with foresight and innovation.
Further, at the international level, Vietnam became the Chair of the United Nations Security Council in April 2021 and this is the second time that Vietnam became the rotating Chair in its two-year tenure of 2020-2021. This has enabled Vietnam to contribute its bit to promote peace, stability and security at the global level, as well as in regional affairs and further integrate with the world. Vietnam in its dealings with the international community is in favour of pursuing multilateralism and diversified foreign policies. Vietnam has also been well recognised for its contribution to ASEAN as its Chair for the year 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic affected the ASEAN community in a number of ways. Additionally, as part of its integration with the international community it entered into several Free Trade Agreements (FTA) such as the EU (EUFTA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
In so far as the bilateral relationship with India is concerned the new Vietnamese leadership is expected to continue with its traditional and strong relationship in multifarious fields with India. The previous Prime Minister Xuan Phuc and now the President has had a number of summits with India’s Prime Minister Modi. The bilateral relationship is underpinned by the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in 2016 encompassing a number of areas ranging from political engagement, economic cooperation, and expansion of trade, defence and security cooperation, energy cooperation and also people to people exchanges besides many other areas. Now the new President Xuan Phuc in concert with Prime Minister Chinh would be able to impart further impetus to the growing bilateral cooperation. There is a need to further expand the bilateral defence and security cooperation between both sides keeping in view the changing regional and global security environment.
UN Security Council
At the international level both India and Vietnam being the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council can further cooperate and contribute to peace, security and prosperity while dealing with regional and global issues. Further, Vietnam and India have been cooperating in regional organisations like the ASEAN to realise the goals and objectives of such organisations. India and Vietnam also share similar perceptions on what is happening in the South China Sea where militarisation of islands and reefs is taking place and India will continue to support, in concert with other powers, freedom of navigation and over-flights in the South China Sea and adherence to international norms.
Overall, the new Vietnam leadership being a blend of the old and new is expected to consolidate the progress made in political, economic, social development and security fields as it strives to realise the aims and objectives of five and ten-year plans and strategies. Considering the past record and achievements of the new leadership it can be easily said that Vietnam is well poised to meet the challenges of the new era.