The development strategy of Vietnam in the documents of the 13th Congress of the CPV

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The article analyzes the development strategy of Vietnam in the documents of the 13th Congress of the CPV. The Congress solved logically connected problems, such as: the analysis of threats, the development and approval of the strategy to overcome them (until 2045) and the election of a new leadership. At present, Hanoi is in the situation “between a rock and a hard place”. For any certain country such a situation would be final judgement, but modern Vietnam has been existing in this paradigm for many decades; in this complicated situation the country continues its dynamic development, defending its interests strictly and systematically, and making ambitious plans for the future. The analysis of the combination of current threats and opportunities shows that currently Vietnam, given political stability, can regularly increase its economic and defensive potential and look forward with optimism.

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Introduction This article is concerned with the operative stocktaking of the just closed 13th Congress of the CPV. The task of the article is to determine the main parameters of Vietnam’s development strategy in the years ahead basing on the analysis of the Congress documents. Therefore, the three logical issues are discussed: 1) the analysis of the threats for the SRV, having been noted in the Congress documents, 2) the development and approval of the strategy to overcome them (until 2045), 3) the election of a new leadership of the CPV and, accordingly, of the SRV, to parry these treats and to secure Vietnam’s sustainable development in the years ahead, with the support on the strategy having been developed by the Congress. The analysis of the combination of up-to-date threats having been noted in the Congress documents, as well as of the conditions of their neutralization, shows the realism of the development strategy adopted by the Congress. The analysis permits to make the following conclusion: modern Vietnam, given political stability, has resources for regular increase of its economic and defensive potential. At the same time the problem of the fifth generation of the country’s leadership, never solved at the 13th Congress of the CPV, remains for the future; much will depend on the decision. So far, Vietnam remains in the format of those domestic and foreign policies, which were pursued before the Congress and tellingly showed their efficiency. This article was written at the time of the 13th Congress of the CPV, with its slogan Đoàn kết - Dân chủ - Kỷ cương - Sáng tạo - Phát triển (“Unity - Democracy - Discipline - Creativity - Development”), that is why, understandably, it was impossible to use respectable monographs and articles in peer-reviewed journals. In the third decade of the 21st century it is e-media, which are the quickest to respond to important international affairs; in fact, they publish expert comments in real time. First of all, in this context the site of the 13th Congress of the CPV ( is noteworthy. On it there appeared quickly party documents, texts of the reports, current information on the course of the Congress, infographics and expert comments. The materials were published in Vietnamese and in five foreign languages, namely, in English, French, Chinese, Spanish and Russian. If the order of the languages reflects the priority regarding the importance of presenting information to foreign audience, this is not a pleasant signal for the Russian side. Among foreign e-media, which give information in Vietnamese, I would like first of all to point to professionalism and objectivity of the Russian Sputnik news agency ( Of western news agencies with developed service for the Vietnamese-speaking audience the BBC Vietnamese service is the leader ( This company has been working at the informatics market for a long time. Usually, it delivers high-quality materials, though, as usually, with a slight oppositional nuance. None of the above-mentioned e-media gives the number of views statistics to users. Among numerous opinions and comments expressed on the course of the Congress and its consequences, Carlyle A. Thayer, the Australian prominent expert, gave very many comments. He discovered his opinion in full in the publication on the site of the Australian Institute of International Affairs [Thayer: 04.02.2021]. I suppose that this was the first scientific review of the congress results. The assessments of even the most competent and authoritative western experts on the situation in Vietnam let now and again creep in various analytical phantoms, such as attempts to divide the SRV leadership into factions. In distant past it used to be popular to divide the Vietnamese political elite into pro-Chinese and pro-Soviet groups, later into pro-Chinese and pro-American ones. Now in the West a new approach is gaining in popularity, dividing the Politburo and the CC members into the party wing and the government wing [Thayer: 04.02.2021]. So far, in all above-mentioned cases, it is very difficult to find reliable arguments, which confirm or deny such a factionalism in the Vietnamese leadership, especially because all the members of the Politburo and the CC, as well as of the Government are at the same time the CPV members. On the threshold of the Congress many analysts suggested that the Congress would elect a new generation of the CPV leadership. It was bound to happen so according to the CPV Statute and age restrictions up to 65 and 67 years for the top leadership of the SPV. However, the Congress adopted a different solution and Nguyen Phu Trong, the current General Secretary, at the age of 76 was in fact unanimously re-elected for a third term. In Vietnam and in the RF this news was accepted quietly, while in Western media it attracted some criticism including comments of the renowned expert Karl Thayer [Thayer: 04.02.2021]. However, to our knowledge, to mention still more declining years of Joe Biden (b. 20.11.1942), the 46th President of the US since January 20, this year, being 2,5 years older than Nguyen Phu Trong (b.14.04.1944) is not in the habit of Western political analysts. The new Politburo of the CC of the CPV consists of 18 members, among them, of course, the General Secretary of the CPV, the President, the Prime-Minister, the Chairman of the National Assembly. So far, they all remain in their places and the National Assembly at the next session in April will approve the candidates for the rest three highest posts in the SRV. Therefore, it seems untimely to comment the parameters of the Vietnamese “Big Four”. The threats and the reaction to them At present, Vietnam as a whole develops positively and sustainably, but threats and challenges formed up to date to Vietnam’s security require a certain response. In this context there are both domestic problems and those of foreign policy. First of all, these are territorial disputes in the South Chinese Sea, which are used actively in political fight both in Vietnam and in foreign policy, what reveals itself in attempts to involve Vietnam in anti-Chinese coalition under the aegis of the USA. Describing the treats to the country, To Lam, the Minister of Public Security, Army General, in his speech at the 13th Congress of the CPV, on January 27, 2021, singled out the three treats to national security [Tô Lâm: 28.01.2021]: Firstly, “evil designs, subversive activities, inciting disorders aiming at overthrow from the side of hostile forces and reactionaries every day are more perfidious and dangerous”. Secondly, “the threat to the territorial integrity on the islands in the South Chinese Sea, in connection with building relationship with great countries and maintaining the authority of the Party and of the regime in the people’s eyes, is every day on the increase”. Thirdly, the problem of “domestic ‘self-transformation’ and ‘self-regeneration’ [of party cadres], which causes a decrease in people's confidence, is exacerbated”. It is clearly seen that the first of the three threats pointed out by the Army General is connected with the USA, the second one with China, and the third threat is so all-embracing that it can easily be connected simultaneously with both these powers. Therefore, as far as security is concerned, Vietnam is in a very complicated situation. Hence, the Party will have to realize the resolutions of the Congress and to solve the task of ensuring national security in conditions of still more aggravated geopolitical rivalry between Beijing and Washington, which at the same time are the main partners of modern Vietnam. It means, that Hanoi is in the position “between a rock and a hard place”. For any certain country such a situation would be final judgement, but modern Vietnam has been existing in this paradigm for many decades; in this complicated situation the country continues its dynamic development, defending its interests strictly and systematically, and making ambitious plans for the future. Analyzing the pointed-out threats, the Ministry of Public Security noted another characteristic of the current situation: “Among the three above-mentioned threats, the threat to lose domestic political security and the people’s trust, to weaken the Party’s combat forces and our regime in the bud is the most dangerous from within” [Tô Lâm: 28.01.2021]. As a whole, these laconic citations from the speech of the most competent and well-informed expert on national security in Vietnam explain the source and the direction of the main threats, as well as such a high and quite justified care for the problem of corruption and self-regeneration in the highest levels. In this context the most obvious example can be considered the quantity of likes and dislikes under the video of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPV Nguyen Phu Trong’s speech at the Congress (Figure 1). Since it was relayed in Vietnamese, the most viewers were ethnic Vietnamese, both the citizens of Vietnam and emigrants. The proportion of likes and dislikes is 2,8 thousand to 953 [Phát biểu của Tổng Bí thư: 02.02.2021], quite near to the coefficient of 2,9. On the one hand, such a quantity of dislikes cannot be evidence of the moods among emigrants, actively exploited by Western partners in their plans for Vietnam. On the other hand, at present there are widely used so called bots for cheating both “positive” and “negative” indicators to form public opinion on politically meaningful issues. Also, it is noteworthy that Youtube principally do not give any statistics as for the time and place of the “assessment” of the rolls, placed on the site. That is why it is impossible to make the final conclusion on the cause of such a proportion of likes and dislikes. Figure 1. Screenshot. Source: [Phát biểu của Tổng Bí thư, 02.02.2021] The strategy of overcoming the threats on the whole The secret of the efficiency of the Vietnamese political and economic model is based on the use of rational schemes and formats. It is far from the Soviet illness of blind enthusiasm for pure theories and application at any price, despite the consequences, recipes of abstract Marxism or market fundamentalism. Decisions in Hanoi are adopted proceeding from their expediency. Once Deng Xiaoping quoted the old proverb: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat”. In Vietnam the analogous strategy is efficiently used. Current course is the logical continuation and development of the renovation policy (Đổi mới). Since 1986, strictly scientific approach to the development of the economic reforms strategy has given impressive results. The secret of the success of the Vietnamese modernization model is dialectical combination of the most successful elements of socialist and capitalist systems, which permits to respond flexibly to challenges, to develop more quickly and to defend national interests efficiently. It is known, that with limited resources a correctly developed strategy and the strictness of its carrying-out perform the most important role. This role is performed with the Party system, which has during recent decades shown the impressive ability to look for competent responses to external and internal challenges, as well as to do the necessary self-purification. Thus, there has been found the combination of planned and market mechanisms for the formation of a multi-staged economy, while the State reserved the functions of management regulator and levers, which is of great importance, when it is the question of drawing in foreign invests and forming the export-oriented economy after the example of other countries of North- and Southeast Asia. Ho Chi Minh’s ideology adds a necessary plasticity to the CPV governance system, which permits the country’s and Party leadership not to force themselves into the Procrustean bed of ideological dogmatism and respond flexibly to all the changes both on the internal contour and the external one. It is the flexibility and the maintenance of roots and sources that for nearly 90 years permit the Party to keep the only leading and guiding role, uniting the people under its governance. It is not by chance that socialism in contemporary Vietnam is understood in the sort of the following simple and clear slogan: “Dân giàu, nước mạnh, dân chủ, công bằng, văn minh”, i.e. “Rich people, powerful state, democracy, equity, civilization”. The 13th Congress of the CPV, having just finished, has shown that the Vietnamese leadership has the considered strategy of the country’s development in a long term. This is the evidence of a systematic approach, where the strategy is considered to be not a set of model solutions prepared in advance for standard problems, but it is the movement to the strategic goal; the most efficient decisions in concrete changing conditions to achieve this goal and to overcome the current obstacles. That is why in the most general outline the strategy of modern Vietnam is defined with the informal slogan: “Dĩ bất biến, ứng vạn biến” (“To support on the permanence in order to resist tens of thousands of changes”), i.e., it is the course ensuring Vietnam’s sustainable development in turbulent and poorly predicted conditions of the modern world. The peculiarity of the Vietnamese approach to political planning is the maintenance of internal course, despite the mutability of the external environment. This strategy presupposes an attempt to look to the future to form it actively in accordance with the plans, directed to Vietnam’s rapid development. It is noteworthy, that modern Vietnam is the most long-lived socialist country of the contemporary world, originated in 1945, the time of the August Revolution and of the proclamation of Vietnam’s independence. This project was very successful, though from the very beginning it faced serious difficulties; and it took decades to overcome them. However, since then the governing class has formed and battle-hardened. At present time it shows a very high governance efficiency. Political stability in Vietnam is especially well seen on the background of the increase of turbulence in the world and in the region, of protests, demonstrations and clashes with the police in other countries, as well as of the next coup d’état in Myanmar on February 1. The generations of Vietnam’s leaders and the development strategy of the country One of the main issues of the Congress was staff issue, since the election of the next generation of leaders of the country was being prepared. On the whole it is possible to single out four generations of the leaders, who during their years of power solved historical tasks; they restored independence, united the country and implemented successful economic reforms with the goal to modernize Vietnam. Table 1. Historical tasks and their solution by the leaders of Vietnam Leaders Tasks assigned and solved 5. 1. Ho Chi Minh, Ton Duc Thang, Pham Van Dong, Vo Nguyen Giap Fight against the colonial regime and internal reaction for seizure of power, preparation for an armed uprising, carrying out the Revolution, proclamation of independence, restoration of sovereignty, fight to unite the country. 6. 2. Le Duan, Le Duc Tho, Vo Chi Cong, Truong Chinh The unification of the country, stitching and reconciliation of the country in a single organism. (in the region of East Asia only Vietnam could unite the country in the epoch of “cold war”) 7. Nguyen Van Linh, Do Muoi, Vo Van Kiet, Phan Van Khai Development and implementation of the Renovation policy, economic reforms while maintaining the political system, modernization, regional integration, the development of multi-staged economy 8. Tran Duc Luong, Nong Duc Manh, Nguyen Minh Triet, Truong Tan Sang, Nguyen Phu Trong Modernization, industrialization, digitization, fight against corruption Delegates of the 13th Congress of the CPV elected by voting the General Secretary of the CC of the CPV Nguyen Phu Trong and members of the Politburo of the CC of the CPV. It means that the Congress delegates support the present course and trusted the responsibility for the successful implementation of the road map of the state development in the nearest future to these statesmen. This staffing decision of the Congress shows that in the coming years the country’s policy will be determined not by the fifth generation of leaders, but the present membership in an updated version, which can be called generation 4+. This decision of the Congress the continuity of power and the determination to continue the implementation of those programmes, which had been implementing before the Congress and got high appreciation. First of all, it concerns ensuring of political stability, the continuation of the course for economic development, efficacious confrontation to coronavirus, and principal fight against corruption. At that the training of the next generation of leaders is not left untended. “Cleansing” operation opened the way to governance for new personnel. Of 200 members of a new staff of the CC of the 13th term 120 persons are re-elected and 80 are elected for the first time. Besides, there is a serious rejuvenation of personnel just in this team. They are to prove themselves in the concrete tasks solvation to enhance their chances to continue the career in a new quality, when the time comes. When the generation of leaders is changed, a special problem becomes so called gap in values, ideological training and outlook on life. In some conditions it can be a challenge to the system stability, while in others to be a possibility to open new horizons. One should bear in mind that a new generation access to power has been postponed till the next Congress and that the present leadership having in mind the fate of the USSR is active in preparing a worthy change. The evidence is the continuation of the large-scale anti-corruption company both in the Party and in the country on the whole. Of course, at a sudden change of the external conditions the leadership can use a different tactics and strategy to achieve the set goals. In Vietnam there is such a tradition that at the change of General Secretaries and even of the generations of leaders there are no sharp swings from one extreme to the other, and there are no signs of cargo-cults in ideology and politics. Usually, we see sober realistic appreciation of one’s own strengths and conditions for a task performance. It is the course developed and approved at the Congress that is determinant in the CPV politics in modern Vietnam. In General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s report there was observed the orientation towards strategic breakthroughs in the following areas: 1) the renovation of thought and creation of institutes and resources of comprehensive sustainable development; 2) the renovation of the modernization model and development of human resources of high quality; 3) the management of social development and ensuring social equity; 4) effective development of international activity and ensuring construction of modernized revolutionary military forces; 5) active Party construction and increase of the efficiency of governance [Nguyễn Phú Trọng: 26.01.2021; Колотов: 29.10.2020]. In General Secretary Nguyen Phu Ttrong’s report the following ambitious goals of the country’s development with a vision to 2045 are well defined. In particular, there are indicators to be achieved by 2025, 2030 and 2045 [Nguyễn Phú Trọng: 26.01.2021]. The first time-bound indicator is related to the implementation of the five-year plan for 2021-2025. “By 2025 Vietnam must become a developing country with modernizing industry and overcome the low middle-income level”. The second time-bound indicator is linked with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the CPV, established in 1930. “By 2030, Vietnam must become a developing country with modernized industry and with high middle incomes”. The third time-bound indicator is connected with the 100th Anniversary of the August Revolution and independence proclamation. “By 2045, Vietnam must become a developed country with high income population”. The strategic goal is to achieve the transformation of Vietnam in a developed country of socialist orientation with market economy. In essence, this relates to the development of multi-staged economy with maintenance of governance levers in hands of the State. The new staff of the CC and the Politburo must in the nearest 5 years try and build with no losses right balance between Beijing and Washington. Undoubtedly, for this the following conditions must be ensured: 1) political stability in the country; 2) the maintenance of high rates of economic growth; 3) the most precise knowledge of the power balance in regional and global politics. To maintain the system stability on the whole all the three conditions must be implemented simultaneously. Personnel issue and anti-corruption fight One of the central issues of the 13th Congress is personnel issue, namely the election of a new generation of Vietnam’s leaders, first of all the elections of the General Secretary, the Prime Minister, the President and the Chairman of the National Assembly. The posts of the General Secretary and the Prime Minister are considered the most influential in the Vietnamese Hierarchy. The delegates almost unanimously proposed that Nguyen Phu Chong retain his first party post, although he requested to be released on medical grounds. The age politicians staying in power is a common trait of contemporary world. Such example can be seen in the USA and the PRC. However, in the history of present-day Vietnam, since the 1980s, there has been a practice of regular renewal of the highest echelons of power. At this Congress it was only partially realized, and there are objective reasons for it. One of the main issues, which was being solved between the 12th and the 13th Congresses, is fight against system corruption in the highest levels of government without restricted areas. This fight is going on, regardless persons and the country, where corrupters fly under the guise of political refugees. In this context there is a very significant example of a flied “effective manager” Trinh Xuan Thanh, who was repatriated to the country and sentenced. In these conditions, representatives of security forces with their traditional functions of a shield and a sword, as well as the Central Control Commission come to the fore. At the Congress, describing the parameters of an anti-corruption company, Nguyen Phu Trong told of a scandalous case, when a corrupter with a case of money came to such a commission; he was going to bribe and by that means to pass the controls of the Party organs [Duy Thành, Xuân Trường: 01.02.2021]. The current General Secretary of the CPV Nguyen Phu Trong went down in history with the anti-corruption program “Đốt lò (Scorching oven)” on the leadership purification of compromised elements. This company played an important role in the process of self-purification of the Party. On the threshold of the Congress there were serious personnel changes on the central and regional levels. According to the data from the early 2016 till autumn of 2019, which were received on the eve of the Congress, the CC, Politburo, Secretariat, the Central Control Commission subjected more than 70 high-ranking officers in their competency sphere to disciplinary penalties. Including: • 1 Politburo member; • 4 members of the CC of the 12th term; • 14 the CC ex-members; • 1 Vice Prime Minister; • 5 Ministers and ex-Ministers; • 2 provincial Committee Secretaries; • 5 provincial Committee ex-Secretaries; • 17 Generals [Nguyễn Hoàng, 12.10.2019]. On the results of check-ups on the threshold of the Congress there was performed a large-scale process of the change of the leaders of main towns and provinces, as well as of Secretaries of Party committees. The delegates of the Congress, elected of the proved comrades, were a peculiar barrier on the way of corrupters and regenerators, who strived for power. In this sphere the CPV has its own know-how on the important problem, which had been formulated back in the first half of the 19th century by Nguyen Du, the great Vietnamese poet, in his poem “The Tale of Kieu”: “The talent and morals hate each other”. More than 100 years later, in management science Ho Chi Minh solved the issue of staff recruitment in the following way: to move up only those who have not only the talent, but also morals. That is why on the threshold of the Congress General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong paid a special attention to the doctrine of revolutionary morality as the basis for the fight against systemic corruption [Nguyen Phu Trong: 03.12.2020]. The plans of the country development delivered at the 13th Congress of the CPV are impressive. It is well known from the experience that the Congress is to become an important historical event, which will critically impact the development strategy of the country. Usually, the resolutions of the Congresses of the CPV are implemented. This tradition has already been 90 years. In the years having passed since the establishment of the ICP there were successively solved the tasks of coming to power in the course the revolution with the ICP as its leader, the independence restoration, uniting the country, ensuring the state sustainable development in the conditions of the collapse of the world socialist system. After the USSR disintegration, in Southeast Asia, in contradistinction to the Post-Soviet space, there began processes of regional integration, which led to the creation of ASAN Community, where Vietnam, being this year the President of this influential regional organization, enjoys authority and performs a very important constructive role. The successful implementation of reforms program and sure movement along the road of comprehensive modernization increased Vietnam’s international authority. All these tasks were completed having made a sure foundation for further development of the country. Conclusion The analysis of the current international situation shows the escalating level of tension and the unpredictability of the main actors’ behavior. In these conditions Vietnam faces serious political, natural and technogenic problems. Particularly, it is worthy to note territorial disputes, climate change, disasters, corruption and re-generation of some senior personnel, controlled from without. The documents of the Congress emphasize the initiative prevention of the risks of wars and armed clashes at an early stage, as well as the cutting off designs and destructive actions of hostile forces. The main task is to ensure the country’s security in any scenario of military and political situation development. The analysis of the combination of current possibilities and threats permits contemporary Vietnam, maintaining political stability, to escalate its economic and defense potential and to look ahead optimistically. Vietnam’s leadership has drawn up the development strategy oriented into the future. It permits to avoid or to reduce significantly current risks from foreign or domestic policies complications. The predecessors managed honorably the problems the country faced those years, but the present-day tasks are no less ambitious. Contemporary Vietnam has much more resources, than it used to. The main problem is staff recruitment and its governance efficiency. The use of such theory and practice improves the chances to ensure the rows purity to implement the resolutions of the Congress successfully.

About the authors

V. N Kolotov

St. Petersburg State University

D.Sc. (History), Professor, Head of The Far East History Department, Faculty of Asian and African Studies, St. Petersburg State University, Director of the Institute of Ho Chi Minh. ORCID: 0000-0002-1810-4348


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