On Dec. 18, while the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist party (CPV) was meeting in another effort to agree on who will lead the nation for the next five years, a document was leaked to Anh Ba Sam, a Vietnamese political blog that averages nearly 100,000 hits daily. Nine pages long, it purports to be a letter sent six days earlier by Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, to his 15 colleagues in the party’s politburo.
After 10 years as PM, Dung is bidding to succeed Nguyen Phu Trong as General Secretary, the top party position. Though he is billed as the “reform candidate,” much of Dung’s support seems to come from party members whose principal objectives are position, power and the lucrative opportunities both bring. Arrayed in opposition is what might be called an “anybody but Dung” bloc dominated by party conservatives; Trong, who is not seeking re-election, is its leader.
The plan, as usual, has been for the Central Committee to reach consensus on a slate of new leaders, choices that would be confirmed at the CPV’s 12th Congress in January. Since last summer, however, evidence has mounted that this time the central committee’s personnel deliberations are unusually contentious and the Congress may be delayed, perhaps until June. The stakes are high; the party elite’s choices this time will likely have momentous consequences for Vietnam’s development trajectory and for the continued viability of the CPV as “the leading force of the State and society.”
The letter to Trong and other members of the Politburo is Dung’s reply to accusations he says have been levied against him. It was probably deliberately leaked by Dung’s friends. Vietnamese commentators on Facebok seem convinced that it is authentic. Following is an abridged translation of the 12 charges and Dung’s replies.
Charge #1. Because his strategic perspective is weak, over the last 10 years, PM Dung has issued many incorrect decisions, with serious consequences.
Dung’s reply: My performance has been regularly reviewed by the party and the national legislature; never have they reached that conclusion. I acknowledged my own errors in the bankruptcies of Vinashin [the state-owned shipbuilding conglomerate] and Vinalines [the state-owned ocean shipping and port operator]; this matter was resolved by the party before the 11th Congress. As for allegations of improper financial management, the experts of the State Bank and the Finance Ministry have found no improprieties.
Charge #2. Although Dung told a World Economic Forum regional meeting that he would never barter national sovereignty for a quixotic sort of peace and friendship and some sort of dependency, there is nothing “quixotic”about Vietnam’s relationship with China. Though there are conflicts, we have to live together peacefully. Since our revolution, Vietnam has never been dependent on China. Dung, whether intentionally or not, has given support to the enemies of the party who slander us as dependent on China and afraid to defend our territory. His remarks stir up confrontation between Vietnam and China. When China’s deep-sea drilling ship dropped anchor in the Paracel Islands, Dung’s provocative statements stimulated attacks by extremists on nearly 1000 foreign-invested factories, so that the State had to pay trillions of dong in reparations.
Dung’s reply: At the WEF meeting, I replied to reporters for AP and Reuters on three matters: whether Vietnam had filed a complaint against Chinese actions; whether in consequence of the Chinese drilling rig confrontation, Vietnam has any proposals for the international community; and what might be the consequences if China continues to drill in Vietnam’s waters. [The PM provides an extensive summary of his remarks, which closely parallel the posted text of his response to the news agencies’ questions.] It’s irresponsible to say my remarks stimulated the attacks on the factories, because they occurred on May 13-14, and the WEF meeting where I spoke to the reporters was not until May 21. Further, the party’s Central Audit Commission concluded on October 23, 2015 that my remarks were necessary, appropriate to the situation and in accordance with party policy.
Charge #3. Like the presidents of capitalist regimes, Dung went on TV at New Year, 2014 to read a proclamation that included a call to change the regime and launch democracy.
Dung’s reply: Actually, I just issued a letter to the Vietnamese press which inter alia called for greater effort to revise the laws in accordance with our new Constitution, etc. It wasn’t a “proclamation.” You can read the text on the government website.