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Issue 40 (July 1998)
Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet, Anita Chan and Jonathan Unger
Comparing the Chinese and Vietnamese Reforms: An Introduction
While the former Soviet Union and Eastern European block have succeeded in establishing new political institutions, their economies tend to be in a shambles and some countries are being ripped apart by internal ethnic strife. Meanwhile, China and Vietnam, two of Asia's principal socialist countries, are enjoying economic booms while significantly changing their economic systems, but without undergoing the convulsions of tumultuous political or social upheavals.
The authors of the articles in this issue think that to start to understand this broad difference, we need to have a deeper appreciation for the similarities and differences between China and Vietnam. Virtually no comparative work has been done on these countries, particularly since they both began major economic transformations in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The articles here compare China and Vietnam on each of eight themes. They are the result of collaborative analyses by specialists from three continents. The authors draw on their own primary research in the two countries as well as an array of pertinent secondary resources.
Exalting the Latecomer State: Intellectuals and the State During the Chinese and Vietnamese Reforms
Chinese comparisons of contemporary Chinese and Indian economic reforms are numerous, and have important latent functions in Chinese reform thought itself. But comparisons of Chinese and Vietnamese economic reforms are rare in China and perhaps too sensitive for extensive public discussion in Vietnam. This article argues nonetheless that there are important intellectual stakes in the comparative study of Chinese and Vietnamese reforms. It then looks at the reformers' particular notion of themselves as "latecomers" whose modernization involves the assimilation of external capital and technology and market "models"; the changing legends of Japanese success which lie behind this notion in both Beijing and Hanoi; and some of the difficulties of the latecomer notion when it is applied in a Chinese or Vietnamese political environment.
Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet and Mark Selden
Agrarian Transformations in China and Vietnam
In the half century since 1945, China and Vietnam have completed two major cycles of agrarian reform. The article explores temporal and institutional congruences of both cycles as well as important processual, institutional and performance differences. The hallmarks of the first cycle in both countries were land reform, which landless and land-poor villagers in both countries pressed for, and collectivization, which had little popular basis but was imposed by each country's Communist party. Collectivization was more thoroughly implemented in China than in Vietnam, in part because in Vietnam it came during rather than after the war for national liberation. The second cycle, from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, redistributed to households land and other collectivized means of production, reduced state control over production, and restored markets. This sharp change was principally fuelled by a quiet revolt by rural producers. In China, successors to collectives - township and village enterprises - continue to play an important role in the second cycle, whereas in Vietnam they do not, at least thus far. Second cycle reforms in both countries have contributed to accelerated agricultural growth and higher levels of commodification but the effects in Vietnam on urbanization, industrialization, employment and poverty reduction have been far less than in China.
Hy Van Luong and Jonathan Unger
Wealth, Power and Poverty in the Transition to Market Economies: The Process of Socio-Economic Differentiation in Rural China and Northern Vietnam
Both Vietnam and China have experienced rural economic reforms that in most respects are parallel. But the consequences have not been similar thus far in terms of their socio-economic effects. This paper shows how several systemic differences in the interplay of governmental policies and community processes in China and northern Vietnam have led to greater intra-community differentiation and the faster emergence of a composite monied class in rural China than in rural northern Vietnam.
One set of reasons involves the weakness of rural industry in Vietnam in comparison to China. This means that such rural enterprises in Vietnam provide employment to a considerably smaller number of rural workers, that they employ far fewer workers from outside local communities, and that rural accumulation of wealth and the economic differentiation between households is far more limited than in China.
Too, government programs in the two countries have differed. In general, the dynamics of government policies and community pressures in northern Vietnam helped to contain the wealth gap within villages, while in the case of China a lack of strong community pressures in face of "wager-on-the-strong" governmental policies and a two-tiered price system for grain and other staple crops have had regressive effects on income distribution within communities.
William S. Turley and Brantly Womack
Asian Socialism's Open Doors: Guangzhou and Ho Chi Minh City
A comparison of Guangzhou (Canton) and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is immediately attractive for two reasons. First, the cities seem similar in many respects. They are both major urban centres, the leading metropolises of the southern halves of their respective countries, and the most advanced centres of international openness. Second, they are each the leading cases of the growing autonomy and diversification of both countries, and therefore they would each merit special treatment in a general study of modernization and openness in China and Vietnam. Nevertheless, they are very different places in very different countries, and the comparison should help to understand these differences as well as to explore the similarities.
The article is organized in five sections. The first discusses the absolute and relative masses of Guangzhou and Ho Chi Minh City, and the diferences in their national roles. The second and third sections narrate the political and economic histories of the two cities, the second in the pre-reform periods, and the third in the current, post-reform period. The fourth section addresses the changed role of intermediate governments such as Guangdong/Guangzhou and Ho Chi Minh City in the new political and economic context being created by reform. We distinguish between decentralization, which involves granting greater freedom of activily to lower units of government, and decontrol, which involves the loosening of restrictions within a level of government and in that level of government's oversight of societal activities. The fifth and final section treats the similarities and differences in international openness.
Barrett L. McCormick
Political Change in China and Vietnam: Coping with the Consequences of Economic Reform
This article compares the political response to economic reform in China and Vietnam. Both of these countries have tried to maintain key Leninist institutions while promoting economic reforms that have dramatically changed the political landscape. Market-oriented reforms have created an expanding sphere of relatively autonomous social and economic activity. An increasing portion of the population is no longer directly dependent on the state for employment and other social services and necessities. Media are increasingly dominated by messages that may not explicitly contradict official ideology, but unlike former times, play little role in promoting it. Foreign influences are increasingly evident. Institutions such as party committees and political study that formerly kept watch on society and asserted party leadership are increasingly irrelevant to the needs of economic reform. In response, both regimes have attempted to build legal institutions and to establish mechanisms of macro-economic control that could replace traditional Leninist institutions, but these new institutions remain tentative and incomplete. The result, in both countries, is a society that is not actively organized to resist the state, but is nonetheless increasingly beyond the state's control. Both Vietnam and China, then, have yet to reach any point of political stasis or stability, and we may expect fluid and dynamic politics in both countries.
David Marr and Stanley Rosen
Chinese and Vietnamese Youth in the 1990s
Using popular magazines and newspapers, as well as interviews and survey material, this article analyses discussions in China and Vietnam about the implications of changing economies for education (school curricula, research priorities, institutional structures), employment priorities and politics (patriotism, role of the Communist Party and political values). The emphasis is on how the youth in both countries talk about these issues.
Anita Chan and Irene Nørlund
Vietnamese and Chinese Labour Regimes: On the Road to Divergence
The economic reforms in Vietnam and China are affecting the labour regimes in the two countries in many similar ways. The core industrial workforce is shrinking while the peripheral workforce is on the rise. Very different labour regimes are emerging from these two sectors. As a whole, the labour regime on the shopfloor has become harsher. Labour protests in both countries are now a daily occurrence. The trade unions are under great pressure from the workers to react to the new situation. However, due to the countries' recent historical developments, the preconditions under which Vietnam and China began their economic reforms were quite different. Further, by comparing these two countries' political changes, trade union reforms, changes in state-society relationship, trade union and labour laws, the emergence of civil society and the degree of dominance of political orthodoxy, the authors argue that the two countries' labour regimes are on the road to divergence. Though both countries began with a state corporatist structure in which the trade unions were under state dominance, the emerging trend witnesses Vietnamese trade unions beginning to function with more political space than the Chinese trade unions. The authors conclude that as the chance of Vietnam going the way of societal corporatism is higher, the Vietnamese trade unions are likely to build up more independence from the state and party.