Jun 15, 2009

Reforms

In 1986 Vietnam, under a new leader Nguyễn Văn Linh, abandoned its attempt to maintain a purely Communist political philosophy. Although the Communist government still held firm political control, the reform called Doi Moi, resulted in liberizations on private enterprise and the education system. In 1995 Vietnam joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A stock exchange opened in 2000. The Soviet collapse also deprived Vietnam of economic assistance from its former ally, and its government soon began mending relations with the US, its former enemy. In 1994, the US effectively ended the embargo and the two countries finally established normal diplomatic & trade relations in 1995. The embargo of Vietnam began in 1964 for North Vietnam and extended to all of Vietnam in 1975. Thirty years later, its ending marked the beginning of Vietnam joining the economic and political sphere of South East Asian nations.
Vietnam is a nation in transition from its Communist past. It is still a one-party state (with minimal separation of powers). Journalism and political dissent are still strictly controlled, with all media owned by the government. Some dissidents were arrested for sending emails abroad, criticizing the government . The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and a groups ethnic minority Protestant people in the northern and central highlands (Tây Nguyên) who want to secede are also suppressed, the Vietnamese government claims this is a result of their political involvement rather than their religious beliefs. In September 2004, the US State Department designated Vietnam a “Country of Particular Concern” because of Vietnam’s “particularly severe violations of religious freedom”, but the preciseness in detail of this designation is questionable. In 2006, however, improvement on religious freedom in Vietnam was acknowledged by the United State government with the removal of the country from the list of Country of Particular Concern [1]. In June 2004, Japan announced that it would link its aid to Vietnam with Vietnam's respect for human rights. Japan's aid to Vietnam has risen steadily over the last decade.
Vietnam is growing fast economically (GDP doubled every ten years in the last two decades) and adopting a transparent, decentralized governing style to further reduce poverty. The poverty ratio in Vietnam has fallen rapidly (58% in 1993 to 29% in 2002, according to UNDP's data [2]). It is still however relatively poor country. In a list of 177 countries, Vietnam's Human Development Index climbed from being 120 in 1995 to 108 in 2005 [3]. Export grows strongly (20% per year), emphasizing on producing cheap goods for Western markets. Vietnam becomes a member of the WTO (World Trade Organization) in 2006.