“The Party in power” cannot continue to dominate the “Government” forever! That is one of the expectations that the public is looking forward to at the 5th Plenum of the Central Committee scheduled early next month. All recent developments, from the Party’s inspection and supervision to the demands of various branches of power and the imprisonment of leaders of “friendly” businesses, etc. All are related to the internal struggle for power, which this time may take place at the top level. Has the fight between “Party power” and “rule of law” through this plenum come to an end or not?
The difficulty, complicated of the 5th Plenum
The 5th Plenum’s agenda – which runs from May 5-10, is sure to be fraught with difficulty and complexity. The difficulty is because there are so many pressing issues related to economic recovery after the pandemic that needs consensus among the 200 Central Committee members. It is complicated because, not only in internal politics but also on the external front, the Party is also facing an unprecedented dilemma. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is shaking the world order, further dividing people inside and outside Vietnam. Simultaneously with the bloody war, there was another “war” in Vietnamese society, although there was no gunfire, it was no less harsh to determine the “intelligence” and the “people’s intelligence” range. In the current situation, do the leaders of the Communist Party of Vietnam have the courage to put the national security and development strategy on the evolutionary track of mankind? Will the Plenum dare to raise this issue for the Central members to discuss? Because, through the diplomatic moves of the Vietnamese government so far, regional and international public opinion has increasingly clearly seen the trend of anti-Americanism, “pro-Russia“, “knuckles” before China and turned against the progressive countries of the world in the Ukraine issue.
However, at the reception of US Ambassador Marc Knapper to greet him on May 24 in Hanoi, CPV’s General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong still “recited the old spell“: “Vietnam has never had high and international prestige as today.” Arrogant but lacking confidence. Every time it comes into contact with a US representative, no matter what level, Vietnam is “shaken“, only developing relations with the US on the basis of “respecting independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political institutions each other.” It’s also strange that a Vietnam “never had the opportunity, potential… like today“, but building a partnership with the US is afraid of a “color revolution“, and meeting China is afraid of a “Ukraine” at sea or inland. With the US, Vietnam does not dare to elevate the bilateral relations to a “strategic partner” for fear of China. With China, they want to be sworn in as “comrades and brothers” (to fight the US?). Two Defense Ministers Phan Van Giang and Fenghe recently hugged and kissed each other passionately, with tears in their eyes on the Vietnam-China border. Although before that, the spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also “flagged her hands and feet” against China’s drills in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. The clumsy acting of the foreign policy of “saying one thing and doing another” makes well-intentioned partners not know which way to go.
“Burning furnace” is not satisfactory
In this second quarter of 2022, the Central Organizing Commission continues to implement the annual work program, with great focus on receiving and completing the Project to submit to the 5th Plenum. With this program, the Central Organizing Commission advised issuing a plan to implement the Resolution of the Plenum “on building grassroots party organizations and party members.” Before the Plenum, the public was very surprised, the Standing Committee of the Party Secretariat Vo Van Thuong has just announced the “Strategy for inspection and supervision of the Party until 2030.” This strategy can serve as a deterrent to comrades who are still “hungry” to struggle in the Central Committee. However, it can also be a boomerang. Just looking at the actual operation of the political system and the public administration system in recent years, the Party has just “examined” 40 generals of the armed forces (both army and police) and disciplined 2,000 party members, then it can be concluded that “Strategy of inspection and supervision” is successful or unsuccessful! Does any Central member dare to question the responsibility of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong? As Secretary of the Central Military Commission and the Standing Committee of the Central Party Committee of Public Security, Mr. Trong cannot be innocent of the serious violations committed by generals at both the Ministry of National Defense and the Public Security for a long time.
Publicizing weaknesses in party building work, another unusual move ahead of the 5th Plenum is attracting public attention. That is the establishment of a system of steering committees to prevent and combat corruption and negativity at the provincial level. This is oriented public opinion to deal with the situation of “hot and cold” that happened in some localities recently. At the meeting on March 11, 2022, the Politburo assigned the Central Committee for Internal Affairs to preside over and coordinate with relevant agencies and units to study and submit to the Politburo and the Party Central Committee for consideration and decision. Notably, just one day before the above-mentioned meeting of the Politburo, on the afternoon of March 10, 2022, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong chaired a key leadership meeting to assess the country’s outstanding issues, the international situation, and the country’s economy in the first months of 2022 and key tasks in the coming time. This “key leadership” mechanism actually does not exist in the power system of either party or government.
The branches all want to increase the rule of law
Did General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong lobby to impose his subjective will on the branches of power in the “Quartet“, so that when the Politburo meets, the policy of the party’s chief is passed smoothly? This way of Mr. Trong reflects the dominance of the “Party of Power” in the past. However, during a third of his term, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, in his role as a reformer, directed his priorities to restructure the power relationship among the “Four highest leaders.” This restructuring not only serves the operating framework of the “executive” branch under his leadership but also aims at a situation that is not uncertain but still contains many unknowns. That is, at the next Plenum, will General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong leave politics in the middle of the third part of his term and the Politburo agrees to nominate who is the “candidate” for the post of General Secretary? The “red line” was drawn by the Party in the context of institutional instability when the autocratic function was disordered. The process of “self-evolution, self-transformation” of officials in the apparatus is complicated and there is always the risk of an outbreak. The root cause of this outbreak was the conflict between communist ideology and the values of a market economy. The reform process can be generalized as groping, “groping rocks across the river“, looking for answers to the problem while the CPV is still in the water, how the market economy will change the superstructure.
Meanwhile, President Nguyen Xuan Phuc chaired the first meeting of the National Defense and Security Council for the 2021-2026 term on the morning of December 7 last year. During the meeting, the Chairman of the Council gave specific comments on the coordination between the Army, the Public Security forces, and the ministries, departments, branches, and localities in the prevention and control of the COVID-19 epidemic, promoting the implementation of armed forces joining the United Nations peacekeeping force, ensure network security and conduct cyber warfare in the current situation. Regarding the 2022 program, the President emphasized the need to firmly grasp the situation and actively develop a strategy corresponding to developments in the region and the world. The President suggested members of the Council promote their roles in ensuring national defense and security. Especially, proactively responding to non-traditional security challenges both in the short term and in the long term. Along with that, it is necessary to strengthen the close combination of national defense, security, and foreign affairs, promote foreign affairs for national defense and security, to protect the Fatherland from early on and from afar.
Also, for the first time, on the morning of April 25, 2022, the National Assembly Standing Committee gave feedback on the Government’s report related to the results of thrift practice and anti-waste in 2021. Commenting on the Government’s report, National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue noted some of the results achieved, but frankly pointed out the limitations and shortcomings in the work of these affairs. As an expert in finance and banking, Hue spoke frankly, without hiding: “You have to make this clear.” Mr. Hue asked, do good, praise, bad, criticize, review and take responsibility. Specifically, with two major national projects, namely Long Thanh airport, and the East North-South Expressway in phase one, how slow is the progress, how much is the disbursement percentage; which localities, ministries, and branches still have many projects that need to be directly included. At the legal drafting session of the 9th session on March 20, 2022, Hue gave in-depth opinions on issues with different perceptions in the law-making process. He suggested that delegates focus on a number of issues, the plan to prescribe detailed provisions, minimize the situation of “framework law, pipe law” (the bill is not feasible and lacks professionalism).
For the first time, the private sector was crackdown
For the first time, the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam issued Conclusion No. 12 – KL/TW on continuing to strengthen the Party’s leadership in anti-corruption work, which added the content “step by step expanding the scope of coverage of the Party’s anti-corruption to the non-state sector.” Along with the news of the Plenum, at the end of March and the beginning of April, the Ministry of Public Security of Vietnam announced the prosecution of cases of stock market manipulation and fraudulent appropriation of assets occurring in Vietnam by FLC Group and Tan Hoang Minh. Two former presidents of these corporations have been probed and detained, including Mr. Trinh Van Quyet and Do Anh Dung. Two cases of private enterprises are included in the monitoring of the Steering Committee, which usually only monitors corruption cases of state agencies and enterprises and the Party. In addition to the two additional cases just mentioned, Politburo has agreed to add a number of other cases also listed as its concern.
Online newspaper Finance Magnates on April 21, 2022, reported on Vietnam’s arrest and prosecution of giants in the securities and real estate industries. This newspaper also commented that the above action of the Government of Vietnam is to improve the position of the stock market in the international eyes. However, some economic experts have made some comments in the other direction, saying that the above arrests are all backed by high-ranking officials. In fact, the recent prosecutions and arrests of leaders of “friendly” businesses are all caused by factions in the party fighting and vying for power, not the government’s determination to step up the fight against corruption in financial markets. This is the comment of a lawyer and former prisoner of conscience Cu Huy Ha Vu, from the United States. That’s also the reason, why this issue heats up abnormally before the 5th Plenum.