Furthermore, because Viet Nam is still a soft authoritarian country, it needs to choose whether to democratize or focus on economic development first because simultaneous reform is dangerous because the two can undermine each other (Armijo). Democratization will force giving political voice to groups and individuals, which require additional expenditures, which is hard for economic reform. Economic reform, in turn, will inevitably produce winners and losers, and those who lose can protest against the government, causing social unrest (my Political Change in the Third World note). From the perspective of the Vietnamese leadership, economic development is more valued because it learns from the case of “Big Brother” China that economic growth keeps the Communist party in place and because Viet Nam learns from the former Soviet Union that experimenting with democracy will unleash a force that the party leaders cannot control. Therefore, Dr. Que’s plea to implore President Obama to advise President Sang to democratize the country is indeed naïve.
I believe the situation of Viet Nam is very much like China, in that Vietnamese leaders are not afraid to use excessive force over public protests over evictions, confiscation of land, and police brutality (Human Rights Watch 2012). In the case of China, professor Wang asserted that changes will only come from the top (i.e: split within the party) because their middle class is not yet strong and the rich has been incorporated into the party. I believe although there is a small middle class portion in Viet Nam, they are more interested in consumption, leisure activities, information and achievement of social status (King et. Al), and thus, for now, the change will only likely to be a top-down decision. Therefore, I believe that the suggestion to completely democratize the country is too simplistic, and a more appropriate suggestion would be to call for more transparency, encouraging muckrakers to expose corruption and other administrative issues.