I recently came across this interesting article by a Chinese author with the pen name 云淡水暖 (roughly “Pale Clouds and Warm Water”) on the economic and political reforms in Vietnam, a country whose development mirrors that of China, but where inflation has been breaking double figures for some time now. Before Vietnamese inflation became a problem some in China were minded to find lessons in Vietnam’s reforms which have created a slightly more liberal political system than that currently existing in China. Writing in the The Observer-Star, in an article called “Vietnam’s Reform is Worthy of Attention” Zhou Yanjin (周瑞金) went so far as to say:
“. . . we can see that the Vietnamese Communist Party’s political reforms are on the right track, produce results, have effect. The student is already ahead of the master. At a time when Vietnam is ever more courageously and determinedly turning towards broad, open minded, and total reform, China’s reform is entrapped in backward thinking and disorder. From this can’t we see that Vietnam’s reforms are deserving of our attention?”
However, since inflation took off, hitting a year-on-year consumer price high of 28% last August, Chinese observers have been inclined to deduce a different lesson – that Vietnam went too far. Here’s Guo Zhongxiao (呙中校) in an article in Southern Metropolis Daily entitled “Who took Vietnam from heaven to hell?”:
“Since the implementation of reform and opening in 1986, economic reforms have been effective. From the system of agricultural contracts and national planning reform, to the socialist market structure of the economy, it was not hard to see the deep imprint of China. However, Vietnam’s reforms have been quicker than China’s, and steps were taken ahead of China’s reforms, no matter whether the reforms were economic or political in nature.”
It would seem that even the moderate political reforms introduced by Vietnam (such as multiple candidate elections for communist party chief as opposed to single-candidate rubber-stamping) are now firmly off the drawing board in China.
[Update] Here’s a nice round-up in English of the argument as it stood before the on-set of high inflation.
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