In This Review

Speaking Out in Vietnam: Public Political Criticism in a Communist Party–Ruled Nation
Speaking Out in Vietnam: Public Political Criticism in a Communist Party–Ruled Nation
By Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet
246 pp, Cornell University Press, 2019
Purchase

Vietnam’s authoritarian party-state is modeled on China’s regime, but Kerkvliet finds that the Vietnamese government is less repressive than its neighbor’s. Since the mid-1990s, the Vietnamese Communist Party has often tolerated and even made concessions to dissenting citizens. The book describes labor protests against working conditions in factories, rural resistance to land seizures, nationalist demonstrations against what some citizens feel has been a weak Vietnamese response to Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, and a small pro-democracy movement that expresses itself mainly on the Internet. The police are likely to intervene if protests go on for too long or grow too large, or if dissenters directly attack the ruling party. But often, the authorities seem to regard protests as helpful, whether in disciplining the foreign owners of factories in Vietnam, rooting out local corruption, signaling displeasure with China, or providing a safety valve for discontent. Kerkvliet suggests that this tolerance for criticism contributes to the regime’s high level of domestic support.