Vietnam’s quiet new autocrat is consolidating power
Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong took the presidential oath on Oct. 23, after receiving only a single dissenting vote.
by Bennett Murray, Foreign PolicyNovember 2018
For the first time since Ho Chi Minh’s death in 1969, the Communist Party of Vietnam’s boss, who for decades has been the country’s de facto top leader, also holds the ceremonial position of head of state. No individual party boss has consolidated as much power as Trong since Le Duan, the wartime leader who took power from an ailing Ho Chi Minh in the 1960s and proceeded to govern until his death in 1986. Xi is China’s most powerful single leader since Mao.
Both consolidated power through the use of purges framed as anti-corruption campaigns. Much as Bo Xilai was unceremoniously sacked as Chongqing party chief, booted from the Politburo, and jailed for life on corruption charges, ex-Ho Chi Minh City party chief Dinh La Thang, in the space of one year, went from being a rising star on the Vietnamese Politburo to serving a 13-year sentence on multiple graft charges.
Smaller fry, from state-owned business executives to security personnel, have been swept up in the net in both countries, with both Xi and Trong receiving praise from supporters, who claim they are cleaning house, and criticism from detractors, who argue that the crackdowns are cynical, insincere ploys to go after opponents.
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