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Beyond Hanoi

Local Government in Vietnam

Benedict J Tria Kerkvliet and David G Marr

Publication Year: 2004

This is the first book in English to examine local government and authority in Vietnam since the country’s reunification in 1975. Beyond Hanoi addresses four questions: what local institutions and offices have authority to govern; who are the local officials and how do they get their positions; what do local governments do and whose interests do they serve; and what do residents say about local officials and governing institutions? Based on in-depth research, six chapters emphasize particular villages and districts in different parts of the country, one examines a ward in Hanoi, another focuses on Ho Chi Minh City, and one compares leaders in several provinces. To contextualize conditions today, two chapters analyse local government in Vietnam’s long history. The opening chapter synthesizes the findings in this book with those in other studies by researchers inside and outside Vietnam.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

When the word “Vietnam” is mentioned, many people still think of a war that ended twenty-nine years ago. Yet Vietnam, the country, possesses the second largest population in Southeast Asia and ranks twelfth largest in the world. Surely it deserves to be approached on its own terms, not...


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pp. x-xii

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1. Surveying Local Government and Authority in Contemporary Vietnam

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pp. 1-27

The context of this book is discussions and controversies regarding governance in Vietnam today. Although an old concept, governance has attracted new attention among academics, development agencies, and government offices around the world. It means, according to...

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2. A Brief History of Local Government in Vietnam

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pp. 28-53

Vietnam’s political culture has long combined firm ideological dispositions towards centralization of power with practical recognition of local particularities and responsibilities. In this chapter I offer a preliminary view of governmental relations from the village level upward...

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3. Village Government in Pre-colonial and Colonial Vietnam

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pp. 54-89

When the French established their colonial regime in Vietnam in the second half of the nineteenth century they were confronted with villages that had reached a comparably high degree of autonomy towards the central administration. Many French observers were impressed by what...

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4. Caught in the Middle: Local Cadres in Hai Duong Province

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pp. 90-109

Since the Vietnamese communists carried out the August Revolution of 1945, they have attempted to establish an administrative system from central government through provinces and districts to villages, to gain a firm foothold across the whole country.1 Such a multi-level structure...

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5. Winter Crop and Spring Festival: the Contestations of Local Government in a Red River delta commune

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pp. 110-136

For nearly two decades, the Vietnamese countryside has experienced momentous socio-economic change. Decollectivization in agriculture has given rise to the household economy as well as the increasing participation of people in the political process at the local level. The...

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6. Local Politics and Democracy in a Muong Ethnic Community

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pp. 137-166

From the 1990s and into the new millennium, the issue of governance has gained substantial attention from research institutions and development agencies. Democratic governance is one of the main components of assistance programmes of multilateral and bilateral donors...

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7. Local Government in the Exercise of State Power: the Politics of Land Allocation in Black Thai Villages

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pp. 167-196

Vietnam’s National Assembly passed a new land law in July 1993. The government and western observers heralded the law as cornerstone of a new rural policy. In the past, collective and state units had legal control over land, the primary productive resource in rural areas. The...

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8. Urban Government: Ward-level Administration in Hanoi

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pp. 197-228

Wards (phuong) are the urban contact points between the state and ordinary people in Vietnam. Ward officials implement state policies and enforce the law. This chapter examines how effective the ward is in achieving state objectives. I argue that the ward, set up to mobilize party...

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9. Facilitators of Rural Transformation and Development: The Role of Agricultural Extension Officers in Two Districts of Long An Province

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pp. 229-258

Like Thomas Sikor’s contribution in this volume, this chapter stresses the positive influence of district level government on rural people’s lives. I focus particularly on district agricultural extension officers and their disparate approaches to promoting agricultural development in the two...

10. Ho Chi Minh City’s Post-1975 Political Elite: Continuity and Change in Background and Belief

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pp. 259-284

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11. Push, Pull, and Reinforcing: The Channels of FDI Influence on Provincial Governance in Vietnam

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pp. 285-333

For five months at the beginning of 2002, I visited ten provinces across Vietnam, interviewing local government officials and collecting data on provincial governance and economic performance. It was quite an experience, sampling the many local dishes and cultural events, but it...

Glossary of Vietnamese Terms

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pp. 334-347


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pp. 348-356

About the Contributors

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pp. 357-359

E-ISBN-13: 9789812305947
Print-ISBN-13: 9789812302229

Page Count: 356
Publication Year: 2004

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Local government -- Vietnam.
  • Vietnam -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Decentralization in government -- Vietnam.
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