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Vietnam provides a fascinating paradigm, the communist state that overcame foreign intervention and reunited a torn country. The introduction of Doi Moi (economic renovation) in 1986 saw the country move from a planned economy to a market economy, one that takes the honours for fastest growing economy in Asia behind only China.
Despite these advances, Vietnam also faces significant challenges. There are the issues of rampant corruption, human trafficking, the effects of the global financial crisis, border disputes amongst others that stand in the way of the national project of “building the fatherland”. On top of this, Vietnam is still recovering from the years of war that brought the birth of modern Vietnam.
This assessment will provide analysis of the political trends, social issues, economy, environmental issues and security threats that Vietnam is faced with.
Martin Gainsborough posits that a Western perspective views political change in authoritarian states to end in western style liberal democracy. In this sense it is the romantic western perspective that wills the progression of initiatives like Doi Moi (Vietnam’s economic “renovation” policy introduced in 1986) whereby Vietnam was brought into the market economy and with that greater interaction with the West and regional partners, into eventual replacement of the communist government with an elected one.
Gainsborough argues that eventual democracy is an unlikely outcome for Vietnam. This is because the five social classes of Vietnam; large landowners, peasantry and rural workers, urban working class, bourgeoisie and the salaried and middle classes do not provide the adequate support base necessary for political (from which social change would follow) change. Gainsborough’s analysis of the classes demonstrates either; support for the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), belonging to the current system or inadequate organisation to allow for mass dissent. Further, the police have the strength to “generally prevent dissent”.
Additionally, Irene Norlund explains that the Vietnamese government afford more freedoms than what the West traditionally consider “compared to many other countries with an authoritarian government, the state and Party have been encouraging associational life and the state does not seem to control as much and as strictly as many of the foreign sources tend to find. ”
Nevertheless, disregarding the future presence of democracy, Vietnam has become increasingly involved in the international economic and political dialogue in Southeast Asia. Following a hostile relationship with China involving armed conflict, both nations have worked to improve the relationship by ending a border dispute (1999) and committing to strengthen bilateral relations.
A partnership has been sought with Australia with the development and signing of the Australia – Viet Nam Comprehensive partnership. “This Comprehensive Partnership has been developed to reinforce the strong relations between Australia and Viet Nam, and to provide a framework around which to focus, and measure bilateral effort. This Comprehensive Partnership also represents a strong mutual commitment to the future of Australia-Viet Nam relations ”.
 Gainsborough, Martin (2002) Political Change in Vietnam: In search of the Middle Class Challenge to the State Asian Survey October 2002; 42 no. 5.
 Ibid, p.10.
 Norlund, Irene (2007) Civil Society in Vietnam: Social Organisations and Approaches to New Concepts ASIEN 105, October 2007 S.68-90. P.22.
 2010. "Foreign Relations." Vietnam Country Review 35-39. Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed June 29, 2010).
 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2009) Australia – Viet Nam Comprehensive Partnership. Accessed on the world wide web on 2nd July 2010: http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/vietnam/comprehensive_partnership_vietnam.html.