Challenges to Vietnam's State Capacity

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State-building is an enduring process dating back from the 13th century. Since the emergence of modern states, there has never been a smooth and flat road for states’ development. States, ranging from strong to weak or from rich to poor, all have difficulties in every step of the progress. However, different states with a different history, society and nature will have to face up to different challenges, especially the challenges to state capacity which is a fundamental element of maintaining a state. Vietnam is not an exception. Being a developing country, the challenges to Vietnam’s state capacity are understandably numerous. Among those varied challenges, this essay, based mostly on the study of Vietnam in the last decade, will identify and explicate three most prominent challenges to Vietnam’s state capacity, namely corruption, territorial disputes and participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO). The essay also sheds a light on how these factors challenge state capacity in every respect of life.

Of all the elements that are crucial to maintain and develop a state, state capacity is one of the most important. Stronger states have greater capacity and reversely, greater capacity makes far more powerful states. For a short definition of capacity, it is the ability of the state to do fundamental tasks of providing its citizens with security and bringing together freedom and equality [ (O'Neil, 40) ]. These basic tasks vary from implementation of policies and taxation, to the supply of fundamental needs to every person within the state such as infrastructure, education, entertainment and so on. A state with high capacity is able to guarantee stability and security for both itself and its citizens. On the contrary, a low-capacity state can not do these things efficiently. To this extent, Vietnam is a typical example which is examined carefully in this essay.

Since its independence in 1945 and unification of the North and the South in 1975, Vietnam has put great effort into both repairing the aftermaths of war and developing the country. French domination over nearly 60 years and decades of war with both France and America have left Vietnam with “not only a legacy of heavy war damage and extremely impoverished economy, but also institutional structures that were to have a profound influence on economic policy” [ (Thang 2000, 22) ]. After a 25-year process with great effort in transforming all sectors of life, Vietnam in the 21st century has got a new appearance, especially the maturity of political institutions, higher speed of economic growth and better living conditions for the whole community. However, these improvements are not to the sufficient level that can ensure the stability and security of the state in the first decade of the 21st century. In fact, there are still many obstacles that are attracting public concern from both inside and outside the state.

The very first challenge to the state capacity of Vietnam is corruption. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Vietnam owns a very high level of corruption during the last decade. It ranks 2.7 on the scale from zero (serious corruption) to ten (clean) [ (Linh 2010) ]. It is also reported that in 2007 alone, Vietnam discovered 584 cases of corruption involving nearly 1,300 people, which caused total losses of over 865 billion Vietnamese dong (roughly 54.1 million U.S. dollars) (Vietnam detects 584 corruption cases in 2007, 2008). This serious corruption takes place in almost every sector in Vietnam such as bureaucracy, education, construction and infrastructure and so forth. Seniors are offered bribes in exchange for promotions. Contractors cut down expenses for the construction by replacing high-quality materials with low-quality ones; then make those expense differences become theirs. Teachers get valuable freebies and give students good grades....
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