Responsiveness in the Shadow of Repression: Vietnam and China Compared



Nhu Truong, Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University
Stephan Haggard, Professor, School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego
Tuong Vu, Professor and Department Head, Department of Political Science, University of Oregon
Donald K. Emmerson, Director, Southeast Asia Program, Stanford University

Date and Time

May 27, 2021 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM


RSVP Required.


Via Zoom Webinar

A regime that is responsive to social unrest is one that takes steps to address social grievances and demands, rather than solely suppressing them. The distinction cannot be applied to authoritarian regimes if they are never responsive and always repressive. But that categorical description does not fit the behavior of the self-described communist regimes in Vietnam and China. When facing public protests triggered by official land seizures, both party-states have sometimes behaved responsively.  But not in the same manner or to the same extent.

Dr. Truong will show how and explain why, despite their many similarities, compared with China, Vietnam has been more responsive, and its responsiveness has been more institutionalized. Drawing on 16 months of field research in the two countries, she will make two arguments rooted in the differing histories of the two countries: In Vietnam, a more responsive party-state was forged in a crucible of accommodation and constraint that distinctively affected the political trajectories of the party and the state.  In China, the party-state’s path to power was riddled with confrontations and the dominance of elite over societal interests. 

Democracies and democratic values are being widely challenged in Asia today. It is accordingly vital that academics and policymakers develop a more nuanced and contextual understanding of authoritarian regimes and their institutional histories and dynamics, including their different ways of dealing with societal pressures. Dr. Truong’s talk and the discussion to follow should serve that goal.

Truong photo 4X4Nhu Truong’s doctoral dissertation, which was nominated for four awards, compares balances of repression and responsiveness under authoritarian rule in historical context in Southeast and Northeast Asia. As a Stanford fellow, she is revising the study for publication. Other writings by her have appeared in the Journal of East Asian Studies and Problems on Communism and in edited books such as Stateness and Democracy in East Asia and State of Land in the Mekong Region. In 2020, as a fellow of the Southeast Asia Research Group, she presented her research at scholarly conferences in political science and Asian studies. Her policy-related activities have included evaluating decentralization in Cambodia for the Asia Foundation, and researching US arms sales to Taiwan for the EastWest Institute. She has a PhD in political science (McGill University), an MPA in public administration (New York University), and an MA in Asian studies (University of Texas at Austin). She will be a Postdoctoral Associate in the Council for Southeast Asian Studies and the Council for East Asian Studies at Yale University in 2021 and an Assistant Professor at Denison University in 2022. 

Haggard photo 4X4Stephan Haggard is the Krause Distinguished Professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego. His publications on international political economy include The Political Economy of the Asian Financial Crisis (2000); Developmental States (2018); and Pathways from the Periphery: The Newly Industrializing Countries in the International System (1990). His work with Robert Kaufman on transitions to and from democratic rule includes Backsliding: Democratic Regress in the Contemporary World (Cambridge 2021); Dictators and Democrats: Masses, Elites and Regime Change (2016); Democracy, Development and Welfare States: Latin America, East Asia, Eastern Europe (2008); and The Political Economy of Democratic Transitions (1995). His work on North Korea with Marcus Noland includes Hard Target: Sanctions, Inducements and the Case of North Korea (2017); Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights into North Korea (2011); Famine in North Korea (2007); and a blog, Witness to Transformation (2017-19). He currently writes for the The Peninsula, a blog about Korea. His PhD and MA in political science are from the University of California, Berkeley.

Vu photo 4X4Tuong Vu has been on the faculty of the University of Oregon since 2008 and has held visiting appointments at Princeton University and the National University of Singapore. He is a former co-editor in chief of the Journal of Vietnamese Studies and the founding director of the US-Vietnam Research Center at the University of Oregon. His research has focused on the comparative politics of state formation, revolutions, nationalism, and communism in Northeast and Southeast Asia, and more recently, on Vietnam’s modern history and politics. He is the author and co-editor of six books and numerous journal articles and book chapters. Among his recent and forthcoming books are The Republican Era in Vietnam’s Modern History, vol. 1: From the Idea to the First Republic (1920-1963) (Hawaii, forthcoming), co-edited with Nu-Anh Tran; The Republic of Vietnam, 1955-1975: Vietnamese Perspectives on Nation-Building (Cornell, 2020), coedited with Sean Fear; and Vietnam’s Communist Revolution: The Power and Limits of Ideology (Cambridge, 2017). He has a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MPA (Master in Public Affairs) from Princeton University. 

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