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History, The Doi Moi Reforms

doi moi, commanding heights, collective farms, Conservative party leaders, Communist society

By 1986, the year of Le Duan’s death, Vietnamese leaders had begun to recognize that major changes were needed. At a national congress held in December, new party leaders launched the doi moi (economic renovation) program to reform Vietnamese society and stimulate economic growth. They abandoned efforts to build a fully Communist society by the end of the decade and dismantled collective farms. Party leaders declared their intention to bring about a mixed economy, involving a combination of state, collective, and private ownership. Foreign investment was encouraged, and a more tolerant attitude was adopted toward the free expression of opinion in the country.

Vietnam also sought to improve its position in foreign affairs. All Vietnamese occupation troops were withdrawn from Cambodia by the end of the 1980s. In 1991 Vietnam signed a peace agreement in Paris that created a coalition government of Communist and non-Communist elements in Cambodia. Vietnam made serious attempts to improve relations with China and with the United States, which ended its economic embargo in 1994. Full diplomatic relations were established the following year. In 1995 Vietnam joined with non-Communist governments in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional organization dedicated to promoting the economic growth of its member states.

Vietnamese leaders, however, have not yet entirely abandoned their dream of creating a Communist society. While stating their intention to create a modified market economy, they insist that state-run industries will hold the “commanding heights” in the system. Party leaders will not tolerate the creation of rival political organizations and rigorously suppress dissent from opposition forces. Conservative party leaders express open concern at the corrosive influence of decadent ideas from the West, which they view as a plot by “dark forces” in the United States to destroy the Vietnamese revolution. Like the leadership in neighboring China, Vietnamese leaders have declared their support for a policy of “economic reform, political stability.”

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