Democratization Advocates in Viet Nam

A Talk by Emeritus Professor Ben Kerkvliet from Australian National University in Canberra

Thursday, September 10, 2015
12:00 – 1:30pm

Tokioka Room, Moore Hall 319

Beginning in the mid 1990s, public criticism of the Communist Party government in Viet Nam spread to the point that by 2014 it became a prominent feature of the country’s political scene. This paper emphasizes critics who want to replace, non-violently, the present regime with a democratic political system. Drawing primarily on the writings and actions of Vietnamese critics themselves, the analysis shows that they differ over how to displace the current system. Some regime critics think the Communist Party leadership itself can and should lead the way; others form organizations to openly and directly challenge the regime; still others urge remaking the current system by actively engaging it; and some favor expanding civil society in order to democratize the nation. Underlying the four approaches are different understandings of what democratization entails and its relationship to social and economic development. The paper ends by contrasting contemporary dissent in Viet Nam to political criticism in the northern half of the country in the mid 1950s, in the southern half in the 1960s-1970s, and in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the 1970s-1980s.

Speaker Bio

Ben Kerkvliet is Emeritus Professor at the Department of Political and Social Change, School of International, Political & Strategic Studies, Australian National University. His current research emphasizes public political criticism in Viet Nam. One of his recent publications is “Protests over Land in Vietnam: Rightful Resistance and More, “Journal of Vienamese Studies, vol. 9, issue 3 (2014): 19-54. He taught at the Australian National University (1992-2008) and at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa (1971-1991).

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