What problems were faced the government of Vietnam in the years following its unification in 1976? How and with what success did the government' policies change after 1986?

After the independence in 1976 Vietnam was already a shattered country with 30 years of disruption of peace. They faced several problems like:

  • Millions of people had become homeless. They were devastated by the American bombings and their inspirational leader Ho Chi Minh had also died in 1969.
  • The government tried to bring in place a centralized command policy where capitalism would be abolished and collectivization of agriculture could be achieved. But this faced several oppositions especially in the great business city and commercial centre of Saigaon. They refused to cooperate and tried their level best to sabotage the socialist measures. The people who were to organize collectivization were either not willing or they were highly incompetent. Adding to this problem was corruption which turned the whole process into a disaster.
  • The top party leaders were themselves divided on how the Marxist-Leninist policies were to be followed. While some wanted to follow China’s example and experiment with capitalism, while others simply denied these ideas as sacrilegious.
  • The country also started suffering from floods and drought which added to the misery of failed collectivization and rapid increase in population.
  • Vietnam’s foreign policy also turned against it. The expensive foreign relations led to a conflict with its neighbours. Vietnam was interested in forming a close alliance with the left wing governments of Laos and Cambodia. But when Cambodia refused, it instead invaded the country by defeating the Khmer Rouge government. But the Khmer Rouge was not over and it lodged a guerilla war against Vietnam. They also received support from the Chinese who intervened in Vietnam and damaged most of its frontier area. Although the Vietnamese retaliated equally, the Chinese believed to have taught a good lesson to Vietnam.
  • Even many other countries like USA, USSR, Japan and most of the Western European countries supported the guerilla wars and imposed trade embargo on Vietnam. As a result of this, Vietnam had totally become isolated by the mid 1980s.

Seeing this condition, the young rising leaders of Vietnam were willing to change the course in 1986. In the Third National Congress a leading economic reformer Nguyen Van Linh was appointed as general secretary. He introduced a new doctrine known as the Doi Moi which meant renewing the economy. This involved moving towards a free market and attempt to raise the living standards of Vietnamese to the level enjoyed by their neighbours. Some successes that this achieved are:

  • Finally an agreement was reached with Cambodia and in 1989 the task of permanent settlement was handed over to UN. This freed vast sums of revenue which could now be invested in the economy.
  • Progress became much more obvious in 2000 when a stock exchange was opened in the Ho Chi Minh city and important steps were taken for the reconciliation with USA. Closer business and cultural ties were established with a trade agreement.
  • In 2001, a new target for industrialization was set through a Five Year Plan. Equal benefits were given for the private sector to flourish and new hydroelectric project started which would help in the control of flooding.


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