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Q1: What issues will the party congress address?
A1: The biggest issue is leadership succession, which has preoccupied the upper echelons of the party for much of the past year. First the Central Committee, a body of about 200 members responsible for implementing decisions taken by the party congress, must be selected. That committee will then elect the Politburo, the most powerful decisionmaking body in the party, from a pre-approved list of candidates. The last Politburo consisted of 19 members. The new one will propose candidates for the top four leadership positions: party general secretary, prime minister, state president, and chair of the country's legislature, called the
Q2: Who are likely to be
A2: The political process in
Other senior party officials considered throwing their hats in the ring for the top job. Until the recent Central Committee hearings, most assumed Trong would retire given his age and fragile health--he is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2019. That left two leading contenders. One was 67-year-old
Phuc failed to garner the necessary support of Trong or other political factions. But the Central Committee did grant him a waiver to the normal age limit of 65, indicating he is likely to remain in the leadership. Assuming the congress approves his waiver, Phuc is now widely expected to be elected president. Trong has been serving in that role, along with his normal job as general secretary, since 2018 when the previous president died. As head of state, the presidency would give Phuc more opportunities to represent
Since the recent Central Committee meetings, Phuc's most likely successor as prime minister seems to be
Q3: What does this mean for party?
A3: If approved, this slate of leaders would be norm-busting in several ways. All four are from northern and central
This continues an uncomfortable trend for the party of fractious leadership transitions and seemingly necessary exceptions to longstanding norms. In 2016, Trong was widely expected to step down as general secretary and be replaced by Prime Minister
Trong's efforts have tamped down corruption but not factionalism. Intra-party rivalries forced another exception to the rules when President
Factional rivalries show no signs of abating. Exceptions are becoming the new rule. Trong staying on, at least for a while, is likely a compromise to keep the intra-party peace, though for how long and under what conditions will remain unknowable from the outside.
Q4: How will the party congress affect policy?
A4: The party congress will review the economic and foreign policies of the last decade and make adjustments--but likely not major changes--for the next five-year period. Its overarching goal remains for
The new Vietnamese leadership will look to work with the Biden administration to deepen economic cooperation and security ties, though at a modest pace. As trade tensions between
Both countries share the conclusion that