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Perestroika vs. Doi Moi
essay [ ]

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by [lavacaloca ]

2004-01-24  |     | 

The Vietnamese Doi Moi and the Soviet Union Perestroika were two similar communist reform programs, yet Perestroika reconstruction failed while the Doi Moi reconstruction shows signs of success. The Soviet economy by 1991 had gone into complete collapse.1 Three conflicts of vital significance that contributed to the need for reconstruction in the Soviet Union were the Bolshevik coup d'état, the October Revolution of 1917, which brought Lenin into power, and the industrialization drive that began under Stalin’s leadership in 1928.2 In Vietnam, thirty years of warfare from 1945 to 1975 imposed a great toll in terms of loss of life, injuries and enormous economic and social disruption.3 The primary reason why the United States became involved in the war against Vietnam was because they feared the spread of communism in that region.4 In 1976, North and South Vietnam united as one again.5 Vietnam suffered from another devastating attack in 1979 by its Communist neighbor China. The war with the United States, the attack from China, and the multiple attempts to gain control of Cambodia, triggered the disruption and dismantling of Vietnam.6 Initiated in 1986, Vietnam’s momentous new policy of re-direction, Doi Moi, has produced dramatic change in the lives of the Vietnamese people. 7
There was a change in governance led by Mikhail Gorbachev who served as President of the USSR in 1990-1991. Gorbachev seeing that his country was on the way to becoming history, sought to install a new system called Perestroika, in 1987.8 Perestroika means mass initiative, it is the development of democracy, and social self-government. The essence of Perestroika lies in the fact that it unites socialism with democracy and revives the Leninist concept of socialist construction.9 The reforms proposed by Gorbachev are economic growth, ensuring balance, and the strengthening of production. Gorbachev believes that the key to achieving the projected result lies in the pursuit of democratizing all organs of the government. A key part of Perestroika was to reduce the amount of money being spent on defense, and to do this, Gorbachev felt the Soviet Union should pull out of Afghanistan, negotiate with the United States about arms reductions, and cease interfering with other countries.10 This cease was called the Sinatra Doctrine. It advocated a do-it-yourself route to communism and ensured that Soviet troops would not intervene in Eastern and Central Europe.11 Glasnost or “openness” was one of Gorbachev's policies introduced in 1987. The liberalization of the media and of cultural creation, was a radical change undertaken by glasnost, because having control of the media had previously been a central part of the Soviet system. 12
In 1986, the Vietnamese Communist Party announced an abandonment of Stalinist central planning and collective agriculture and the adoption of a program of market socialism, called Doi Moi, restructuring.13 The policy of Doi Moi consists of three inter-related fundamental points: a shift from a bureaucratically centralized planned economy to a multi-sector economy operating under a market mechanism with state management and a socialist orientation; democratizing social life and building a legal state of the people, by the people, and for the people; implementing an open-door policy and promoting relations between Vietnam and all other countries in the world.14
The reforms referred to in Vietnamese as Doi Moi invite comparison with the changes Mikhail Gorbachev has brought to the Soviet Union. The policy, Doi Moi, is comparable to Gorbachev's Perestroika in its aim to move towards a more market-oriented economy. The truth is Perestroika was a much wider, encompassing concept than Doi Moi, which only involves economic matters. Meanwhile, Perestroika included and emphasized political aspects of reform, democratization and liberalization. This is the only way for true freedom to be returned to the population. To maintain such freedoms there is also a requirement of transparency: the freedom for citizens to observe, advise and criticize the government must exist. Soviet Perestroika set the stage for Vietnam’s Doi Moi, but the outcome could not have been more different. The Soviet economy kept declining, as did social and political hierarchies. In Vietnam, though, the political elite clings to a socialist banner that forbids opposition, yet set the stage for unprecedented foreign investment that increased internal disparities and unemployment in Vietnamese cities.
Gorbachev’s goal was quite plain: to bring the Soviet Union up to economic par with such capitalist countries as Japan, Germany, and the United States.15 Why did Perestroika fail so miserably? First of all, Gorbachev never planned to remake the Soviet system, he merely wanted to modernize it.16 Many factors contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union, and Perestroika contributed to that downfall. Gorbachev wanted to negotiate with the United States about arms reductions and he signed an agreement on July 31, 1991. It required the two signatures, the United States and the Soviet Union, to reduce the number of nuclear warheads, and both parties agreed and signed. This signed agreement was what culminated the downfall of Gorbachev, less than three weeks later, when conservative communists tried to oust him in an attempted coup d'état. Although the coup was stopped, it discredited the Communist Party and led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.17
The Doi Moi program is creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurship and experimentation.18 The Doi Moi reforms have acted as a face-lift for Vietnam, since there has been an increase in tourism, and rice production shipment has made Vietnam one of the leading exporters worldwide. Doi Moi encourages young Vietnamese to start businesses and get more involved in the economic development of Vietnam, it has allowed foreign investors to participate.19 Doi Moi has opened Vietnam to trade and to friendly relations internationally, as for example with the United States and other countries.
Perestroika, though meant for the good of the country, only led to more harm. Doi Moi, faults and all, has achieved a sense of unity and prosperity in Vietnam, something it had lacked in the past. Both programs where aiming for the economic and political improvement of their country. Turmoil and economic devastation were a trigger for the downfall of Perestroika followed by the Soviet Union itself. It is clear that Perestroika is not the better reform program; its lack of efficiency and timeliness was catastrophic. Doi Moi has potential; it is just blooming, like a child in puberty. Doi Moi will surpass the failures of Perestroika, but it will possibly have its own difficulties to overcome.
The concept of Perestroika and Doi Moi is to improve the quality of life of the citizens. Conflict-torn communist or socialist countries must approach conflict prevention, cease-fire, negotiations, diplomacy, humanitarian aid, and the stabilizing of the economy and government. There must be a plan of action that establishes an agency or group to shepherd the reconstruction. This agency should ideally be the United Nations or a father nation that will put in order all international and personal affairs, this including the economy, security, government, and infrastructure of the country. All citizens must be aware at all times of what is happening in their country, therefore the media should not be controlled. Religion and ethnicity should not infiltrate or impose itself in the reconstruction, and the state must only be for the people and by the people. The economy must grow so that the country may flourish internationally and internally, and there must be an economic plan that focuses on the primary goods produced in the country and the establishment of tourism. Tourism is the key to the outside communication with other worlds and cultures to, make the country a center of trade and a melting pot of diversity. There must be some type of outside trade established, so that production rates may increase, thus allowing more job opportunities.
Both countries chose are communist, and both reforms tried to eliminate that type of government. Communism beliefs look good on paper, but when acted upon, are unsuccessful. I believe that whether the country is communist, socialist, capitalist, or a dictatorship, that should not be an obstacle for reconstruction. There should be a freedom so that the people can vote for their representatives. The interference of another country would not be advisable, because the foreign country might impose itself, though there are areas in which a foreign country’s interference is advisable for the welfare of the people. The whole point of reconstructions and reforms is for the country and its people to flourish and reach full potential. It is clear that only through time and hardship can a country that has been through conflict can come afloat, it is a slow process towards recovery. As the great mind, Winston Churchill once said, “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” 20

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