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Research article2011Peer reviewed

Reinventing rural development in Vietnam: Discursive constructions of grassroots democracy during the renovation reform

Klocker Larsen, Rasmus


Over the past decades Vietnam has seen striking efforts to reinvent the exercise of democratic rural development. Promotion of grassroots democracy, notably under the Grassroots Democracy Decree (GDD), has been an acute response by Communist Party and government to large scale unrest among the rural populace owing to dissatisfactions with a felt mismatch between espoused commitments to good governance and its actual practice. Through evidence from field work, this paper assesses the implications of the GDD in the central and northern highlands, analyzing how the promotion of grassroots democracy is discursively constructed by rural development professionals. The results outline three dominant discourses, which center on their respective interests in liberalist democratization, improved efficiency in state renovation, and enhanced accountability in governing local policy ambiguities. It argues that grassroots democracy is serving as a conceptual mediator, supporting learning between diverging interests associated with rural development and different ideological positions shrouding the notion of democracy itself. Yet, given the extent that discourses are reflective of how professionals relate to grassroots aspirations, grassroots movements, which originally ushered the Party and central government to pass the GDD, have a significant struggle ahead of them to affect concrete changes in professionals' practices.


accountability; democracy; discourse; policy; rural development; stakeholder

Published in

Asia Pacific Viewpoint
2011, Volume: 52, number: 3, pages: 316-332

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)