Organized Panel Session
China and Vietnam are commonly classified as having Communist authoritarian regimes. That characterization, however, does not encapsulate the complexity and emerging dynamics that animate relations between the governors and the governed – the discussions and contestations between authorities and citizens on salient issues of governance. Emerging in both Vietnam and China are opportunities, institutions, and organizations through which citizens advocate political changes, criticize policies, and resist state authority. The state, in turn, exercises outright dismissal and repression against citizen’s protests, yet also shows receptivity, deliberation, and responsiveness to people’s grievances.
This panel closely examines these political dynamics in comparative perspective through research conducted in China and Vietnam. The panelists shed light on actions by state authorities toward citizens who demonstrate, go on strike, and display other forms of discontent. Nhu Truong differentiates between reactive and institutionalized responsiveness by Chinese and Vietnamese authorities during contentious land requisitions. Manfred Elfstrom studies Chinese state reactions to factory workers’ resistance. Benedict Kerkvliet analyzes Vietnamese authorities actions toward public political criticism. These studies not only demonstrate the wide range of repressive and responsive actions by state authorities to people’s concerns and criticisms, but also probe the reasons for the variation and the implications for understanding the political systems in the two countries. Regina Abrami, the discussant and an author of comparative studies of both China and Vietnam, is well placed to assess the presenters’ analyses and contribute further insights to the panel’s topic.