This article analyzes the socio-economic and political contexts behind the 2013 Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (2013 Constitution), in which demands for deeper institutional reform emerged in Vietnam, and explains the constitutional discourse within Vietnam as to its economic order. Diverse forces and platforms within Vietnam’s party-state and beyond have contributed to the exchange of ideas and values on the economic order. As a result of this public discourse, the provisions on the economic order of the 2013 Constitution are ideological compromises, reflecting the contradicting views within the party-state and society in Vietnam on the role of the market, private property, and the freedom to conduct business. The 2013 Constitution has taken a step towards a free market economy by recognizing the decisive role of the market in the national economy. It emphasizes the importance of the private sector and promises that it will be treated fairly among all other economic sectors. From this perspective, the 2013 Constitution contains the seeds of future political and legal guarantees which could protect individual liberties. However, in line with the socialist ideology adopted by its predecessors, the 2013 Constitution reaffirms the dominance of the public sector and the leading role of state-owned enterprises, and preserves the ambiguous “ownership of the entire Vietnamese people of land and natural resources”. Due to this ambiguity, the 2013 Constitution fails to lay down the foundations for far-reaching comprehensive institutional reforms that Vietnam urgently requires.
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