Over the past decades Vietnam has seen striking efforts to reinvent the exercise of democratic rural development. There has been large-scale unrest among the rural populace due to dissatisfaction with a felt mismatch between espoused commitments to ‘good governance’ and its actual practice. The response from the Communist Party and the government has been to promote grassroots democracy, most notably under the GDD.
The analysis shows there have been 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.
The author 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.