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May 20, 2024

Reinforcing the Four Pillars: New Faces in Vietnam's Leadership

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May 20, 2024

On May 18, the last day of the 13th Central Party Committee's ninth session, the Party nominatedMinister of Public Security To Lam to be Vietnam’s next President, filling the vacancy left by President Vo Van Thuong's resignation on March 20. The Party also nominated Tran Thanh Man, Vice Chair of the National Assembly, to be the next Chairman of the National Assembly, filling the vacancy left by Vuong Dinh Hue, who resigned recently on May 2. To formalize the Party’s decision, the National Assembly (NA) will officially vote on these two positions during the 7th session of the 15th National Assembly commencing on May 20.

With these steps by the Central Party Committee, the nation’s top leadership, known as the “Four Pillars” of Vietnam, is now confirmed: General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, President To Lam, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, and National Assembly Chairman Tran Thanh Man.

During the press conference for the NA’s 7th Session, it was revealed that the National Assembly will not dismiss To Lam from his position as Minister of Public Security, nor has a replacement been chosen. This means To Lam may serve as both President and Minister of MPS until a new Minister is selected. As President, To Lam will also be Chairman of the National Defense and Security Council and Commander of the People's armed forces, which include the People's Army, People's Police, and Militia and Self-Defense Forces.

General To Lam, born in 1957 in the Northern Province Hung Yen of Vietnam, has spent over four decades in the Ministry of Public Security. He became MPS Minister in 2016 and has been a key figure in anti-corruption measures. Raised in a family of revolutionary activists, he studied at the People’s Security Academy and started his MPS career in 1979. He served as MPS’s Deputy Minister from 2010 to 2016, and as MPS Minister and member of the Politburo since 2016. In 2019, he was promoted to the rank of General by former President, now General Secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong. In 2016, he was appointed by the Politburo to concurrently serve as Secretary of the Central Public Security Party Committee and Deputy Head of the Central Steering Committee on Anti-Corruption of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), supporting General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in anti-corruption efforts. In his role as MPS Minister, he has been actively engaged in international affairs by representing the Vietnam People's Public Security force by welcoming international representatives visiting Vietnam, conducting tours to partner countries, and strengthening international relations. This includes his meeting with the US-ASEAN Business Council’s delegation during our Business Mission to Vietnam in 2023.

Tran Thanh Man, the newly appointed Chairman of the National Assembly, is a familiar face in parliamentary proceedings, having chaired a number of meetings and managed the activities of the National Assembly Standing Committee and the National Assembly itself until the official announcement of a new Chairman following the resignation of former Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue. Born in 1962 in Hau Giang Province, he holds a PhD in Economics. He served as Vice Chair of Can Tho Province’s People's Committee from 1999 to 2010 and has been a member of the Party Central Committee since 2015. Additionally, he was elected to the 13th Politburo in 2021 and currently holds the positions of Chairman of the Central Committee of Vietnam’s Fatherland Front and Vice Chairman of the National Assembly.

CPV’s 13th Politburo - A Term with Unprecedented Changes

The 13th Politburo, the highest decision-making body of the Communist Party of Vietnam, which plays a critical role in every aspect of Vietnam's politics, security, and economy, has witnessed unprecedented changes in the history of CPV, with a series of resignations and replacements occurring at the top level in a short period of time.
Among the 18-member Politburo elected on January 31, 2021, at the inaugural plenum of the 13th Party Central Committee, six members, including high profile leaders, submitted their resignations from among the top ranks. They are Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh (resigned January 2023), President Nguyen Xuan Phuc (resigned January 2023), Chairman of the Central  Economic Commission Tran Tuan Anh (resigned January 2024), President Vo Van Thuong (resigned March 2024), National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue (resigned May 2024), and Permanent Member of the Secretariat and Chair of the Central Organization Commission Truong Thi Mai (resigned May 2024). Their resignations were due to assuming political responsibility for the shortcomings in their respective duties, which affected the Party's reputation, as part of Vietnam's ongoing "Blazing Furnace" anti-corruption campaign.

Truong Thi Mai was the latest member of the Politburo to  step down from all her positions, including her roles as a Politburo member and Permanent Member of the Secretariat, during the 13th Central Party Committee's ninth session on May 16. As a two-term Politburo member and the sole woman on the Politburo, she held various influential Party positions and was formerly regarded as holding the country’s fifth-most important political post.

General Luong Cuong, who has been serving as the Director of the General Political Department of the Vietnam People's Army since 2016, replaced Mai as the Executive Secretary of the Central Committee. Born in 1957 in Phu Tho Province, General Luong Cuong has been a member of the Party Central Committee since 2016 and a member of the Politburo since 2021. He joined the army in 1975, progressing to the position of Vice Director of the General Department of Politics in 2011 before assuming the role of Director in 2016.

During the ninth session, the Party Central Committee also endorsed four new Politburo members to fill the vacancies left by the recent resignations. They are Le Minh Hung, the head of the Party Organization Commission; Colonel General Nguyen Trong Nghia, the head of the Commission for Propaganda and Education; Bui Thi Minh Hoai, the head of the Party Central Mass Mobilization Commission; and Do Van Chien, the head of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front.

  • Le Minh Hung, born in 1970, is the youngest member of the Politburo. With over 20 years of experience at the State Bank of Vietnam, he became its Deputy Governor in 2011 and Governor in 2016 at the age of 46, making him the youngest governor in the bank's history. He served in this role until 2020 before becoming the Office Head of the Central Party Committee in November 2021. Hung holds a master’s degree in economics from Saitama University, Japan. Notably, after his election as a new Politburo member, he participated in a key leader meeting with General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong on May 18, alongside four other key figures: Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, newly nominated President To Lam, newly nominated NA Chairman Tran Thanh Man, and newly appointed Executive Secretary of the Central Committee, General Luong Cuong.

  • Colonel General Nguyen Trong Nghia, born in 1962, has had a military career spanning more than 40 years. He served as Deputy Head of the General Department of Military Politics since 2012. In February 2021, he assumed the position of Head of the Party’s Commission for Propaganda and Education.

  • The two remaining new Politburo members have not previously held significant roles in the Government nor Party. Do Van Chien, 62, was previously chairman of Tuyen Quang Province People’s Committee and later Party Secretary of Yen Bai. He became head of the Vietnam Fatherland Front in April 2021. Bui Thi Minh Hoai, 59, was deputy head of the Central Inspection Commission and has been head of the Party Central Mass Mobilization Commission since April 2021. Hoai is currently the only female member of the Politburo following Truong Thi Mai’s resignation.

The new appointments aim to strengthen unity within the party's leadership, allowing current members to serve in their respective positions and complete their term until the 14th Party Congress in January 2026. With these new assignments, the 13th Politburo now comprises 16 members, two fewer than at the beginning of its tenure. Looking at the current Politburo member structure, the leadership is significantly dominated by the police force and army: five members have a police background (To Lam, Pham Minh Chinh, Nguyen Van Nen, Phan Dinh Trac, Nguyen Hoa Binh), three have a military background (Luong Cuong, Phan Van Giang, Nguyen Trong Nghia), and only two members have a strong economic background (Le Minh Hung, Dinh Tien Dung).

Chart 1: Vietnam’s 13th Politburo
(as of May 20, 2024)


(*) Newly appointed Politburo members
(**) To be officially voted at the 7th session of the 15th NA
Source: US-ABC summarized based on Politburo official website

Vietnam's Economic Resilience Amid Political Shifts

Despite the political changes in the government, Vietnam continues to attract significant FDI inflows. During the first 4 months of 2024, registered FDI reached US$9.27 billion, marking a 4.4% increase compared to the same period in 2023. Newly approved projects totaled US$7.11 billion, showcasing a substantial rise of 28.8% in project numbers and 73.2% in capital. The total two-way trade value reached US$233.38 billion, representing a 15.2% increase compared with the same period in 2023. The number of international tourists increased by more than 68%. So far, there has not been any indication of economic slowdown stemming from the recent political changes.

During the recent meeting of the new “Four Pillars” on May 18, General Secretary Trong emphasized economic growth, stability, and addressing production challenges as the Party’s priorities. The key leaders also stressed national defense, effective foreign affairs, and strong partnerships. Despite concerns about slower decision-making due to ongoing anti-corruption efforts, we anticipate continuity in economic direction, strategy, and foreign policy, including relations with the United States, as the new leaders complete their terms until the next Party congress in January 2026.

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