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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 10:11 GMT
Vietnam's leaders discuss future
By Bill Hayton
BBC News, Hanoi

Members of Vietnam's Communist Party
Vietnam's politicians are aware they need to modernise
The leaders of Vietnam's Communist Party have ended a 10-day meeting of their Central Committee at which they discussed how the party should change.

The party is trying to find new ways to remain in control, now that the country has opened up to foreign businesses.

But this does not mean the party is going to give up some of its power.

Increasingly it wants to set the guidelines and let the professional politicians, almost all of whom are members of the party, run the country.

Modern reality

Vietnam's Communist Party is now facing up to the political consequences of its decision to integrate the country with global capitalism.

Vietnam formally joined the World Trade Organization this month, and now it has to change many of its laws and practices to comply with WTO rules.

In many areas the old ways of doing business and politics no longer work.

The economy is more complex, growth is creating winners and losers, and the country needs more sophisticated policies to address the problems.

In response, the party is trying to give more power to the formal structures of the government and the National Assembly.

In the past these bodies were mainly rubber stamps for decisions taken by the party, but they are starting to assume greater control of the setting and implementation of policy.

The whole process is largely hidden from scrutiny, but change is happening in Vietnam, albeit slowly.

The party wants to remain the only political force in the country, but its leaders are aware that they need to respond to new pressures in a changing world.

This meeting of the party's Central Committee is another step along this new road.

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