Patrick Sharbaugh (2015) Civic engagement through Internet memes

On the surface it all appears to be just harmless fun and therefore inoffensive to both government officials and, crucially, to other citizens. The medium of the message allows indirect social and political commentary to sneak in disguised as lulz. And it also assures that the content is shared much more widely and viewed much more widely than direct critique would be. In between the two poles of the starry-eyed techno-utopians and the skeptics there are thinkers who’ve suggested that the real potential of online tools for social change in places like Vietnam is not necessarily in coordinating massive street protests and mobilizing activist movements but rather in how they enable citizens to articulate and debate a welter of conflicting ideas throughout society. In other words, social media may matter most not in the streets and the squares but in the myriad spaces of the social commons that Jürgen Habermas called the public sphere. These images and the worldviews behind them are becoming part of the national discourse in Vietnam. And in the process they are quietly, incrementally shifting the zeitgeist.

It’s often said by way of criticism that these images are amateurish and juvenile and short-lived, and that’s true. But they seem to be achieving what all the finger-wagging from the dissident bloggers in Western democracies has not. They’re changing minds. And they’re doing it so precisely because they are juvenile and short-lived and ephemeral and yes, often silly. That’s the whole point.

Patrick Sharbaugh (2015) How meme culture is empowering civic engagement in the socialist republic of Vietnam?

Phillip Taylor (2007) State attitude towards rural people and ethnic minorities

'... in the government's suite of programs for rural development, the state is responsive to other interests as well: donors such as the Australian and US governments and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank, which offer aid conditional on the adoption of market-based policies. There are strong indications that these interests—and those of an increasingly assertive urban middle class—have captured the voice of government, whose approach to rural development today embodies a mix of deference toward universally applicable laws of development and a paternalistic attitude toward rural people. This attitude is especially evident in depictions of rural people in official development reports as poor, backward, remote, unconnected, unaware, and dependent on the state for their uplift. It is most blatantly revealed in official attitudes toward ethnic minorities, including Khmer people..., whose “backward” customs, religious orientations, and cultural insularity are deemed to impede the operation of markets and of state programs, the beneficial effects of which are taken for granted.'

Phillip Taylor (2007) Poor policies, wealthy peasants: alternative trajectories for rural development in Vietnam

Martin Gainsborough's (2003) interpretation of big corruption cases in the 1990s

'... big corruption cases are best understood as an attempt by the political centre to discipline the lower levels of the party-state against a backdrop of increased decentralisation under reform. Such an interpretation, it is argued, makes sense both of the increased frequency with which big corruption cases have occurred in the 1990s and also the ferocity with which they have been executed. It also represents a more authentically political account insofar as the centre is no longer seen as simply clamping down on corruption "in the public interest" but rather is seen as representing one side in a struggle for influence between different levels of the state, where the prize is control over economic resources. Moreover, the successful prosecution of Tamexco and other big corruption cases, along with the centre's assertion of its authority in a number of other areas... suggests that the centre is far from a spent force. This is frequently not the dominant view in the academic literature.

The ideas put forward here also shed light on another issue, namely how we understand the "rule of law". Prosecution of big corruption cases through the courts might be read as representing a positive development as the party, once regarded as being "above the law", is now seen as willing to subject the disciplining of its own ranks to just legal process. However... more convincing is the idea that the "rule of law" is being used to pursue the interests of one particular arm of the state, namely the centre. This ties with a distinction in the China literature between "rule of law" and "rule by law". The suggestion is that China is moving in the direction of the latter than the former. Such an observation also appears appropriate in the Vietnamese case.'

Martin Gainsborough (2003) Corruption and the Politics of Economic Decentralisation in Vietnam