Reforming the Party’s leadership over overseas Vietnamese associations

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chairman of the State Committee on Overseas Vietnamese Affairs
Tuesday, April 11, 2023 09:42

Communist Review - The overseas Vietnamese community is an integral part of the Vietnamese ethnic community. Reforming the Party's leadership towards overseas Vietnamese associations is of particular importance in improving the effectiveness of mobilization, enhancing solidarity and social cohesion, gathering compatriots to integrate into the local society, preserving national cultural identity, contributing to strengthening the friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and other countries for the cause of national construction and defense. 

General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong meets representatives of the Vietnamese community in Russia _Photo: VNA

The Party's leadership for overseas Vietnamese associations throughout revolutionary periods

Throughout the revolutionary history, under the Party’s leadership, the overseas Vietnamese community has made significant contributions and always stood at Vietnamese nationals’ side to gain historical victories. Associations are the "fulcrum", the "core" force in implementing the guidelines and policies of the Party and Government and mobilizing overseas Vietnamese to return to their homeland.

To date, more than 5.3 million Vietnamese people are living, studying, and working in more than 130 countries and territories with about 1,000 Vietnamese associations worldwide, of which over 500 have established a close-knit bond with Vietnamese representative missions abroad. It can be said that the size of overseas Vietnamese associations has increased both in the number of members and membership structure in many regions with diverse forms and improved organizational structure. A wide range of activities has been carried out by most of them in an attempt to stabilize individuals’ lives, integrate them into the host society, build social cohesion, maintain traditional cultural identity, enhance national pride, promote exchanges and cooperation between Vietnam and countries around the world to develop the country.

The Party and State of Vietnam have always paid great attention to the work of overseas Vietnamese in general and associations in particular. In each historical period, the Party has always adopted an appropriate leadership method for overseas Vietnamese associations in order to mobilize community participation in the national revolutionary cause.

During the struggle for national liberation, leaders of the Party and State and President Ho Chi Minh directly built patriotic overseas Vietnamese movements, then developed into patriotic overseas Vietnamese associations. In a bipolar world, the ideological struggle became the reason why some states banned overseas patriotic associations of Vietnamese. So they have secretly worked. Faced with that situation, the Party directly led them through the core force of patriots, party members, and intellectuals to boost propaganda and social mobilization. Party organizations abroad are also placed under the direct leadership of the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat. The ultimate goal to achieve in this period was national liberation and reunification.

Thanks to the Party’s clear-sighted leadership and the active involvement of key leaders, the patriotic movement launched by overseas Vietnamese associations has mobilized the active participation of overseas Vietnamese, thus effectively supporting the revolutionary movement in the country. As in Thailand, more than 6,000 overseas Vietnamese directly joint in the armed forces at the Lao Front of Resistance. Many people have sacrificed in the resistance war against the French colonialists to preserve national independence. Several Vietnamese students in Western countries began anti-war movements to advocate independence and freedom for their Homeland. Most of the key students later became the mainstay of patriotic movements of overseas Vietnamese.

After 1975, Vietnam became an independent and unified country and entered the stage of construction and development. However, this was a tough time. Faced with that situation, patriotic associations amongst overseas Vietnamese sought to reform their leadership and changed their name to the Vietnamese association to grow membership and expand their activities. In the early 80s of the twentieth century, activities of patriotic organizations of overseas Vietnamese stagnated and some of them went into decline. Among the community, some new associations have been established in an attempt to enhance exchanges, help members stabilize life in the host country. Up to now, when people's lives become more stable, the need to connect the community with the homeland is increasing. Many associations have been established and supported by diplomatic missions of Vietnam abroad and recognized by the local government.

In that context, the Party's leadership over these associations has also been adjusted appropriately. Directive No. 09/CT-TW, dated October 4, 1982, of the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee on the mobilization of overseas Vietnamese states: “Patriotic movement of overseas Vietnamese constitutes a revolutionary mass force of overseas Vietnamese that lays a foundation for the Party and State of Vietnam to mobilize overseas Vietnamese, and gives a helping hand in the political and diplomatic fronts of Vietnamese abroad....”. It also stresses the necessity of improving patriotic movements of overseas Vietnamese..., developing patriotic Vietnamese associations..., and building effective core leaders. The Party focuses on orienting, supporting, and accompanying associations by conducting propaganda and mobilization materially and spiritually. The common goal is to promote a sense of solidarity amongst the community, prosperity as well as the host society integration to develop the Fatherland.

As the Doi Moi began, especially since the country’s international integration, a large number of guidelines and policies have been promulgated by the Party and Government on overseas Vietnamese work. Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW, dated March 26, 2004, of the Politburo on the work of overseas Vietnamese, emphasizes the need of strengthening and developing social organizations to mobilize overseas Vietnamese, such as the Association for Liaison with overseas Vietnamese, overseas relatives' associations and other legitimate types of social gathering in accordance with the will and characteristics of specific communities. Directive No. 45-CT/TW, dated May 19, 2015, of the Politburo, advocates policy formulation to support associations and key forces in the community; pilot the recognition of overseas Vietnamese associations as members of the Fatherland Front, Union of Friendship Organizations, Vietnam Women's Union, Vietnam Youth Union... Directive No. 19/2008/CT-TTg, dated June 6, 2008, of the Prime Minister, assigns tasks of organizing and establishing overseas Vietnamese associations in appropriate areas, monitoring and developing them.

 New requirements imposed by the Party’s leadership over overseas Vietnamese associations 

The Party's leadership towards overseas Vietnamese associations is facing the following new situation.

Regarding the world situation, a multi-polar and multi-centered world order is emerging; the gathering of forces, alliances, and competition among countries become more complicated; Countries of different socio-political regimes shake hands with each other and also pit against each other for peaceful coexistence. In that context, the Party’s leadership towards overseas Vietnamese associations should prioritize the goal of mobilizing their participation to build and maintain a peaceful and stable environment, firmly safeguard national independence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity; mobilize resources to directly contribute to the development of the country and to foster friendship, multi-faceted cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between Vietnam and host countries, thereby helping to raise the country's position.

Regarding the domestic situation, the country's potential, position, and international prestige have been increasingly enhanced; relations between Vietnam and other countries are deepened. Therefore, in addition to mobilizing associations to support their homeland, the Party determines the responsibility to stand side by side with overseas Vietnamese to stabilize their lives, protect their legitimate interests, enhance their position, and raise their prestige in the host society. This also sets new requirements for Vietnam’s overseas representative agencies, Party committees, and organizations abroad. Besides implementing political, economic, and cultural diplomacy, particular attention should be paid to the deployment of overseas Vietnamese work.

Regarding the situation of overseas Vietnamese communities and associations: Due to the complexity, the expansion of overseas Vietnamese communities as well as the formation of new generations, the Party needs to strengthen its leadership.

In recent years, many new associations have been established and play a greater role in connecting and gathering the community, in which there are transnational organizations. It is also noticeable that traditional associations continue to be restructured. Nevertheless, they are facing challenges in maintaining and expanding their activities, building a core leadership team, and fostering successors. The majority of core leaders are elderly and in poor health, while younger generations are more interested in earning living. They are not actively involved in social activities.

Currently, there is no mechanism to finance overseas Vietnamese associations. Most of the funds to run these associations are raised by individuals or sponsors. Due to limited funding, their activities consist only of motivating and encouraging members spiritually while financial investment to organize activities among overseas Vietnamese to preserve national cultural identity is still limited... In some areas, Vietnam’s overseas representative agencies have not paid adequate attention to building and developing a core leadership team in the community. This affects negatively the orientation, support, and accompaniment of associations’ activities, especially the unions of students and workers - the core force for the deployment of overseas Vietnamese work. Meanwhile, extremist Vietnamese organizations and individuals abroad are constantly changing their forms of operations with sophisticated conspiracies to take advantage of "burning issues and inadequacies" to fight against the Party and the State of Vietnam. Extremists often seek to sabotage dynamic associations and individuals.

Faced with this situation, the Vietnamese Party and State have set new requirements for overseas Vietnamese work in general and associations in particular. The 13th National Congress of the Party pointed out that in the coming time, it is necessary to "comprehensively and vigorously implement" the work of overseas Vietnamese. On that basis, Conclusion No. 12-KL/TW, dated August 12, 2021, of the Politburo, on "The work of overseas Vietnamese in the new situation" required that in conducting future tasks, it is essential to show more clearly the sense of responsibility and the strong commitment of the Party and State in taking care of the overseas Vietnamese community. It is needed to reform and diversify activities of mobilizing overseas Vietnamese; due consideration should be given to promoting the role of key leaders in the community.

 Continue to reform the Party's leadership over overseas Vietnamese associations

First and foremost, strengthen the Party’s leadership by adopting resolutions and major policies on overseas Vietnamese affairs.

The Party leads the State to institutionalize and concretize guidelines mentioned in Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW, Directive No. 45-CT/TW, and Conclusion No. 12-KL/TW of the Politburo on overseas Vietnamese affairs. Accordingly, the State needs to improve and concretize guidelines and policies related to supporting activities dedicated to overseas Vietnamese associations in key areas where are living many overseas Vietnamese, especially in terms of resources and funding. For associations that run effectively, exert influence on the host government, and play an important role in promoting relations between Vietnam and other countries, it is necessary to fund them through a specific mechanism, under the principle of voluntarism, autonomy, self-governance, and self-funding. The State funds only assigned activities. Moreover, it is required to mobilize authorities of host countries to create favorable conditions for overseas Vietnamese associations so that they can contribute to the growth of these host countries; to allow overseas Vietnamese to establish associations in conformity with local regulations, and protect their legitimate rights and interests.

In the long run, on the basis of reviewing 20 years of implementation of the Politburo's Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW, it is essential to think about the issuance of a new resolution by the Politburo on strengthening the Party's leadership over overseas Vietnamese affairs in the new circumstance.

Second, reform activities of mobilization by financial and spiritual means.

First of all, it is necessary to reform the content, methods, and thinking in disseminating information and mobilizing overseas Vietnamese, and associations. In terms of thinking, overseas Vietnamese are considered both the object and the subject of propaganda affairs. In terms of content, due consideration should be given to information dissemination and education to raise political and ideological awareness amongst managers, members, and overseas Vietnamese; special attention should be paid to grasping the Party’s policies on great national unity in order to raise awareness and sense of responsibility of the community and associations. It is crucial to promptly provide information about the national situation and the guidelines and policies of the Party and State to the overseas Vietnamese community in an appropriate manner; boost propaganda and education on history, culture, and national traditions for overseas Vietnamese in order to nurture and foster their patriotism and national pride. In terms of methods, it is recommended to effectively use official digital mass media inside the country as well as communication means of the overseas Vietnamese community; boost propaganda on digital platforms and social media so that organizations and individuals can access official and objective information anytime, anywhere. Improve coordination mechanisms, adopt a quick response to and successfully fight against disinformation.

What is more, it is necessary to renew and diversify forms of persuading and mobilizing overseas Vietnamese in general and associations in particular. This should be identified as a central urgent and long-term task. Through the Party’s policies on taking care of overseas Vietnamese and associations, it is indispensable to use financial and spiritual means to persuade them. Strengthen the monitoring role of associations, not interfere in associations’ affairs, not impose rules nor administralise their activities. Prioritize direct dialogues and contact with stakeholders to handle existing conflicts within some associations. Due to the different characteristics of each association, in conducting mobilization affairs, the Party's leaders need to take appropriate measures, act as a guide and not impose a common model. In addition, it is vital to promote the autonomy, self-governance, innovation, and creativity of these associations.

Regarding the object, the mobilization should focus on key leaders, young overseas Vietnamese, prestigious and influential individuals, and also people who adopt deep-seated prejudice against the home country. Continue to carry out reward and recognition policies to motivate associations, individuals, and leaders who have made outstanding achievements for community building and national growth; focus on organizing meaningful activities for overseas Vietnamese youth to nurture their national pride and patriotism; mobilize the involvement and promote the role of prestigious and influential overseas Vietnamese organizations and individuals in gathering and uniting the community. For overseas organizations and individuals who still have prejudices about Vietnam, more comprehensive and proactive measures should be taken to communicate, and persistently persuade them under the principle of narrowing the gap, accepting differences that are not contrary to national interests, thus enhancing national solidarity by which “All Vietnamese, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or origin, social status, reasons for going abroad, strive to realize the shared goals of making Vietnam a strong country with prosperous people and a fair, democratic, civilized society.

Third, strengthen the Party's leadership over associations through human resources affairs.

Regarding human resources organization, it is necessary to enhance the role of full-time staff and perform the unified state management of overseas Vietnamese affairs. Continue to strengthen human resources management of the State Committee on Overseas Vietnamese Affairs in order to establish a specialized body that accomplishes tasks assigned by the Party and State and meets the expectations of overseas Vietnamese. Increase the number of employees and boost the capacity of staff specialized in social affairs; nurture staff working directly in the host country so that they can effectively work and provide a quick response to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Vietnamese community living in the host country. Reality proves that if representative agencies have full-time staff or set up a committee in charge of community affairs, overseas Vietnamese work in that locality will be managed effectively and creatively. Therefore, the model of the committee in charge of community affairs within representative agencies should be replicated in other areas, especially in localities that are home to a large number of overseas Vietnamese.

Besides, priority should be given to consolidating traditional associations, encouraging new forms of gathering, and improving the effectiveness of associations in a practical, democratic, open, and transparent manner. Improve the executive committee, focus on mobilizing overseas Vietnamese who are Party members, prestigious and influential individuals to join the executive committee and contribute their efforts to associations’ affairs; promptly understand the ideological evolutions of members to approve the association's executive committee adaptable to the current situation, well monitor overseas Vietnamese associations.

In addition, it is necessary to foster young officials; accompany and monitor overseas Vietnamese student associations as they play the core role in attracting and connecting overseas Vietnamese. Train and mobilize the young generation of overseas Vietnamese to join associations, and build up a succession team. Step by step standardize the contingent of officials, attach importance to training, fostering, and improving the knowledge and skills of mass mobilization; enhance enthusiasm and exemplary role of staff.

Fourth, reform and strengthen inspection and supervision over overseas Vietnamese affairs in general and associations affairs in particular.

Resolutions, directives, and conclusions of the Party are the basis for evaluating and supervising the performance of Party organizations and Party members in the political system. Therefore, it is necessary to regularly inspect and supervise the implementation of the Party's guidelines on overseas Vietnamese affairs, including Resolution No. 36-NQ/TW, Directive No. 45-CT /TW, and Conclusion No. 12-KL/TW of the Politburo. This supervision should be carried out synchronously, and strictly and the supervisory role of officials, party members, individuals, and the overseas Vietnamese community needs to be strengthened. Improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the management of party members abroad. Promptly punish violations of the Party’s regulations by overseas party members.

Thus, reforming the Party's leadership over overseas Vietnamese associations is an urgent requirement in the current context so that the Vietnamese Party strengthens its leadership to build strong and effective associations, effectively promoting the role of solidarity and gathering a large number of compatriots, becoming a "fulcrum" in mobilizing overseas Vietnamese to devote to their homeland, contributing to strengthening national solidarity and building a strong and prosperous Vietnam.


(1) Currently, there are only 4 Committees of Youth Union in Russia, Cuba, Laos, and China under the Central Committee of the Union; 11 Vietnamese Student Associations in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hungary, Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Austria, and Australia are directly under the Central Committee of Vietnam Students' Association; 4 Youth and student associations in Japan, the US, the Czech Republic, and Romania are members of the Vietnam Youth Union.

This article was published in the Communist Review  No. 999 (October 2022)