Conversion of Land Use in Vietnam through a Political Economy Lens

Andrew Wells Dang, Pham Quang Tu, Adam Burke


Land tenure in Vietnam is becoming increasingly contested in the context of rapid economic development and growing inequality. Agricultural land in and around cities is targeted by developers for conversion to commercial uses. In rural areas, farmers’ access to productive land is restricted by the prevalence of state-owned farms and forest enterprises. As a result, the number of complaints filed over land issues has increased dramatically in the last decade, and the revision of the Land Law in 2013 led to an unprecedented level of public participation in land policy formation. 

This article applies a political economy approach to processes of agricultural land conversion through analysis of the interests and incentives of key actors within and outside the Vietnamese state; the gap between legal documents and policy implementation; and processes of interaction among multiple stakeholders over time. Data sources include monitoring of official media and blogs, interviews with officials and experts, and direct experience in coalition building. The authors present case studies of successful and less successful local advocacy around land issues. In the discussion and conclusion sections, the article explores the extent to which emerging narratives of farmers’ rights may challenge the model of economic growth through resource extraction.


Land; political economy; economic development; advocacy.

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