The world’s two largest Communist countries have a lot in common. Just over a year ago, Vietnam’s party leaders gave General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong an unprecedented third five-year term as the top leader, crediting him with successfully containing the Covid-19 pandemic. China’s President Xi Jinping is poised to win a third term as well later this year. Both countries waived politicians’ age limits for their supreme leaders.
Keen to retain the legitimacy of one-party rule, Trong and Xi are also both anti-corruption crusaders. In China, the scope is so wide and the punishments so severe that any bureaucrat in charge of a bank, brokerage, or insurance unit could reasonably worry about possible jail time for potential missteps. Corporate loan approvals have slowed as a result. In Vietnam, Trong has likened his anti-graft drive to a “blazing furnace,” burning so hot that officials are frozen with fear. In the first seven months of 2022, Vietnam disbursed only 34.5% of what the government had planned for public investments.