From "serving government" in President Ho Chi Minh’s ideology to "tectonic government" in our country today
15/3/2017 14:34' Send story Print story

Inherited his precious legacy, our Party, State and people have made significant political achievements, especially in building a rule-of-law socialist State of the people, by the people and for the people. Entering the twenty-first century, we continue accelerating the national comprehensive reform, actively integrating into the region and the world. To maximize the opportunities of globalization and limit its challenges and negative impacts, we strongly advocate for vehement reform of political institutions towards building a "law-governed State” and a "tectonic government"... Learning his thoughts on the origin and nature of political power; on mode of organization and operation of the state apparatus; especially the position and role of government; responsibilities and tasks of the revolutionary cadres, we will possess a "more holistic view" on the institutional reform process, especially in modeling "tectonic government", "incorruptible government’ in an era of globalization and international integration today.

Thoughts of President Ho Chi Minh on the "serving Government"

The idea of the ​​"serving government" was reflected not only in President Ho Chi Minh’s writings and speeches about the origin, nature, organization and operation of the state apparatus but also in his entire life of glorious revolution as the founder of the democratic Republic of Vietnam, as the Government leader who directed the construction and improvement of the State apparatus and legal system. He always strived to build our State as a truly socialist State of the people, by the people and for the people.

In his view, after overthrowing the yoke of colonialism and feudalism, it was necessary to establish the people's government. The main concern was how to set up a government that belonged to the people, who owned political power. After doing intensive research and learning comprehensive and profound experiences of state building in the world, he advocated and started constructing a new democratic state, representing a complete concept on social management principles of a democratic law-governed state. This new type of democratic government belonged to the people, by the people and for the people. Working people were "the only and supreme" actor of state power and political power and the government was “at the service” for the people.

Since 1920s, Ho Chi Minh strongly criticized the essence of colonial state apparatus. He publicly revealed the evil nature of colonialism and imperialism inside their gleaming shell of civilization. Thereby, he prepared for himself the theoretical and practical foundation to shape the idea of ​​a truly new democratic state. This was evident in his works Revolutionary Road (Duong Cach Menh). He wrote, "Once we sacrificed ourselves to make a revolution, we must keep it to the end. In other words, after the revolution, the majority of power should be handed to the people rather than the few. Thereby, we do not have to sacrifice many times, and people will be happy"(1). His core viewpoint is that political power and state power belong to the people and serve their interests. One of his “unique” thoughts relates to democracy, which is the nature of state power and identifies the way to execute state power. For him, democracy in essence is understood as political power belonging to the people, who also own the government.

According to President Ho Chi Minh, a "new-type" State has to consider people as a driving force to set up its organization and operation. At the same time, its people ought to be considered as the ends. The government’s role is to "serve the people". He affirmed that, "Ours is a democratic country. All benefits and power are for the people, who elect governments and organizations from local to central level. In short, all power and resources rest in the people’s hands"(2). Article 1 of the 1946 Constitution drafted by President Ho Chi Minh stated that, "Vietnam is a democratic republic country, and all national power belongs to citizens regardless of their race, gender, wealth, class, and religion". State apparatus is selected, elected and authorized by the people to carry out their wills and aspirations. Therefore, in a democratic regime all people are now the owners of the government, which is different from the feudal system in which the king was the only master. Government and state officials are civil servants rather than “revolutionary high-ranking mandarins".

While confirming the people’s main role for political and state power, President Ho Chi Minh was always concerned about "How to let people enjoy their democratic rights which should be used to speak out and perform actions"(3). He pointed out that the government had to find a way to form democratic institutions for its people to enforce their power. State officials and cadres must serve the people wholeheartedly with the spirit of "diligence, thrift, integrity, uprightness and public-mindedness", “making every effort for people’s benefits and refraining from doing anything that harms people”.

In Ho Chi Minh thoughts, a serving government not only means that it is created by the people through democratic elections, but its important tasks also need people’s "consultancy" and must be under their supervision. He wrote, "Ours is a democratic regime in which the people are the owners, who have the right to supervise and criticize the government. The government is their servant, who does everything to serve the people’s interests. In return, people are responsible to support their government by obeying policies to help it fulfill the duties entrusted by the people"(4).

As a result, Government has to respect, listen to and learn from the people, stay in touch with the people to understand their feeling and aspiration, foster and enhance their power. On the other hand, the Government is built not to replace the people but to serve the people, performing the role of "the facilitator" so that the people solve their own problems with their endowed wisdom and power. He compared “the government-people relationship as fish and water”, so “the government helps to plan and support people to exploit their talent, resources and prosperity to gain benefits”. The government cannot mobilize enough resources without the people. Vice versa, people have no leadership without the Government, so both of them have to come together closely. The government-people relationship is expressed specifically in the relationship between rights and duties. The government has both duties to its people and rights regulated by law to enforce public rights entrusted by people. Conversely, the people have the right and also duties to their Government.

It is worth noting that activities performed by the State and the Government to serve the interests of its people are  at the same time aimed at creating conditions for people to participate in state management and social management. According to President Ho Chi Minh, the State and the Government must demonstrate the will and power of the people, pursue people’s happiness, strive for people’s benefits, and meet the reasonable needs of all people in society. It is a democratic and progressive state. The interests and needs that must be realized fairly, democratically, civilizedly and legitimately, to ensure the harmony between individual development and social development. Meanwhile, they must address the daily urgent problems in the country.

Views on people’s power to be the master of state and society were mentioned thoroughly by President Ho Chi Minh. He stated that revolution was the cause of the people, by the people; therefore, a crucial issue was how people could actually decide the country’s destiny. To guarantee and enforce their ownership, it is essential to develop and improve the institutions, methods and mechanisms for implementation. He specified the necessity to build a socialist democracy, in which the people exercise their rights via the democratic state or their self-established and self-managed associations. Accordingly, people voted for governments at all levels and at the same time managed, inspected and controlled the entire operation of that power machine. So far, these views remain relevant and practical for the task of building a law-governed State of the people, by the people and for the people; especially when we build a "developmental Government marked by integrity" in the era of globalization and international integration in the 21st century.

Building "tectonic Government" in our country today

The concept of “tectonic state” or “tectonic Government” was first coined by Chalmers Ashby Johnson in the 1980s. He defined it as a state management model, in which the state, and more importantly the government proposes development-oriented policies, creating enabling conditions for the actors, sectors to promote all potentials in the competitive environment and in the context of international integration. Government strengthens its inspection and supervision to timely detect the arising problems in the management process, that may cause economic imbalance in order to ensure macro-economic stability. In this model, the Government does not replace the people to do anything but create institutional framework and necessary conditions for individuals and organizations to pursue and meet their legal rights and realize their legitimate interests. The important thing is to build the "minimal state and government with the maximum efficiency" and "the biggest society" for them to self-organize their lives. Social mobilization, a concrete step following this direction, is not only aimed at mobilizing substantial social resources but also returning functions that the society can do much better than the state. In addition, to build a state and a government "as small as possible", it is necessary to make the apparatus work more professionally, and more efficiently. A developmental government must encourage people to "understand and become proficient in their use of power", to expand democracy, ensure the involvement of local people in the planning process and policy implementation... Today, the model of tectonic government plays an important role in the sustainable development of many countries. In developed economies, it is often combined with "invisible hand" (the process of self-advocacy ruled by the market economy) and the "visible hand" (the legal intervention and direction by the State and government). Tectonic government needs to balance these two "invisible hand and visible hand". It ought to use economic instruments, policies, and preferences to arrange the market so as to encourage all individuals and organizations to involve in socioeconomic development. An evidence for the success of this model is the magic growth of some East Asian countries, led by the two current largest economies of Japan and South Korea and a group of "emerging" countries especially Singapore. Nevertheless, not all countries in the world have been successful with this model. In fact, if applied “mechanically” without adapting to the specific conditions in each country, it is vulnerable for negative phenomena, corruption and demotion of national development...

Many leaders, managers and researchers in our country reckon that we are taking the first steps on the path of transition from the model of "comprehensive management by state and government" to tectonic model. Building this model indispensably requires full compliance of rules in market economy and the commitments of international integration. It also needs a "leap" in state management practices and in the perception of relationship between politics and economy; between State or Government and the market. The greatest advantage in the process of building this model in our country is that the aforementioned characteristics and requirements coincide with content, tools, motivation and objectives of our comprehensive reform, economic development and positive international integration since the renovation. In particular, documents in several party congresses emphasized and clarified the construction of law-governed socialist state of the people, by the people and for the people. It has also been institutionalized in the Constitution and a series of related laws that have been adjusted and implemented under the same spirit. It is echoed in new-generation Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that Vietnam has negotiated, signed and ratified... However, there is no less difficulty in the journey to build this model in our country. It requires wisdom, determination and courage to overcome the inertial perception of a state and a government that are accustomed to acting as "big investors, big managers, big suppliers of services and the biggest owners of social assets". These habits make us face with consequences hardly to overcome in a day or two. It is a chronic disease of "addiction to management" that easily leads to such problems as rights abuse, or more severely as "political power corrupts", “collective work is nobody’s work”, "distorted and arbitrary behavior", group interests, taking advantages of office term, achievement greedy and superfacialism. Public debt, bad debt, corruption and wastefulness are growing in terms of scale, the nature and consequences. Business culture and socio political culture shows degradation. Corruption and wastefulness is becoming a "national catastrophe" that weakens and depletes national resources in its development journey.

An important shift in the thinking and implementation methods on the way to build “tectonic State and Government" model in our country is marked by breakthrough efforts in institutional reform and administration reform to improve the business environment and enhance national competitiveness. In particular, we are actively enforcing local government organization law; completing multidisciplinary, multi-sectorial management model, actively downsizing and restructuring cadres, civil servants and employees. We are also further decentralizing central and local governments and authorities by "assigning tasks to a more realistic management level to solve" so as to overcome the problem of vacancy or duplication of functions and tasks among sectors and ministries. Effectiveness, efficiency, consistency and smoothness in the organization and operation of local governments at all levels need to be improved. Accordingly, we have to continue improving the legal system to be clear, consistent, and modern to keep up with development level of international law and practices. Administrative procedures should be simplified, open, fair, synchronous, fast and direct. The allocation of duties and powers in administrative agencies must be connected to strengthening the ultimate responsibility; ensuring that there are specific individuals to be responsible for all social assets and government tasks, creating effective mechanisms to prevent and eliminate corruption. Judicial system ought to be developed. Press freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of speech and association needs to be exercised widespread. Other tasks include: regularly "purifying" the state and government apparatus top-down, equipping facilities - techniques for state management, modernizing management technology, improving morals and professional competence for officials and civil servants...

Reality requires "genuine revolution" in human resources in which mechanism of recruitment, appointment, evaluation, and classification officers and civil servants needs to be renovated to be in line with job description and the specific function requirements. Future meritocracy and human training has to "create the free movement of intelligence" in the labor market, to satisfy the conditions for nurturing the best talent, ensuring the principle of specific task attached to specific person, promoting personal responsibility and the highest creativeness, so that the most deserving talents and virtues will be elected to important positions in bureaucracy. We need to well treat, protect and "nurture" talents and "outstanding leaders", irrespective of their family background; continuously re-select, taking work efficiency as an assessment for selection rather than basing on diplomas, degrees, and title... President Ho Chi Minh’s precept still keeps intact value, that is "Personnel is the root of all the work. All the success or failure results from good or bad staff... ".

On 4th May 2016, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc announced that "The government promoted the transfer of management method from administrative command into serving and tectonic government. Originally, development is the duties of people and businesses. Government and local authorities only help create prerequisites for them to operate with stability and development to generate growth. This is the essence of tectonic government. Moreover, people’s prosperity makes a country strong. In order for people to become rich, there must be an "integral and tectonic state and government" to build a healthy market economy, encouraging people and business to achieve legitimate wealth. Thus, we can see that moving from the economic management model of administrative command to tectonic government demonstrates a profound change of thinking about the relationship between state and market. To have a serving, and tectonic State and Government marked with integrity, there needs to be revolutionary adjustments in terms of institutions. Rather than intervening into the economy by administrative orders, the government will have to focus on building and improving the institutions, mechanisms and policies for investment and development, ensuring the necessary conditions to stimulate the economy to "develop their full potentials". This, to some extent, can be interpreted as "there is no longer discrimination between state-owned enterprises and private enterprises" or foreign-invested enterprises. There will no longer be "request –approval” mechanism – a chronic problem in the society."

The government chose 2016 as the year of start-up nation with the goal of creating the best conditions to support people participation in the production, trading, as well as promoting existing businesses to grow stronger. Embedded with the spirit of serving people and businesses in every activity, the "transparent, serving and tectonic Government" promises to bring a reform in socioeconomic life.

However, it is evident that without innovative cadres’ thinking, it is difficult to change the current economic reality. Therefore, institutional reform in generally and economic-political reform in particular must be associated with personnel issues. Moving from thinking of managing to serving is practical and inevitable. Therefore, any rights and duties of officials and civil servants must be institutionalized in the spirit of serving the people, serving the businesses and serving the society. It was not by accident that President Ho Chi Minh used the phrase "serving tool" when it came to the role of the Government, or the word "servants" when he talked about the attitude and responsibility of officials and public servants to the people right from the early days of the young government. That is a "clear statement" on the recognition of political power, state power-the supreme power in society that belongs to the people.

To sum up, there is a similarity between the people democratic state (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) with a "serving government" and a law-governed socialist state of the people, by the people and for the people (Republic of Socialist of Vietnam) with a "tectonic Government": they stem from the people and serve the people. "Tectonic State or government" in its nature is not another kind of state but one that carries out correctly the full functions and tasks of a modern law-governed state in the era of globalization and international integration. In our country, it is the law-governed socialist state of the people, by the people and for the people.

Our nation’s history and reality has demonstrated that when state officials and civil servants are on the side of the people to protect and develop their legitimate rights and interests, the country will be prosperous. Otherwise, the country may become a colony and its people fall into the slavery and miserable condition. Historically, the people were willing to follow the talented and righteous King and leaders, leaving their own home to sacrifice for glorious national victory that terrified the aggressors for decades. During the two wars for national independence and reunification, the people wholeheartedly sacrificed their life to follow the Party, Uncle Ho and revolution to make world-famous victories. Therefore, advocacy for building the law-governed state or tectonic Government needs "consensus and strong determination" from the whole sociopolitical system, Party, people, businesses, social organizations and all citizens... /.

MA. Do Van Thang, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics



(1) Ho Chi Minh’s Complete works, Vol 2, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1995, tr.270

(2) Ibid, Vol.6, tr.232, 515

(3) Ibid, Vol.12, tr.223

(4) Ibid, Vol.7, tr.368

Translator: Nguyen Thi Viet Nga/ Proofreader: Vu Thanh Van