The politics of land acquisition in the post-socialist Vietnam : Comparative case studies in Hanoi, and Thanh Hoa

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Title: The politics of land acquisition in the post-socialist Vietnam : Comparative case studies in Hanoi, and Thanh Hoa
Author: Nguyen Quoc, Anh
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, Politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Helsingfors universitet, Statsvetenskapliga fakulteten, Institutionen för politik och ekonomi
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2017
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Kehitysmaatutkimus
Development Studies
Abstract: The politics of land acquisitions in the time of convergence of multiple capitalist crises recently have received international scholarly attention. However, land grabbing has arguably resulted in inevitable resistance, conflicts, and the inability of the landless to adapt with a new socioeconomic transformation after dispossession. This is due to unequal power between a powerful, compatible interests, and predatory state-capital alliance, on the one side, and powerless rural local people affected by the land acquisitions, on the opposite side. This thesis problematizes the current mainstream assumptions around land grabbing, and generate additional insights about the politics of land acquisition, and outcomes in the context of the post-socialist contemporary Vietnam. This is done by critically unpacking the interactive triangular matrix of state-capital-resistance, and corresponding outcomes during the implementation phase of land acquisition at local level. The particular focus is put on various roles deployed by state actors at the local level who justify, adjudicate, and implement land investment; and by societal groups, especially business, and resistance agents, to assert control over land for many purposes in the context of the post-socialist Vietnam. Drawing from the two-case studies in contemporary Vietnam, the thesis argues that the outcomes of large-scale land acquisition are diverse, complex, and far beyond the dominant assumptions, as showed in both “exceptional” case studies. While one case is characterized by the lack of resistance and inclusive development outcomes of land acquisition that benefits all involved parties; the other is associated with an unprecedented collective protest by rural people at the beginning, that significantly slowed down the project. The thesis argues that in order to understand the unexpected outcomes of land investment, i.e. why some investments are implemented more “successful” than others, it is necessary to deeply examine the dynamics of interactive roles by state-capital-resistance in micro-land politics of land acquisition. This study reveals a centrality of the “developmental local state mediators”, either proactively or reactively, in the land politics that largely explains the conflict resolution/prevention, and inclusive outcome in both case studies. The “developmental local state mediators” are characterized by the high level of the authoritative capacity/power to enforce the state‟s autonomous goals, and infrastructural capacity/power to deeply, and intensively engage with different, normally conflicting, social groups in order to facilitate the alignment of interests among them. This thesis sheds light on the importantly supportive roles by business actors in conflict presentation, particularly by directly participating in mediating process as team members, and indirectly financing the process. It also indicates surprising findings that even in the context of a hybrid land regime in Vietnam where land is owned by the state constitutionally, and the state, therefore, plays decisive roles in land acquisition, a combination of different strategies by a dynamics of segments within resistance (such as militant protest, communication, and networking) which resonates closely to theory of “rightful resistance”, led to the resistance having their demands answered. Fieldwork was conducted in two case studies in Hanoi city, and Thanh Hoa province. Primary data was collected by interviews, focus groups, and participant observations with key informants. Secondary data, such as records, interviews, images, videos, and documentation, were provided by various key stakeholders such as journalists, landless people, investors, and local officials.
Subject: land acquisition
rightful resistance
developmental local state mediator
Corporate Social Responsibility
inclusive development

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