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Cablegate: Cadre Rotation - Grooming the Next Generation Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: NA
SUBJECT: Cadre Rotation - Grooming the next generation of

1. (U) Summary: Vietnam is attempting to breathe new life
into "cadre rotation" in order to train the next generation
of leaders as well as to improve the quality of government
service and to fight systemic local corruption. Cadre
rotation was common during wartime and in the years
immediately after unification, but had declined in more
recent decades. Following renewed attention by the
Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), new rotations take place
at two levels: between national ministerial-level positions
and provincial leadership jobs, and between provincial
department-level positions and district leadership jobs.
The CPV's personnel apparatus controls the entire process.
Almost all rotated individuals are CPV members because "a
high sense of political awareness" is required for
leadership positions in Vietnam. Provincial-level
implementation varies throughout the country and individual
participation is sometimes unenthusiastic. Rotation is in
the final analysis a tool by central authorities to enhance
control and diminish the strength of local, potentially
competing sources of power. End Summary.

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Party Resolution Eleven

2. (U) CPV Politburo Resolution Eleven of January 25,
2002, renewed emphasis on cadre rotation for party,
government, Vietnam Fatherland Front, and State-owned
enterprise officials. Although the practice had never
completely died out, according to several CPV and GVN
officials it had become less and less systematic after the
mid- to late-1970's. Party leaders have pointed out that,
after the next CPV Congress in 2006, all or almost all
senior officials will have had no pre-1975 experience. CPV
personnel officials reportedly designed the new rotation
system to build the experience of capable younger officials
to ready them for more senior positions. As such, the focus
of rotation is not on filling jobs, but on developing
leadership expertise and ensuring that the next generation
of leaders has a broad range of experience, including at
grassroots levels.

3. (U) Reviving rotation has been a rather slow,
deliberate process. When poloffs first asked central and
provincial authorities about implementing cadre rotation in
mid-2002, the answer was that they had done little and could
not say much about it yet, apart from a few test cases.
Officials were hazy about practical details, such as
available housing for incoming officials (especially
officials sent to Hanoi) and arrangements for family members
(do they stay behind? do they come along? what about jobs
for spouses and schooling for children?) However, in March
and April 2003, the CPV Central Organization and Personnel
Commission, headed by fourteenth-ranked Politburo member,
Tran Dinh Hoan (also a member of the CPV Secretariat and
head of the main Party school, the Ho Chi Minh Political
Academy),A organized meetings -- one in Phu Tho province for
northern officials and one in Ho Chi Minh City for southern
officials -- for provincial-level officials to discuss
implementation of the program. According to an article by
Hoan in the April 15 edition of the CPV mouthpiece, Nhan
Dan, since the beginning of 2002, only 28 cadres rotated
between national/province posts along with over 1,200
between provincial/district posts. In addition, over 200
cadres rotated between different national-level positions.

Rotation of Provincial Cadres -- Phu Tho

4. (U) Poloffs recently met with Phu Tho provincial
officials to discuss cadre rotation. Tran Dinh Hoan had
singled out several provinces for their work on cadre
rotation, naming Phu Tho first. This province is about 40
km northwest of Hanoi astride the Red River, comprising the
upper reaches of the Red River Delta and a large proportion
of hilly land. The population is about 1,300,000, 90%
ethnic majority Kinh. The poverty rate is about 12%.

5. (U) According to Bui Hung, head of the provincial CPV
Personnel Committee, an individual's "talent" more than any
other factor determines participation in the program. The
CPV exercises the "leading role" over all personnel matters,
including governmental rotations, he admitted. The program
is part of the overall provincial personnel development
plan, Hung added. Its particular purpose is to improve the
quality of leaders and managers who have already received
considerable training; the rotation is also integrated with
other educational and training opportunities. Further
selection criteria include political, "conduct," and health
considerations. Hung noted that the province had to pay
special attention to providing "good conditions" for
officials rotated to remote areas. These include free
housing and financial support. Phu Tho had applied the new
rotation policy to management officials first, especially to
those familiar with economics, and moved them into positions
where they could apply their training and experience. He
added that Phu Tho had already rotated about 100 officials
under the program. Also, one Phu Tho official (whom he
declined to name) had already rotated to a national-level
CPV post.

6. (U) Hung claimed that the system of selecting cadre for
the current program was different than in past cadre
rotation cycles (although he declined to specify how). The
province's rotation plan is being carried out in several
phases and is based on available staff, he noted. A primary
consideration is an evaluation of who is most suitable for a
new post. Participating officials all have considerable
work experience and have risen to at least the level of vice
chairman of a district, or deputy director of a provincial-
level department. Generally, they will remain responsible
for areas in which they already have expertise, serving
instead in a different location. Officials can be rotated
not just from government post to government post, but also
to or from Party or mass organization positions. Except for
some individuals responsible for specific economic matters,
for instance at state-owned enterprises, all rotated persons
are CPV members, he admitted. Hung explained that, from the
district level up, political considerations are "very
important," hence the need for CPV membership as a

Bac Ninh: Focus on Junior Officials

8. (U) Bac Ninh is the smallest province in Vietnam, but
is densely populated with a population of almost one
million. Located just north of Hanoi, it has a long history
of providing state officials. According to one Bac Ninh
leader, two thirds of Vietnam's Confucian doctorate-level
scholars came from Bac Ninh in the imperial days. He also
noted the province's long history as a center of Buddhism in
Vietnam. However, it has only existed as a separate
province since 1997.

9. (U) Bac Ninh officials admitted that there had as yet
been very little cadre rotation in the province in the wake
of Resolution Eleven. Officials framed cadre rotation as
part of overall personnel training and development
activities. Bac Ninh has been concentrating its personnel
development efforts on commune-level officials (who are
still too junior to be rotated under the current program)
since "they actually implement policies." It was important
to make sure that they had a good foundation of knowledge so
that they could implement "grassroots democracy," another
major CPV theme over the past several years. Training
provided by the provincial CPV academy was key to this. The
school's curriculum follows a national model, but officials
emphasized that they took pains to make courses more focused
and interesting by illustrating issues with local subjects.
Over time, the academy's courses lead to a bachelor's degree
in "Theory and Philosophy." Officials claimed that 90% (or
391) of provincial and district officials had received such
a degree already and that the remaining 10% were currently
working on it.

10. Director Tien of the CPV Personnel Committee for Bac
Ninh echoed the goals of cadre rotation: to build
experience and to provide a better grasp of issues.
Rotation creates an opportunity for senior personnel to
excel in a new environment. Those rotated are to be capable
of significant additional advancement, so the program is
primarily for officials under 45; those over the age of 50
are not considered at all, he claimed. However, he also
emphasized rotation's importance in fighting "regionalism,
localism, and branchism." Preventing officials from
becoming too entrenched and connected to particular
interests is a major goal, like the supposed practice of
rotating customs officials every six months.

11. (U) In order to participate in cadre rotation,
officials must have a professional and a theoretical
(political) bachelor's degree, Bac Ninh officials explained.
The province is currently reviewing existing personnel plans
and determining what must be done to implement Resolution
Eleven more fully. They explained their slow implementation
by claiming that Resolution Eleven's guidelines require
pilot projects first and that the Phu Tho conference had
been to review the lessons learned. Now Bac Ninh was also
ready to move forward, provincial officials claimed.

12. (U) Provincial officials added that some of the
greatest difficulties lie in administering the details, such
as how to deal with benefits and pensions, particularly when
one moves from one sector to another (e.g. from government
to mass organization to Party). Tien noted that cadre
rotation should actually be relatively easy to implement
within Bac Ninh due to its small size. One could feasibly
rotate between district and provincial levels without
changing residences -- something often not possible in
larger provinces such as Phu Tho.

National Level Perspective

13. (U) Director General of the Personnel Management
Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) Tran Anh
Tuan, responsible for the management of all civil servants
throughout Vietnam, also reviewed cadre rotation with
poloffs. He spoke primarily about the national/provincial-
level, but some of his remarks apply to the
provincial/district-level as well. "High-level" personnel
make decisions about rotation, he admitted. Variations in
living standards complicate implementation of these
decisions, however. Officials are often reluctant to move
to remote and mountainous areas with limited educational and
cultural opportunities. It is also difficult to find vacant
positions in "very popular places" such as Ho Chi Minh City.
Identifying personnel in remote provinces sufficiently
qualified for rotation is another challenge, he added. Even
so, part of the reason for the program is to help narrow
gaps between different parts of the country by bringing
qualified people to serve in and be exposed to the problems
of difficult and remote areas, he explained.

National/Local Tension

14. (U) Director General Tuan said that before the CPV had
reemphasized cadre rotation with Resolution Eleven,
provincial personnel decisions were left to individual
provinces. He alleged that this often resulted in entire
provinces being "limited" by the sometimes-low capability of
the provincial chairman. The usually close professional and
personal relationships between successive chairmen also
limited creativity, he said, a cycle that perpetuated
endemic weaknesses. This also led to sentiments against
outsiders coming into a province -- another manifestation of
what Bac Ninh's Tien called "localism."

15. (U) DG Tuan explained that the rotation system was
intended, in part, to break up this cycle and thus narrow
gaps between provinces. He noted that while preparing
Resolution Eleven, Vietnam had studied personnel rotation
systems in non-Communist countries for the first time,
especially those in Japan and Singapore. Vietnam did not
have the economic capability to follow those examples, with
rotations every two years, but was trying to use other
elements of their systems, he added.

16. (U) The rotation program has only been genuinely
underway for six months at the national level, so only a few
rotations have taken place and there has been no review yet,
according to DG Tuan. Some provinces have not shown much
"adaptive capacity," he commented, so implementation has
been spotty. Rotated officials need to be supported, for
instance in the provision of housing in the new location.
While this is less difficult at the national level, it is a
serious financial burden for many provinces, he pointed out.
Moreover, it is difficult for officials rotated to distant
provinces to stay far away from their families. They tend
to return home every weekend, making it difficult for
officials to get to know their assigned provinces as well as
they should. Furthermore, DG Tuan noted, this limits their
participation in the important informal relationship-
building and after-hours discussions of issues that
characterize GVN and CPV governance. It was relatively easy
to rotate cadre during wartime, but officials are not so
willing during peace, he lamented.

17. (U) Comment: Cadre rotation serves functions
including grooming a new generation of leaders, improving
leadership in backwater provinces, and perhaps hindering
corruption by breaking up local "mafias." In order to be
effective in their new positions, rotated officials must be
sufficiently dynamic and collegial to overcome their
outsider status, however. Presumably, this is not an
ineffective way to determine whether promising leaders are
fit for higher positions. It is also a way for the CPV,
particularly its higher levels, to assert its control over
the outlook and composition of leadership, not only at the
national-level, but in the provinces too. The tension
between local and central authority in Vietnam has a long
history; rotation -- whether of Confucian mandarins or of
Communist cadres -- has been and is likely to remain an
important tool used by central authorities to break up real
and potentially competing local power structures.

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