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Cablegate: Politburo Member Tran Dinh Hoan On Party Affairs

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





E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: A. Hanoi 2175 B. Hanoi 1698
- C. 02 Hanoi 1653 D. 02 Hanoi 0156

1. (SBU) Summary. Politburo member Tran Dinh Hoan
welcomed improving U.S.-Vietnam relations, called for more
high-level visits and mutual understanding, claimed that the
CPV was tackling the major problem of corruption in its own
way, and explained how the Ho Chi Minh National Political
Academy continually adjusted its curriculum in response to
evolving domestic and international conditions. (Septel
will examine Party-Government relations, including comments
by Hoan on this topic.) In Ambassador's first meeting, Hoan
was amiable if generally circumspect. He was most voluble
when talking about the sensitive issue of corruption. While
Hoan called for more regular contacts, we suspect he and
other Politburo members will continue to prove to be
difficult to meet. Hoan's own influence within the CPV will
likely be great over the coming decades, given his current
ability to shape careers of all promising cadres. End

2. (U) Ambassador and Pol/C on September 16 called on Tran
Dinh Hoan, simultaneously #14 on the fifteen-man Politburo
of the Communist Party of Vietnam, head of the Ho Chi Minh
National Political Academy, and Chairman of the Organization
Commission of the CPV's Central Committee. Hoan was joined
by Pham Tien Nhiem, Director of the CPV's Commission on
External Relations' Northwest Europe and Americas
Department, and Luu Dat Thuyet, Director of the HCM
Academy's Department of International Cooperation. This was
Ambassador's first meeting with Hoan, following submission
of several appointment requests over the past months.

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U.S.-Vietnam relations

3. (U) Hoan labeled bilateral ties as "normal" now,
especially in the wake of the entry into effect of the
Bilateral Trade Agreement, and reiterated that Vietnam was
"ready" to cooperate with all nations in every aspect. He
welcomed "more and closer" relations between the HCM Academy
and the U.S., especially with U.S. research institutes and

4. (U) Hoan made a plea for better mutual understanding
between Vietnam and the U.S., as the two nations cooperate
toward common goals. "Without mutual understanding, how can
we cooperate," he asked. He lamented the influence of "bad
lemons" in the U.S., whom he also labeled "political
opportunists," in seeking the passage of various
legislations related to the former Vietnamese flag as well
as the Vietnam Human Rights Act. Ambassador suggested that
the CPV might consider reappraising some of its post-1975
policies that had led to sentences in "reeducation camps"
for many of the now-U.S. based Viet Kieu and had caused such
long-standing bitterness. He also explained the primacy of
the Federal Government in the conduct of foreign affairs,
and reiterated that since the USG had formally established
diplomatic relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
the initiatives of localities and states on the flag issue
were not genuinely important. Hoan said that he and other
leaders understand this point, but it is difficult for the
average Vietnamese to comprehend.

5. (U) Hoan called for more direct contacts, especially
among high-level officials, further to improve relations.
He noted that Vietnam was "trying to facilitate" the visit
to the U.S. of Defense Minister General Pham Van Tra later
this year, as well as other senior GVN officials. He noted
that the Executive Vice Chairman of the CPV's Commission on
External Relations would also be visiting the U.S. this
fall, at the invitation of the U.S. Communist Party. He
confirmed that Vietnam wished bilateral relations to
continue to develop and that Vietnam's attitude was to "set
aside the past and look toward the future."


6. (U) Hoan admitted that corruption in Vietnam (ref a
described CPV's ongoing efforts aimed against corruption)
was a "big problem," which he compared to a "drug."
However, he noted this was a "global" phenomenon against
which each country should take different measures, depending
on national circumstances. He warned against "pressuring"
other countries to follow any one country's own practices,
and cited the importance of "working with the people" to
solve. He agreed with Ambassador's observation that, in the
U.S., the competition between political parties as well as a
free press had proved to be effective tools. Hoan claimed
that Vietnam was also using the media to expose corruption,
as well as laws, enforcement efforts, and "public opinion."
He pointed to the Nam Cam trial (the appeal phase of which
began September 15 for 69 defendants) as a large-scale case
that had even convicted two former CPV Central Committee
members. He admitted that confidence in the CPV would erode
if the CPV did not handle well the problem of corruption,
and said that this would be a major topic of the mid-term
(i.e. half-way through the 2001-2005 term of the 9th Party
Congress) CPV plenum.

Role of the Party school

7. (U) Ambassador welcomed the growing ties between the
Embassy and the Academy, especially with its Centers on
Human Rights and on Religious Studies (refs b-d), and
expressed a hope for more contacts with U.S. scholars and
experts. He offered to help arrange speakers and other
presentations from the U.S., as well as personally to come
and discuss U.S.-Vietnam relations with faculty and staff,
if desired.

8. (U) Hoan explained that the Academy was responsible for
the training of the cadres who will be the future "leaders
of the Party and State as well as mass organizations," and
also undertook research projects in order to contribute to
the development of CPV policy and guidance. He noted that
students came from both the local and central levels for the
two-year course, usually only after having been graduated
from a recognized university. He said that future leaders
"should" in principle study at the Academy, but that it was
not "obligatory" for promotion. He also claimed that the
Academy was in principle open to anyone who wished to
attend, even private entrepreneurs.

9. (U) In response to Ambassador's question, Hoan
explained that the Academy was continually updating and
improving its curriculum, citing new programs over the past
decade on economic development, religion, ethnic affairs,
and integration in the world economy. Deputy Prime Minister
Vu Khoan himself, as well as other Ministers, sometimes
lectured at these courses, he noted. Hoan stressed the
value for students of hearing about practical experiences
and "reality" as well as theory. He added that the Academy
was still thinking of ways to broaden its scope further in
ways that would be "fruitful" for its student body.

Comment and bio note

10. (SBU) Embassy interaction at the Politburo level is
rare, and we suspect future meetings with Hoan will be few
despite his calls for more regular exchanges and better
understanding. Hoan was a pleasant if not especially
outgoing interlocutor. He seemed to come most to life
during the discussion of corruption. His behind-the-scenes
influence as head of the Organization Commission (the
personnel guru for the CPV, and hence in practice for the
State as well) is undoubtedly great, although he downplayed
its importance. (Note: his long-time predecessor was
current National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An, # 12 in
the Politburo. end note) Hoan's background -- as an expert
in labor economics and a former Minister of Labor, Invalids,
and Social Affairs -- is unusual among Politburo members.
It is unclear what clout or patronage was responsible for
his being tapped for both the Organization Commission and
HCM Academy, a joint assignment that positions him unusually
well for placing his protgs throughout the system. At age
64, his own prospects for further promotions are not
brilliant, but the network of cadres he will assign and
train will likely keep his voice alive for decades. As
such, his positive comments on U.S.-Vietnam relations are
especially welcome.

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