In my recent research article in Policy & Politics, I investigate how policy transfer mechanisms influence policy outcomes in the context of authoritarianism in Vietnam. My findings show that civil service reforms in Vietnam’s merit-based policies are influenced by both Western and Asian models of meritocracy. This makes it both closer to universal “best practices” and at the same time sharpens the distinctiveness of Vietnam’s policy. While reform imperatives urge Vietnam to seek lessons from the West, the context of an Asian authoritarian regime explains their prioritising of experience from similar settings like China and other Asian countries. The pragmatic calculations of political actors in combination with the context of a one-party authoritarian state have led to transfer from contrasting meritocratic philosophies and models through mechanisms of translation and assemblage, resulting in a hybrid of convergence and divergence.
These findings resonate with the arguments about an “Asian way” of policy transfer. An “Asian style” policy transfer is characterised by adaptive learning and pragmatic considerations, with translation and assemblage being common policy transfer mechanisms. Policy adoption is commonly partial and selective, contingent on domestic context and calculations in terms of politics, culture, and socio-economic factors. The objects of transfer are diverse and depend on the calculation of adaptability and compatibility.
In addition to these conclusions, my research also reveals some features of policy transfer in Asian authoritarian regimes, like Vietnam and China. First, while conventional studies emphasise the role of international organizations in shaping policy transfer outcomes, this study shows that in an authoritarian setting, domestic political actors play a decisive role. Second, which policies are adopted and the degree of transfer is decided on the principle of not undermining the ideology, values, and security of the ruling regime. Third, during translation and assemblage, the tension between democratic and authoritarian systems is solved by rejecting some components that may disadvantage endogenous power relations and selecting compatible elements to instil into the existing system – a kind of “eclecticism”. Fourth, policy transfer is an evolving process rather than a “one-off” event – a feature of “gradualism”. Finally, the outcomes of policy transfer are hybrid with both convergence and divergence. Convergence is more rhetorical and less in actual content and practice.
In summary, my study shows the way Vietnamese policymakers manoeuvre between different policy models through translation and assemblage. This demonstrates the nuances and dynamics of policy transfer and agrees with the call for more focus on transfer mechanisms and their relations to policy outcomes. By acknowledging that policy transfer can be a useful explanatory variable to examine policy change and policy outcomes, this study suggests an analytical framework for examining the influence of policy transfer on policy outcomes. This article makes a valuable contribution to the study of policy transfer in an Asian setting.
You can read the original research in Policy & Politics:
Hang Duong (2022) How do policy transfer mechanisms influence policy outcomes in the context of authoritarianism in Vietnam? Policy and Politics
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