The Leaderboard: Truong Tan Sang

Who is he?

His Excellency Truong Tan Sang is the president of Vietnam and a senior member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Born in the southern province of Long An, Sang participated in youth activities during his formative years and joined the Communist Party at the height of the Vietnam War at age 20. He was detained by the South Vietnamese government in 1971 and released in 1973 under the Paris Peace Agreement.

Following the Vietnam War, Sang headed several government agencies in and around Ho Chi Minh City for more than 15 years. He rose to the rank of chairman of the city’s People’s Committee in 1992 and became Ho Chi Minh City’s Communist Party secretary in 1996. He was appointed president in July 2011 for a five-year term. Sang holds a bachelor’s degree in law.

President Truong Tan Sang of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam speaking at East-West Center in November, 2011. Source: East-West Center’s flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Why is he in the news?

Sang has spoken on many occasions on the need to combat official corruption and cronyism in the Vietnamese government and economy. He is a vocal critic of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s pro-growth policies, which critics claim fueled corruption in state owned enterprises, spurred inflation and built unsustainable bad debt levels in the banking system.

President Sang believes in limiting the executive power of the prime minister, and earlier this year he successfully shifted control of the anti-corruption steering committee from the prime minister’s office to the Communist Party.

What can we expect from him?

Sang is likely to play a decisive role in the possible leadership changes in the party and the government. The sixth plenary session of the CPV’s  Central Committee opened October 1 and will end October 15. The session is expected to focus on the current political-economic crisis, including anemic economic growth, tackling corruption, reforming state owned enterprises, and evaluating the performance of the Politburo and Secretariat.

The party has recently demonstrated its determination to assert authority and contain systemic cronyism through the arrest of several wealthy businessmen and officials believed to be connected to Prime Minister Dung. Dung will likely be put in the spotlight by Sang and other party leaders for his handling of state-owned conglomerates, including two that have default on billions of dollars of international loans, and patronage of allegedly corrupt tycoons and officials.

Sang, who is seen as more conservative and down-to-earth than Dung, will likely use the opportunity to distance the party from accusations of corruption and favoritism. That process could result in real changes in Vietnam’s leadership, including a significant reshuffling of the cabinet.


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