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Leveled Mountains and Broken Fences: Measuring and Analysing De Facto Decentralisation in Vietnam

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image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

The article seeks to measure and explain provincial autonomy in Vietnam during the reform era, arguing that the absence of an effective measure of autonomy to date has limited the scope for developing an overarching theory capable of explaining autonomy across a range of settings. The article pioneers a method for measuring autonomy involving a content analysis of Vietnamese newspapers over a ten-year period, noting whenever provinces are reported for engaging in a series of carefully defined autonomous acts. Having developed the measure of autonomy, the article seeks to test four hypotheses for explaining it, namely geographical location, relations with central government, initial conditions on the eve of reform, and the dominant source of economic activity in terms of ownership. The article finds that no single factor accounts for autonomy on its own but also that there is only a weak relationship between autonomy and a province's geographical location and that provinces heavily represented in central government tend to be among the least autonomous.


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