Drawing on the Fulbright School’s many linkages with national and local government, think tanks, and universities, Harvard Kennedy School and Fulbright School economists and policy analysts engage in innovative research on the political and economic challenges facing Vietnam.

Collectively, researchers bring comparative perspectives to bear on analysis of Vietnamese policy problems. In particular, the development experience of other countries in the region help clarify the strategic options confronting Vietnam. This research is used to engage in policy dialogue with the government and donor community, and infuses the Fulbright School’s teaching programs with real-world insights and an intellectual vibrancy that allows it to target international programs for comparison, something that sets the teaching apart from other Vietnamese higher education programs.

Vietnam's Political and Economic Development

Vietnam is now facing a number of challenges. Multinational conflicts are playing out in the East Sea, affecting Vietnamese fishermen and broader regional relations. Economic growth has slowed and, in spite of high levels of foreign direct investment, is not showing nearly as much dynamism as it once did. A weak financial system and real estate bubbles complicate efforts to rekindle rapid and healthy growth. Additionally, the country struggles with political repercussions from the economic and social development of the past quarter century. Vietnam’s traditional forms of governance are not responsive enough to the country’s advancement

In this context and in response to the need for informed analysis on approaches moving forward, the Vietnam Program’s current research focuses on the limits of Vietnam’s current growth strategy and on the structural changes, especially in the state-owned enterprises and in the financial sector, that will be needed if Vietnam is to sustain growth in the next decade. In addition, Fulbright School faculty members pursue research on a range of topics from urbanization, to foreign direct investment, various economic sectors, and the legal system. 

Greater Mekong Basin

Few of the world’s transboundary river systems are managed well, or sustainably, and the Greater Mekong Basin (GMB) is an example. Cooperation among the six countries that are home to the Mekong River—China (Yunnan province), Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam—is dampened by long histories of colonialism, conquest and distrust, structural upstream-downstream effects, and nonoverlapping development trajectories resulting from wide differences in national policies and per capita incomes. 

A new project, supported by the Harvard Global Institute, and formally titled, "China’s Role in Promoting Transboundary Resource Management in the Greater Mekong Basin," seeks to understand how China can work collaboratively with its neighbors in the GMB to manage the basin’s natural resources efficiently and sustainably. Organizations designed to identify relevant activities in the region have been created, but the mechanisms that will foster the necessary cooperation have yet to be developed. This project’s research focuses on the public policy dimensions of the gains and losses from collaborating, the concessions and other adjustments required, and the processes and procedures that will ensure the inter-country cooperation needed to maintain the environment throughout the Greater Mekong Basin.

The Vietnam Program's research reports can be found below: