The new politics of debt in the transition economy of Vietnam


  • Hong-Kong To Nguyen International Relations at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University
  • Viet-Ha To Nguyen National Economics University in Hanoi
  • Thu-Trang Vuong European Campus of Dijon
  • Manh-Tung Ho Phenikaa University
  • Quan-Hoang Vuong Phenikaa University



Consumerism, Corporate Debt, Culture of Indebtedness, Emerging Market, Household Debt, Vietnam


This study reviews the rising household debt and nonfinancial corporation debt in Vietnam, a socialist-oriented, lower middle-income emerging economy. Vietnam has made huge strides in economic growth within three decades of reforms, lifting millions of people out of poverty thanks to better access to credit. At the same time, there are lending and borrowing practices that signal troubles ahead. Based on a thorough examination of the theoretical literature on indebtedness, the study sets out to identify the drivers of borrowing and over-borrowing in Vietnam in recent years. Particularly, the abundant financial and physical resources have given rise to consumerism and the boom of the super-rich. These are two of the four factors that have shifted Vietnamese culture from one that traditionally condemned debt as a vice to one that now tolerates indebtedness. The other two factors can be found at the corporate level where there is an over-reliance on debt financing and rampant rent-seeking. Here, a kind of ‘resource curse’ threatens sustainable corporate growth – businesses rely too much on borrowing to fuel their operations, but in fact are overlooking the innovation factor. The new politics of debt, we suggest, have created a toxically pro-consumption, debt-tolerant society.

Author Biographies

Hong-Kong To Nguyen, International Relations at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University

Hong-Kong To Nguyen holds a BA in philosophy and political science from Columbia University and is currently pursuing an MA in International Relations at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan. She is also a Japanese government (MEXT) scholar and an active member of the Vietnam chapter of The European Association of Science Editors. She is interested in research on social sciences and humanities concerning Vietnam, especially research methodology that changes qualitative information into quantitative data. 

Viet-Ha To Nguyen, National Economics University in Hanoi

Viet-Ha To Nguyen holds a BA in economics from the University of New Hampshire and is an MA candidate at the National Economics University in Hanoi, Vietnam. He has worked on a number of research papers on Vietnamese social sciences database. As the deputy director of the private media monitoring company Vietnam Panorama, he also seeks to expand his research to Vietnam’s political economy. 

Thu-Trang Vuong, European Campus of Dijon

Thu-Trang Vuong is a BA student at the European Campus of Dijon, Sciences Po Paris. She has worked on a varied range of topics, including entrepreneurship in emerging countries, public health, education, political analyses of culture and religion, with the aim of providing insights for policy-making. 

Manh-Tung Ho, Phenikaa University

Manh-Tung Ho is affiliated with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Social Research, Phenikaa University, Vietnam and the Institute of Philosophy, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. He is an MA candidate in society and culture at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan. He has published articles on scientometrics, public health, cultural studies, and politics, aiming to inform policy-making as well as to facilitate meaningful interdisciplinary dialogue. 

Quan-Hoang Vuong, Phenikaa University

Quan-Hoang Vuong is a professor directing the Centre for Interdisciplinary Social Research, Phenikaa University in Hanoi, Vietnam. He is chairman of the Vietnam chapter of the European Association of Science Editors. Currently, his main interests are the applications of probability/statistics in economics/management and social medicine, as well as the science of logic in social ethics/paradoxes, sociocultural systems, and the philosophy of science. He has published nearly 100 academic papers and books with many leading academic publishers. 


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How to Cite

To Nguyen, H.-K., To Nguyen, V.-H., Vuong, T.-T., Ho, M.-T. and Vuong, Q.-H. (2019) “The new politics of debt in the transition economy of Vietnam”, Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 12(1), pp. 91–110. doi: 10.14764/10.ASEAS-0015.



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