Like many other developing countries, Vietnam recently imported a Western-style competition law. Given its potential impact on the way the government regulates the market and on market behaviour, there is considerable scholarly and commercial interest in understanding how this law has been functioning and in predicting its future. This study was compiled to address these concerns. Departing from the existing literature that mostly examines the law from a political economy perspective, this study took an interpretive approach in the belief that the manner in which the law is adapted and implemented ultimately rests on the interpretive perspectives of key actors, such as legislative drafters and the state officials responsible for implementing the law. It explored how Western competition law ideas have been interpreted, adapted and implemented in Vietnam. This study drew on systems theory and discourse analysis as its analytical framework. It adopted the insights offered by systems theory that societies are comprised of different social subsystems that interpret legal transfers through their own self-referential modes of thought. It applied the methodological tools offered by discourse analysis theories to analyse how Western competition law ideas were communicated and interpreted by key Vietnamese state actors. This study examined the interpretive discourses about competition law at three levels of party and state: high level policy making, law making and law implementation. The study found various narratives circulating at these levels, many of which conflict with the neoliberal free market competition philosophy that underpins the imported competition law. The most prominent contradictory narratives were state economic management, the leading role of the state economic sector, economic protectionism and nationalism. What the study showed was that these socialist, developmental and nationalistic narratives often prevailed, but over time imported competition ideas gained ground and have ‘irritated’ changes in the dominant views. The study found that state actors at each of the three levels of party and state coalesced into groups that supported different sets of ideas about competition. These groups used their political power to strategically promote particular interpretations of the competition law. This has fragmented the way the law is interpreted and implemented. Since only a small number of comparatively weak groups, such as the Vietnam Competition Administration Department, have strongly supported the imported regime, the study predicts that socialist, developmental and nationalistic thinking will continue to dominate the interpretation and implementation of competition law in the short to medium term.
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