The Global Origins of Vietnam’s Constitutions

Text in Context

This Article attempts to test theories of constitutional diffusion by integrating textual and contextual analysis of the global influences on constitutional history in Vietnam. It constructs data of constitutional rights adopted in Vietnam’s five constitutional texts. To understand these texts in context, it draws on historical documents and material concerning constitution-making. The structure of the argument is as follows. The development of constitutional rights in Vietnam converges with the global trend of proliferation of rights in the last six decades. There are three patterns of diffusion of constitutional rights in Vietnam: Western liberal rights, represented by the 1946 Constitution; Soviet statist rights, in the 1959, 1980, and 1992 Constitutions; and universal rights, illustrated by the 2013 Constitution. The dominant mechanisms of diffusion vary in different patterns: the diffusion of the Western liberal rights is dominated by the acculturation mechanism; the Soviet statist rights, by coercion (1959 and 1980 Constitutions) and learning (1992 Constitution); and the universal rights, through acculturation again. This finding has implications for literature on Vietnamese constitutional history as well as comparative constitutional history. For Vietnamese constitutional history, this study indicates that, despite the international criticisms of human rights in Vietnam, constitutional rights in the nation have proliferated over the last six decades, converging with the global trend of human-rights development. For comparative inquiry of constitutional history, this study suggests that, beyond merely coding constitutional texts, the studies of diffusion of constitutional rights in the world history must be sensitive to the historical, contextual surroundings.

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