Scholars working on transition countries are generally more hesitant than they used to be about using the term ‘reformer’. However, few scholars have explored why the term may be unhelpful or what the consequences are if we jettison it for how we think about reform. Such issues form the central focus of the paper. Looking at Vietnam’s second city and business centre, Ho Chi Minh City, the paper argues that the main problem with identifying politicians as reformers is that it gives a distorted picture of what reform is actually about, particularly its underlying logic. In the author’s view, what drives so-called reform has much less to do with issues of ideology, as the focus on reformers would suggest, and much more to do with the playing out of rivalries between new state business interests, which have emerged largely since the late 1980s.

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