The article offers a revisionist approach to assessing the significance of Communist Party congresses in Vietnam. Analysis to date has focused on the presumed policy significance of a particular congress. The article argues that much more important than policy are outcomes, or what actually happens on the ground. Consequently, it is suggested that a more fruitful way to assess the significance of Vietnam's congresses is to view them first and foremost as occasions when access to patronage and political protection are circulated and then consider how outcomes emerge as a result of this.

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