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For culture to be the driving force of economic development in Vietnam

(PTOJ) - Culture and economy are two key areas of social life. If the economy is considered the material foundation of society, then culture is its spiritual one. There is a close relationship between culture and economy, which regulates each other. Therefore, it is optimal for countries to harmonize the relationship between culture and economy to achieve sustainable development goals. The article focuses on clarifying the relationship between culture and economy and proposes solutions to promote the role of culture as a breakthrough driving force for economic development in Vietnam today.

Ghe Ngo boat racing - A folk festival bearing the typical culture of Khmer people in the Mekong Delta - Photo: qdnd.vn

In the relationship between culture and economy, the role of the latter in cultural development has been deeply recognized and confirmed both in theory and in practice. However, the role of former in economic development has only received more attention recently.

On the basis of approaching achievements in theoretical research and summarizing the country’s development practice, the documents of the 13th Party Congress (2021) affirm Vietnam’s development perspective as “harmonious development between economy and culture and society, environmental protection and adaptation to climate change”(1); in which, the need to build and promote the cultural element is emphasized so that culture really becomes a driving force for breakthroughs in socio-economic development and international integration.

1. Theoretical perception of the relationship between culture and economy

In the past, when it comes to the relationship between culture and economy, most people believe that culture is a purely spiritual, non-productive, non-profit area. With such a view, when discussing the relationship between culture and economy, it is often seen in only one direction that economic development will promote cultural development. On the other hand, the impact of culture on the economy, if any, will be limited to the role of culture in promoting economic development.

During the national renewal period, our Party’s perception of culture and the relationship between culture and economy has changed. The role of culture in development in general and economic development in particular has been recognized more comprehensively and thoroughly. Culture is considered as the spiritual foundation, as well as the goal and the driving force for economic development. The essence of culture is creativity towards human values and for people. The fact is that people, their prosperity and happiness, and national prosperity are the goals of development in general and economic development in particular. Sustainable economic development must be oriented towards cultural values, expressed through standards in production, business and consumption activities, ensuring that everyone enjoys the results of economic development with no one is left behind.

Building corporate, business, and entrepreneurial culture are vivid realities of the diffusion of cultural values in economic activities. As a driving force of development, culture contributes to creating a healthy environment for economic development. Thereby, people have had conditions and opportunities to promote creativity, initiative, and active participation in economic life. At the same time, a healthy cultural environment will be a fertile ground for the development of a socialist-oriented market economy, repelling negative phenomena and social evils.

Culture is not only an indirect but also a direct locomotive of economic development. The development of cultural industries has been creating rapid and sustainable development in many countries, including Vietnam. A cultural industry is a set of industries that develop based on the combined utilization of creativity, science and technology, cultural market, and capital. Instead of exploiting finite natural resources like other professions, the cultural industry exploits the limitless resource of human creativity. The cultural industry is a consolidated expression of the close association between culture and economy in development.

Theoretical perceptions of the relationship between culture and economy have been expressed in the documents of the Party in the renewal period.

The Resolution of the 5th Plenum of the 8th-tenure Central Party Committee, on “Building and developing an advanced Vietnamese culture imbued with national identity” (1998) defined: “Economic construction and development must aim at cultural objectives for the goal of equitable and civilized society as well as the comprehensive development of people. Culture is the result of the economy and at the same time the driving force of economic development”(2). For the first time, our Party identified the need to develop an economic policy in culture and a cultural policy in the economy: “The cultural policy in the economy ensures that culture is clearly reflected in economic activities, at the same time promoting them to create more favorable conditions for cultural development. The formulation of economic goals must be associated with cultural goals and solutions, caring for the people, upholding ethics in production and business, building commercial civilization, professional ethics, and business culture”(3).

Following this Resolution, the Party introduced new theoretical perspectives on culture in the economy, especially to “ensure the cohesion between the task of economic development as the center, Party building as the key, and constantly improving culture - the spiritual foundation of society, creating synchronous development between these three areas is a decisive condition to ensure the comprehensive and sustainable development of our country”(4).

Thus, Vietnam’s sustainable development not only covers three factors of economy, society, and environment but also includes culture. This statement represents a new development in the Party’s theoretical thinking on culture in the economy. The 11th Congress of the Party continued to affirm: “Cultural and social development in harmony with economic development ensure social progress and justice in each step and each policy of development is the most obvious manifestation of our regime’s superiority”(5). This is the core thesis that reflects the superiority of the socialist regime that our people are building in the context of the market economy and international integration.

The Resolution of the 9th Plenum of the 11th-tenure Party Central Committee, “On building and developing Vietnamese culture, and people meeting the requirements for national sustainable development” identified the issue that culture and people must be associated with requirements for sustainable development of the country. The Resolution raised the task of building culture in the economy, linking cultural activities with economic development. The Party emphasized: “Frequently pay attention to building culture in the economy. People are really the center in the process of socio-economic development. Create a legal cultural environment, a transparent, progressive, and modern market for cultural products so that businesses can participate in cultural development. Build corporate culture and ensure that business people respect and obey the law, protect their reputation and compete healthily for the country’s sustainable development and national construction and protection”(6).

The Documents of the 12th Party Congress (2016) affirmed: “Regularly take care of nurturing culture in the economy; build corporate culture and ensure that business people respect and obey the law, protect their reputation and compete healthily for the country’s sustainable development and national construction and protection”(7).

The Document of the 13th Party Congress further emphasizes the driving role of culture in economic development: “Strictly and harmoniously linking economic development with cultural development while realizing social progress and equity and improving people’s living standards. Building and promoting cultural factors to really be a breakthrough for socio-economic development and international integration”(8) and “Comprehensive and synchronous development of cultural fields, cultural environment, cultural life which is rich, diverse, civilized, and wholesome, absorbing the cultural quintessence of mankind so that culture is really the spiritual foundation, endogenous strength, and breakthrough motivation for socio-economic development and international integration”(9).

The Party’s views on the relationship between culture and economy are new theoretical issues that have profound practical guidance to ensure harmony in cultural development and economic growth for national sustainable development goals.

2. Promoting the dynamic role of culture in Vietnam’s economic development today

The presence and diffusion of culture in economic activities are deepening. As a driving force for economic development, culture has participated in regulating and promoting economic development in many aspects, typically as follows:

The cultural value system orients economic activities in the humane direction.

The cultural value system of each nation has been formed throughout history, under the influence of natural, economic, political, and social conditions as well as choices and behaviors of the whole community and of each individual in that community. When cultural values penetrate deeply into social life, including economic activities, it will be able to orient and adjust the activities of economic entities in the humane direction for the true, the good, and the beautiful. At this time, economic entities are not only interested in profits, but also in the interests of employees, responsibilities to the community, the environment, and the country. Production and business actions that go against the values of the true, the good, the beautiful are criticized and condemned by society. In today’s Vietnamese business community, building corporate culture, business ethics, and entrepreneurial culture... have become an inherent need of each business. When culture participates in regulating economic activities, the entrepreneurial social responsibility is increasingly enhanced, then not only businesses but the community, society, and people can share the benefits. Thus, culture is the conduit to connect economic growth with social progress and equity. This is one of the prerequisites for sustainable socio-economic development.

Stirring up the aspiration for national development, patriotism, the will to national self-reliance in economic development.

“Aspiration and will for development are essential motivations to bring all people to prosperity and success”(10). The aspiration for an independent, peaceful, prosperous, and happy country has forged the will and led generations of Vietnamese people to overcome dangerous challenges, regain independence and join hands to build the country. History has proven that cultural values that are properly aroused can turn into a great power.

It can be said that the national fortune and aspiration to develop the country have created the movement of the national economy in both development goals and modes. Building an independent and self-reliant economy in combination with multilateralization and diversification of international economic relations is not only a guideline for national economic development but also clearly reflected in the development orientations of businesses. In production and business activities, many Vietnamese enterprises have constantly innovated and created, with their will and efforts, affirming their prestige and position not only in the domestic market but also reaching out to the world and affirming their brands.

In the consumption of goods, the campaign “Vietnamese people give priority to use Vietnamese goods” launched by the Prime Minister has attracted the attention and response of ministries, sectors, localities, and a large number of consumers throughout the country. This great campaign is a creative way to raise patriotism and national pride in every citizen. As a result, the “made in Vietnam” distribution system has been developed nationwide. Various brands of goods produced by domestic enterprises have created a strong position in the market and earned the consumers’ trust. Over the past 10 years, this campaign has contributed to changing the perception and consumption behavior of Vietnamese people. That creates a great encouragement for domestic enterprises to continue making efforts to produce high-quality products at reasonable prices.

Development of cultural industries

The role of culture in economic development is not just the spiritual resource participating in regulating, orienting, and promoting economic development, but also a direct driving force for economic development. Reality has proven that if properly exploited, culture will have the ability to directly contribute to the national economy. In which, cultural industry development is an effective choice for this direction.

The views of the Party, policies of the State, the introduction of the Strategy for the development of Vietnam’s cultural industries to 2020, with a vision to 2030, have contributed to raising the awareness of the whole society about the role, position of cultural industries as well as the need to invest resources for them. Although having been established later than other countries in the region and the world, Vietnam’s cultural industry has made certain contributions to the national economy. Some fields such as cinema, fine art, advertising, digital software and video games, cultural tourism... have made remarkable developments. In 2020, cultural industries contribute 3% of GDP and it is estimated to account for 7% of GDP by 2030.

3. Issues and solutions to promote the role as a breakthrough engine of culture in economic development

Arising issues

Looking back at 35 years of renewal, the promotion of the role of culture in economic development have got due attention from the Party and State given its related guidelines, policies and implementation. It has paved a path for cultural values to penetrate into economic life, contributing to economic growth in recent years. However, there are still problems emerging both in theory and in practice.

In theory: Till now, the general theoretical framework of culture in the economy has not been established and the criteria for assessing the role of culture in the economy are not clear. What are the core contents of culture in the economy? Does it mean that building a culture in the economy only focuses on building corporate and entrepreneurial culture or is it necessary to build visions, strategies, and plans for economic development, human resource training, promoting creativity and scientific application, improving the competitiveness of the economy, and combat barriers to economic development from a cultural perspective? A series of practical questions need answers from researchers and managers.

In practice: The policy on building cultural policies in the economy was stated by our Party in the Resolution of the 5th Plenum of the 8th-tenure Party Central Committee (1998) but has been slow to be concretized and institutionalized, so it has yet experienced a drastic change in economic activity.

The vision for the sustainable economic development of ministries, sectors, and localities, in particular, is limited and inconsistent, leading to serious consequences on planning, environment, loss of resources, and property of the State and the people, creating conditions for corruption and wastefulness. A series of major economic cases in recent years proves that the role of culture in economic development has not been promoted, cultural and ethical values in economic activities have not been given due consideration.

The building of entrepreneurial, corporate, business, and labor culture, commercial, and commercial civilization has not really entered into economic life. Culture has not yet been able to spread and cultivate new, positive and progressive values and has not yet repelled negative and toxic factors in economic activities. Therefore, illegal businesses such as smuggling, fraud, tax evasion, production of fake and toxic goods, corruption, wastefulness… are increasing, deteriorating resources for economic development, causing resentment in society.

The market for cultural products and services has been formed, but still remains small, lacks synchronization, and contains spontaneous elements. Enterprises that produce and trade in cultural products and services have not yet established connections. Most of them operate in difficulty, with limited resources, and low competitiveness. Though there are many cultural products, only a few products have high ideological and aesthetic value. The construction of cultural industries is still confusing and has not yet achieved the desired result.

In general, the impact of culture on the economy is still limited, not strong enough to create the process of “economic culture” to build a humane economy, for the people and environmental protection.

Solutions to promote the breakthrough role of culture in economic development.

In order for culture to become a “breakthrough engine” for economic development in the spirit of the Resolution of the 13th Party Congress, it is necessary to focus on the following solutions:

First, it is imperative to institutionalize the Party’s views and guidelines on the role of culture in development in general and economic development in particular. Studies have shown that the cause of both success and failure of countries is closely related to the national institutions. The Party’s system of views on the role of culture in economic development in the Renewal period has been clearly stated in the Documents of the Party Congresses. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on institutionalizing the Party’s views on the role of culture in economic development into specific laws, strategies and regulations. It is necessary to develop sanctions on the relationship between culture and economy, identify the legal responsibilities of economic subjects in complying with cultural values ​​and standards as well as exploit cultural capital to economic development. Only then will it be possible for businesses to explore and innovate operating models in the direction of attaching importance to cultural values ​​in production and business.

Second, it is necessary to build a set of indicators to monitor and evaluate the State management and administration capacity of local governments in building and developing culture and people. For areas such as economy and society, there are indicators to measure development. Meanwhile, for the cultural sector, there is still no effective measuring benchmark. This limits the mobilization of resources to invest in cultural and human development. Since there is no benchmark, the effectiveness of cultural development projects and plans cannot be seen. Public opinion is also concerned that investment in culture is such a waste and impractical partly because of this shortage. Though culture is a large, complex field, and not always possible to quantify the development of culture, but with the political will of leaders, managers and scientists, it is possible to build a set of cultural and human development indicators.

Third, it is required to develop an annual report on the development of Vietnamese culture and people. Although culture is “placed equally with economy, politics and society” in the annual national statistics system, the data on culture is very modest. This is caused by agencies and organizations providing information, receiving and processing information, leading to difficulties in accessing cultural information and data. The organization of research, development and publication of the annual report on culture will overcome the above limitations, provide a comprehensive view of the cultural areas to observe the strengths and weaknesses in order to timely propose appropriate solutions to promote cultural development.

Fourth, it is needed to focus on developing the cultural industry and perfecting the market for cultural products and services. This is a new economic sector promising a lot of potential, especially for a country possessing rich cultural capital like Vietnam. However, to turn potential into reality, resources and motivation for development requires a change in both thinking and action. The State should choose to invest and support a number of cultural industries as well as issue policies to attract economic sectors to participate in cultural industry development. Local governments need to be more drastic, together with the Government, ministries and sectors, to build and develop cultural industries based on exploiting their local comparative advantages.

Throughout the nation’s history, culture has affirmed a particularly important position in the cause of national construction and defense. In the current context of renovation and integration, culture continues to promote its role as a spiritual foundation, an important endogenous resource, and a driving force for the national development. The relationship between culture and economy is increasingly intertwined. This is one of the major relationships of the country and of the times, which, if well handled, will contribute to increasing the national synergy, leading the country to develop quickly and sustainably.


Received: November 1, 2021; Revised: November 21, 2021; Published: November 22, 2021.



1), (9) CPV: Documents of the 13th National Party Congress, vol.I, Truth National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, pp.214, 47.

(2), (3)  CPV: Documents of the 5th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 8th Tenure, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1998, pp.55, 74.

(4) Conclusion No. 30-KL/TW dated July 20th, 2004, of the 10th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 9th Tenure, on “Building and developing an advanced Vietnamese culture imbued with national identity”.

(5) CPV: Documents of the 11th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.40.

(6) CPV: Documents of the 9th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 11th Tenure, op. cit, p.53.

(7) CPV: Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Office of the Party Central Committee, Hanoi, 2016, p.128.

(8) CPV: Document of the 13th National Party Congress, vol.II, Truth National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, p.134.

(10) Prof., Dr. Nguyen Xuan Thang: Thought and theory on innovation and national development, Truth National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, p.673.


1. Assoc.Prof., Dr. Pham Duy Duc - Assoc. Prof., Dr. Vu Thi Phuong Hau (co-editors): Culture in politics and culture in economy in Vietnam - Some theoretical and practical issues, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2019.

2. Prof, Dr. Pham Xuan Nam (Chief editor): Development philosophy in Vietnam - Some key issues, Social Sciences Publishing House, Hanoi, 2002.


Institute of Culture and Development,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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