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Views of the Party on preventing “office term-bound thinking”

(LLCT) - Together with the “group” interest and obsession with achievements, “office term-bound thinking” has become a “disease” causing much harm to the Party and dissatisfaction among the people. To successfully implement the Resolutions on building the Party and personnel work, it is necessary to fully identify the connotations of the concept of “office term-bound thinking” and its manifestations so as to provide solutions for its prevention.

Keywords: “office term-bound thinking”; preventing “office term-bound thinking”.

1. The concept of “office term-bound thinking”

Thinking is originally a philosophical category that is used to indicate the activities of human spiritual life formed in the process of improving the objective world through material activity; it helps people have correct and objective awareness of things and phenomena, and to behave positively. Therefore, those with higher intelligence quotients will think more deeply and recognize and handle problems more intelligently and creatively, leading to positive results.

The word “thinking” itself carries positive implications, and the word “office term,” implying a certain time, has neutral meaning. “Office term” is especially associated with that of the Congresses of Party committees and people’s councils at all levels, of which the period is normally five years. However, when “thinking” is combined with “office term” into “office term-bound thinking”, it no longer carries the normal positive meaning but negative one. “Office term-bound thinking” with negative meaning is understood as thought and action regardless of rule, condition, and the practical background of an individual, a group, or a team in the agency, unit, or organization during the term of performing responsibility and tasks in order to pursue immediate and short term aims and interests to gain materialistic interests for themselves, “interest groups”, or team without caring about the long term aims and interest of the team, community, or because they have limited ability, lack information, and grasp the situation insufficiently, which leads to having wrong and insufficient awareness, proposing and implementing the guidelines, resolutions, programs, planning, plans during the term ineffectively, even causing immeasurable corollaries or consequences in the immediate and long term.

“Office term-bound thinking” enables us to imagine a way of thinking, working, and behaving of a person or some people with positions and responsibilities of leadership and management in the specific term that they carry out the assigned task. Here, term means the time limit for implementing the task, duty, and responsibility. The term starts with deploying Resolutions. The term ends by evaluating and summarizing what is done, what is half-done, or what is not done together with its developments, arising issues, clarifying causes, and drawing conclusion on responsibility and lessons.

 “Office term-bound thinking” is associated with the position of leaders by term. In other words, it is a kind of short term, seasonal thinking only within the term. “Office term-bound thinking” also carries the connotation of lack of interest, avoiding responsibilities and duties, ignoring the right and wrong, keeping unjust peace and secrets for self-interest. The early time of the term is used for flattering everyone, using clever tricks to create an “illusion” about the good things brought to them. The middle and end of the term is for prompt actions to maintain power or get promoted to a higher position, with the attraction of fame and interest and greater power. Therefore, sluggishness appears, as well as no action, no harm to the order of power, change of fame and interests at the end of the term. A person whose motivation and actions are governed by “office term-bound thinking” often evades handling situations that are unfavorable to himself or his power or his image. Due to irresponsibility, many things are not handled, which accumulate and cause consequences for their successor. This is often seen in outgoing people, who often do not act, share, take responsibility, and stay out of the job. This is not just irresponsibility but denial of responsibility with the assigned duty and the juniors. Thus, “office term-bound thinking” is a type of “commercialized thinking which takes place in the political participatory activities, the degraded people, and political opportunists; it is in association with the corrupted acts in politics at different degrees of power”(1).

Thus, office term-bound thinking can be understood as a category of political-thought reflecting a subjective way of thinking, doing, and handling work efficiency in a certain period (term). “Office term-bound thinking” is a new concept both in connotation and denotation. Logically, it was mentioned before, but its dark side with bad, one-sided, insufficient meaning has now been adopted by many people in society rather than positive ideals. The dark side of term thinking of some staff must be mentioned when they are given responsibility by an organization, even though their intention is “hidden” at first, sooner or later it is revealed when bad actions happen. During the term in office, if a leader is not conscious to struggle with himself, the dark side of thought may arouse individual interest which sooner or later will cause problems. President Ho Chi Minh advised that cadres and Party members must always take criticism and self-criticism as the guideline for training to grow up and advance. In order to improve work efficiency, cadres must pay due attention to democracy and listen to the opinions of the pubic to make correct decisions. Only by doing so can cadres generate trust in the pubic.

“Office term-bound thinking” with unhealthy manifestations derives from individual motivation and ill individualism - self-interested and egoistic thinking; it is also the direct consequence of shortcomings, weaknesses, and even loopholes and mistakes in our organizational apparatus and staff policy which have existed for a long time. Thoughts of contentment or power escalation ambition are clearly manifested in the phrase “office term-bound thinking”. During their term, many officials do not dare to “break through” anything for fear of innovation, failure, or decrease of individual “prestige.” They are very “secret,” afraid of clashing or fighting and instead desire smoothness until the end of the term so that they can be transferred or appointed to a higher position or retire in the smoothest way. Recently, there is a phenomenon that some cadres dare to speak frankly and reveal their thoughts, disagree in forums and conferences, or speak out in the press when they are going to retire. “Office term-bound thinking” has revealed serious harms, and it is necessary to clearly identify its manifestations, correctly evaluate the various aspects of harms it may cause, and find out the cause of it to find ways to correct and prevent it. The deep cause of “office term-bound thinking” can be attributed to the influence of small farmers and productivity thinking, so many people have short term vision and petty thinking, thinking only of the immediate interest rather than the long term interests, caring for themselves rather than community interests, and taking the interests of the nation and people lightly.

“Office term-bound thinking” is expressed in many aspects and from many angles: economically, politically, socially; it appears in a lot of subjects to various scales, degrees, and levels. “Office term-bound thinking” can be concealed in various sophisticated forms, but it is easy to identify because of the negative corollaries expressed in life. “Office term-bound thinking” causes serious sluggishness, holding back the development of the country. People with such thinking will never dare to think, do, take responsibility, and serve the country and people whole-heartedly. For example, they don’t do as they speak, they speak more than they do, they work half-heartedly, they speak and do nothing, and they do not speak and do nothing. If a senior official has “term thinking,” their underlings, however active, positive, and creative they are, will not be encouraged and promoted; then they in term may become disheartened and stop working diligently.

2. Views of the Party on preventing “office term-bound thinking”

 With the motto to “look straight at the truth, tell the truth, and correctly evaluate the truth” in the past, the Party has striven to frankly recognize and evaluate the mistakes of staff, Party members, and all Party building work. One of the barriers to Party building is the “office term-bound thinking” of leaders and managers at various levels in our country today.

There have recently been new formations and developments of the views of the Party on “office term-bound thinking.” In his closing remark at the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Central Committee, dated 10 October, 2011, Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong first mentioned the issues of “office term-bound thinking” and “group interest” with critical implications and pointed out their unhealthy manifestations which should be corrected soon. He emphasized: “Strategies, planning, plans, and investment policies must include a long term vision which is not governed by “office term-bound thinking”, localism, achievement disease, voluntarist subjectiveness, or “group interest”(2). Until the 4th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (11th tenure), while mentioning the solutions to promoting self-criticism and criticism so as to prevent and repel the degradation of political thought, morality, lifestyle in a number of cadres, Party members, and especially leaders and managers at all level, the Secretary General also pointed out the importance of preventing possible wrong tendencies in implementing this particularly significant solution: “The indulgence, rightest attitude, ‘silence is gold’, or extreme attitude to take advantage of criticism to attack others and disturb internally are all incorrect”(3). Hence, the Party is determined to “correct the situation of easiness, indulgence, even transformation of a self-critical and critical mindset into a place for fondling and extolling each other as well as the situation of taking advantage of this occasion to “struggle” and “topple” others with bad motivation”(4).

In that spirit, at the 12th National Congress, the Party also affirmed that, together with “group interest”, “office term-bound thinking” is one of the big barriers in building the Party today. So, the Party advocates “building mechanisms to prevent and stop “group interest” relationships, fight privileges and advantages, and overcome “office term-bound thinking”(5). At the 4th Plenum of the 12th Party Central Committee, our Party continued emphasizing that “office term-bound thinking” was one of the nine manifestations of political thought degradation: to be involved in “office term-bound thinking”, focusing on handling the short term issues for individual interest, quickly appointing relatives and acquaintances regardless of standards and conditions to hold the positions of leadership and management, or arrange them in the position with a lot of interest”(6).

Thus, in recent years, the term “office term-bound thinking” has been identified by our Party, which should not be disregarded, and the cadres and Party members, of which leaders and managers at all levels in the political system must first think seriously and thoughtfully about the corollaries and harms caused by “office term-bound thinking” in the past.

3. Some solutions to preventing “office term-bound thinking” in Vietnam today

Preventing “office term-bound thinking” has become an urgent requirement for our country. To that end, attention should be paid to the following fundamental solutions:

 Firstly, each cadre and Party member needs to have a correct and full awareness of the phrase “office term-bound thinking”. To do that, each agency and organization needs to have suitable and practical guidelines and measures to help cadres and Party members indentify specific manifestations of “office term-bound thinking”. This will help each person have their own awareness of preventing and avoiding “office term-bound thinking”. On the other hand, each agency and organization needs to provide detailed and practical regulations and measures to fight and repel the degradation of political thought, morality of lifestyle, individualism, opportunism, pragmatism, “group interest”, subjectiveness, voluntarism, factionalism and locality-oriented thought as well as purify the cadres, party members, and civil servants to build a healthy working environment, motivate development, and contribute to preventing “office term-bound thinking.” Each cadre, Party member, member of Party committees, and especially every key leader, Party committee secretary, and department head needs to have a full awareness of their responsibility in judging and evaluating cadres, introducing, assessing, approving the successor, and in committee level elections, avoiding subjectiveness and manifestations of “office term-bound thinking,” actively setting an example, fighting “office term-bound thinking,” “group interest,” and corruption in every locality, unit, organization, and agency that he is in charge of leading and managing. 

Secondly, the regulations on organization and personnel work and mechanisms to manage, monitor, and control group interest must be improved further. In the process of implementing their assigned responsibilities and tasks, heads at all levels need to have measures to actively prevent and ensure no loopholes for seeking interest. Votes of confidence should be conducted for key titles in the political system in a more scientific and practical manner to make close and proper evaluation of capacity, responsibility, and degree of task fulfillment. If the vote is low, they must be replaced by qualified people. Conducting votes of confidence will be an important lever in preventing term thinking in the country today, because it helps the leaders and managers continuously adjust their behavior if they want to keep their current position. The people are very interested in the votes of confidence for 48 titles elected or approved by the 14th National Assembly at the opening session dated 22 October 2018 which is followed by a vote of confidence for the titles elected by the People’s Councils at all levels. It is also necessary to clarify the tasks, power, and responsibility of cadres and civil servants by job position and title standards to closely manage the workforce of cadres and civil servants. This will contribute to limiting “office term-bound thinking” in personnel work and help organization to choose qualified cadres.

Thirdly, the heads of executive committees, government, unions, departments, and professional units must really be pioneers and examples and provide options, plans, action programs, and solutions in their term to successfully accomplish the political mission of their unit. The heads of agencies and units must put the interest of society and the community above all, gather talents who dare to think, do, and listen to their contributions to the option and action program, in which there may be opposite ideas. The specific work efficiency of a head is expressed in grasping reality and the thinking to creatively applying the lines of the Party and the policies and laws of the State and the will of the team to executing political missions. In the process of executing tasks, the unit head must be determined in leading, instructing, and operating works to bring about high efficiency, but it is necessary to avoid imposing arbitrary and authoritarian thinking, wrong individual ideas to instruct others to follow, especially in cadre transfer, appointment and economic issues. To improve operating effects, cadres holding positions in terms must often train themselves through learning theory, specialties, and professions to make their writing and speaking skills convincing to listeners so that they will follow their directives. Cadres appointed in terms must be evaluated and acknowledged when they excellently accomplish tasks and bring success to society. They must have cultural lifestyles in behavior at workplace and residence, and they should be respected and loved by the people. Also, there should be mechanisms to monitor, supervise, and control the power of the heads to avoid using “office term-bound thinking” to cultivate and seek profit for themselves.

Fourthly, each leader and manager, in his term, needs creation and innovation of working method to implement the line of the Party and policies and law of the State well. Innovation and creation are significant elements in the term thinking structure of leaders. To innovate and create well, it is important to fight against achievement-oriented obsession and the self-contented thinking, especially that of those who are going to finish their term. On the other hand, the head of a unit must know how to use the specific situation to act creatively, avoiding stereotyping. At the same time, it is a must to fight against the random and voluntarist tendency, intentional infringement of the guidelines and policies of the Party and the laws of the State leading to severe consequences for society, decreasing belief in the agencies and units where the heads are in charge. Thinking of innovation and creation requires the staff to be really open to the ideas of the public thoughtfully to add their ideas to the structure of action solution actively which is supported and followed by the public. In a term, leaders must know how to use objective development rules to find scientific solutions to implement programs and plans well that they promise before the people and Party before election.

Preventing “office term-bound thinking” is not only a serious work of scientific awareness but also the political responsibility of being honest towards the Party and noble social responsibility towards people and for people. Overcoming “office term-bound thinking” to make the Party pure and strong is an important and urgent task in the current situation. It requires the combination of efforts of leaders and managers at all levels and the responsibility of all staff and Party members in every Party organization and the support and help of people; the must be various contributions to making the Party pure, strong, moral, and civilized.

“Office term-bound thinking” is expressed in many aspects and from many angles economically, politically, and socially; it appears in a lot of subjects at different scales, degrees, and levels. “Office term-bound thinking” can be concealed in various sophisticated forms, but it is often easy to identify because of the negative corollaries expressed in life. Therefore, those who are given important responsibility, especially the heads of levels and sectors, must constantly strive, train, and fulfill the mission in their term with high efficiency, which is recognized by the people. In each term, a cadre may have his/her own creative method, but he/she has to follow the line of the Party and the law of the State to avoid law evasion and intentional infringement, which leads to serious consequences. Although a term is not long, it is enough for society to evaluate the quality, capacity, and contribution of each cadre and Party member specifically and objectively, which deserves the confidence of the Party and the people in the term.


l Endnotes:

(1) Hoang Chi Bao: “Overcoming the ‘Office term-bound Thinking’ to Build the Party to Meet the Requirements of Building and Protecting the Fatherland,” Journal of National Defense, No. 2/2018, p.4.

(2) CPV: Document of the 3rd Plenum of the Party Central Committee (11th tenure), National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, p.246.

(3), (4) CPV: Document of the 4th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (11th tenure), National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2012, p.99, 102.

(5) CPV: Documents of the 12th National Congress, Office of the Party Central Committee, Hanoi, 2016, p.213.

(6) CPV: Documents of the 4th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (12th tenure), Office of the Party Central Committee, Hanoi, 2016, p.30.

l References:

1. Hoang Hoa Mai: “Some thoughts on ‘Office term-bound thinking”, Front Journal, No. 12/2017.

2. Cao Van Thong: “Identifying ‘Office term-bound thinking’ in personnel work and prevention solution”, Journal of National Defense, No. 2/2018, Journal of National Defense, No. 2-2018.


Institute of Philosophy,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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