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Powers of exclusion: A case study of state-led large scale rubber development in Vietnam’s north-western region

By Phuc To
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Cash crop development has been instrumental for economic growth in many countries. However, this intervention has negatively affected many local communities. The global rubber boom in the early 2000s prompted the state-owned Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) to scramble for land to expand their rubber plantations. This paper examines the mechanisms and processes associated with state-led large scale rubber development in Vietnam’s north-western region.

The development of large-scale rubber plantation in the region was established on villager’s devolved crop lands. Using the powers of exclusion framework developed by Hall et al. (2011), the paper asks how government regulations, legitimation and force are used to enroll villager’s land into rubber development. Particularly, I unearth how these powers were used to force villagers to engage in contract farming – dubbed as a ‘joint venture’ by VRG. In addition, I examine how government and VRG continued to use these powers to stamp out local resistance and retain land. The unfolding contestation has important implications for state-society relations.