Leader: Nguyen Tan Dung
Record: The Communist Party of Vietnam is the only party allowed by law and appoints the country's leaders from within its own ranks -- Nguyen Tan Dung was reappointed for a second term in Jan. 26. According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam has intensified its repression of human rights over the past year, imprisoning human rights defenders, bloggers, and anti-corruption campaigners. Religious groups, both Christian and Buddhist, have faced repeated harassment. Police brutality and deaths under police custody are commonplace.
Like China, Vietnam filters the Internet within the country, blocking objectionable websites and requiring service providers and Internet cafes to install monitoring software to track users.
U.S. support: Thirty-five years after the end of the Vietnam War and 15 after diplomatic relations were restored, the U.S.-Vietnam relationship has never been closer. The two countries signed a free-trade agreement in 2006, moving Vietnam one step closer to WTO membership. With an eye toward a rising China, the two countries have also deepened defense cooperation, including military drills and a potential civilian nuclear deal. In 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that despite "profound differences" over human rights, it was time for the countries to take their relationship to the "next level."
Those two impulses may prove more difficult to reconcile than Clinton had hoped: In January 2011, the United States registered a protest with the Vietnamese government after a U.S. diplomat was wrestled to the ground and then arrested by police while trying to visit the home of a prominent Vietnamese dissident.