Nong Duc Manh is the first General Secretary of the CPV to have graduated from university and the first leader of Vietnam who did not fight in the war of independence against the United States. Many see in his elevation to party leader a move toward greater liberalization and opening up of the country. The man he replaced, Le Kha Phieu, was generally regarded as a rigid socialist, reluctant to allow the sorts of market reforms the impoverished country needs to develop economically. There was some opening up and allowances were made for international investment, but these steps were seen as too tenuous to seriously spur economic growth.
Upon his elevation to the post of General Secretary, Manh pledged to fight corruption and accelerate the country's industrialization. To do so, however, is likely to prove a difficult task as there are still hard-line communists in positions of authority. The party remains committed to the policy of Doi Moi initiated in 1986, but the speed of economic reform and its importance in relation to maintaining social and political stability are still hotly debated among the party elite. In speeches since assuming his new role, Manh has signaled that he is firmly in the Doi Moi camp in terms of economic liberalization, but he has also signaled an unwavering support of single party rule and a belief in the importance of maintaining cultural and ideological discipline. Such sentiments are widely interpreted to mean that Manh fears the influence of Western culture and values on Vietnam's young people as the economy further liberalizes.