Written in the context of questioning a positive relationship between development and democracy, this paper argues that Vietnam's Communist Party ruled state shows numerous signs of being responsive to a rather wide array of pressures and complaints from organised and un-organised sectors of society. But only up to a point. The state represses individuals and groups that it deems are threats to the country's stability or the Communist Party's dominance of the political system. This responsive-repressive quality of the state in Vietnam affects debates among critics of the regime who advocate a multi-party, democratic political system. To one group of critics the responsiveness of the state is evidence that, through participation and engagement with authorities, citizens can push the political system toward democracy. Another group of critics, however, seeing the state as highly prone to repression, believes that direct confrontation against the state, not participation with it, is the only way to replace the Communist Party government with democratic institutions.