The 1997 Asian financial crisis and subsequent impact on Vietnam's economy reignited a decade-old internal debate over economic reforms (doi moi). Heralded by many as a success story, the pace of doi moi was the cause of sharp conflicts within the ruling party as the IMF prescribed speeding up the process. At first glance it seemed that neo-liberalism was triumphant. However, this article argues that we need to take a closer look at the content and meaning of 'reform' in the Vietnamese context. Neo-liberal reforms were modified to ensure they consolidated rather than unravelled the authority of the Vietnamese state and to accommodate the new hybrids of state-business alliances.