Governance and sustainability are important topics of debate in global forest policy. It is however crucial to understand how these ideas have impacted national and local forest policy and management. The case of Vietnam is interesting and relevant because since the late 1980s, Vietnam's state forestry has undergone a reform towards sustainable management and social participation. This reform has triggered the emergence of two new policy discourses — ‘forestry socialization’ and ‘sustainable forest management’. This article uses discourse analysis to investigate the implications of these discourses in Vietnam forestry. In particular, it examines the extent to which the ‘forestry socialization’ and ‘sustainable forest management' discourses can be recognized in Vietnamese forest policy over the last 20 years. The results show that both discourses are well represented in policy documents and related discussions broad presence of both discourses. However, the findings also demonstrate the existence of discursive struggles among different coalitions over the interpretation of ‘forestry socialization’ and ‘sustainable forest management’. We conclude that the two discourses have had a significant impact on how key actors in Vietnam forestry frame problems and solutions. However, the specific patterns in which the two discourses developed in the Vietnamese context also indicate that powerful elites have been hesitant to take further steps in forestry socialization.