A New Manh

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Political mysteries don't get much juicier than the one surrounding Nong Duc Manh, Vietnam's 61-year-old leader: Is the new Communist Party Secretary-General the love child of the country's founding father, Ho Chi Minh? That's been a long standing rumor, and Manh managed to duck the question through his 15-year rise through the ranks to the country's most powerful position. "We are all Uncle Ho's children," was Manh's clever, standard answer.

Yet in a rare interview granted to TIME, Manh took the question head-on for the first time. "It is not true," he said, sitting at Communist Party headquarters...