This paper examines the impact of economic policies on the development of Vietnam's electronics industry. We identified, reviewed, evaluated and interviewed various stakeholders in the industry about the policies implemented by the Vietnamese government during the period 1986–2017. We argue that while the policy aiming at learning through technological spillover from foreign direct investment led to the specific level of the technological development, problems during its implementation, coupled with institutional failures brought about unintended consequences. We conclude that trade liberalisation alone did not deliver the desired technological upgrading for domestic firms in Vietnam. Our paper provides policy implications for technological development in developing countries.