Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping ended his three-day visit to Vietnam on Wednesday. As the South China Sea issue has menaced the relationship between China and Vietnam, this visit is significant as it restores a sense of opportunity to bilateral relations.
Should the two countries attempt to resolve these problems with an open mind? Or should they let these issues undermine their mutual strategic support? China and Vietnam are facing a long-term test.
The two obviously have differing strategic interests for their own development. But cooperation between them is more conducive to their respective strategic pursuit than arguing.
What China and Vietnam need to do is let this principle dominate their relationship. Any disputes should be handled properly. Even if there is an obstacle, it should not evolve into a confrontation.
China has many strategic concerns that accompany its rise. It is not willing to come into confrontation with any country, including Vietnam.
It is unlikely that Vietnam sees China as its enemy over territory disputes. Top leaders from both countries visited each other when the South China Sea issue was becoming sensitive. It was a highlight in Asian diplomacy.
Both sides need to make a contribution to promote mutual strategic trust. Against the backdrop of the US returning to Asia, Vietnam may be inclined to provide a convenient opportunity for external powers to intervene in South China Sea disputes. Such a move would naturally be perceived by Chinese public and media as an unfriendly move.
Vietnam should understand clearly that China has shown restraint when dealing with the South China Sea issue. This is because China values the peaceful environment around it, not because it has been compelled to do so by Vietnam.
China's diplomatic options for defending its South China Sea interests are restricted. It doesn't seek to threaten Vietnam's economic growth. Vietnam should follow the same principle given that the two countries share many growth opportunities.
Both China and Vietnam are socialist countries. They have both adopted similar reform and opening-up policies. China's rise will be beneficial for Vietnam. China would also like to see a developing and prosperous Vietnam.
Saying that the rise of China is a threat to Vietnam is completely illogical. Even if China is not as powerful as it should be, its national strength is still superior to that of Vietnam.
The two countries should remain friendly. As the South China Sea issue is still very sensitive, they should take each other's public opinion into consideration or the losses may outweigh the gains. China and Vietnam should be committed to solving their problems peacefully. China should have more tolerance and Vietnam should have greater wisdom.