Beijing-Hanoi ties need grand strategies

By Li Jiangang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/11 23:48:39

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong kicked off a three-day visit to China Thursday at the invitation of Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. This is his eighth visit to China and his first after the 12th CPV Congress.

Trong's visit will be of great significance as it comes ahead of the 67th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-Vietnamese diplomatic ties and the Lunar New Year festival celebrated in both countries.

High-level reciprocal visits, in particular inter-Party exchanges, serve as an important bridge to maintain China-Vietnam traditional friendship and consolidate their bilateral relations. Since the new leadership, elected at the 12th CPV Congress, assumed office, Hanoi and Beijing have been keeping close touch.

Vietnamese Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPV Pham Minh Chinh visited China successively throughout 2016. Trong met with Chinese officials at least five times.

Over the past year, Vietnam has enjoyed smooth political reform, high-speed economic growth and a more vigorous society, but still confronted a number of conundrums. Some intractable issues souring its ties with Beijing need to be addressed immediately. Maintaining benign inter-Party communication constitutes a critical way for both nations to build mutual political trust since socialism provides reassurance to help solve problems.

Within the CPV, fighting against corruption and keeping negative trends at bay are the top priorities of party building. Many high-profile cases involving corrupt officials were exposed last year, coming as a huge shock across Vietnamese society as well as the international community.

Nonetheless, a lack of experience in institutionalized anti-corruption has long been a bottleneck issue and the anti-corruption endeavor will therefore be high on the agenda during Trong's upcoming visit.

Economic and trading cooperation has been ballast to China-Vietnam relationship, which seems to have grown at a relatively fast pace this year. Like Beijing, Hanoi has also attached importance to expanding multilateral economy and trade and deepening interconnection and intercommunication.

The two boast plenty of shared interests. Now joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has become a remote possibility. In addition, the country has a financing shortage in constructing the North-South Express Railway.

Beijing and Hanoi have witnessed many small-scale cooperation projects, but failed to work together in grand strategies with long-range visions, which is mainly hindered by the mind-set of the Vietnamese people. Distinguishing between long-term and short-term interests is a wise move and it is the Party that should play the main role in guiding the public.

While Vietnam is ratcheting up reforms and accelerating to adhere to international conventions, hostile forces are still on the rise, continuously instilling erroneous thoughts. During the past year, Vietnam suffered from further hype of its political and social events and discord sowed in its ties with China. The Vietnamese leadership has realized the seriousness of the issue and taken relevant measures. It is fully aware what momentary interests are and who a true friend is.

Its leaders have reiterated many times that they do not expect to see conflicts happen and have adopted reserved manners in the South China Sea. It actively halted hyping up the perennial territorial dispute, evident to both Chinese and Vietnamese people. Both nations are seeking for a peaceful resolution to the contention based on a comprehensive strategic partnership.

It is a positive maneuver that Hanoi formulated a diversified and multilateral foreign policy, but is allowing US naval fleets to conduct operations in the South China Sea good for China? Or for Vietnam?

As influential developing countries, China and Vietnam can beef up cooperation on the international stage to relieve the pressure that brought about the territorial deadlock. The 29th meeting of APEC leaders will be held in Vietnam's coastal city of Da Nang, when Xi plans a state visit to discuss development issues in emerging economies. Precipitating a new cooperation mechanism among Asia-Pacific countries in the post-TPP era is the appropriate way to open a brand new chapter in Vietnam's diplomatic history.

It is expected that Trong's visit will help promote the institutionalization of high-level exchanges, further strengthening China and Vietnam's mutual political trust and bring substantial benefits to the two peoples.

The author is an assistant research fellow of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceania Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

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