Vietnam has equal relations with China, US: expert

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/12 23:32:28

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, started his state visit to Vietnam on Sunday. What's the significance of his trip for the Sino-Vietnamese relationship? How will Vietnam handle its relationship with China and the US? Global Times (GT) reporter Bai Tiantian talked with Vu Cao Phan (Vu), advisor to the Vietnam-China Friendship Association and director of the Political and International Relations Institute at Binh Duong University in Vietnam.

GT: The two heads of state have exchanged visits within the year with Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Vietnam. Has Vietnam changed its attitude toward China? Are there signs of a warming of the Beijing-Hanoi relationship this year? How do you view the bilateral relationship in the future?

Vu: Xi's visit to Vietnam, which has received widespread attention, is significant because Vietnam is the first country that he visited after the 19th CPC National Congress, highlighting its importance. The exchange of visits between the two heads of state, or the increase in exchanges, is a sign of warming Hanoi-Beijing ties. Vietnamese people regard Xi highly, and I personally admire him a lot, especially his anti-corruption achievements. The fight against corruption has also enhanced Xi's standing among the Chinese people, which is reflected in the success of the 19th CPC National Congress, and the support of the Chinese people for Xi.

GT: As countries that are both ruled by communist parties, what are the joint interests of China and Vietnam? What role has the party-to-party relationship played in the Sino-Vietnamese relationship?

Vu: If difficulties or conflicts arise between the two countries, it is usually the party that will intervene, exchanging delegations or envoys to communicate. Why? Because both China and Vietnam are party-led socialist countries. All activities within the country are conducted under the leadership of the party. The Communist Party of China and that of Vietnam should have more party-to-party exchanges in the future.

GT: The Sino-Vietnamese relationship deteriorated in previous years due to the South China Sea disputes. It remained tepid but relatively stable since mid-2014. What are the reasons? What lessons can China and Vietnam draw from their successful management of the land border issue to address maritime disputes?

Vu: My [Vietnamese] friends believe that bilateral relations have already calmed down, but I personally hold that it may be the lull before the storm. Because experience tells us that problems suddenly crop up when the situation appears to be tranquil. I personally believe that both sides should calm down, sit at the table and undertake fair and just negotiations. The two sides must make concessions and be patient. Differentiating what is primary from what is secondary is a prerequisite in negotiations. We can also draw on our experiences in resolving the land border disputes. Both China and Vietnam made concessions in the land border negotiations, the details of which are not known to the media. I respect the great Chinese culture and its heritage. The two countries have many elements and customs in common, and are partners who have helped each other before. For now and for the future, China and Vietnam must strive for peaceful coexistence, like brothers.

GT: Some believe that Vietnam leans on China for economic support and toward the US for security needs. How will Vietnam handle its relations with the two powers?

Vu: I personally hold that Vietnam may have better economic ties with the US because Vietnam records a trade surplus with the US, but always has trade deficits with China. Then there is the problem of trade imbalances. Although I know Chinese comrades are eager to help Vietnam to reach a trade balance, this has not been realized. Vietnam never intends to seek security protection from any country, and has never prioritized the US over China, or vice versa. Vietnam's relationship with the two countries is equal. 

GT: Some hold that if the Vietnamese government, ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam, leans too much toward diplomacy with the US, its domestic legitimacy would be undermined. Do you agree?

Vu: As I emphasized, Vietnam is not leaning toward any country. I think the way Chinese friends see this issue is a little bit beyond comprehension; maybe the Chinese media hasn't reported it accurately and objectively. As it is a socialist country, Vietnam will not let itself be affected by developing relations with the US. In addition, both China and Vietnam are socialist countries, but have differences. I'm waiting to see what form the ties between the two socialist nations take.

GT: What do you want to say to the Chinese media or Chinese readers?

Vu: Thank you for asking me this question. I think some Chinese media outlets report Vietnam with the same tone as the Western media. Many depictions of the country on the Chinese Internet are negative and full of hearsay. Many of my friends have fought side-by-side with the Chinese before, and have very good relations with China. Some of them came back to Vietnam after studying in China and respect and love the country. 

But they are disappointed with some media reports on the relationship between the two countries. Media outlets from both countries should pay attention to this issue.


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