Hanoi tactful in developing major power ties

By Ge Hongliang Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/25 20:33:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


Whether Vietnam will become a part of Washington's Indo-Pacific strategy has triggered heated discussions worldwide. While observers unanimously take a negative view of it, they believe Hanoi's hob­nobbing with the so-called democratic Quad of Washington, Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra suggests that the Viet­namese government wants to estab­lish closer ties with these countries. American analysts point out that given Hanoi's polity, it lacks common values to cooperate with the so-called Quad. Besides polity, many other factors also prevent Vietnam joining the alli­ance.

High-level Vietnamese officials have recently become a center of attention for their public remarks on the South China Sea. Hanoi's relations with Washington and other major pow­ers have been thrust under the media spotlight especially after the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson made a historic call at Da Nang. But these just embody Vietnam's pragmatic, intensive and multifaceted diplomacy.

Since the 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Vietnamese government has become more pragmatic in diplomacy and is more willing to send officials to other countries and make its interna­tional presence felt. In the process, Viet­nam's cooperative relations with China, the US, Japan, India and Russia have become increasingly comprehensive. Vietnam's expanded diplomatic activi­ties are a result of the country's Doi Moi (Renovation) policy and are driven by its need for economic and social development.

Vietnam's Doi Moi policy started in the 1980s and gained impetus in the 1990s as the country got more involved in regional integration and globalization. Hanoi's participation in the ASEAN in 1995, APEC in 1998 and WTO in 2007 can be regarded as milestones in its integration into the international community.

Since then, Vietnam has accelerated the pace of reform and opening-up. Its Doi Moi policy has seen extraordinary achievements as well, with outstanding progress made in the economy, indus­trialization and urbanization. In this context, the goal of Vietnam's foreign exchange is clear: to meet the demand of national development and promote reforms and opening-up, for instance, attracting foreign capital and advanced technology to build more factories in the country.

Vietnam's diplomacy has also become more tactful. This is related to the Beijing-Hanoi row on the South China Sea. Though the Vietnamese government reiterated the need to rein in differences and empha­sized the importance of Beijing-Hanoi talks, which apparently can alleviate tensions in the region, the country hasn't changed its intention to interna­tionalize the South China Sea issue. It has become more anxious in expecting the US and Japan to intervene since 2010.

Vietnam also hopes to get support from the US, Japan, India and Russia in developing its navy and air force. Washington's lifting of a ban on arms sales to Vietnam has created more favorable conditions for the lat­ter to purchase weapons from diverse channels.

A tactful Vietnam will not become a part of Washington's Indo-Pacific strategy irrespective of the cost it has to pay. There are also objective reasons to keep Vietnam from being a member of the Quad.

To begin with, the Beijing-Hanoi relationship carries much weight for Vietnam. Both are developing socialist countries. Their state-to-state and party-to-party relations are pragmatic and stable. The Beijing-Hanoi party-to-party relationship has led to an improvement in bilateral ties and promoted progress in trade, investment, infrastructure, cultural exchange and security coop­eration. Vietnam's relations with the US, Japan, Australia and India cannot be so substantive. For instance, while Sino-Vietnamese bilateral trade volume reached $100 billion in 2017, the figure with India was $7.63 billion.

Washington's ambiguous Indo-Pacific strategy aims to counter China. Pragmatic dialogue and collaboration among the US, Japan, Australia and India are not often seen. It's impossible for Hanoi to jeopardize its relations with Beijing for intangible benefits. In addition, there are conflicting values between Vietnam and the West.

All in all, what Hanoi is doing now is nothing more than trying to strike a balance among Washington, Tokyo, New Delhi and Canberra. The only change is that the country has become more tactful with its integration into the international community.

The author is a research fellow with the Charhar Institute and the College of ASEAN Studies at Guangxi University for Nationalities. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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