Vietnam’s new leaders will follow pragmatic foreign policy

By Yu Jincui Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-8 0:33:01

The Vietnamese parliament on Thursday elected Nguyen Xuan Phuc as the country's new prime minister, succeeding Nguyen Tan Dung. As Phuc was sworn in, Vietnam has concluded the rearrangement of four key leadership positions, with Nguyen Phu Trong keeping the position of secretary general of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan becoming the first chairwoman of the National Assembly and Tran Dai Quang elected as the new president.

Western observers tend to divide Vietnamese leaders into two factions: the pro-China versus the pro-West camp. Dung is regarded as a pro-US reformist. Phuc, perceived to be a close associate of Dung, is likely to follow Dung's foreign policy rhetoric, some outside analysts have predicted.

Given US President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Vietnam in May, speculation is running high over how the new leadership will sway between Beijing and Washington. However, this mentality disregards Hanoi's diplomatic thinking and overly emphasizes the competition between the leadership camps. 

Vietnam, like other Southeast Asian countries, won't pick sides between Washington and Beijing. Securing the best interests from the two sides will be a policy choice for many regional countries. Vietnam considers both countries of vital importance, but meanwhile takes a cautious attitude toward them.

For the CPV, political systems and ideological divergences are unavoidable obstacles between it and the US. The US is a pragmatist in pursuing national interests, but it won't give up attempts to advocate Western values. 

Vietnam and China have a special relationship in terms of ideology, trade and culture. China is Vietnam's largest trading partner and Vietnam is China's second-biggest trading partner in Southeast Asia. Bilateral trade volume has continued to climb. That said, frictions between China and Vietnam, especially over the South China Sea, will remain as Vietnam won't soften its stance over the issue.

Hanoi joined the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but at the same time it is a founding member of the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. This indicates its pragmatism.

Vietnam's new leadership will base its domestic and foreign policies on its national interests. Washington's strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific provides regional countries the opportunity to seek benefits from both sides.

The policy fluctuation of neighboring countries deserves China's attention. However, what is happening in Myanmar indicates the swing may happen in China's direction.

Posted in: Observer

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