Closer ties with US do not mean that Vietnam is planning to turn its back on China

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2016/5/19 23:53:02

US President Barack Obama intends to make clear that Vietnam is a centerpiece of his administration's Asia-Pacific pivot, according to a recent report by the Washington Times. Ahead of Obama's landmark visit to Vietnam, the Western media has devoted themselves to analyzing his upcoming tour from a geopolitical perspective.

Vietnam is moving closer to the US, a natural process for the development of an export-oriented economy in Southeast Asia, but this does not mean Hanoi intends to estrange itself from China, as that would risk damaging economic ties with an important trade partner.

While the Western media has focused on geopolitical games, Vietnam's strategy seems to be more practical. Since the US restored diplomatic ties with Vietnam in 1995, the relationship between the former enemies has been improving. The US has become an important export market for Vietnam-made goods and a major source of foreign direct investment into the country.

Developing its relations with the US can help Vietnam to further its national interests, and benefit its domestic enterprises in a wide range of sectors such as textiles, shoes and electronics. However, there is no reason for jealousy or panic in China about the increasingly close US-Vietnam ties. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said last week that China was happy to see Vietnam develop normal relations with the US.

It is easy to understand where such confidence comes from. A close economic relationship has been established between China and Vietnam. Now Vietnam enjoys a trade surplus with China based on a wide range of products, making it impossible for the nation to turn away from China's fast-growing consumer market. Besides, Chinese enterprises have increased their investment in Vietnam's manufacturing sector and infrastructure projects. This can help to promote industrialization and modernization in Vietnam. It is hard to imagine how much political resources would be needed to tempt Vietnam to estrange itself from either China or the US. All the attempts would be in vain, if the US intends to utilize Vietnam to contain China.

The report from the Washington Times said while Vietnam can't choose its neighbors, it can certainly choose its friends. It would be dangerous if Washington has the same idea and strives to "make friends" with Vietnam to distinguish between its circle of friends and those of China. Efforts to form cliques cannot help the US increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. Instead, Washington may need to play a more pragmatic role in improving local infrastructure and promoting regional economic development.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: It's Your Business, Eye on The Economy

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