Obama's Hanoi trip bolsters US’ China containment

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-24 1:11:05

US President Barack Obama announced the lifting of the 41-year-old arms embargo against Vietnam Monday, withdrawing the last ban that had been left since the Vietnam War.

Obama claimed that this move is not aimed at China, yet this is only a very poor lie which reveals the truth - exacerbating the strategic antagonism between Washington and Beijing.

Trade in arms between the US and Vietnam, two nations with completely different political systems, is of great symbolic significance. Obviously, Obama is planning to create some diplomatic legacies before leaving office, as well as further promote the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. When the US has an urgent need to contain China in the South China Sea, the standards of its so-called human rights can be relaxed.

Vietnam is playing a particularly special role in the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy.

There are three focal points in the White House's Vietnam policy. First of all, Washington is trying to keep disseminating American values in the Southeast Asian region through underlining human rights and democracy. Moreover, it is taking advantage of Vietnam to stir up more troubles in the South China Sea. Apart from that, the US is promoting trade ties with Hanoi and reconstructing the production chain based on the Trans-Pacific Partnership to help Washington benefit from the process of its rebalance.

The three strategic emphases embody the three nets that the US is knitting around China - ideology, security, economy and trade, as well as Washington's ultimate goal, which is cementing US dominance in the area.

The lifting of the arms ban on Vietnam is related to the three nets. Its realistic significance is increasing trust and collaboration between Washington and Hanoi. Although the US has removed the arms embargo, it is still unlikely that Vietnam will import substantial quantities of weapons from the US for the moment. Hanoi's current weapons systems are mainly Russia-made. Vietnam is hence incapable of achieving a short-term transformation over either personnel training or logistics support. However, the possibility of Vietnam purchasing a certain amount of arms from the US, especially lethal maritime weaponry, cannot be excluded. Vietnam will thus be involved in the US-dominated regional security system.

Another realistic significance of the US lifting the arms embargo lies in the consideration that it may prompt Hanoi to buy more US products in the days to come. During Obama's tour, the two sides inked deals worth $16 billion.

Vietnam has already become the fastest-growing economy in ASEAN, and has turned itself from a global shoe-manufacturing hub into an international main production nation of cellphone parts.

Therefore, when Beijing pays high attention to US military involvement in the South China Sea, we should also cast our eyes to our neighboring economic and trade circle. How to consolidate China's current status in the global production chain, provide more driving forces to its own transformation through carrying out the One Belt and One Road initiative matters to China's future position in Asia, and is our starting point to keep playing strategic games with the US.

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