Harris' Vietnam stunt an insult to Hanoi's wisdom: Global Times editorial
Published: Aug 25, 2021 10:38 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

US Vice President Kamala Harris is continuing her trip of sowing discord in Vietnam. She told Vietnamese leaders that "we need to find ways to pressure, raise the pressure… on Beijing… and to challenge, its bullying and excessive maritime claims." The Associated Press (AP) published a report entitled "Harris calls on Vietnam to join in opposing China 'bullying.'"

The US has been dreaming to incite Vietnam to confront China. For Washington, it couldn't be better if a new war between Beijing and Hanoi breaks out. Harris proposed to elevate the US' relationship with Vietnam from a "comprehensive partnership" to a "strategic partnership." She expressed support for sending Vietnam an additional US Coast Guard cutter, "to help defend its security interests in the South China Sea," AP reported on Wednesday. 

During her trip, Harris also announced the launch, in Hanoi, of a new Southeast Asia regional office of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that the US will provide an additional 1 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines to Vietnam.

The US wants to use "bread and circuses" to lure Vietnam into a strategic confrontation with China that Vietnam simply cannot afford. This means that Washington is treating Vietnamese people as fools. Such an attempt is an insult to Vietnam's basic political wisdom.

The interactions between Beijing and Hanoi didn't stop over the past two days. The COVID-19 vaccines from the Chinese People's Liberation Army to aid the Vietnamese military arrived in Hanoi on Monday, one day before Harris' arrival. Moreover, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh told the Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam Xiong Bo on Tuesday that Vietnam does not align itself with one country against another, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

Sharp-sighted Vietnam is trying to gain advantages from both China and the US by staying "neutral." It tilts toward the US strategically to exert pressure on China so that it can hold more bargaining chips over maritime disputes with China. On the other hand, Hanoi is vigorously developing comprehensive economic cooperation with Beijing. It is carefully maintaining a balance between the two countries' disputes and the overall bilateral relationship. In this way, it can make the US constantly enhance its investment in Vietnam with the slim hope of undermining China-Vietnam ties. Obviously, Vietnam has benefited a lot from the situation in the South China Sea.

China is Vietnam's largest trading partner - only that China has a trade surplus with Vietnam. China and Vietnam treat each other on an equal footing and mutually benefit. In comparison, the US, a country that wishes to make use of Vietnam the most, has gained some superficial closeness with its ex-enemy, yet the US' trade deficit with Vietnam is the third largest for the US. Washington's goal of transforming Hanoi into an actual ally against Beijing remains unattainable.

Vietnam is the only Southeast Asian country that shares both land and maritime borders with China. The total economic scale of Vietnam is roughly the same as that of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Acting as a pioneer in US strategy against China is equivalent to strategic suicide for Vietnam. Seducing or compelling Vietnam to "commit suicide" is wishful thinking of the US. 

From the examples of Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, it is clear how ineffective the US strategic containment against China is. It is, to some extent, more like psychological comfort and self-entertainment of US elites. Many of the US maneuvers can hardly harm China's momentum of rapid development, nor can they push other countries to turn their cooperation with China into confrontation. 

The public opinions in the US and some other Western countries have strategically overstated Harris' trip to Singapore and Vietnam. She has been too busy buffering the negative impact of the US' humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan. As China grows stronger, Southeast Asian countries have been gradually shifting their previous stance between China and the US, as well as moving toward China. The US cannot change the major trend. Whether Harris comes or not, the trend has already taken shape.