GT Voice: China-Vietnam trade synergy offers high degree of certainty
Published: Dec 11, 2023 10:29 PM
A cold-chain express train loaded with 875 tons of agricultural products leaves from Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on June 26, 2023. Photo: VCG

A cold-chain express train loaded with 875 tons of agricultural products leaves from Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on June 26, 2023. Photo: VCG

Chinese Ambassador to Vietnam Xiong Bo said China stands ready to further strengthen economic, trade and investment cooperation with Vietnam. The interconnectivity of the transportation infrastructure between China and Vietnam will become increasingly efficient, People's Daily reported on Monday.

The news that China and Vietnam are looking at further rail link cooperation has drawn public attention in recent days. Just days before Xiong's remarks, a Reuters report indicated in early December that China and Vietnam are working on a possible significant upgrade of their rail links to boost a line that crosses Vietnam's rare-earth heartland and reaches the country's top port in the north.

If the reported rail cooperation plan materializes and the two neighboring countries upgrade their rail link, the efficiency of bilateral economic and trade exchanges will be further improved. The railway will become an important driver of economic and trade cooperation, bringing more jobs and promoting local economic development.

The two countries' interest in and enthusiasm for railway construction is a manifestation of their confidence in the continuity and certainty of China-Vietnam economic and trade cooperation. Take a look at bilateral trade in recent years. Despite headwinds facing the global economy, economic cooperation between China and Vietnam has always been on a steady rise, which is one of the main sources of their confidence in their trade prospects.

For many years, China has been Vietnam's largest trading partner, while Vietnam is China's largest trading partner within ASEAN and its fourth-largest trading partner. 

Bilateral trade surpassed $2 billion in 2000, reaching $50 billion in 2012 and exceeding $100 billion in 2017. Bilateral trade surpassed the $200 billion mark for two consecutive years in 2021 and 2022. In the first 10 months of this year, bilateral trade already reached $185.1 billion.

The fundamental reason why China-Vietnam economic relations can maintain continuous upward momentum is that the two economies are highly complementary, and both sides share the common understanding that bilateral trade cooperation can achieve mutual benefits and win-win results. 

China is the world's largest manufacturing power with complete industry chains and technological advantages in many sectors, and Vietnam is rich in agricultural, aquatic and mineral resources. The two countries can meet each other's needs through economic and trade cooperation. 

Over the past few years, Vietnam has emerged as a promising manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia, but this does not change the nature of the economic and trade complementarity between China and Vietnam. Vietnam is in the early stage of industrialization, with the processing sector on a rapid rise with imports of intermediate goods. Therefore, there is more industrial complementarity in terms of upstream and downstream cooperation between China and Vietnam, with intermediate goods accounting for about 60 percent of bilateral trade, according to media reports.

However, challenges do exist. For instance, there have always been Western forces trying to drive a wedge between China and Vietnam by hyping the topic of industrial substitution. But due to the difficulties facing those Western economies, there is growing awareness that relying on the developed economies to achieve economic development is unlikely to be guaranteed.

Compared with the competition advocated by external forces, China-Vietnam cooperation seems more reliable and sustainable in terms of its foundations and momentum.

Both sides can enhance their economic and trade complementarities by creating more favorable trade environments and offering policy support for each other's companies. Additionally, they can further explore new trade areas and promote regional cooperation.

China-Vietnam economic cooperation could also serve as a demonstration model for cooperation between Southeast Asia and China. Against the backdrop of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area, the vitality in China-Vietnam trade can be extended to more Southeast Asian economies and thus contribute further to regional economic integration and prosperity.