Vietnam News

Vietnam’s bamboo diplomacy with China

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Hanoi is keen to maintain good relations with Beijing, but remains wary of its giant neighbor

Vietnam has become the only nation this year to host the leaders of the world’s two most powerful nations, underscoring the remarkable rise of a once-impoverished and war-stricken nation. 

Vietnam’s famed “bamboo” diplomacy shifted into high gear this week, as the Southeast Asian nation hosted Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping to mark a “new historic milestone” in bilateral relations. 

The high-profile visit came just months after Hanoi also hosted US President Joseph Biden, who oversaw the signing of a new comprehensive strategic partnership pact.

Accompanied by Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, Xi was greeted with a 21-gun salute, a military band serenade, and a score of smiling, flag-waving children in Hanoi.

This was Xi’s first to visit Vietnam in six years, and only fourth overseas trip since cementing his third term in office last year. His two-day state visit was not short of symbolism. 

The Chinese paramount leader laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, who heavily relied on Chinese Communist Party support during one of the most tumultuous anti-colonial conflicts in the 20th century.

He also met with all of Vietnam’s top leaders, including Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, the chairman of Vietnam’s National Assembly, Vuong Dinh Hue, and President Vo Van Thuong.

In a 16-page joint statement, the neighboring states vowed to strengthen cooperation in all major dimensions of bilateral relations, thus in effect putting China atop Vietnam’s pecking order of foreign relations.

The two sides announced the establishment of a strategic China-Vietnam “community of ‘shared future’ to promote the upgrading of China-Vietnam relations,” according to Xi during his meeting with Hue. 

Crucially, the two communist nations also underscored their shared concern over a “color revolution” at home, a thinly veiled criticism of allegedly Western-backed popular revolts against authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe and the Middle East in recent decades.

‘Political trust’

Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong hailed “new positioning of relations” and welcomed a historic opportunity to take Vietnam-China relations to “a new height” amid booming trade and investment ties.

The two sides agreed to “unceasingly consolidate political trust” and enhance bilateral relations “on the basis of mutual respect, equal and win-win cooperation.”

Nevertheless, Vietnam insisted on respect for each other’s “independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” in a subtle reference to long-standing maritime disputes between the two sides in the South China Sea.

By Richard Javad Heydarian – Asia Times – December 15, 2023

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