In the third of a four-part series on Vietnam’s recently concluded 13th Party Congress, Amb Pham Quang Vinh assessed the foreign policy implications of the congress’s political report and explained how Hanoi will conduct its relations with the world’s foremost superpowers. Amb Vinh also highlighted the opportunities and challenges in Vietnam-US and Vietnam-China relations.
VIETNAM STUDIES PROGRAMME WEBINAR
Tuesday, 2 March 2020 – The ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute organised a webinar on “Vietnam’s 13th Party Congress: Vietnam Amid the US-China Rivalry” on Tuesday, delivered by Amb Pham Quang Vinh. Amb Vinh worked in Vietnam’s foreign service for over 38 years (September 1980 – December 2018), and was former ambassador to the United States and former vice foreign minister. Amb Vinh is also the longest-serving ASEAN SOM Leader for Vietnam (2007-2014), and has been accorded Vietnam’s highest diplomatic rank of Senior Ambassador. This webinar was the third of a four-part series on Vietnam’s recently concluded 13th Party Congress.
Amb Vinh emphasised that Vietnam’s foreign policy must be examined in the context of the country’s overall development agenda. Several foreign policy elements were adopted or reiterated at the party congress, including the multi-lateralisation and diversification of foreign relations; cooperation based on international law and mutual benefits; proactive and extensive global integration and regional integration; and being a reliable partner and an active and responsible member of the international community. Amb Vinh noted that the congress political report also formalised Vietnam’s proactive approach to multilateral diplomacy, in particular its desire to help build international institutions and norms in order to enhance the international political and economic order.
With regard to the two superpowers, Amb Vinh said that Vietnam considers the United States and China as important partners of both Vietnam and the region. Vietnam does not see the need to make a binary choice between the two, and seeks good relations with both superpowers. While challenges in the Vietnam-US and Vietnam-China relationships would invariably arise, Amb Vinh noted that there are mechanisms which have been developed to help manage differences between Vietnam and the superpowers.
Improving and deepening its relationships with the superpowers, a policy outlined in the recent party congress’s political report, is important for the development and security of Vietnam. In addition to being an economic power, China is also an important market for Vietnamese goods and an important part of the regional supply chain. The United States likewise is an important strategic and economic partner for both Vietnam and the region. This is not to say that Vietnam-US and Vietnam-China relations are without their challenges, Amb Vinh noted – potential flashpoints in the Vietnam-US relationship include the ongoing trade imbalance as well as issues of human rights, while Vietnam continues to have differences with China in the South China Sea and Mekong River.
The webinar concluded with a Q&A session that discussed issues ranging from Vietnam’s relations with other regional “middle powers” such as Japan and Australia, prospects of Vietnam becoming a Quad+ member, as well as the role of ASEAN in mediating the US-China rivalry in the region.