The Vietnam-US-China Triangle: New Dynamics and Implications


[ISEAS Perspective] CPV General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s recent visit to Washington has been praised by both sides as a “historic” landmark in bilateral relations (The White House, 2015). However, in order to gain a more nuanced evaluation of the visit’s significance, the visit needs to be considered within the broader regional context, and against the backdrop of recent changes in the Vietnam-US-China triangle.

This paper seeks to analyze the new dynamics in this triangular relationship and their implications. By adopting a three-level analysis approach, it will examine three of the most important factors at the systemic, national and sub-national levels which currently shape the relationship from a Vietnamese perspective. These factors are the increasing strategic competition between the US and China, the level of strategic trust between Vietnam and the two powers, and Vietnam’s domestic political and economic developments. Continue reading “The Vietnam-US-China Triangle: New Dynamics and Implications”

The geo–politics of Vietnam–US rapprochement


[East Asia Forum] The General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong, is currently on an official visit to the United States. Later this year, President Obama is also expected to pay a return visit to Hanoi. The visits are among a series of notable events that mark the 20th anniversary of bilateral normalisation this year.

The development of bilateral ties between the two Cold War enemies over the past 20 years is impressive. The United States is currently Vietnam’s largest export market. In 2014, Vietnam’s US exports amounted to US$28.66 billion, accounting for almost one fifth of the country’s total exports. By 2014, the United States had also become the seventh largest foreign investor in Vietnam, with the stock of registered capital reaching more than US$10 billion. In terms of political and strategic ties, the two established a ‘comprehensive partnership’ in 2013. Continue reading “The geo–politics of Vietnam–US rapprochement”

Vietnam in the “go game” of China-Japan-US


[Translated from Vietnamese by Vietnamnet] During a recent trip of journalists from 14 countries in the Asia – Pacific region to the US, China, the Philippines and Singapore to discuss the East Sea (South China Sea) dispute, VietNamNet reporter Hoang Huong talked with two researchers with the Institute of Southeast Asian studies (ISEAS) of Singapore, Dr. Malcolm Cook (Canada) and Dr. Le Hong Hiep (Vietnam).

Hoang Huong: Relating to East Sea disputes, the Vietnamese Government has repeatedly emphasized “Vietnam will not rely on any country to fight against a third country”. With the current developments in the East Sea, what do you think about Vietnam’s policy? Continue reading “Vietnam in the “go game” of China-Japan-US”

Vietnam’s Leadership Transition in 2016: A Preliminary Analysis

hungdungsangtrong Source: Le Hong Hiep, “Vietnam’s Leadership Transition in 2016: A Preliminary Analysis”, ISEAS Perspective, No. 24, 18 May 2015.

Executive summary

The 12th national congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) will be held next year. Among the most important issues on the agenda will be the election of the Party’s Central Committee as well as its top leadership positions, including the Politburo and the General Secretary.

The CPV has been active in shaping the next Central Committee by training and rotating potential candidates to prepare them for the job. About half the current Central Committee will retire. This paper provides a list of potential candidates who will replace them. The actual and final list of candidates, however, is subject to the quiet yet intense competition and bargaining among different factions within the party. Continue reading “Vietnam’s Leadership Transition in 2016: A Preliminary Analysis”

Vietnam’s Alliance Politics in the South China Sea


Source: Le Hong Hiep, “Vietnam’s Alliance Politics in the South China Sea”, Trends in Southeast Asia, No.6, 2015.

Executive summary: 

– Vietnam has long maintained “no alliance” as a core principle in its foreign policy. However, as China becomes increasingly assertive in the South China Sea, there are indications that Vietnam is moving towards “alliance politics”, or efforts to forge close security and defense ties short of formal, treaty-bound alliances with key partners, to deal with the new situation.

– The need for such a shift in Vietnam’s China strategy became more relevant after the 2014 Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig crisis displayed the limitations in Hanoi’s hedging strategy. It deepened Vietnam’s perception of China as a serious threat and highlighted the irreconcilability between its twin goals of maintaining good relations with China and protecting its interests in the South China Sea. Continue reading “Vietnam’s Alliance Politics in the South China Sea”

Power shifts in Vietnam’s political system

In recent years the power of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has increased dramatically. If this trend continues, it may bear important implications for Vietnam’s political outlook.


[East Asia Forum] In recent years the power of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has increased dramatically. If this trend continues, it may bear important implications for Vietnam’s political outlook.

The Central Committee’s increasing power became evident in October 2012, when the Committee reversed an earlier decision by the Politburo to discipline Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for his mismanagement of the economy. Then, in May 2013, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong endorsed Nguyen Ba Thanh and Vuong Dinh Hue, who headed the Party’s Commission of Internal Affairs and Commission of Economic Affairs respectively, as additional Politburo members. But the Central Committee elected two other candidates. Continue reading “Power shifts in Vietnam’s political system”

Vietnam’s South China Sea Disputes with China: The Economic Determinants


[Korean Journal of Defense Analysis] This article seeks to provide an investigation of the influence of economic factors on the dynamics of Vietnam’s South China Sea disputes with China as well as the shaping of its related strategy. The article argues that since the late 1980s economic factors have contributed significantly and in different ways to the evolving dynamics of the bilateral disputes. Vietnam’s effective exploitation of the sea’s resources for economic development and China’s moves to counter such efforts have generated constant tensions in their bilateral relationship. Meanwhile, the growing economic interdependence between Vietnam and China is unlikely to provide pacifying effects on the disputes due to the asymmetrical nature of the relationship. Continue reading “Vietnam’s South China Sea Disputes with China: The Economic Determinants”

South China Sea disputes have global ramifications


[ABC Radio] China says it has moved a controversial oil rig from its original position in the South China Sea where its ships are clashing with Vietnamese vessels.

When a Vietnamese fishing boat sank close to the oil platform earlier this week, already heightened tensions were raised still further.

All ten crew were rescued but both countries accuse the other of aggression. Continue reading “South China Sea disputes have global ramifications”

Oil rig incident means Vietnam–China relations face a new test

[East Asia Forum] The current face-off between Vietnam and China over the latter’s installation of its deep-water oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 deep within Vietnam’s claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is probably the biggest test for their bilateral relations since normalisation in 1991. Continue reading “Oil rig incident means Vietnam–China relations face a new test”

China’s new wave of assertiveness in the South China Sea

[The Strategist/ The National Interest] Since 1 May, China has deployed the Haiyang Shiyou 981 floating oil rig off the central coast of Vietnam for an exploratory mission. Vietnam has been infuriated as the rig has been parked well within Vietnam’s lawful Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), just 120 nm from its maritime baseline. It has also caused widespread concerns across the region. Continue reading “China’s new wave of assertiveness in the South China Sea”