Pull and Push: Sino-Vietnamese Relations and President Xi’s Hanoi Visit

[ISEAS Perspective] Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Hanoi on 12-13 November 2017 after attending the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang. In a sense, the visit was remarkable as it was President Xi’s second visit to Hanoi within two years. In November 2015, when Mr Xi paid his first state visit to Vietnam as China’s supreme leader, bilateral relations were just recovering from the May 2014 oil rig crisis which sent bilateral ties to a record low in more than two decades. The 2017 visit appears, at least on the surface, to reinforce the trend of strengthening ties. However, the strategic context and the dynamics of bilateral ties have undergone important changes over the past two years, making it difficult to gauge the visit’s true significance to bilateral ties as well as the regional strategic landscape. Continue reading “Pull and Push: Sino-Vietnamese Relations and President Xi’s Hanoi Visit”

Making Deals: President Trump’s Visit to Vietnam

[ISEAS Perspective] 2017 has been an eventful and highly significant year for US-Vietnam relations. In May, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc became the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the Trump administration. Six months later, on 11-12 November, President Donald Trump paid a reciprocal state visit to Vietnam after attending the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang. Since Vietnam and the United States normalized ties in 1995, all American presidents have visited Vietnam during their term in office, but Mr Trump was the first to do so during his first year as president. Vietnam is also the first Southeast Asian country that Mr Trump has visited since his inauguration in February 2017. This is all the more significant considering that with President Barrack Obama’s state visit to Hanoi in May 2016, Vietnam has become the only Southeast Asian country since the end of the Cold War to receive two sitting US presidents in two consecutive years. Continue reading “Making Deals: President Trump’s Visit to Vietnam”

Vietnam’s New Wave of SOE Equitization: Drivers and Implications

[ISEAS Perspective] Over the past 30 years, the restructuring of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) has been a key component of Vietnam’s economic reforms under Doi Moi. Nevertheless, it remains largely a work in progress. Following the collapse of such major SOEs as Vinashin and Vinalines which had devastating impact on the economy, SOE reform has since 2011 resurfaced as an urgent task for the country. Continue reading “Vietnam’s New Wave of SOE Equitization: Drivers and Implications”

The Strategic Significance of Vietnam-Japan Ties

[ISEAS Perspective] The visit to Vietnam by Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko from 28 February to 5 March 2017 is a historical landmark in bilateral relations as it was the first visit by a Japanese monarch to the country. More notably, the visit took place just six weeks after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to Hanoi in January 2017. While Mr Abe’s visit focused on boosting bilateral economic, political and strategic ties, Emperor Akihito’s helped promote Japan’s “soft power” in Vietnam and contributed to the strengthening of social and cultural connections between the two peoples. The two sides have extolled the positive outcomes of the visits, with Vietnamese officials praising the relationship as being “stronger than ever before”. Continue reading “The Strategic Significance of Vietnam-Japan Ties”

Reviewing Vietnam’s Economic Reforms since the CPV’s Twelfth Congress

[ISEAS Perspective] Following the Communist Party of Vietnam’s (CPV) Twelfth Congress in January 2016, Vietnam’s National Assembly installed a new government led by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in April. His government will run the country at least until 2021 when a new government will be appointed after the CPV’s Thirteenth Congress. One of the major mandates of Mr Phuc and his government until then is to strengthen Vietnam’s economic performance, and to oversee its economic restructuring towards a more sustainable and innovative growth model. Continue reading “Reviewing Vietnam’s Economic Reforms since the CPV’s Twelfth Congress”

Can ASEAN Overcome the ‘Consensus Dilemma’ over the South China Sea?

[ISEAS Perspective] With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, it may be the right time now for it to do some soul-searching about its future. One key question worth pondering over is how the grouping is to become more effective in addressing emerging security challenges. Most worrisome is of course ASEAN’s present inability to present a common position on the South China Sea disputes. This weakness is due to the association’s long-held principle of consensus.

This essay analyses why and how the principle of consensus undermines ASEAN’s relevance and effectiveness, especially in addressing the South China Sea disputes. It proposes that in order to solve this problem, ASEAN should consider either procedural reforms or institutional innovations. Continue reading “Can ASEAN Overcome the ‘Consensus Dilemma’ over the South China Sea?”

Growing Fiscal Deficit Presents a Major Risk for Vietnam

[ISEAS Perspective] Vietnam’s fiscal position has deteriorated rapidly in recent years. For example, its budget deficit in 2015 increased 14 per cent to reach 256 trillion dongs (US$11.47 billion), equivalent to 6.1 per cent of its GDP (CafeF, 2016). The country’s increasingly precarious fiscal position has been identified by experts as an urgent matter that can generate potential risks for its long-term macro-economic stability (see, for example, Financial Times, 2016; VnExpress, 2015b). It also poses a considerable challenge for Vietnam’s new government in achieving socio-economic targets set by the recent twelfth congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). If the fiscal imbalance persists or worsens, it will generate serious economic, political and strategic implications for Vietnam. Solving or mitigating the problem, however, will require not only sound economic policies but also political determination to embrace challenging reforms on the part of the CPV. Continue reading “Growing Fiscal Deficit Presents a Major Risk for Vietnam”

Obama’s Visit to Vietnam Gave Many Important Immediate and Long-term Outcomes

[ISEAS Perspective] US President Barack Obama’s official visit to Vietnam on 22-25 May 2016 marks yet another milestone in the improvement of Vietnam-US relations. What the two former Cold War enemies achieved during the trip has brought them closer together than ever before, thereby laying the foundation for a stronger and more substantive partnership. In particular, the higher level of mutual trust has made them more comfortable in pursuing closer security and defense cooperation, and holds significant implications for the whole region.

This essay assesses the visit’s major outcomes and their implications. It reviews recent developments in the maturing partnership between Vietnam and the United States; considers the most important economic, political and strategic outcomes of President Obama’s visit; and offers an in-depth analysis of the US lifting of its lethal arms embargo on Vietnam by examining the major reasons for Washington’s decision and its implications for bilateral relations and for the wider region. Continue reading “Obama’s Visit to Vietnam Gave Many Important Immediate and Long-term Outcomes”

The TPP’s Impact on Vietnam: A Preliminary Assessment


Source: Lê Hồng Hiệp, “The TPP’s Impact on Vietnam: A Preliminary Assessment,” ISEAS Perspective, No. 63 Issue. 2015, 04/11/2015.


The conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) Agreement negotiations on 5 October 2015 has been hailed by the twelve participating countries as a landmark for regional economic integration. The agreement is also seen by many experts as having far-reaching regional and global strategic implications. As a member of the TPP, Vietnam will stand to benefit from the agreement both economically and strategically, but the country will also be faced with considerable challenges. How Vietnam will capitalize upon the opportunities and handle the challenges may shape the country’s economic, political and strategic trajectory for years to come. Continue reading “The TPP’s Impact on Vietnam: A Preliminary Assessment”

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”