[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”
[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”
[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”
[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”
[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”
[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?”
[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”
[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”
[Southeast Asian Affairs 2016] The year 2015 marked the eighty-fifth anniversary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and the fortieth anniversary of Vietnam’s reunification under its rule. After almost thirty years of economic transformation, Vietnam has achieved considerable progress in terms of socio-economic development, but challenges to the country remain substantial as the economy has not regained full steam since the 2008–9 slowdown. Politically, the CPV has also been faced with a testing period. Its performance-based legitimacy has been undermined, while popular support declined due to widespread corruption as well as various socio-economic problems that cast doubts on the efficiency and accountability of the state and party systems. In terms of foreign policy, Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea presents a major challenge for the party. While seeking to maintain a peaceful relationship with its northern neighbour, Vietnam also needs to look into new options to deal with the rising China threat. Continue reading “Vietnam in 2015: Challenges Persist amidst Hope for Change”
[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”