South China Sea Disputes Keep Vietnam-China Relations Cold

[ISEAS Perspective 22/2013] Despite recent significant improvements in bilateral relations, a number of problems still exist which can threaten Vietnam’s relations with China in the long term. Disputes in the South China Sea [Biển Đông, or East Sea, in Vietnamese] stand out as the single most challenging one. Resurfaced recently, the disputes have not only remained the most serious sticking point in bilateral relations but have even pitted the two countries against each other in deadly armed confrontation on a number of occasions as well. The management and resolution (if ever) of the disputes therefore bear significant implications for the future relations between the two growing economies.

This paper provides an analysis of how the South China Sea disputes have been a constant irritant to Vietnam—China relations. Accordingly, the paper will first be examining factors that make the disputes intractable. Next, it will review joint efforts to manage and resolve the disputes, their successes as well as limitations. Finally, it will discuss some recent developments which show how serious a challenge the disputes have been to bilateral relations. Continue reading “South China Sea Disputes Keep Vietnam-China Relations Cold”

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Vietnam’s balancing act

[American Review Magazine – Nov 2012]  In early 1833, a United States delegation led by Edmund Roberts arrived in Vietnam on the sloop-of-war USS Peacock, which anchored in Vung Lam Bay, off modern Phu Yen province. As a “special confidential agent” of President Andrew Jackson, Roberts proposed to sign a treaty of commerce with the Nguyen Dynasty but failed in his mission due to misunderstandings caused by language barriers and Vietnam’s isolationist policy. It took the two countries another 166 years to conclude a bilateral trade agreement. Roberts’s failed mission was one of the many missed opportunities that, right from the early days of their interaction, prevented Vietnam and the United States from establishing a stronger relationship. Continue reading “Vietnam’s balancing act”

Pre-Colonial Vietnam’s Development under Sino-Vietnamese Cultural and Economic Interactions

[International Studies] This article seeks to provide an analysis of how cultural and economic interactions with China affected Vietnam’s course of national development and its perception of China in the pre-colonial period. The article argues that due to geographical proximity, a far more powerful China had long been a permanent and major source of military threat for Vietnam. Nevertheless, in the domain of cultural and economic interactions between the two asymmetric powers, China’s influence on Vietnam appeared to be mixed, sometimes threatening but sometimes beneficial for the smaller power in certain aspects. Therefore, a more balanced account of Vietnam’s relations with China in the pre-colonial era should take into consideration not only the antagonistic rivalry perpetuated by the ‘tyranny of geography,’ but also the resilient cultural and economic symbiosis made possible by the condition of geographical proximity between the two countries. Continue reading “Pre-Colonial Vietnam’s Development under Sino-Vietnamese Cultural and Economic Interactions”

Vietnam’s strategic trajectory: From internal development to external engagement

[ASPI Strategic Insights] Vietnam has recently emerged as a key player in Southeast Asia. Strategically located at the heart of the Asia–Pacific region, Vietnam is home to a population of 88 million people and a promising economy that has registered an average annual growth rate of around 7% over the past decade. Since adopting the ‘Doi Moi’ (‘renovation’) policy in the late 1980s, Vietnam has also been pursuing an active and constructive foreign policy aimed at diversifying and multilateralising its external relations. Vietnam’s quest for deeper international economic integration and a greater political role has therefore brought the international community an opportunity to engage the once‑pariah state in building a peaceful, stable and prosperous regional order.  Continue reading “Vietnam’s strategic trajectory: From internal development to external engagement”