The US recently elevated its relationship with Vietnam to a comprehensive strategic partnership, sparking discussions about its intentions. Critics argue that President Joe Biden seeks to hedge against potential future escalations with China. Experts opine that these maneuvers only highlight the true rationale behind Washington’s overtures to Hanoi.
Despite this, Chinese authorities seem unperturbed by the US-Vietnam developments. They reiterate the depth and uniqueness of the bond between China and Vietnam, emphasizing its foundation in socialist solidarity. Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, cited Vietnam’s prioritization of its relationship with China in international diplomacy. China’s stance is clear: bilateral relations between countries shouldn’t destabilize regional peace or target third parties.
President Biden, during a news conference in Vietnam, denied any intention of instigating a “cold war” with China. He stressed the objective of harmonizing relations between the US and China. Yet, many US media outlets hinted at the underlying strategy to counteract China’s growing influence in the region. This is evident in the US administration’s measures to curtail China’s scientific and technological advancements, especially in domains like semiconductors. Additionally, ongoing US military activities near sensitive Chinese regions add to the speculations.
Lü Xiang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, argued that without US-China tensions, Washington wouldn’t be as invested in Vietnam. Reflecting on past interactions, Xu Liping of the same academy recalled the US’s eagerness to elevate ties with Vietnam, while Vietnam adopted a more cautious approach. The US’s Indo-Pacific strategy underscores Vietnam’s importance, particularly in the realm of rare earths and semiconductors, given the nation’s vast deposits of these minerals.
Despite these ambitions, realizing them would be a lengthy and expensive process, as exemplified by delays in TSMC’s Arizona plant construction. Some believe that assisting Vietnam in advancing its semiconductor industry could eventually benefit China due to the significant Chinese market and the solid relationship between China and Vietnam.
A week prior to Biden’s Vietnam visit, Liu Jianchao of the CPC Central Committee visited Vietnam. During this visit, Nguyen Phu Trong, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee, expressed gratitude for China’s long-standing support to Vietnam.
US media claims suggest that this enhanced US-Vietnam alliance equals Beijing’s or Moscow’s ties with Hanoi. However, experts assert that the depth and trust inherent in Vietnam-China relations remain unparalleled. The high frequency of engagements between Vietnamese leaders and their Chinese counterparts, especially when there are upcoming US interactions, reflects China’s confidence in the relationship’s strength.
While maritime disputes in the South China Sea persist, both nations aim for resolution through negotiations. Lü emphasized Vietnam’s unlikely choice to jeopardize its security or ideological alignment with China by siding unequivocally with the US.
Further, the New York Times unveiled Vietnam’s covert plans to procure arms from Russia, defying US sanctions. Such reports underscore the limits of the US-Vietnam partnership and the US’s habitual interference in internal matters of other nations. Recently, a terror attack in Vietnam was linked to a US-based organization, emphasizing the complexities of the US-Vietnam dynamic.
Conclusively, while Vietnam might leverage relationships with major powers for its growth, the nation recognizes the ideological divide with Washington. A robust, enduring bond with China remains pivotal for Vietnam’s socialist vision.