The centrality of Vietnam for stability in Asia

2020 is a landmark year for Vietnam in the international arena. It is assuming a two-year-long non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, which includes two months as president of the highest decision-making body of world politics.

 At the regional level, Vietnam is holding the annual Chair of ASEAN, the main institution for regional cooperation and governance responsible for the wellbeing of 650 million people.

From global to local, this is Vietnam’s signature year when it can stamp its distinct vision and capabilities on the emerging landscape of foreign affairs. In terms of timing and suitability, the diplomatic high offices Vietnam is taking over could not have had a more deserving standard bearer.

Vietnam is riding high with sustained high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of over 7 percent, the highest in ASEAN, as well as record levels of incoming Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) worth $30 billion in 2019. The frenetic pace at which new industrial projects and construction activities are springing up around the country is a visible sign for every visitor that Vietnam is booming under favourable global conditions and a robust domestic regulatory environment.

The trade war between China and the United States, which began when President Donald Trump came to power in 2017, has offered an unprecedented opportunity for manufacturing sector growth in Vietnam. Investors who are wary about outsourcing to mainland China have diverted funds to Vietnam. Companies from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China itself are setting up or expanding electronics and electrical equipment production in Vietnam, which enjoys friendly relations with the US and is hence a safer point of origin to export to the American market.

But Vietnam has far more going for it than the lucky ‘trade diversion’ from China due to the Trump factor. Vietnam’s underlying structural fundamentals are solid. With a population of 96 million, it is the third largest within ASEAN. Fertility rates had dipped below 2.0 at the turn of the millennium, but have now gone back up. The sight of innumerable tiny tots and newborn babies in public spaces across the country is a hopeful sign that Vietnam has the demographic basis to take it from middle income to high income status in the future.

Apart from economic strength, Vietnam also has the means to defend its sovereign interests. According to the 2019 Global Firepower rankings, Vietnam is the twenty-third most powerful military out of 137 nations, and the second strongest in ASEAN after Indonesia (ranked sixteenth).

The geopolitical location of Vietnam, which has a long seaboard overlooking vital waterways, is an asset for ensuring maritime peace. The very shape of Vietnam, looking like a drawn bow with ports like Da Nang, Nha Trang and Cam Ranh projecting into the central Indo-Pacific, matters for balance of power in the region.

At national memorials and monuments across Vietnam, the spirit of anti-imperialism is enshrined so that younger generations of Vietnamese remember that the fruits of the economic growth and security they enjoy today owe to the extraordinary sacrifice and genius of previous generations that endured superpower bombings and massacres.

In estimating the strategic capabilities of Vietnam, what matters more is not the formal numbers of how many battle tanks or submarines it possesses, but rather the spirit of independence and opposition to hegemony that its people have.

Knowledge that Vietnam, which used to be a ‘third world country’, defeated superpowers through will, determination and an unyielding sense of struggle is embedded in its contemporary society. That is why Vietnam will not kowtow to any new empire.

 

In international relations, it is theorised that small powers often have no option but to ‘bandwagon’ (accept a subordinate position) to big powers in order to survive. But unlike some weak ASEAN states, Vietnam has never ‘bandwagoned’ to Western or Asian masters.

Vietnam now is in a position to promote dialogue, ease tensions and confrontations, and seek fair, suitable solutions to issues that threaten regional and global peace and security, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

Vietnam should enhance strategic cooperation with likeminded countries. Their joint economic connectivity projects and pooling of naval resources can send a subtle but unmistakable signal that Asian can take care of their own security problems without depending on the whims of extra-regional powers.

We are now in an economically interdependent second decade of the twenty-first century. Concepts like military alliances or coalitions for ‘hard counterbalancing’ of aggressive big powers are impractical and outdated. What is required instead is a loose ‘soft balancing’ regional architecture that is selective but not explicitly confrontational.

In the current day and age, the threat facing middle powers like Vietnam is not military invasion or physical occupation by a hegemonic state. Territorial defence is not the main problem. Rather, the challenge is erosion of sovereign spaces and squeezing out from natural spheres of influence through naval pressure tactics. If Vietnam enhances its maritime power projection capabilities in the East Sea and engages with groupings committed to stability in the broader Indo-Pacific, it will be a substantial contribution to peace.

Uncle Ho Chi Minh changed not just the fate of Vietnam and its neighbours but of entire world history. Vietnam’s leadership on the world stage in 2020 should be the harbinger of greater things to come. - VNS

Sreeram Chaulia

Sreeram Chaulia is a Professor and Dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India. His latest book is ‘Trumped: Emerging Powers in a Post-American World’

Vietnam chairs first meeting of ASEAN Committee in New York

Vietnam chairs first meeting of ASEAN Committee in New York

The first meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Committee was held in New York on January 10, focusing discussion on activities and priorities of ASEAN member states this year.

ASEAN Chairmanship: For a cohesive and responsive ASEAN

ASEAN Chairmanship: For a cohesive and responsive ASEAN

Advancing ASEAN’s contribution to maintaining regional peace, security and stability has been identified as one of five key priorities for Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship 2020, wrote Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh.

 
 

Other News

.
Friendship insignia presented to Spanish Ambassador
Friendship insignia presented to Spanish Ambassador
POLITICSicon  24/07/2020 

Ambassador of Spain to Vietnam María Jesús Figa López-Palop was honoured on July 23 with the “For Peace and Friendship Among Nations” insignia from the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO).

Vietnam helps boost ASEAN's economy amid COVID-19: Malaysian press
Vietnam helps boost ASEAN's economy amid COVID-19: Malaysian press
POLITICSicon  24/07/2020 

Amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam, as ASEAN Chair, has managed to formulate a regional comprehensive economic recovery plan, the New Straits Times of Malaysia reported.

Analysts upbeat about Vietnam - NZ strategic partnership
Analysts upbeat about Vietnam - NZ strategic partnership
POLITICSicon  24/07/2020 

The Asia Media Centre in New Zealand has run an article highlighting the upgrading of ties between Vietnam and NZ into a strategic partnership on July 22, expressing its trust in the prospects for the bilateral relationship in the future

Vietnam backs tackling terrorist challenges in Syria on basis of int’l laws
Vietnam backs tackling terrorist challenges in Syria on basis of int’l laws
POLITICSicon  24/07/2020 

Vietnam has emphasised the need for cooperation among concerned parties to deal with challenges from terrorist groups in Syria based on respect for international laws and UN resolutions.

25 years of joining ASEAN: Vietnam is on the path of integration
25 years of joining ASEAN: Vietnam is on the path of integration
POLITICSicon  23/07/2020 

The comprehensive and extensive integration into ASEAN is a way for Vietnam to actively participate in global integration.

Canada court rules US 'not safe' for asylum seekers
Canada court rules US 'not safe' for asylum seekers
POLITICSicon  23/07/2020 

The US violates the human rights of asylum seekers by imprisoning them, a Canadian judge rules.

China-US row: Fugitive researcher 'hiding in San Francisco consulate'
China-US row: Fugitive researcher 'hiding in San Francisco consulate'
POLITICSicon  23/07/2020 

The researcher lied about her military background, the FBI says, amid a row over Chinese consulates.

Trump to send 'surge' of hundreds of federal agents to cities
Trump to send 'surge' of hundreds of federal agents to cities
POLITICSicon  23/07/2020 

Talking tough on crime with an election looming, Mr Trump vows to end the "bloodshed".

Fascinating murals on show in Hanoi
Fascinating murals on show in Hanoi
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTSicon  23/07/2020 

A group of young volunteers and teachers are transforming plain walls on a dyke on the outskirts of Hanoi capital into beautiful murals which showcase the nature, history, and daily life of the local area.

RoK to grant 90 scholarships for training of ASEAN talents
RoK to grant 90 scholarships for training of ASEAN talents
POLITICSicon  23/07/2020 

The Government of the Republic of Korea (RoK) will provide a total of 90 doctoral scholarships for candidates from ASEAN countries to study at six prestigious Korean universities over the next five years.

Vietnam, New Zealand lift bilateral ties to strategic partnership
Vietnam, New Zealand lift bilateral ties to strategic partnership
POLITICSicon  22/07/2020 

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern announced the elevation of their countries’ relations to a strategic partnership during their online talks on July 22.

Vietnam values comprehensive ties with Japan: Defence Minister
Vietnam values comprehensive ties with Japan: Defence Minister
POLITICSicon  23/07/2020 

Japan will ease entry restriction for Vietnam and Thailand this month, said Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu on July 22.

Malaysian scholars speak highly of Vietnam as Chair of ASEAN
Malaysian scholars speak highly of Vietnam as Chair of ASEAN
POLITICSicon  22/07/2020 

Embracing ASEAN has internationalised Vietnam, while Vietnam has also contributed to ASEAN’s miracle, said a Malaysian scholar on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Vietnam’s admission to the ASEAN (July 28, 1995).

Vietnam asks for better sea dispute management, enhanced trade cooperation with China
Vietnam asks for better sea dispute management, enhanced trade cooperation with China
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  22/07/2020 

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has expressed concerns over the recent complicated developments over the East Sea with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on Tuesday.

25 years of joining ASEAN: Vietnam is on the path of integration
25 years of joining ASEAN: Vietnam is on the path of integration
POLITICSicon  22/07/2020 

The comprehensive and extensive integration into ASEAN is a way for Vietnam to actively participate in global integration.

Brunei stresses significance of UNCLOS to dispute settlement in East Sea
Brunei stresses significance of UNCLOS to dispute settlement in East Sea
MARITIME SOVEREIGNTYicon  22/07/2020 

The Brunei Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Brunei Darussalam) has reaffirmed its commitment to the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Vietnam, New Zealand aim to lift bilateral ties to new high
Vietnam, New Zealand aim to lift bilateral ties to new high
POLITICSicon  22/07/2020 

Online high-level talks between Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern, 

Vietnam an invaluable member of ASEAN Community: Philippine Ambassador
Vietnam an invaluable member of ASEAN Community: Philippine Ambassador
POLITICSicon  22/07/2020 

Vietnam is an invaluable member of the ASEAN Community and has actively shepherded a number of important initiatives and led efforts that continue to enrich the ASEAN agenda and experience, 

Steering Committee for Vietnam-China Bilateral Cooperation holds 12th meeting
Steering Committee for Vietnam-China Bilateral Cooperation holds 12th meeting
POLITICSicon  22/07/2020 

Vietnam and China defined major tasks in the time ahead to beef up their comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in a sustainable way, 

Vietnam, New Zealand renew Strategic Engagement Plan on Education
Vietnam, New Zealand renew Strategic Engagement Plan on Education
POLITICSicon  22/07/2020 

Vietnam and New Zealand have renewed their Strategic Engagement Plan on Education for the period from 2020 to 2023.

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN