- China and Vietnam created a sweeping partnership deal this week that Beijing hopes will pull the country away from its relationship with the U.S, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- Vietnam has deep distrust and resentment toward China and is fearful of potential future hostilities, and therefore likely made the partnership agreement somewhat superficially, experts told the DCNF.
- “The antagonism is centuries old and will not disappear just because this week Xi made a visit to the Vietnamese capital and smiled,” Gordon Chang, author and senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, told the DCNF. “I suspect the Vietnamese leadership was not entirely sincere when it agreed to ‘deepening cooperation’ with China.”
China’s recent partnership with Vietnam could be an attempt to pull the country away from its relations with the U.S., but Hanoi’s distrust of China could mean that the agreement is superficial, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
China and Vietnam signed a sweeping security cooperation agreement on Wednesday that Chinese President Xi Jinping says will create a “shared future” built on all fronts. Beijing hopes the new partnership will pull Vietnam closer to China and away from its alliance with Washington, but Hanoi likely made agreeances “superficially” as the country has a historical resentment for China and primarily wants to avoid future hostilities, foreign policy experts told the DCNF.
“Xi Jinping obviously saw Vietnam strengthen ties with the United States and Japan in recent years, and he wanted to counter Hanoi’s drift by showing everyone that China was still Vietnam’s most important partner,” Gordon Chang, author and senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, told the DCNF. “Yes, Hanoi has a pro-China faction, but because everybody there is Vietnamese, just about everyone hates the Chinese – and everyone, without exception, fears China.”
“The antagonism is centuries old and will not disappear just because this week Xi made a visit to the Vietnamese capital and smiled. Xi, however, is arrogant enough to believe his presence alone will bring Vietnam’s regime into line – on this, the Chinese ruler is delusional,” Chang said. “I suspect the Vietnamese leadership was not entirely sincere when it agreed to ‘deepening cooperation’ with China.”
Beijing applauded the new China-Vietnam cooperation agreement that it believes will increase security, economic and political cooperation, as well as strengthen the two countries’ socialist presence in southern Asia. The agreement also includes a clause for the two countries to work more closely on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.
Xi likely wanted assurances from Vietnamese leadership that it would not value its relationship with the U.S. over its new partnership with the Chinese and said that the two countries should work together to rebuff any “attempt to mess up the Asia Pacific,” making an apparent overture to the U.S. military strategy in the region, according to The New York Times and South China Morning Post. But the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is a much bigger threat to Vietnem, and Hanoi likely factored that into the agreement it made with China in the hopes of keeping future hostilities at bay, experts told the DCNF.
“Beijing loves to frame the United States as a colonialist provocateur,” Bryan Burack, senior China policy advisor at the Heritage Foundation, told the DCNF. “Of course, it’s actually Beijing that’s militarizing international waters and airspace, trying to steal other countries’ territory, and imposing unequal relationships on them.”
“With shared land and sea borders, China has historically posed a much greater security threat to Vietnam than the United States ever has. Vietnam’s leaders are also witnessing an emboldened PLA,” China Tech Threat Special Advisor Steve Coonen told the DCNF. “These factors are certainly part of Vietnam’s calculation. Such cooperative agreements can buy Vietnam a period of peace and stability.”
China and Vietnam have a deeply troubled history that has, at times, led to a full-scale military conflict.
China invaded Vietnam in 1979 and killed tens of thousands of people as punishment for Hanoi’s conquest of Cambodia, which at the time a was Beijing affiliate, according to the Hoover Institution. China and Vietnam have clashed multiple times in the South China Sea, notably in 1988 in the Johnson South Reef region, which resulted in a loss for Hanoi and dozens of casualties, according to The Diplomat.
“The Vietnamese strategic community has not forgotten the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, the 1988 conflict over Johnson South Reef and other incidents of PRC aggression. It is extremely wary of China,” Cleo Paskal, senior fellow on the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the DCNF. “Other countries do diplomacy differently than the U.S. – they will meet and be superficially congenial with known enemies for a range of reasons, including gauging intent.””The Vietnamese are under no illusion that any compromise made with Beijing during a time of war is most likely just to mean they will be eaten last,” Paskal told the DCNF.
The U.S. maintains “a friendship grounded in mutual respect” and boasts an “increasingly cooperative” partnership on trade, security and diplomacy, according to the State Department. President Joe Biden met with Vietnamese President Vietnamese President Võ Văn Thưởng in September to celebrate the “historic” creation of a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.”
“The U.S. and Vietnam have spent decades healing and building a strong friendship, while Beijing continues to use military aggression against Vietnam to this day,” Burack told the DCNF. “There will be a limit to how much Xi can affect either of these structural trends.”
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