News / Asia

    Vietnam Political Transition May Improve China Ties

    Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, front row left, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, front row third left, and Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, front row third right, pose for a group photo with the Army generals after the election for
    Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, front row left, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, front row third left, and Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, front row third right, pose for a group photo with the Army generals after the election for
    Shannon Van Sant

    China watchers are closely observing this week’s political leadership transition in Vietnam, and its implications for future Sino-Vietnamese ties, as the country's Communist Party holds its 12th national congress.

    Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung effectively withdrew from the contest to become the Communist Party general secretary after being excluded from an official list of candidates for positions in the Central Committee.

    His pro-Beijing rival, Nguyen Phu Trong, was re-elected Wednesday to a second five-year term as general secretary -- the top position in Vietnam's leadership -- according to the official Vietnam News Agency.

    Sino-Vietnam relations

    Some analysts say this year’s election process revealed the importance of Sino-Vietnam relations.

    “The so-called pro-Beijing leaders will come to rule the country, and I think that will be a good sign, from a Chinese perspective," said Xiaohe Cheng, a professor of international relations at China’s Renmin University.

    Other analysts say the election reveals China’s strong hand in the region, and its pressure on its neighbor.

    Members of Vietnam’s General Assembly visited Beijing in December, where some suspect China voiced its concerns about the government’s ties with the U.S.

    Dung enacted a set of economic reforms during his decade-long tenure that has helped Vietnam attract a slew of new foreign investment. He was perceived as a supporter of closer ties with the U.S., witnessed by Vietnam recently signing the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

    While rival Trong has pushed for improved relations with Beijing.

    The leadership transition comes at a sensitive time for relations between the two countries.

    South China Sea

    Last week, Vietnam said China had placed an oil rig in disputed waters of the South China Sea, a move that may have been intended as a warning to Vietnam during the national congress meetings.

    FILE - Chinese ships chase Vietnamese vessels, not shown, after they came within 10 nautical miles of a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, July 15, 2014.
    FILE - Chinese ships chase Vietnamese vessels, not shown, after they came within 10 nautical miles of a Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, July 15, 2014.

    A Chinese rig in waters claimed by Vietnam sparked mass protests in 2014. This year, protesters have been mostly silent, and days before the meeting of Vietnam’s national congress, the country’s military staged a mass exercise in Hanoi.

    Carl Thayer, professor emeritas at Australia’s National Defense Academy, said suppression of voices critical of China is likely to increase after the leadership transition.

    “So it is to be as inoffensive as possible towards China. To wear Chinese encroachments of Vietnam’s sovereignty, and protests, in the hopes that the bonds of socialism or Marxist-Leninism that unite the two countries mean that Vietnam will be out of the heat," Thayer said.

    Vietnam is one of the last remaining Communist countries in the world, and its ties to China waver between closer relations sought for ideological and economic reasons, and fear of China’s potential encroachment of Vietnam’s political and territorial sovereignty.

    'Relations need to improve'

    “I think it’s currently clear that Chinese-Vietnamese relations need to improve," said Wang Dong, a professor of International Relations at Peking University.

    "I think this consensus will be maintained. I think this is very important. And, also, Chinese leaders and Vietnamese leaders share that despite the fact that there are some differences between the two countries regarding the territorial dispute, they also both agree they … share many more common interests," Wang said.

    But while this week’s political transition in Vietnam may improve relations with China, territorial disputes continue to ratchet up tensions across Asia.

    Vietnam recently announced it will allow India to set up a satellite tracking center in southern Vietnam that will provide it with access to overhead images of the South China Sea.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Wangchuk from: NY
    January 28, 2016 10:43 AM
    Vietnam fought for its independence from Imperial China over a 1,000-year period. Vietnam fought against China when it invaded in 1979. A change in leadership isn't going to change Vietnam's efforts to maintain sovereignty & protect its territory.

    by: james
    January 27, 2016 5:04 PM
    American Eskimo is an Chinese nationalist. Who love bringing up the past. Let not forget them Chinese invaded Vietnam. Right after the war.

    by: American Eskimo from: San Jose, USA
    January 27, 2016 12:16 PM
    VOL, please respect freedom of expression by not deleting opinion not toeing the government's line.

    Vietnam and China are genetically, culturally and economically bonded, not just today, but since thousands of years ago. Like siblings, there were and will be disputes between the two but they always worked out and will work out without agitator. The said agitator will keep trying to drive a wedge between them. The young Vietnamese as well as Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung and Mr. Tung from Vietnam, should ask the questions who carpet-bombed the entire country, who massacred the villagers, who raped their grandmothers, who used chemical napalm/agent-orange weapons and who dropped cluster bomblets.

    There still are lives and limps lose because of the unexploded bombs and deformities because of the chemicals. Up until recently, the agitator denies all of these and lately sees the need of Vietnam to contain China, so the agitator asks for forgiveness and sell weapons.The agitator accepts the ill-qualified Vietnam into TPP as a clear example how desperate the agitator is in her quest to contain China.
    In Response

    by: Cả Thộn from: Hà Nội
    January 27, 2016 2:21 PM
    Don't just sit there to leak the old wounds. Look straight ahead to find out what good for the country and the people at that dark corner of the world. If US successfully contains China would be good for Vietnam. TPP still is a chance for Vietnam to get out of poverty.

    by: tùng from: Viet Nam
    January 27, 2016 10:19 AM
    fighting my country

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