Vietnam said Thursday that its foreign policy is aimed at protecting the country’s independence. The comment follows a letter from prominent members of the Communist Party to the country’s top leaders calling for political and economic reforms to end the country’s “reliance” on China.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday defended Hanoi’s foreign policy following a question related to an open letter from prominent members of the Communist Party that urged the country to end its close relationship with China.
Speaking at a regular press briefing in the capital, spokesman Le Hai Binh said Vietnam’s current policy aims to “protect the independence, reliance and diversification” of international relations.
He said the implementation of Vietnam’s foreign policy has “greatly contributed to heightening the position of Vietnam on the global stage as well as contributing to the development and depiction of the country,” said Hai.
Earlier this week, around 60 prominent members of Vietnam’s Communist Party sent an open letter to the Central Committee - the party’s highest level - saying that Hanoi has paid a high price for conceding too much to China’s demands.
The letter came after weeks of diplomatic crisis, sparked in May when China deployed an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam. Beijing removed the rig earlier this month to avoid an oncoming typhoon.
Professor Tuong Lai, advisor to two prime ministers, was one of the signatories of the letter to senior leaders.
He says the letter was different from previous ones because everyone who signed is a member of the Communist Party.
Diplomacy over the last few months has been tense between the two countries, especially after anti-China protests sparked riots in Vietnamese industrial zones in May, leaving several Chinese workers dead. China is Vietnam’s biggest trading partner.
The letter also included a recommendation for Hanoi to sue Beijing in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.
Tuong Lai said that by bowing to China, the Vietnamese people are losing confidence in the Party.
Another signatory is 69-year-old Pham Chi Lan, former deputy chairwoman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and ex-member of the Prime Minister's Research Board. She still works as an advisor for several ministries.
She said Vietnam needs to integrate more with countries like India, South Korea, Japan and other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to escape reliance on China.
The country also needs to implement institutional reforms, she says. For instance, if the party still wants to develop a “market economy with socialist orientation,” as it does now, it will be difficult because the definition of this term is not clear.
Tuong Lai said the idea is not to overthrow the Communist Party, but to build it. But building means reform.
“If we keep it unchanged, the party will fall because people’s confidence is very low,” he says.