Vietnam’s ‘bamboo diplomacy’ shifts into higher gear


HANOI: Communist Party-ruled Vietnam has upgraded ties with the world’s top powers, including former foes, China and the United States, as part of its “bamboo diplomacy”, which it has pro-actively pursued since 2021 to navigate rising global tensions.

After a string of deals this year and last, the Southeast Asian country’s top partners include the United States, China, India, South Korea and Russia, which for decades has supplied most of Vietnam’s military equipment.

Below are details of Vietnam’s increasingly dynamic foreign policy approach and its most important diplomatic agreements over the last 12 months.

WHAT IS “BAMBOO DIPLOMACY”?

A regional manufacturing powerhouse, Vietnam is an increasingly strategic player in global supply chains.

To bolster this position, the country’s most powerful figure, Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, used in 2021 the imagery of “strong roots, stout trunk, and flexible branches” of the bamboo plant to describe Vietnam’s foreign policy approach of having “more friends, fewer foes”.

CHINA

Vietnam and China earlier this month agreed to build a community with a “shared future” during a visit to Hanoi by Chinese President Xi Jinping, his first to an Asian country this year.

The two nations signed 36 cooperation documents in areas such as transport infrastructure, trade, security and digital economy, and published a joint declaration with wide-ranging commitments.

China is Vietnam’s largest trading partner and a vital source of imports for its manufacturing sector, but the two communist countries have been for years embroiled in disputes in the South China Sea – the latest in May. Tensions have subsided somewhat more recently as Beijing’s attention has focused on another claimant in the waterway, the Philippines.

UNITED STATES

Vietnam and the United States elevated in September their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, the highest level in Vietnam’s ranking, and announced closer cooperation on semiconductors and critical minerals during a visit to Hanoi by US President Joe Biden.

The United States, which is the top importer of Vietnam’s goods, pushed for the upgrade as part of its strategy to secure uninterrupted access to global supply chains and to contain China in the South China Sea.



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