As the US looks at sealing Vietnam as its comprehensive strategic partner this Sunday, China has enhanced political trust between Beijing and Hanoi. Liu Jianchao, the Chinese Communist Party’s international department head, met with Vietnam’s ruling party leader Nguyen Phu Trong. Both sides agreed to solidify their mutual political trust and boost cooperation in meeting challenges.
The US President Joe Biden is set to meet all four of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s top leaders during his 24-hour visit to the Southeast Asian country. He will also pay homage to the late US senator John McCain who was captured at the lake after his aircraft was shot down in 1967 during an air raid against Vietnam.
Biden’s short visit will elevate US-Vietnam relations to greater heights. It is expected to cement ties with Hanoi as Washington seeks to counter Chinese influence in Asia. Le Dang Doanh, a retired senior economic adviser to five prime ministers, says the upgrade in relations between the two countries will bring greater benefits. “Vietnam has established strategic partnerships with four-fifths of permanent members of the UN Security Council, including comprehensive strategic partnerships with China and Russia, so upgrading relations with the US to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership is not unusual.”
Over the years, Vietnam had been playing hard to get with the US, it avoided putting a label on its relationship with the United States beyond that of the comprehensive partnership. Carl Thayer, professor emeritus at the University of New South Wales and a specialist on Vietnamese defense, said the Biden administration has been pushing for an upgrade in relations for some time, with US officials traveling to Asian countries multiple times.
“Ever since the Biden Administration took office, senior US officials such as Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin sounded out their Vietnamese interlocutors about the possibility of raising bilateral relations to a strategic partnership.”
Thayer said Vietnam has been driven by the polarized world, including Trump-era trade wars and Russia-Ukraine conflict, to strengthen its position. “These geopolitical developments narrowed Vietnam’s ability to leverage differences among the major powers. Vietnam’s options were not only shrinking, but its ambitious plans to become a modern industrial country with a high income were seriously threatened.”
And as China tries to dominate militarily and technologically, the US wants to help Vietnam create secure and resilient supply chains for semiconductors and other high-value electronic products.