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Significance of Sino-Vietnam Relations

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Authors: Do Quynh-Anh & Jack Balavadze

It is true that the political institutions in Vietnam are profoundly influenced by China. When China conducted the economic reform in 1978, Vietnam faced with new situations domestically and internationally, also followed the Chinese footsteps by the Innovation or Doimoi in 1986. If during the Cold War, the Soviet Union and China played the important role as the supporters of Vietnam, after the collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), China became more important and meaningful partner for Vietnam. It is not only the captain of the remaining communist countries, the largest remaining, but also a good example of reform. That is the valuable experience for Vietnam in Doimoi process. Since the normalization of relations in 1991, China and Vietnam have developed a stable relationship on two pillars: First, the regular exchanges between the Communist Party and the governments of the two countries set up to expand cooperation, manage affairs and disagreements and resolve disputes through peaceful negotiation. Second, Vietnam and China join multilateral mechanisms, especially the mechanisms led by ASEAN to implement preventive measures and preventive diplomacy. Based on these two pillars, the political trust and cooperation in various fields between the two countries are reinforced and expanded rapidly.

Given this, when the socialist regime no longer prevails in the world as in the Cold War period, only five communist party-ruled countries left in the world – China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba and Laos. The relationship between Vietnam and China became more and more essential. In particular, facing the complex global political situation and incessant integration, the “hostile forces” are always waiting for the chance to fight against socialism and overthrow the communist states. This demands the two parties and two states to come closer together, to deal with all kinds of external attacks. Communist regime could not be considered as the optimal choice, but at the present time, it plays an important role in stabilizing the social order of the both countries, a collapse of each side will be likely to cause the collapse of the other or at least it also causes unstable security and society situation.

Economically, both the Chinese Communist Party Congress XIV (10/1992) and the Vietnamese Communist Party Congress VI (12/1986) declared the goal of “building the market economy-oriented socialist regime”. This explains why Vietnam and China together share the same economic development model with the leading role of the state-owned enterprises. So, the economic cooperation between the two sides has many advantages such as fast procedures, many incentives, advantage of transportation. The economic relations between Vietnam and China in recent years have been carried out in various forms. Besides the traditional forms such as trade, development aid, economic and technical cooperation between the two governments, there is also private economic cooperation which still is small in scale. The exchange of commodities across the land border has been developed extensively. The land border between the two countries is nearly 1,450 km includes 7 provinces of Vietnam and 2 provinces of China.  All of these forms have developed very vibrantly and effectively. Economic relations between Vietnam and China has a “win-win” content. The bilateral trade benefit of the two countries is a truism. China is currently the 8th largest foreign investor in Vietnam and Vietnam is China’s largest trade partner in ASEAN. The economic dependence between the two sides is reflected in each other’s role.

Chinese enterprises have won contracts in major national projects, especially in power projects, infrastructure. For FDI, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), for the first 10 months of 2017, the registered capital in total  from China is over 1.8 billion USD, ranking 8th out of 128 countries investing in Vietnam. Until September 2017, China had 1,747 FDI projects with a total investment of more than US $ 11.9 billion invested in Vietnam.

The industries of Vietnam heavily depends on China, most of the basic materials for manufacturing products of Vietnam (fabric, electronic components …) are imported from China. China also has built up a developed auxiliary industry. China is known as the world’s factory currently, with the advantage on fast production, low price, competitive models, plenty of types. Therefore import from China is a reasonable choice, both fast and convenient, creating a larger surplus value while preserving the environment.

In terms of agriculture, China is still the main buyer of most of Vietnam’s raw agricultural products (pepper, fruit, sugar cane, etc.). Vietnam is currently lacking a closed production process as well as output of products. These factors have made China be an indispensable part of the Vietnamese economy, especially in terms of agriculture and industry, with both input and output. It is estimated that if China ends its bilateral economic relations with Vietnam, Vietnam’s GDP will decrease by 10%. Currently, Vietnam is one of the largest export markets for China and the largest trade partner of China in ASEAN. According to Chinese statistics, in the first nine months of 2017, the total value of Chinese exports to Vietnam reached 49.8 billion dollars. China is keeping trade surplus in bilateral trade, so that the annual flow of foreign currencies from Vietnam to China plays a not small role in its budget. China wants to ensure that the flow of capital from the country at the lowest level of cost, through the establishment of AIIB, exchange foreign currency with the aim of “Repositioning the stature of the world’s second largest economy.” In addition, as mentioned above, with the strength of a developed agricultural country rich natural recourses, Vietnam is one of the main supply sources of raw materials at relatively cheap price for China. Moreover, Vietnam is also an important link in the new economic policy set by President Xi Jinping for the B & R initiative with the aim to re-build the “Silk Road legend” which will connect China with Europe. Vietnam obviously should not stand outside because the silk-road passes through the most of ASEAN countries.

Up to the present time, Vietnam and China have had a long-time trade relationship so any changes will make the two sides face the risk of crisis, causes the losses for the both sides. On the prospect of Sino-Vietnamese relations, despite there are many disagreements such as the South China Sea issue but it is not the whole Sino-Vietnamese relations. The leaders of the two countries will not, because of this issue, ruin the good relations between two sides. They will continue to work together to promote bilateral friendly cooperation. At present, China and Vietnam have agreed to build the relations on the basis of common interests and mutual benefit. The two parties have been working together to implement and abide by the international conventions such as the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (COC), with the aim of restraining conflicts and disagreements in the South China Sea and the region which will create a platform for the development of the relations of the two countries.

In addition, at present time, with the goal of becoming a leading power in the international arena, China still needs a stable environment domestically and internationally to continue to strengthen its capabilities, stable alliances, relationships with other regional. They all are best measures for China in order to build a better position on the way of rise.

In summary, in the present context, the important premise for the stable and healthy development of China-Vietnam relations in long-term is to implement effectively the agreements reached between the two sides, handle the disagreements, reinforcement of mutual trust, promotion of cooperation for the benefit of each side, public diplomatic promotion of friendship between the peoples of two countries.

*Do Quynh-anh is a PhD student from Vietnam, and Jack Balavadze is MA student from Georgia. Both are studying in Jilin University, China

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East Asia

Washington- Pyongyang: A third attempt?

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During a recent meeting with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in at the White House, US President Donald Trump said that while a step-by-step agreement with North Korea concerning that country’s nuclear program remained on the table, his administration was still focused on “the big deal.” Trump announced plans for his third meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but added that this would require “lengthy preparation.” The South Korean president likewise spoke about the need for the US and North Korean leaders meeting again shortly and underscored the need to maintain the current pace of negotiations.

The response from Pyongyang did not take too long in coming. In a keynote address on April 12 to the Supreme People’s Assembly in Pyongyang, which had earlier officially named him “the supreme representative of all Koreans,” Kim Jong-un said: “If the United States finds a solution acceptable to us, and proposes a meeting between the DPRK and US leaders, we are ready to agree to this once again. I won’t hesitate to sign an agreement, but only if it is written in a way that meets the interests of the DPRK and the United States, is fair and mutually acceptable.”

The April 12 session of the North Korean parliament was attended by a large delegation of the Russian State Duma deputies. Immediately after that, it became known that President Vladimir Putin would meet Kim later this month during a stopover in Vladivostok on his way to Beijing. The North Korean leader’s increasingly frequent political contacts with his Russian and Chinese counterparts reflect a desire to coordinate positions ahead of the next round of the US-North Korean talks.

Well, is there any reason for optimism about the outcome of the forthcoming parley? If so, then it must be extremely cautious. Indeed, in the span of  just a few months, Washington and Pyongyang have gone from general promises of denuclearization in exchange for security guarantees made during the June 2018 summit in Singapore, to a failed attempt to agree a roadmap for this process at the Hanoi summit in late February 2019.

Past experience shows that Washington’s attempts to make Pyongyang agree on everything at once were in principle doomed to failure for obvious political and technical reasons.

First off, it has been the factor of time. While Donald Trump hurried to clinch a “big deal” before his first term in office runs out (and not being sure about a second one), his North Korean counterpart was not interested in making this happen for exactly the same reason: as the most recent history shows, a new occupant of the White House often finds it easy to undo what his predecessor has achieved.

Equally obvious are technical reasons why there is no way to fast-track denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The deal on the Iranian nuclear program took years of negotiations and was the result of a mutual compromise (meaning that it is highly unlikely that a deal like this can be achieved in full, much less at once).

Under the present circumstances, any further US-North Korean negotiations would look like a walk across a minefield. If it were up to me, I would suggest the following way to go.

During the third Trump-Kim summit (which, if unsuccessful, will most likely be the last), to adopt a mutually accepted denuclearization roadmap that would say exactly which nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles are to be eliminated, above all, those capable (albeit hypothetically) of reaching US territory.

The sides should also draw up an exhaustive list of facilities of North Korea’s nuclear (and, possibly, missile) programs that would be stopped or eliminated based on the principle of “proving the existence” there of nuclear  elements, rather than “proving their absence.” The latter verification path will take us nowhere because, to meet this requirement, Pyongyang would be forced to eliminate all of its engineering and other modern industries. In other words, to return to the pre-industrial era – something it will hardly ever agree to.

And, most importantly, there should be a compulsory and phased implementation of the stated goals. Pyongyang’s next move towards abandoning its nuclear technology should be accompanied by a partial and phased lifting of sanctions imposed on it by the UN Security Council, primarily those, which are damaging the peaceful sectors of the North Korean economy and are hampering the inter-Korean dialogue.

Each of these UN sanctions contains a concrete procedure for their suspension of lifting. At this stage the Security Council is already entering the game as all further negotiations on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will depend on the agreed position of its permanent members (including the five officially recognized nuclear states).

Here it would be highly advisable to consider the proposal made by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a special session of the UN Security Council on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in January 2018, whereby the official five nuclear states could offer North Korea security guarantees within the framework of the UN Security Council as an important condition for creating an atmosphere of trust and ensuring successful progress towards denuclearization.

By the way, the third US-North Korean summit (if it happens at all) could be held in a trilateral format, as President Moon Jae-in has previously suggested. This would reduce the likelihood of yet another failure and would help ensure speedy security assurances for North Korea in exchange for the country’s nuclear disarmament.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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BRI: Shared Future for Humanity

Sabah Aslam

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The terrestrial and maritime connectivity proposed by the Chinese government back in 2013 with six connectivity corridors reflects the vision of shared future for humanity. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an omen of modern transformation of the globe. The journey of transition from geo-politics to geo-economics is itself a huge achievement. As geo-economics brought in the partnership and collaboration for mutual gains whereas geo-politics reflects competition, for instance, arm race.

BRI a network of terrestrial and maritime passages encompassing (1) the New Eurasian Land Bridge connects Western China to Western Russia; (2) the China-Mongolia-Russia Corridor, from Northern China to Eastern Russia; (3)the China-Central Asia-Western Asia Corridor, links China to Turkey; (4) the Corridor from Southern China to the Indochinese peninsula up to Singapore; (5) the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor; and (6) the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Corridor. In other words BRI is one of the longest connectivity route from the Chinese coast to Singapore to Gwadar up to the Mediterranean. Among all the above mentioned projects, CPEC is a model project with so much in its credit.

CPEC is the flagship project of the Belt & Road Initiative. CPEC is a mutually agreed initiative including 4 key areas of cooperation i.e. energy projects, infrastructure development, Gwadar Port, and industrial cooperation. This cooperation has further strengthened the time tested friendship. China – Pakistan strategic cooperation is an essential ingredient for the South Asian peace recipe. CPEC, not merely focus on commerce and trade but also include social development projects as well. Pak-China Friendship Hospital, Pak-China School, Gwadar Airport, and many more are prominent examples of this initiative. The first phase of CPEC is almost complete and is all ready to enter into the second phase. The first phase was comprised of energy and road projects whereas the second phase might also entails agriculture, education, health, water and much more. Here in our case, when there is an atmosphere of non-kinetic threats, development is the only option. Internal harmony and peace can only be achieved when there is no sense of deprivation. In addition, inclusion of third party in CPEC project, and also connecting it with the Central Asian Republics and Russia is also a progressive move. Opening it for the private business sector and creating 80,000 jobs, all are signs of social uplifting and gradual development. CPEC is an inclusive project for Pakistan and for the region.

China is focusing on and playing a key role in connecting the continents. Being an emerging power, China, considers the role of regional connections vital for the global peace and prosperity. Hence, BRI is a positive-sum cooperation. It’s a platform for dialogue, and developing new paths of cooperation encompassing government to government, people to people, business to business and media to media relations. BRI is the, opening up and connectivity, with an aim on promoting global peace and cooperation, and building a global community with a bright future for mankind. Moreover, it promotes connectivity through passages of commerce and trade. There is also a shift in the international balance, leaning towards east from west, considering it a breath of fresh air. Belt and Road Initiative is turning the myth “21st Century is the Asian Century” into reality.

BRI is a network of exchange, exchange of happiness and prosperity, exchange of knowledge and technology, exchange of expertise to perform well for mutual interests. It is the beginning of the inclusive global future. Hence, it is the time for profound change and reforms. For growth, for being dynamic, change is normal. So, reforms, propel states to accomplish goals not only at national level but international level too. The way BRI brought countries and regions together, enhancing trade, developing state of the art infrastructure, boosting investment, strengthening cultural ties, and people to people exchanges, all making BRI, the Central Nervous System of the world.

The true essence of BRI is regional integration, a horizontal, non-vertical integration with no hegemonic designs with an aim to limit the world recession damage. Furthermore, as the second BRI forum is scheduled in late April this year, there is much more to come. As mentioned, BRI is a pie, having share for all; it’s not a debt trap. In order to win the confidence of all the partnering states, and to lessen the suspicion, China is trying to avoid the ‘debt traps’. Though, there is no such state in unsustainable Chinese government debt pressure. It basically provides equality based cooperation, and a green & sustainable development. Second BRI forum is the right time to kickstart the “Second Phase” of Belt & Road. Many foreign heads of state and government, and thousands of delegates will be attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, or BRF.  As mentioned by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, “it will include a series of events, such as leaders’ round table, high-level meeting, and thematic forum, CEO conference, under the theme of Belt and Road cooperation shaping a brighter shared future. There will also be more side events, including 12 thematic forums focusing on practical cooperation, and for the first time a conference organized specifically for the business community”.

The globe has already been struck by two major economic depressions. Asian continent also faced one in 1997 when East and Southeast Asia was crippled economically. The world direly needs a remedy in order to sustain the global economy which can only be done through economic and cultural interconnectivity.BRI aims to be a torch bearer in order to bring the financial benefits to the globe. The global prosperity is need of an hour in modern world order but this can be achieved through collective efforts.

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China: Via Portugal into Africa and Latin America

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Portugal is a major geographical link in the European leg of China’s New Silk Road project (NSR). A visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Lisbon on December 4-5, 2018 produced seventeen cooperation agreements thereby reaffirming the two parties’ readiness to expand economic partnership.

China is Portugal’s top trading partner in Asia, with bilateral trade steadily on the rise amounting to $5.6 billion in 2017. The volume of Chinese investment in the Portuguese economy has reached $ 10.2 billion. Simultaneously, the influx of tourists from China to Portugal has gone up by 40% and from Portugal to China by 16%. The Chinese Embassy in Lisbon has described the current state of Sino-Portuguese relations as the best since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979.

The livening up of Sino-Portuguese relations is key to Beijing’s comprehensive strategy of boosting cooperation with Portuguese-speaking countries. Adopted fifteen years ago, this strategy has brought about an increase in the volume of trade between the PRC and the Portuguese-speaking nations by more than 19 times – from $ 6 billion in 2002 to $ 117.6 billion in 2017.

In this context, an economic union with Lisbon is designed to geographically complete the European sector of the New Silk Road project (NSR) given the location of Portugal as the western tip of the European continent. Also, such an alliance is set to project Chinese economic influence through Portugal to countries of Africa and Latin America.

China is number one trading partner of three Portuguese-speaking countries: Brazil (trade turnover in 2018 at $ 29.5 billion), Angola ($ 26 billion) and Mozambique ($ 168 million).

The port of Sines – Portugal’s sea gate to the Atlantic and Africa – carries a particular importance with its well-developed infrastructure and all the facilities to be used as a transit point for Chinese products bound for America and Africa. Another important point is the Azores, a part of Portuguese territory stretching deep into the Atlantic. Lisbon has consented to Beijing’s participation in the construction of scientific and logistics infrastructure in the archipelago, which is tantamount to a stronger Chinese economic presence in the region.

Lisbon favors joint participation with Beijing in investment projects in Portuguese-speaking Africa. African countries have expressed a similar intention. In January 2019, the Angolan Parliament ruled to abolish double taxation with Portugal, China and the United Arab Emirates.

Lisbon-mediated cooperation with Portuguese-speaking countries will enable Beijing to guarantee food security. According to UN reports, Angola is among the top five countries with the greatest agricultural potential (58 million hectares of arable land), Mozambique has 36 million hectares, of which less than six are cultivated, while Brazil is the main supplier of soybean, a popular food product for China (14 million tons in 2018).

In relation to China and within the NSR project, Portugal plays the role of an infrastructure and logistics counterweight to France, which is trying to shift the focus of French-Chinese cooperation in the direction of the Mediterranean and North Africa – to fight against terrorism in the Sahel region and provide investment support of the French-speaking Sahel “Five” (Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali).

Beijing is interested in moving via the Atlantic westward. From the geographical point of view, Portugal is a good partner here – cooperation with it takes China beyond the Mediterranean. According to the Chinese leader, for Beijing, Lisbon is a point of linking the land and sea segments of the NSR and a promising partner in the development of the “sea wave economy”.

The position of Paris regarding the NSR project is characterized as cautiously positive, envisaged by the Franco-German Aachen agreement of January 22, 2019 and affected by competition with Italy (Italian Trieste and French Marseille compete for the main port of the NSR in the Mediterranean).

The Aachen agreement diplomatically outlines the geopolitical axis Paris-Berlin, endowing the French-German relations with a special status. Against export-oriented German economy (in 2018, exports went up 3% against 2017, reaching $ 1.318 billion), Beijing’s economic activity in Europe is seen as a challenge.

Negotiations between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker and China’s Xi Jinping on March 25-26 demonstrated the EU’s consolidated position and marked a successful attempt to secure common gains from building up cooperation between the EU (without Italy) and the PRC.

While France readily signed multibillion-dollar contracts with China and agreed to the opening of the Chinese market for French goods, it refrained from actively assisting the Chinese in pursuing transcontinental infrastructure projects as unwelcome for the economic health of the Franco-German duumvirate.

 First published in our partner International Affairs

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