Vietnam’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been lauded globally. The total number of covid19 as of May 15, 2020 was estimated at 312, and the country has not reported a single death.
Vietnam’s success in dealing with the pandemic has been attributed to some decisive, but tough, steps which it enforced without dithering like some of its neighbors in ASEAN. These measures included, a lockdown from April 1, 2020 (which lasted for less than a month) , quarantining of international travelers for a period of 14 days, effective tracing, Vietnam’s experience in dealing with the SARS epidemic of 2003 also stood the ASEAN nation in good stead. The fact, that Vietnam a country with a population of over 900 million people, has performed far better than many developed countries, has also been recognized globally. Vietnam’s effective handling of the pandemic is all the more remarkable given the fact that it shares a border, and close economic linkages, with China.
While the ASEAN nation has been able to control the virus, like other countries its economy is likely to be impacted adversely. It’s growth, rate this year has been estimated at 2.7% this year according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (according to the World Bank, Vietnam’s growth will be around 1.5%, but it will escape a recession). Even in the aftermath of the pandemic, Vietnam is likely to fare better, in terms of GDP, as compared to other ASEAN nations, but this is nowhere near the robust economic growth witnessed in previous years(in 2019, Vietnam grew at 7.02%). In recent years, the ASEAN nation emerged as an important manufacturing hub, and has been able to draw in significant FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) in manufacturing from a number of countries, including Japan and South Korea, and has not been dependent merely upon China. In 2019, pledged investment in the manufacturing sector was estimated at a little less than 25 Billion USD (24.6) USD.
Investor friendly policies, efficient labor force and the country’s strategic location have played an important role in Vietnam’s success in drawing FDI, and emerging as an economic hub, not just within Asia but globally. Addressing a business conference, on May 9, 2020, attended by participants from multilateral institutions like the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Chambers of Commerce, and domestic and international business groups, the Vietnamese PM, Nguyen Xuan Phuc sought ideas to kickstart the economy. He also stated, that his governments would make all necessary efforts, to ensure that Vietnam attains 5% growth. The Vietnamese PM stated that foreign investments would be crucial, if Vietnam was to achieve this objective.
Vietnam’s economy post-covid
The question on most people’s minds is that how will Vietnam deal with the economic challenges posed by the covid19 pandemic. While in the short run, there are numerous challenges, the fact that many companies are keen to shift out of China is likely to help the ASEAN nation. According to many analysts, while some companies are likely to shift to other Asian countries like India and Bangladesh, Vietnam is likely to emerge as a preferred destination, as a result of it’s location, logistical advantages and trade pacts with numerous countries including the US.
It would be pertinent to point out, that Vietnam had benefitted immensely from the China-US Trade wars, with numerous companies clearly preferring Vietnam, over its other competitors.
Japan which has earmarked over 2.2 billion USD for its manufacturing firms to shift from China, is likely to encourage it’s companies to move to Vietnam (Japan was the second largest investor in Vietnam in the first quarter of 2020). Strategic ties between both countries have also witnessed an upswing in recent years. It would be pertinent to point out, that Vietnam along with Japan, also happens to be a member of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and this will help in bolstering economic linkages with other member states (already some member states within TPP are working closely to keep supply chains intact)
Apart from its economic relevance, Vietnam is also important from a strategic context. It is the ASEAN chair for 2020, and its increasing relevance in the Indo-Pacific region mean that not just Japan, but even other key players in the Indo-Pacific, are likely to bolster strategic and economic linkages with the ASEAN nation in a post corona world.
Vietnam’s stature has risen not just because of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but also ramping up of medical equipment production — such as masks. It was able to provide masks not just to neighboring countries in ASEAN, but also the US, Russia, Germany, France and UK. The ASEAN nation, despite paucity of resources, has emerged as a key stakeholder in the battle against the deadly pandemic. In a post corona world, the ASEAN chair is likely to emerge as an important global player, both in the economic and strategic context.
President Ho Chi Minh and his ideas about the world peace
The world would be celebrating the 130th birth Anniversary of President Ho Chi Minh on May 19th ,2020. He was named as Nguyen Sinh Cung after his birth inHoang Tru in Central Vietnam but adopted Ho Chi Minh (“Ho the Enlightened One”) as his name in early 1940s. He aspired for collective consciousness and loyalty to the nation. He proposed independence within society rather than independence of each individual.
President Ho Chi Minh was one of the strong supporters of Asian unity, and in one of the messages send to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru during the Asian relations conference he said that this solidarity would make the Asian countries the mightiest defenders for the world speech and democracy. Alluding to the fact that Asian family is critical for unification and independence, he said that the brotherly countries in Asia would support Vietnam so that the objective of unifying North and South Vietnam could be realized.
President Ho Chi Minh was equally concerned with regard to peace in Asia and the world and during one of the welcome party speeches given in the honour of Prime Minister Nehru in Hanoi in 1954, he said that in order to maintain understand and peace, the people and the government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam are determined to execute correctly the ceasefire agreement signed in Geneva. He thanked the International Control Commission managed by Indian, Polish and Canadian delegates for having toiled hard and worked closely with the general headquarters of the Vietnam people’s army and gained sound results.
In most of his correspondence related to the ceasefire agreement between France and Vietnam, he was apprehensive that the imperialist powers should show some resolve to maintain peace. In one of the interviews given to the Indian news agency in 1954 on the question of the ending of the war with French, he said his purpose was to ‘…. promote peace, foster unity, independence and democracy across the country’. In performing these duties, he reiterated, “we are willing to sincerely cooperate with Vietnamese individuals or groups who supports such policies, regardless of their political and religious beliefs’’.
During the June 1954 Prime ministers of China, India, and Myanmar signed a joint declaration which stressed of the five guiding principles(Panchsheela) which included the respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; do not violate each other; do not interfere into internal affairs of each other; treat each other equally on the basis of mutual benefits and live peacefully together. President Ho Chi Minh completely endorsed these five principles of peaceful coexistence.
In his separate meetings with the three leaders of China (Zhou Enlai), India(Nehru) and Myanmar (U Nu), he buttressed the need for Asian peace and understanding. In one of the interviews given to the Indian New Age weekly on the question of building of military alliances and bases, he said that these military blocs and bases are threat to peace in Asia and the entire world. He also indicated very often to the growing coalition movement of Asian and African peoples. He always aspired for peaceful unification of North and South Vietnam and holding of elections under democratic process as further enunciated by the Geneva accords.
President Ho said in one of his speeches given on February 7th 1958, ‘at the present time, peaceful forces have been developing, more and more people have been raising their voices for disarmament, stopping nuclear testing and hydrogen bomb, protesting NATO, Baghdad and South East Asia bloc, requesting the world leaders to organize conferences for minimizing the tensions across the world.’
In the joint statement given during his visit to India in 1958, the two leaders (Ho Chi Minh and Nehru) specifically indicated that ‘the developments in the areas of aeronautics, atomic and hydrogen warfare has put the need for peace more than ever’. The two sides agreed that it was imperative to organize a high level conference to find solutions so that the atomic and hydrogen weapons test can be stopped. There was a need for gradual disarmament and easing of the world situation, and expressed the hope that the conference will soon be convened addressing the subject. The two sides stressed that the military blocs have made the international situation precarious and determined that there is need for ideological adversaries to maintain the world peace as well as develop understanding among nations.
In his congratulatory message given on the occasion of India’s Afro Asian solidarity conference 1955, he said, ‘…the conference would be contributing to the cause of fight for the end of colonialism, disarmament and the end of the Cold War to protect freedom, independence and bring peace’.
President Ho Chi Minh was also very influenced by the Buddhist ideals of peace, forgiveness, spirituality, minimalism, and non-ego as the critical elements of human survival and global peace.Ho Chi Minh idea was to develop human affection, sacrifice world pleasures for the people; self-improvement, regular quality exercises, developing human ethics, forge close bonding with people and creating a mass grassroots movement for people’s solidarity. He also looked into the Buddhism ideals which included philosophy, developing a peaceful outlook towards the world, sincerity, goodness, beauty, mercy, impermanence and protecting oneself from misfortune, and the problems germinating because of more pompous live than usual. He even during the visits to different nations and official letters alluded to the spiritual integration, mercy, altruism, ethics, human quality and empathy with fellow human beings.
In fact, one of the ideas that President Ho Chi Minh derived from Buddhism was related to peaceful humanity of Buddhism and Buddhist consciousness in every activity.
If one analyses the resonance in President Ho Chi Minh ideas, it was primarily aimed at bringing about global peace through anti-colonialism and reducing the influence of imperialist powers so that development and growth can be ushered among the newly independent nations. In his letters, he has reposed faith with regard to Geneva accord and time and again in his personal correspondence stressed on democratic principles and respecting will of the people. However, he was conscious of the fact that imperialist powers will not give away easy freedom to the colonies that they possess. In order to pressurize the imperialist powers, he had urged the newly independent countries to avoid power bloc politics and strive for the betterment of the people. His commitment towards his people and unification of Vietnam through peaceful means has been largely unreported but looking into the letters that he had sent to various leaders one thing crops up in each of the letters that he had always striven for global peace and development. It was the last line in most of his letters.
During his visit to India, he had visited Punjab to look into the construction of the Bhakra Nangal dam and was astonished to see that how a single dam could resolve the problems related to power generation and dedication in that particular region. Also during his leadership, he was very of the fact that prolonged wars are not good for the society and the general people. His stress on disarmament, and against Cold War highlights this fact that he was foreseeing the tension which might get intensified because of Cold war. He had full faith in the UN as an institution and was categorical that the global body must undertake initiatives to protect the rights of the people and the suffering of the people in the dependencies should be reduced.
Singaporean Daren Tang Appointed as the Next WIPO Director General
On May 8, Daren Tang, Chief Executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) was officially appointed as the next Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
WIPO is a specialized United Nations (UN) agency based in Geneva, Switzerland, with 193 member states and an annual revenue in excess of $600 million. Tang will take over the helm of WIPO on 1 October 2020 for a term of six years. This marks the first time a Singaporean will lead a UN agency, and WIPO’s first Director General from Asia.
In his acceptance speech, Tang thanked all member states for their support and paid tribute, in particular, to the WIPO staff and out-going Director General Dr Francis Gurry.
He further outlined the global challenges faced by the world today, including the “deeper forces of unilateralism and parochialism” threatening to undermine multilateral institutions, and urged member states to respond by working “even more closely together” through a common, global effort.
Tang noted in his speech that WIPO has grown stronger and more relevant since its inception 50 years ago due to the “proven willingness of all member states to share joint responsibility, confront challenges, and transform together.”
Laying out his plans for WIPO, Tang prioritized the need to build an inclusive, balanced, vibrant, and forward-looking global intellectual property (IP) ecosystem.
Senior Minister of State (Law and Health), Edwin Tong, congratulated Daren for being the first Singaporean to lead a UN Agency and to be appointed as Director General of WIPO. This is a momentous occasion for Singapore.
Edwin Tong pointed out that under Daren’s leadership as Chief Executive of IPOS we have seen Singapore’s IP ecosystem flourish. During his term, Singapore has risen in ranks to become second globally and top in Asia for the best IP protection in the World Economic Forum’s “Ideas Today. Assets Tomorrow.”
As he takes on the new role as Director General of the WIPO, it is expected that Daren will lead the organization towards building a more vibrant IP community internationally. Daren will continue his great work at WIPO and contribute towards moulding the future of the global IP ecosystem.
Chairman of the IPOS Board, Dr Stanley Lai, on behalf of the IPOS Board of Directors, extended heartiest congratulations to IPOS Chief Executive Daren Tang for his new appointment as the next Director General of the WIPO.
Dr Stanley Lai said: “We are confident that he will bring the same vision orientation, energy, outcomes, and capabilities that have come to define him during his time at IPOS into the auspices of WIPO. Having worked with him for several years, the Board is certain that the global IP community will be served by a Director General who is exceptionally attuned to the interests of countries, economies, and also equipped with a deep understanding of IP and its forceful impact on innovation and global development, especially during these challenging times. These qualities will serve WIPO, the member states and the larger IP community well.”
Dr Lai added, “IPOS remains committed as an active member of the international IP community, and we will continue to partner and support the important work of WIPO. We wish Daren every success and look forward to working with him and WIPO to build the future of the global IP ecosystem.”
Daren Tang will relinquish his role as the Chief Executive of IPOS, a statutory board under the Ministry of Law, where he drove the strategic transformation of IPOS from an IP registry and regulator into an innovation agency that helps to build Singapore’s future economy.
His term saw major updates to Singapore’s IP Hub Masterplan, legislative and policy reforms to the IP regime and a scaling up of international engagement. Currently, IPOS has cooperation agreements with over 70 regional and international partners.
Under his leadership, Singapore ranked second globally and top in Asia for the best IP protection in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report and IPOS was also recognized as the world’s most innovative IP office by the World Trademark Review in 2020.
A New Dynamics of U.S.-Viet Nam Relations: U.S.-led ‘Quad and Viet Nam Axis’ in the Indo-Pacific
The relation between the United States and Viet Nam has been reinvigorated in the recent times and that has led to an extraordinary level mutual exchange. Both countries have had a tempestuous past with scars of the war. This rapprochement accompanied with Viet Nam’s efforts to work with the Asia-Pacific countries like Japan and India speaks volumes about Viet Nam’s concern over Chinese assertive superiority mainly in the South China Sea and due to these dynamics, the relations between the United States of America and Viet Nam are now in a new era of stronger relations. The article traces the reasons for the ‘new changes within the dynamics’ between the United States of America and Vietnam which stems the possibility of the formation of a ‘United States-led coalition with the Quad countries and Viet Nam Axis’ in the Indo-Pacific region.
According to the 2019 Defence White Paper of Viet Nam, it considers itself as a“maritime nation which pays special attention to the safety and protection of the seas along with commitment towards the freedom of navigation and overflight”. They also aim for free trade and peaceful economic activities in accordance with international law. For the United States, the importance of Viet Nam is based on the fact that it is a Southeast Asian nation, a maritime power and in a tussle with China in the South China Sea. Therefore, the United States finds Viet Nam to be the most suitable candidate for their South and Southeast Asian strategy where China’s maritime dominance and its efforts to emerge as a maritime hegemonic power needs to be dealt with. Also, the U.S knows very well that apart from China, Viet Nam has been considered the most dangerous maritime power as it has taken China on in the South China Sea.
The U.S. has been amazed by the sheer courage that Viet Nam has shown to tackle Chinese aggression.The 2019 Defence White Paper also clearly reflects Viet Nam’s fear from Chinese encroachment as it mentions about the destabilizing elements in the region which threatens the stability, peace and prosperity in the South China Sea and East Sea according to Viet Nam. Though, the white paper avoids calling out any countries name, but it does mention that the “new developments in the East Sea like the unilateral actions, power-based coercion, violation of international law, militarization, change in the status quo, and infringement upon Vietnam’s sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction as provided in international law have undermined the interests of nations concerned and threatened peace, stability, security, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.” Therefore, it is a clear reference to China without actually naming it. Viet Nam faces multiple challenges from China in the South China Sea of threat from militarised artificial islands and the test deployments of capabilities from these island facilities. Viet Nam has become active in the economic operations within the claimed exclusive economic zone and its continental shelf and has been repetitively challenged by China which has resulted in the withdrawal of some oil and gas exploration projects like the demand to cease the exploration operation with Repsol in 2017 and the most recent standoff around the Vanguard Bank.
The United States of America understands Viet Nam’s importance in the multipolar world and knows how Viet Nam can be an integral part of the Indo-Pacific strategy of countering Chinese maritime dominance. Viet Nam too agrees with this fact and the 2019 Defence White paper is proof of that where it assesses the global situation which has been rapidly evolving into a multipolar order. The region of Southeast Asia continues to be a dynamic part of the Asia-Pacific region due to its increasingly important geo-economic, geo-political and geo-strategic location making it a battleground among the great powers and it also mentioned the various foreign initiatives of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the U.S. Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy (FOIP) and India’s Look East Policy (LEP) now Act East Policy (AEP). Viet Nam has been making efforts to build good ties with Australia, India and Japan and other partners of the United States keeping the Free and Indo-Pacific concept and strategy in mind. In March 2018, they signed a new strategic partnership and 2019 during Prime Minister Morrison’s visit recognised each other’s importance as bilateral as well as Indo-Pacific partners globally. Both countries expressed their serious concerns in the developments of the South China Sea especially the long-standing oil and gas issues and condemned Chinese behaviour of violating the International law in particular UNCLOS. Viet Nam’s relations with India are based on a comprehensive strategic partnership which entails both these nations to build closer maritime security cooperation and work towards oil and gas explorations. India has been training fighter pilots from Viet Nam and has been in talks to sell surface-to-air missiles. Both the countries have had joint naval exercises. Viet Nam’s relations with Japan have significantly expanded through strategic links in the last five years. These expanded ties include regular Japanese port visits to Viet Nam and Japan has been assisting Vietnam in maritime security and defence industrial cooperation. Viet Nam has been building closer relations with all three close partners of the U.S and by doing this is paving itself a position of being a networking security forum where all the regional powers combine which would help each of these countries come together and align against their common cause of threat, China.
Viet Nam was recently invited by the United States to participate in the Indo-Pacific teleconference on the COVID-19. Viet Nam was the only non-Quad member invited to this teleconferencing. Though, it can be said that since Viet Nam has been the Chair for ASEAN this year maybe that’s why it was invited by the United States. On the contrary, the new changing dynamics in the relations between the U.S. and Viet Nam clearly highlights the importance of Viet Nam’s contribution in dealing with China in the Southeast Asian region especially as a maritime partner. Viet Nam is known to have the strongest standing army and maritime force in Southeast Asia which is also beneficial in a situation of crisis in the region. Viet Nam’s relations with Japan Australia and India pave way for a multi-lateral dimension in its diplomacy which ultimately benefits the U.S. and due to all these inter-twined relations; Viet Nam has indirectly become a part of the Quad and so, there is a possible formation of a U.S. led coalition with Quad countries and Vietnam Axis in the Indo-Pacific region.
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