Vietnam's Foreign Policy toward China since the 1970s
Lemon, Daniel W.
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There is much debate about how Southeast Asia views China's ascendance on the world stage. Beijing's expanding economic, diplomatic, and military influence has countries in the region concerned about how China will use its new power and influence. Vietnam is particularly concerned, since it shares a border with China and for many centuries was under China's control. Vietnam's experience with China may shed some light on how Southeast Asia is adapting to China's rise. Today, Vietnam finds itself in a precarious situation. It shares the same political ideology as Beijing and maintains a communist government. Since 1986, Hanoi has adopted aspects of China's economic development road map and has embarked on a program to transform and open its economy to Western markets. However, its proximity and past experience with China makes Vietnam suspicious of China's rise. In particular, Vietnam fears that China will use its growing power to force Vietnam to accept China's claims to territories along their mutual land border and in the Tonkin Gulf. This thesis explores Vietnam's foreign policy strategy toward China since the 1970s. It contends that Vietnam's foreign policy has shifted from the traditional balancing act in the 1970s to one of engagement and soft balancing in the early 1990s. Since then, Hanoi has pursued a dual strategy of economic and diplomatic engagement with Beijing while simultaneously linking itself economically and diplomatically to other states and regional forums to ensure it has options to counter China's aggressive posture. This thesis finds that since the 1990s Vietnam has used a soft balancing strategy of diplomatic entanglement and limited security cooperation with various countries to cope with China's growing influence in the region.
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