Vietnamese strategic culture and the coming struggle for the South China Sea
Butterfield, Andrew A.
Callahan, Mary P.
Buss, Claude A.
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Despite inferior strength, Vietnam clings to extensive claims in the South China Sea in conflict with China's claims. Through use of the concept of 'strategic culture,' this thesis investigates the factors, including perceived historical lessons, that drive Vietnam to maintain this strategic posture. The most relevant lessons are that (1) China perpetually desires and frequently attempts to dominate Vietnam, and that resistance historically has served Vietnam better than appeasement; and (2) Vietnam has the inherent ability to attract foreign benefactors that will help her balance against Chinese power and achieve her own goals. The author explores how these lessons have shaped a modern-day Vietnamese strategic culture and whether it is suited to the strategic realities that Vietnam currently faces. A conclusion is that Vietnam's current strategic culture is likely to continue either until it is shown to be inadequate in conflict with China over control of the South China Sea, or until Vietnam succeeds in attracting a new benefactor or protector.
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