The election of Vo Van Thuong as the country’s new president has been welcomed by China as Thuong is likely to continue with his predecessor’s foreign and economic policies. Even analysts and experts said that there won’t be major changes to Vietnam’s foreign policy following Thuong’s elections. A foreign investor based in Vietnam said that the elections have put an end to uncertainty caused by the sudden dismissal of the former president.
Fifty two year old Vo Van Thuong was nominated by the Vietnam’s communist party as the country’s new president following the sudden forced resignation in January of his predecessor NguyenXuanPhucas part of a sweeping anti- corruption campaign.Thuong is the youngest member of the party’s Politburo, the country’s top decision-making body, and is widely regarded as being close to General Secretary Nguyen PhuTrong, Vietnam’s most powerful figure.Trong is the main architect of the party’s “blazing furnace” crackdown on graft, under which hundreds of officials have been investigated and many forced to quit, including former president Nguyen XuanPhuc and two deputy prime ministers.
Realising that Trong is the mentor of Thuong, China has sent warm and congratulatory message to Thuong. In a congratulatory message, Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized the neighbourliness and friendship between the two countries, saying he and Party General Secretary Nguyen PhuTronglast year reached important common perceptions on consolidating the traditional friendship, enhancing strategic exchanges, deepening the mutually beneficial cooperation, and working together for a bright future for the Vietnam-China comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership in the new era.Xi affirmed the due importance he attaches to the bilateral ties and his readiness to work together with Thuong to foster the relations in a stable and healthy manner.
Trong is under the influence of Xi Jinping and his policies. Trongwho had launched anti graft drive, seemed motivated by concerns shown by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and President Xi Jinping. Fundamentally, the impetus behind it is the CPV’s legitimacy as the ruling party.
Vietnam’s economy is heavily dependent on trade and foreign investment. It has been promoting a healthy environment for businesses to attract foreign
investors at a time when global manufacturers have sought to diversify their supply chains away from China.
Incidentally, the joint statement issued after Trong’s visit to Beijing in November
– the first foreign dignitary to visit China after the CPC Congress in October – listed “prevention and control of corruption and negative phenomena” among areas of cooperation between Vietnam and China. The CPV has adopted China’s anti-corruption campaigns and reportedly requested that China train its cadres to conduct anti-corruption investigations.
Chinese President Xi Jinpinghad stated at that time that both countries and parties should “never let anyone interfere” with their progress, state broadcaster CCTV reported. The bullish message against outside interference came at a time of strained relations between China and the West, especially with the United States over Taiwan, the Ukraine conflict, trade and other issues.
Interestingly, Chinese-style governance practices can be found in Vietnam too. For instance, growing control over the Internet, strengthening of the party’s power, greater state presence in the economy and rollbacks of the widespread influence of the private business sector. According to news reports, as many as
539 CPV members were prosecuted or “disciplined” for corruption and “deliberate wrongdoings,” including ministers, top officials and diplomats in 2022, while police investigated 453 corruption cases, up 50% from 2021.
On the occasion of Lunar New Year, Xi wrote to Trong stating that China and Vietnam were a community with a shared future that bears strategic significance.
The reality is that fast changing geopolitical situation has compelled Vietnam to further improve relations with China. News reports suggested that Vietnam famously eschewed China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but it has been the recipient of over 16.3 billion US dollars in Chinese project financing from 2000- 2017. A new report on Chinese economic assistance programs suggested that the country was increasing its debt burden to China far beyond what is commonly thought; creating political risk and impacting Vietnam’s potential policies toward its neighbour to the north, which is already prone to bullying and intimidation.With regard to economic co-operation, China is Vietnam’s largest
trading partner and second largest export market, while the latter is the former’s
largest trading partner in ASEAN and its sixth largest partner in the world.
In June 2022, China had ranked sixth out of 139 countries and territories investing in Vietnam with a total registered capital of 22.31 billion US dollars. Problems in some co-operation projects were gradually removed, whilst the Cat Linh-Ha Dong urban railway line using Chinese loans was officially put into operation.
The global community is keeping a close watch on how Vietnam and its future movement under Thuong’s leadership. Will he further go China way or not?