Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sino-Vietnam relations: Pros & Cons Tran Kinh Nghi
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will come to Vietnam on 13/10 as the highest level official visit since the 1979 border war . The coincidence of his visit at the state mourning time of  legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap - the last symbol of  the national liberation generation of Vietnam may make one think of an omen in the Cino-Vietnam relations . This coincidence may cause some difficulties in protocol arranging for appropriate ceremonies so as to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding, but it is a ripe time to look back the entire process of relationship between Vietnam and its big Northern neighboring state so as to find out a suitable module for future relations. This short article is not to discuss in detail the whole subject but only a practical aspect: What Vietnam  have gained and lost from its relationship with China.

Unequal relations

Many people believe that the cause of national liberation of  Vietnam has been completed by driving out the French colonialists and defeating the American intervention . But actually the cause of  struggle for national liberation has not been completed since the " thousand years under the domination by the Northern Kingdom" . This argument is not unreasonable if one knows about  a common understanding among the Chinese, typically declared by a Chinese professor named Wanghanling at  the 2nd International Semina on East Sea held in Ho Chi Minh City in Nov. 2010 that  "Until 1885 , Vietnam remained a vasal state of China." The professor used this argument to justify Beijing's U-shaped boundaries covering 80 % of the East Sea just like a rudimentary fence erected by a greedy landlords in the front yard of its neighbors ! Ironically, this dash line was just pulled out from the dusbin of outdated files which is merely a dotted line randomly drown out by an officer during the last days of Chiang Kai-shek's rule in China . Anyway, this interpretation suggests clearly why Beijing was willing to support Vietnam against the French , Japanese , American and even Russian . And that's why after winning in 1975 and reunification , Vietnam was continuously attacked by its yesterday's comrades from the southwest border to the northern border , from Spratly Paracel down to Paracel . If it is not Chinese illusion to restore hegemony, why đi Beijing  act like that?
For its own part , the Vietnamese are always proud of defeating the French colonisalism , Japanese fascists and American imperialist and condider it as completion of national liberation . General Secretary Le Duan once stated (roughly): From now on no more enemies dare to invade Vietnam again! But that claim was quickly shown to be false before the big northern neighboring state that stand firm ready to restore its dynasty before the French colonialist time . That is the core lesson that the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping wanted to " teach " the Vietnamese. In short, there is sufficient theoretical and practical basis to say that, not only the old dynasties but also today's socialists , the Chinese always considere Vietnam as a vassal state , and this is the clearest difference on how to understand about sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity between Vietnamese and Chinese. Due to this difference , it is so difficult (if not impossible) to build up normal relations between these two national states. It is  neither like the relation between the US and Mexico nor that between US and Cuba. This is a strained relationship , in which the Vietnamsse side though always tries to be humble enough "to avoid the elephant at all cost" while  the Chinese always want to impose and subdue.

Friendship, OK, but better keep a good distance

With the given position of land and space and by long traditions , the Vietnam can not avoid having relations with its northern neighboring state. But nomatter good or bad,  it is the relationship for survival rather than for development. Vietnamese has this pragmatic saying: " Sell brothers far away to buy neighbors nearby " and also has this coarse but profound comment : " Things smell nice when far away, but may smell rotten when come too near". These make up their philosophy of behavior not only on village and national level but also on international scale, particulally with their big northern neighbor - China since very long past. On the other hand, Vietnamese inteletuals of consecutive generations have been trying to search for ways to independence and development through various movements like Duy Tân (Renovation), Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc(Eastwards) or "get rid of Asian" in the 19th centuary and the motto of " making friends with all" recently. Now that after having driven out the French and American imperialists, Vietnamse suddenly realized that the country 's independence and territorial integrity continues to be under thread by "foreign countries" - a vague wording for "Chinese". This is indeed a paradox for Vietnamese themselves as long as they still believe that the God-given position of mountains and rivers with China never allows them to change the relationship. At the same time , They realize that through thousand years under the rule of the Northern Empire and hundred years under the French colonialism, both of which are no good, except that during hundred years of French, Vietnam border lines had been maintained intact from Muc Nam Quan in the North to Mui Ca Mau in the South, and from Spratleys down to Paracels in the East Sea. Regarding development opportunities also find similar phenomena , such as infrastructure, technology and business though limited by the mean method of exploitation, France had however brought about ​​a good difference compared to the Northern Empire time. The fact showed that aid from China only helped the North Vietnam to make to wars but not for development . Ironcally enough, Vietnam 's economy has really taken off only after China cuting  aid. And since "normalization of relations between the two countries one notice the appearance of stagnation , especially in the field of science, technology and engineering..., because China brought into the country all sorts of outdated machinery and equipment while silently ploying their inherent restraint meathods. The bauxit Project in the Central Highland and series of power projects and mineral resources are clear examples . The overwhelming inflows of Chinese low-quality products and toxical food across the border have been actually threatening the economy of Vietnam. In the current rush for investment none can say for sure that one day Vietnamese plants , mines , fields , forests and seas will fall into the hands of Chinese. It is hight time now for Vietnamese political leaders and businessmen should be aware of the risk of increasingly rapprochement with China will restrict access to advanced scientific and technologies of the world . 

In this regard, Vietnam may refer development experience of Japan, South Korea , Taiwan and several Southeast Asian countries who could gain steady and comprehensive development only in a relatively short period of of around 30 years chile keeping distance with China . On the contrary, Vietnam has been losing opportunities during over 40 years due to its failure to get out of the harness of the "big borother". However, opportunities are still around because it is along way for China to get rid of backwardness and poverty enven though it's economy is now ranked world's second largest.

Beware of China's divide and rule trap

"Let us go back to the coming visit of Prime Minister Li Keqiang . Vietnam is the last stop in a series of tours made recently by Chinese leaders to ASEAN countries . These visits takes place in the unusual context of the South China Sea dispute, especially while the U.S. economy fell into deep crisis causing internal divisions. It is funy enough that the Federal Government has run out of budget andPresident Obama could not go to attend very important events overseas such as the EAC and APEC 21 summits . It is a gold opportunity for Beijing to promote its role of as major power in regional forum without being pressed concerning solution of regional disputes. With ample financial capacity than the U.S. , Beijing can now launch to " buy " regional partners to implement its divide and rule scheme for the ASEAN block. Specific agreements have been reached with Indonessia ( including the fishing across the East Sea one). Beiging also signed strategic partnership with Malaysia while strengthening comprehensive relations with Thailand , Singapore , Brunai , Myanmar . So far it can be said that most ASEAN member countries have been " enlisted ", except Cambodia has been put under control, by Beijing; only the Philippines and Vietnam remain Chinese expensionist victims, each struggling to find its own way in dealling with the common enemy . This means Beijing has almost completed its plot of divideand rule over the ASEAN region that deemed far way a few years ago. Meanwhile the so-called " axis rotation policy " of the United States actually interrupted , if not " drumming up sticks " .In the above mentioned context , is not difficult to predict the mission of the visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiangthet to Vietnam is to complete the campaign for Beiging's divide and rule scenario that was clearly shaped since the last visits to China by Vietnamese leaders.And this has been seemingly responded by Beijing by reducing the intensity of the sea encroachment, which may caused some e misunderstading among some circle. In other words , Beijing is actively implementing this scenario in an attempt to buy time to prepare all the necessary conditions for the targetted "core interests" of occupying the whole East Sea . In this scenario, Vietnam though holds most strategic position has to act as a subordinate role . That's what Beijing wants. On purely bilateral relationship , no matter what the guest bring in their main purpose will definitely aim to lure Vietnam back into within influence of China. Surely beautiful words will be utter out from both sides, but both sides' intention remain there.

In short, the visit of Prime Minister Li Keqiang to Vietnam this time brings more bad than good omens giving Vietnam 's leaders another test on coping with the national long-term foreign policy . However, a silver lining has a silver lining , hoping that the departure of General Vo Nguyen Giap has awakened spirit of independence and solidarity among the population for their national destiny before running water . And this will remind the polical leaders and entrepreneurs to on highlight their alert. / .

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