Beneath and in parallel with the enmeshment and balancing approaches, Hanoi was still pursuing the strategy of solidarity with socialist forces. Besides the resolution on foreign policy, which stressed “diversification and multifirectionalization,” the Third Plenum in June 1992 also issued a separate resolution on defense policy and national security, which established opposing “peaceful evolution” as the top national security priority. Anti-imperialists managed to issue in the form of the oral briefing of the Third Plenum resolution a directive that instructed Party cadres about the geopolitical priorities. It determined the distance to be held between Vietnam and a foreign country on an ideological basis. Thus, it considered the Marxist-Leninist states—China, Cuba, North Korea, and Laos—to be the closest friends of Vietnam.31 Although China undertook steps that were called “expansionist” even by General Secretary Do Muoi, interaction between the two parties and governments was still intensified. In 1993, for example, the average number of high-level exchanges jumped to two delegations a month.32
Forward into the Past, 1998-2003
The change of the guard at the top post of the Vietnam Communist Party in December 1997 introduced a new phase in Vietnam’s China policy. The new General Secretary, Le Kha Phieu, pursued hard-line anti-imperialism in foreign policy while attempting to establish neopatriotism as a new ideology in domestic affairs. An ambitious boss without a power base, Phieu directed his primary concerns after taking office toward gaining popular and Chinese support. Traveling twice to Beijing in 1999 and 2000, he made several concessions to China in border issues, which paved the way for the conclusion of two Sino-Vietnamese pacts on land border and on maritime border in the Tonkin Gulf. In return, China rewarded Vietnam with a sixteen-word guideline stressing “friendly neighborhood, comprehensive cooperation, long-term stability, and future orientation,” a framework to codify Chinese and Vietnamese commitment to stability of relations
31 Thanh Tin (Bui Tin), Mat that: Hoi ky chinh tri [True Face: Political Memoirs], (Irvine, CA: Saigon Press, 1993).
32 Thayer, “Sino-Vietnamese Relations,” pp. 525-527.