between the two.33
It was in Phieu’s initiative that China and Vietnam agreed to hold regular Sino-Vietnamese consultations on ideology. At the first such conference in 2000, Vietnamese Party chief ideologue Nguyen Duc Binh urged the Chinese to intensify solidarity among the socialist countries.34 Sources in Hanoi reported that Phieu also renewed the Vietnamese request for a Sino-Vietnamese alliance on an ideological basis.35 Although the Chinese did not hail this idea, they were willing to stand behind Phieu in his domestic power struggle. At the Ninth Party Congress in 2001, Phieu received substantial support from China for his bid for Party chief.
While Phieu tried, unsuccessfully, to elevate Vietnam into a pole in China’s multipolar world order, other factions in the Hanoi leadership pursued their own agendas. The modernizers tried to balance Vietnam’s close ties with China by strengthening relations with the United States. Notably, they were eager to conclude a comprehensive trade pact with the United States, which would facilitate Vietnam’s integration to the world economy and veer the country in the direction of Washington. Although the anti-imperialists successfully delayed the pact, they were not successful in altering its substance, when it was finally signed in 2001. To meet both the modernizer’s need for balancing and the anti-imperialist need for solidarity, moderates led by President Tran Duc Luong created a strange mixture of both in the “strategic partnership” with Russia, which was formally declared at the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2001.
The replacement of Le Kha Phieu by Nong Duc Manh as Party chief at the Ninth Party Congress in April 2001 did not change Vietnam’s China policy substantively. Unlike Phieu, who rather pursued his own path, Manh yielded to the wishes of all major factions in the ruling elites. Thus, as a true anti-imperialist, he tried to define the Sino-Vietnamese relationship as “comrades plus brothers.”36 The Sino-Vietnamese joint statement issued at his first visit to Beijing included for the first time an anti-hegemonist clause, which indicated Vietnam’s alignment with China in opposing American
33 This is the Vietnamese version. The Chinese version reads long-term stability and future orientation first.
34 Binh, “Some Thoughts on the Destiny of Socialism,” p. 16.
35 N.S.P., “Thu Ha Noi” [Letter from Hanoi], Dien dan, No. 104 (February 2001).
36 Nhan dan, November 30, 2001.