Since the advent of modernity in East Asia’s international relations the regional geopolitical landscape has seen a number of great changes. The first occurred in the 19th century, when Western powers became the most prominent protagonists in the region. The second change took place in the first half of the 20th century; it was Japan’s attempt to take over the regional leadership. The third great transformation of East Asian international relations came after the World War II, when the region became a main theater of the superpower contest between the United States and the Soviet Union. And now we are witnessing the fourth such change. The rise of China is dramatically changing Asia’s, and even the global, international environment. The ascent of China may, as Richard Armitage has recently predicted, surpass the war on terror in historical importance.1
How are the Asian states responding to China’s growing power? History and geography have jointly made Vietnam one of the countries most affectible by developments in China. An inquiry into Vietnamese China policy can thus provide interesting insights into the way of coping with China an Asian state has ever developed.
This paper will examine the evolution of Vietnam’s China policy since the end of the Cold War. Its central question concerns the underlying strategy that informs and guides Hanoi’s policy toward Beijing.
The exploration of such strategies involves understanding the thinking of foreign policy makers, as well as analyzing the state’s foreign policy activities. In the first section that follows, I will delineate the major ways of thinking foreign policy that are exercised by the Vietnamese leadership. The second section will investigate Vietnam’s strategy toward China after the end of the Cold War. In the concluding section, I will make some remarks regarding, the continuity and change of Vietnam’s China policy, its generation and future prospects.
FOREIGN POLICY STRATEGIC APPROACHES
1 Richard Armitage, “China the Emerging Power,” Yomiuri Shimbun, August 14, 2005.