the central political training institution for senior state officials, lists balance of power analysis as one of the six major methods for a proper study of international relations.4 Balancing thinking features prominently in the writings of Vietnamese foreign policy makers. In his survey of the world since the end of World War II, former Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach has painted a picture of world politics that is featured by the international balance of forces, alliances (“assemblage of forces”), and great power relations.5
The Deference Approach
The deference strategy has its roots in the traditional Vietnamese way of dealing with imperial China. This tradition rests on the earlier experience of over a millennium under Chinese rule and the later experience of nearly ten centuries as an autonomous kingdom neighboring China. A basic reality featured these two thousand years of the Sino-Vietnamese relationship—the unchangeable asymmetry in favor of China in terms of size and capacities.
Based on the experience of the Sino-Vietnamese relationship, Brantly Womack has recently developed a theoretical elaboration of asymmetric dyads. He points out that in an asymmetric bilateral relationship the two sides nurture different patterns of attention and status sensitivities. These differences are the roots of systemic misperception and thus can lead to conflict. Systemic stability can be reached by fulfilling the minimum expectations of both sides. For the weaker, it is acknowledgement by the stronger. In return, the stronger expects deference from the weaker. Acknowledgement implies that the stronger respects the weaker side’s autonomy. Deference means that the weaker
4 Hoc vien Chinh tri Quoc gia Ho Chi Minh, Vien Quan he Quoc te [Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy’s Institute of International Relations], Tap bai giang Quan he Quoc te (Chuong trinh cao cap ly luan chinh tri) [Textbook of International Relations for the Advanced Political Theoretical Program] (Hanoi: Ly luan Chinh tri, 2004), p. 18. The other five methods are economic, historical, holistic, empirical, and class analysis.
5 Nguyen Co Thach, The gioi trong 50 nam qua (1945-1995) va the gioi trong 25 nam toi (1995-2020) [The World in the Past Fifty Years (1945-1995) and the World in the Coming Twenty-five Years (1995-2020)] (Hanoi: Chinh tri Quoc gia, 1998), especially p. 62.