pursues its interests in a manner that corresponds to the stronger side’s superior status.6
The tradition of Vietnamese dealings with China is well alive among Vietnam’s ruling elites. One of the most often recalled stories is the Vietnamese Le court’s treatment of Ming Chinese troops after defeating them on the battleground in 1427. Instead of revenge the Vietnamese supplied their enemies with food and sent them unharmed back to China. The Vietnamese often say that military resistance and diplomatic deference are the twin characteristics of the traditional Vietnamese way of dealing with China. As expressed by the Vietnamese Party chief Le Kha Phieu’s personal secretary, the rationale of Vietnam’s deference to China is that “we live adjacent to a big country; we cannot afford to maintain tension with them because they are next door to us.”7 The man was using this argument to justify his boss’s acceptance of China’s terms in a visit to Beijing and Phieu’s concessions to the latter in the Sino-Vietnamese border pacts of 1999 and 2000.
The Solidarity Approach
Vietnamese politics is dominated by the Communist Party, which from its very foundation has endorsed Marxism-Leninism. During half a century of communist rule in Vietnam, Marxism-Leninism has become the state ideology. Many of its ideas are propagated and repeated to the extent that they are taken for granted. These include Marxist-Leninist view of the world.
According to Marx, the driving force of history is class struggle.8 Marxist-Leninists perceive the contemporary world primarily as a class struggle between forces of “socialism” and those of “imperialism.” The forces of socialism have the communist countries as their core, while those of imperialism concentrate in the West. Hanoi’s
6 Brantly Womack, “Asymmetry and Systemic Misperception: China, Vietnam and Cambodia during the 1970s,” Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2 (June 2003), pp. 92-119, especially p. 96-99.
7 Nguyen Chi Trung, “Thuc chat tu dai hoi dang IX tro ve truoc (tu thap ky 90 the ky 20) la van de gi?” [What Is the Real Problem in the 1990s Prior to the 9th Party Congress?], Hanoi, 2002, disclosed in Dien thu Cau lac bo Dan chu [E-mail of the Democratic Club], No. 11 (November 2003).
8 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977 ).