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The Enmeshment Approach

The enmeshment strategy is premised upon economic interdependence and the interlocking of political interests among state as well as non-state actors in the international arena. The idea traces its theoretical roots back to the Complex Interdependence school of Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye.12 The theory claims that societies are connected through multiple channels, be they interstate or transnational. These have given rise to non-state actors such as international organizations and regimes, as well as multinational corporations. At the same time, the linkages among societies have reached the stage of complex interdependence. Under these conditions the relative utility of military force declines, while economic issues become as salient as classic security issues.

The concept of interdependence was first introduced to Vietnam through Gorbachev’s “new thinking” in the late 1980s. Then Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach was among the lead proponents of this outlook in Vietnam. The theory of complex interdependence also features prominently in Premier Vo Van Kiet’s view of the contemporary world. In his classified letter to the Politburo on August 8, 1995, Kiet emphasized that the primary factors responsible for the dynamics of the world today are its diversity and multipolarity, which result from diverse national, regional, and global interests.13 Recently, in an unpublicized position paper, Kiet has again counseled the Party to change its approach to Vietnam’s world anchorage. Instead of seeking a certain great power to lean on, he urges, Vietnam must interlock the diverse interests of different actors into situations favorable to Vietnam. It must even create new interests for its opponents and then enmesh them in a matrix beneficial to it.14

12 Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Power and Interdependence (Boston: Little Brown, 1977).

13 Vo Van Kiet, “Thu gui Bo Chinh tri” [Letter to the Politburo], August 9, 1995, divulged in, for example, Dien dan, No. 48 (January 1996), pp. 16-23, here p. 16.

14 Vo Van Kiet, “Dong gop y kien vao bao cao tong ket ly luan va thuc tien 20 nam doi moi” [Suggestions to the Concluding Report on Theory and Practice of 20 Years of Renewal], April 2005, disclosed in, for example, Dan Chim Viet, October 2, 2005, online edition


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