CHANGE AND CONTINUITY IN VIETNAM’S CHINA POLICY
The birth of Vietnamese foreign policy after the Cold War took place in the later half of the 1980s. The period saw the formation of two Vietnamese grand strategies, which would contest for dominance in the subsequent years. First, “New Thinking” in the Soviet Union and radical changes in Soviet foreign policy under Gorbachev during 1986 triggered a change in worldview and a change of national ambition in Hanoi’s ruling circles. Inspired by the emergence of the Newly Industrialized Countries in Asia and the reform in China, a grand strategy of modernization was born out of Vietnam’s own economic crisis and the experience of “lagging behind” other countries in the region. Recognizing that the fate of the nations would now be determined by an “economic race,” not an arms race, the modernizers established that economic development be Vietnam’s top priority.15
However, the waning, and finally lost, of communist power in Eastern Europe as well as the Tiananmen Incident in China during 1989 caused a resurgence of anti-imperialism in the Vietnamese leadership. Fearing that the United States and the West were trying to eliminate socialism from the world, General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh and Defense Minister Le Duc Anh rehabilitated the old Marxist-Leninist worldview, which stressed the worldwide and long-term antagonism between socialism and imperialism, and revived a new-old grand strategy that gave highest priority to the protection of socialism against imperialism.16
In Defense of Socialism, 1990-1991
15 Gareth Porter, “The Transformation of Vietnam’s World-view: From Two Camps to Interdependence,” Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 12, No. 1 (June 1990), pp. 1-19. For important primary sources, see Phan Doan Nam, “Mot vai suy nghi ve doi moi tu duy doi ngoai” [Some Thoughts on Renewing Foreign Policy Thinking], Tap chi Cong san, Vol. 34, No. 2 (February 1988), pp. 50-54, 79; Nguyen Co Thach, “Tat ca vi hoa binh, doc lap dan toc va phat trien” [All for Peace, National Independence, and Development], Tap chi Cong san, Vol. 35, No. 8 (August 1989), pp. 1-8; and Thach, World in the Past Fifty Years.
16 Nguyen Van Linh, “Phat bieu cua dong chi Tong Bi thu Nguyen Van Linh be mac Hoi nghi 7 cua Ban chao hanh Trung uong Dang” [Speech of Comrade General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh at the Closure of the Party Central Committee’s Seventh Plenum], Tap chi Cong san, Vol. 35, No. 9 (September 1989), pp. 5-12; Excerpt from a speech by SRV Defense Minister Le Duc Anh, September 6, 1989, on Hanoi Radio Domestic Service, September 7, 1989 (FBIS-EAS-89-173, September 8, 1989, p. 59).