China’s Xi looks to strengthen Vietnam ties after Biden visit
China’s President Xi Jinping will arrive in Vietnam on Tuesday on a mission to strengthen relations, just months after Washington and Hanoi upgraded their diplomatic ties.
China and Vietnam have a border in common, as well as close economic ties and ruling communist parties, but Xi’s two-day trip will be his first visit to the country in six years.
It comes hot on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s stopover in Hanoi in September, when he sought to shore up support against Beijing’s growing influence in the region.
“From China’s perspective, the visit is to emphasise that it has not lost Vietnam to the rival camp,” said Huong Le Thu, Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the International Crisis Group.
“For Vietnam, it represents its successful ‘bamboo diplomacy’, in which it is able to manoeuvre between the competing great powers without being forced to take one side over another,” she told AFP.
After an official welcome at the presidential palace on Tuesday, Xi will hold talks with Nguyen Phu Trong, the leader of Vietnam’s ruling communist party.
On Wednesday, there will be a wreath-laying ceremony at the mausoleum of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, before Xi meets Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and President Vo Van Thuong.
Vietnam and China already share a comprehensive strategic partnership, Vietnam’s highest diplomatic status. Hanoi and Washington upgraded to that same level in September.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the visit would involve discussions on “bringing China-Vietnam relations to a higher position”.
Items on the agenda include “politics, security, practical cooperation, the formation of public opinion, multilateral issues and maritime issues”, said Wang.
Like the United States, Vietnam has concerns about its neighbour’s growing assertiveness in the contested South China Sea.
China upset several ASEAN members, including Hanoi, with its September 1 release of a new official map, showing sovereignty over almost the entire resource-rich waterway.
The issue of maritime borders is a sensitive issue for Hanoi, which in July banned the “Barbie” movie from being shown domestically due to a brief appearance of a map that included a depiction of the nine-dash line used in official Chinese maps of the region.
Political researcher Nguyen Khac Giang told AFP that Xi’s visit presented an opportunity for Beijing to draw Vietnam closer, possibly through invoking the Xi-era foreign policy concept of the ‘Community of Common Destiny’.
The loosely defined phrase refers to a vision of future cooperation on economic, security and political issues.
“While Vietnam may remain cautious about joining China-led political initiatives, we can expect to see further progress in economic cooperation, especially in infrastructure development and green energy transitions,” he said.
Vietnamese state-controlled media reported last month that China Rare Earth Group Co. was looking for opportunities to work together with Vietnam’s mining giant Vinacomin.
It comes after the United States and Vietnam in September agreed to cooperate to help Hanoi quantify and develop its rare earth resources.
The United States has said Vietnam — with the world’s second-largest deposits of rare earths after China — has a key role to play as it looks to source less from China after supply chain shocks rocked the global economy in recent years.
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