US better give up attempt to contain China by utilizing Southeast Asian countries

Hu Xijin

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to China has achieved remarkable results. Ties between China and its neighboring countries are mainly supported by inter-governmental relations and huge trade volumes. But when it comes to China and Vietnam, the ruling parties of the two have maintained a close relationship, providing additional solid bonds and resilience for ties between the two countries.

China and Vietnam are two countries led by the Communist Party. Both are facing the common task of developing their economies, continuously improving people’s living standards, supporting each other politically, taking a socialist path that suits their own national conditions, and avoiding being overthrown by external forces.

Trong’s visit has greatly consolidated the relationship between the two parties and injected more stability into the relationship between the two countries. Both general secretaries spoke highly of the relations between the two parties and the two countries, and appreciated each other’s great achievements. The strong foundation and development momentum of bilateral relations were fully displayed during this visit. Trong said that Vietnam attaches great importance to its ties with China and regards developing friendly cooperation with China as a top priority in its foreign policy.

It is the common will and task of both China and Vietnam to handle disputes in the South China Sea and not let it disturb the bigger picture of relationship between the two countries. This principle has been reinforced during the visit. The two sides agreed to properly manage differences and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. They also agreed to, through consultations and negotiations, discuss temporary, transitional solutions that do not affect stances and policies of each side and seek basic long-term solutions acceptable to both sides. This further eliminates the risk of bilateral ties being distracted by the South China Sea issue.

The US has always wished to build an anti-China united front in the South China Sea with Japan, Australia, and Southeast Asian countries. Among them, Vietnam is a key US target to rope in. However, Vietnam is clearly aware that the US wants to use it as a pawn, so Hanoi is vigilant while developing relations with the US. During this visit, Trong reiterated that Vietnam will not allow any country to establish a military base in Vietnam, or join any military alliance, or use force against any country, or work with one country to oppose another. He also said that Vietnam firmly follows the one-China policy, opposes any form of “Taiwan independence” separatist activities, and will not develop any official relations with Taiwan island.

Washington’s’ attempt to draw the Philippines to US side to confront China also suffered serious setbacks after former president Benigno Aquino III stepped down. During Rodrigo Duterte’s six years in power, China and the Philippines successfully managed their maritime divergences, and the relationship between the two countries further developed. The incumbent Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr is also friendly to China. It is unlikely for the Philippines to return to Aquino III’s aggressive China policy.

China is very clear about the US’ attempt to win over ASEAN countries to build an anti-China alliance. In fact, whether ASEAN countries will take the US’ side will determine the success or failure of the US’ “anti-China united front.” Over the years, the US has made Japan and Australia more proactive in cooperating with Washington’s China policy. But in Southeast Asia, it can be argued that the US has lost the battle. Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar are growing closer and closer to China. Other countries have expressed neutrality, but in fact, they have been close to China economically and while following the US for security. Now, these countries are continuing to stay close to China economically but are also becoming more and more truly neutral in terms of security.

The reason is that China has continuously achieved tremendous growth in its comprehensive national strength in recent years. The increase in China’s attractiveness is not only in trade, but also in many other fields. Take Vietnam as an example. In 2021, the total trade volume between China and Vietnam reached $230.2 billion, equivalent to Vietnam’s trade volume with the US, Japan and South Korea combined. People living in many northern cities in China enjoy having Vietnamese fruits such as dragon fruits. China-Vietnam relations have broad prospects. The modernization process of the two countries encourages each other. China is now pursuing to reach the goal – by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China, to build a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious. By 2045, Vietnam aspires to be a high-income developed country.

China is an indispensable partner for Vietnam to become a developed country, and the US can only be a lever for Vietnam to gain more attention and respect from China. Meanwhile, the US also poses a long-term threat to Vietnam from an ideological perspective. Vietnam’s political opposition forces are primarily based in the US, and there will always be forces in the US that want to subvert socialism in Vietnam.

Time reveals one’s heart. It has been many years since the US started pushing Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to be hostile to China. But what kind of neighbor is China? Is it a threat, or a partner for development? Southeast Asian countries have gradually seen it more and more clearly. Vietnam has also gradually realized that it is in its own interests to manage disputes and boost comprehensive cooperation with China. Trong’s visit to China vividly reflects such understanding of Vietnam. The US better give up the attempt to contain China by utilizing Southeast Asian countries.

The writer is a commentator with the Global Times