Vietnam’s careful dance with the superpowers

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Author: Phuong Nguyen, CSIS, Washington DC

US–Vietnam military relations have improved remarkably in recent years but talk of an enhanced alliance between Washington and Hanoi overlooks important geopolitical and historic nuances. Defence relations between the two countries turned a page in the early 2000s, when both countries moved beyond the legacy of the Vietnam War. Both countries began to actively explore new ways to work together. Read more…

Vietnam’s economy steady as it grows

A bicycle stands in rice fields in Vietnam. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Suiwah Leung, ANU

The Vietnamese economy has stabilised but is growing below trend. In 2014, the economy relied principally on manufactured exports. The government seems to be pushing on with structural reforms of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the banking sector. But it remains to be seen whether its current efforts will be sufficient to restore economic growth in time for the country to transform itself into a high-income industrialised economy in the longer-term future. Read more…

Vietnam’s leaders look to consolidate gains in 2015

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Author: Thomas Jandl, MRTJ Asia Consulting

For Vietnam’s leadership, 2014 was another year of growing into a role as an increasingly active international player, both diplomatically and economically. Two events — the Haiyang 981 oilrig incident and TPP accession negotiations — gave Vietnam a place in the spotlight and shed light on a continued path for 2015. Read more…

Vietnam looks for renewal in an intensely political 2015

A Vietnamese worker paints a communist sign before hanging it over a street as decoration prior to New Year celebrations in Hanoi on 22 December 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: David Brown, California

Vietnam will begin 2015 on a fairly sound economic footing. The national economy has largely recovered from Hanoi’s ill-advised efforts to mitigate the impact of the 2009 Great Recession. That sobering experience exposed structural weaknesses which, left unfixed, could condemn Vietnam to languish in a middle-income trap, unable to realise the potential of its relatively young and well-educated population. Read more…

US links arms with Vietnam in maritime security fight

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Author: Murray Hiebert, CSIS

The United States partially lifted its decades-old ban on weapons sales to Vietnam on 2 October 2014. This was one of the most significant steps in improving relations between the two former enemies since they normalised diplomatic ties nearly two decades ago. Read more…

Is Vietnam in denial on military strategy?

A Chinese coast guard vessel near the area of China's oil drilling rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea, off shore Vietnam, 14 May 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Shang-su Wu, RSIS

Vietnam’s recent, and significant, investment in military hardware is aimed at coping with a changing strategic environment. But will it make any significant difference in balancing against China’s military might in the South China Sea? Read more…

Looking for a plus-one, Japan turns to Vietnam

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to their talks at Abe's office in Tokyo on 10 October, 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Kensuke Yanagida, Japan Institute of International Affairs

As Japan seeks to diversify its investments beyond China, an opportunity arises for Vietnam to attract greater international investment.

Over the past few years, firms invested in China have started diversifying their investment destinations and reducing their overreliance on China, in what is called the ‘China Plus One Strategy’. Read more…

Vietnam’s education system: still under construction

Vietnamese school pupils cheer as they release balloons during a ceremony held to mark the new school year. Debates on the quality of the country's education system continue. (Photo: AAP).

Author: David Brown, California

For Vietnamese youth, a university degree is the entry ticket to the middle class and a promise (often unfulfilled) of an urban professional job. Enrolment in higher education has grown from 162,000 in 1992 to over two million last year, some 25 per cent of the nation’s college-age population. Read more…

The past successes and future pitfalls of decentralisation in Vietnam

Author: Thomas Jandl, American University

Vietnam’s market reforms are inseparable from the policy of economic decentralisation, which allowed for local experimentation and forced provincial leaders into competition. This improved the business climate throughout the country. In this sense, decentralisation is a root cause of Vietnam’s attractiveness to investors around the globe. Yet it would be a mistake to view decentralisation as one smooth process. Instead, it has gone through two main phases and is now entering a third. Read more…

Oil rig out, but still no happy ending

Lieutenant-Colonel Ngo Minh Tung, captain of a Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel, speaks to reporters aboard the ship on 16 July 2014. On 15 July, the Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig was removed from the Vietnamese claimed EEZ in the South China Sea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tung Nguyen, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam

On 15 July, the Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig was removed from Vietnam’s claimed EEZ in the South China Sea. But this might not be the happy ending it appears to be. The way the crisis began and ended suggests that similar incidents will occur. The Chinese decision to place the rig in the area was unilateral. So was the decision to pull it out. It was made in the absence of an agreed solution between China and Vietnam and was accompanied by a claim touting the ‘success’ of the drilling operation, which occurred ‘well within China’s sovereignty’, according to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hong Lei. Read more…

China’s SOEs test the waters in the South China Sea

A Chinese government ship trails a Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel with reporters aboard in the South China Sea on 15  July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Megan Bowman, George Gilligan and Justin O’Brien, UNSW

In early May, the Chinese HYSY-981 oil rig was moved into waters near the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The oil rig is owned by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and operated by its subsidiary China Oilfield Services Limited. It was redeployed with Beijing’s approval to drill for another state-owned corporation, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The rig was deployed 120 nautical miles from Vietnam’s coastline and within Vietnam’s claimed exclusive economic zone. Conflict ensued between Vietnamese and Chinese sea-faring vessels and between citizens of both nations on Vietnamese soil. Read more…

China’s control over the South China Sea

A Vietnamese protester during a protest rally against China’s deployment of an oil rig in the disputed South China Sea. China recently announced that it would remove the rig. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

Last week China announced that it was towing away a giant oil rig from waters disputed with Vietnam, ahead of the onset of the typhoon season and after finding signs of oil and gas, at the same time insisting it stood firm on maritime claims that have sparked disputes with its neighbours — and warned it could return.

China deployed the US$1 billion rig in early May in waters close to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea Read more…

Vietnam’s precarious strategic balancing act

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung attend a meeting in Hanoi over the stationing of a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea, 18 June 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Huong Le Thu, ISEAS

Since overcoming years of isolation in the late 1990s, Vietnam has pursued an ‘omnidirectional’ foreign policy. In 2001, Vietnam began establishing a network of flexibly defined partnerships: these include ‘comprehensive’ (enhanced bilateral diplomatic and economic relations), ‘strategic’ and ‘cooperative strategic’ (the highest level of cooperation based on long-term relations). Read more…