Vietnam - China: Comprehensive cooperation based on control of differences and disputes
Vietnam - China: Comprehensive cooperation based on control of differences and disputes
  • Choi Nam-suk
  • 승인 2019.04.23 12:28
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Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Shanghai, China, Nov. 4, 2018.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) meets with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Shanghai, China, Nov. 4, 2018.

According to Vietnam News Agency, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Vietnam Primier Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will visit China and attend the High-level Forum on International Cooperation of "Belt and Road" (BRI). On this occasion, Prime Minister Phuc will have meetings with Chinese leaders such as courtesy meeting of President Xi Jinping and talks with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. The visit also takes place at a time of the two countries' aim to celebrate the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations (January 18, 1950 - January 18, 2020), thus contributing to promoting healthy and stable development of two countries’ relations.

In the course of developing 69-year-old Vietnam - China relations, friendly cooperation is always the main flow.
In the political field, Vietnam and China maintain high-level contact activities. In 2018, both sides celebrated 10 years of establishing a comprehensive cooperation partnership and strengthened the delegation exchange activities, typically the China visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to attend the first Chinese International Import Fair in Shanghai and had a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

At the same year, Prime Minister Phuc also met Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang twice at multilateral forums. For the Chinese side, member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Secretary of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection Zhao Leji paid a visit to Vietnam, while Vice Premier Hu Chunhua attended the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Vietnam; Foreign Minister Wang Yi twice visited Vietnam and had multiple meetings with Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh at multilateral forums, not to mention visits by leaders of ministries, sectors and localities of both countries. 

During the visit to China (November 4, 2018), Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc affirmed that Vietnam always attaches importance to developing friendly, stable, healthy and sustainable relations with China, considering this as one of priorities in Vietnam's foreign policy. On the Chinese side, Chinese Party General Secretary and President Xi Jinping also stressed that the Chinese Party and State attach importance to relations with Vietnam, agreed with Vietnam to maintain high-level contacts, promote political trust, promote cooperation in substantive manner, expand people's exchanges, strengthen traditional friendship relations, maintain peace and stability at sea, create a favorable environment for the development of relations between two countries.

Bilateral economic relations also have outstanding developments results. In 2018, two-way trade turnover reached nearly 150 billion USD (according to statistics of Chinese Customs). For three consecutive years, Vietnam is China's largest trading partner in ASEAN and the eighth largest worldwide. Meanwhile, China has been a leading trade partner of Vietnam over the past 15 consecutive years. In terms of investment, the total newly registered investment capital of China in Vietnam in 2018 reached 1.22 billion USD, ranking the 4th among 75 countries and territories which have newly licensed investment projects in Vietnam.

In the first quarter of 2019, China was the largest investor in Vietnam with 723.2 million USD, accounting for 18.9% of the total newly registered investment capital; more and more Chinese enterprises/corporations tend to shift their investment into Vietnam (according to Vietnam General Department of Statistics). Regarding tourism, China ranked first in the number of tourists to Vietnam with nearly 5 million visitors in 2018 and nearly 1.3 million visitors in the first quarter of 2019.

People-to-people exchanges between two countries have also been further strengthened, with more than 12.8 million people crossing their border. The two sides have implemented many measures to build trust, including border exchanges between their two Ministry of Defense, exchanges of coast guards, deployment of joint exercises, search and rescue activities through bilateral and within ASEAN channels, thus contributing to enhancing mutual understanding and political trust.

The biggest obstacle in Vietnam-China relations is the dispute in the East Sea (South China Sea), however, the development of friendly and cooperative relations with China has always been one of the top priorities in Vietnam's foreign policy.
The fact that China placed the giant oil rig Haiyang Shiyou-981 (HD-981) deep within Vietnam’s proclaimed exclusive economic zone (May 2014) has sparked more than two months of intense confrontation between the two countries’ maritime forces and triggered demonstrations of Vietnamese people both at home and abroad to protest China's actions.

The consistent policy of Vietnam in this regard is to resolve disputes in the East Sea by peaceful measures, in the spirit of mutual understanding and respect, compliance with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Vietnam also said that for matters related to Vietnam and another country, it should be settled in bilateral methods; for matters involving many countries, many parties, relating to maritime freedom and safety, it is necessary to discuss with stakeholders; in case the parties cannot resolve by negotiating measures, it must be done by other means, such as mediation or international judicial mechanisms.

Although resolving disputes on the East Sea is always a very complicated issue, however, Vietnam and China agree to manage the disagreement well, thus actively contributing to the negotiation process to achieve a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in line with international law, especially the UNCLOS 1982, that contributes to maintaining peace, stability and security in the East Sea in particular, and in the region in general, etc... Besides, Vietnam always maintains consistent views such as seriously implement important common perceptions reached by high-ranking leaders of the two countries, including “Vietnam - China agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea issues”; promoting existing negotiation and cooperation mechanisms to build mutual trust and maintenance to resolve disputes in the East Sea by peaceful means; implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties on the East Sea (DOC) in fully and effectively manner, promote to completion of comprehensive and substantive COC; good control over disputes at sea, avoiding actions that further complicate or expand disputes, thus contributing peace and stability in the East Sea. This Vietnam's position is supported by China and many other countries.

Vietnam Prime Minister Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to China and attend the High-level Forum BRI makes sense in promoting Vietnam-China relations’ development in healthy and stable manner.

In 2019, China celebrates its 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Both countries, Vietnam and China, will celebrate the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties in 2020 (January 18, 1950 - January 18, 2020). Meanwhile, the situation of China's BRI Initiative implement has recently faced many difficulties when some countries were concerned about China's “debt trap” for projects within the BRI framework.

Therefore, this visit to China of Vietnam Primier Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has important meanings: the affirmation of Vietnam’s viewpoint and policy in participating, supporting China to deploy the BRI that is aimed at promoting mutually beneficial cooperation, contributing to prosperity and stability in the region and the world; as an opportunity for high-ranking leaders of  two parties, two countries to exchange measures to strengthen political trust, solve existing problems in bilateral relations, and orient Vietnam-China relations to orbit of stable development in the coming time.

The visit is also aimed at promoting two countries’ economic cooperation agreements on the basis of respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, equal cooperation, mutual benefit, in line with international law and each country’s law, contributing to stable and substantive development of “Vietnam - China comprehensive strategic cooperation partnership” for the benefit of the two peoples.


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