Long-standing tradition enables Hanoi to navigate great-power competition and adapt to shifting geopolitics.
Publication Type: Analysis and Commentary
Vietnam’s leaders have engaged with the presidents of the United States and China over the past few months. While some might see this effort as a “ balancing act ” in response to U.S.-China competition, it is, in fact, an indication of a long-standing but still highly relevant Vietnamese foreign policy tradition: the diversification of international relations. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh of Vietnam addresses the U.N. General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 22, 2023. (Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times) A Well-Established Principle
This foreign policy tradition can be traced back to Vietnam’s pre-modern history, when it was used to fend off external forces, then to modern times, as a way for a newly independent country to navigate the post-war environment. Over the years, its substance gradually expanded.
It is often regarded in Vietnam that the history of this tradition is the history of fighting off foreign forces, due to the country’s strategic location, abundant resources and burgeoning population. As a preemptive measure to deter potential invasions, Vietnam’s historic dynasties emphasized expanding diplomacy with as many kingdoms as possible. In Bình Ngô Đại Cáo (Victory Proclamation), considered one of the earliest independence declarations of Vietnam, the respected strategist Nguyễn Trãi laid out the spirit of living in harmony with others, including past foes, to establish “eternal peace,” similar to the diversification principle today.
In the post-WWII era, under the leadership of Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam’s first president and one-time foreign minister, the diversification of relations principle also grew to be more prominent . Soon after declaring the country independent in 1945, Hồ Chí Minh reached out to all major powers (including the Soviet Union, the United States and China), underlining […]
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