Vietnam Foreign Policy Issues

By | May 20, 2021

Vietnam occupies a central position in the Southeast Asia region. Until the late 1980’s, the country was isolated in terms of foreign policy. Since the introduction of economic reforms in the second half of the 1980’s, Vietnam has opened up in terms of foreign policy and can certainly boast a track record: relaxation of relations with China and expansion of relations with the states in East and Southeast Asia, which began in 1995 when it joined the international community ASEAN and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the US culminated.

According to hyperrestaurant, Vietnam traditionally has close ties with Laos, which date back to the early years of the anti-colonial liberation struggle. As a business partner and investor in Laos, Vietnam is increasingly competing with China and Thailand.

Relations with Cambodia

Like Vietnamese-Chinese relations, Vietnam’s relations with Cambodia are ambivalent. In the 19th century, Vietnam occupied Cambodia and tried to “civilize” the country. This period of Vietnamese foreign rule still affects Cambodia.

The anti-colonial movement in Cambodia was largely dovetailed with the anti-colonial liberation struggle in Vietnam. Hanoi supported the communist movement in Cambodia during the Vietnam War as part of “international solidarity”. As early as the early 1970’s, however, there were massive tensions between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese “comrades”, which then intensified after 1975.

After multiple violent attacks by the Khmer Rouge on Vietnamese territory, Vietnam decided in late 1978 to invade Cambodia and end the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Vietnamese troops remained in Cambodia until 1989 and fought costly battles with the fled Khmer Rouge associations.

Even after the Cambodia conflict was resolved by the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991, tensions and border disputes between Vietnam and Cambodia continued to arise.

The approximately 750,000 Vietnamese living in Cambodia often have an uncertain legal status and are in some cases discriminated against. Anti-Vietnamese resentments are mainly fueled by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

The relations between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) Hun Sen and the Communist Party of Vietnam are still tight. Nevertheless, it is an irony of history that on the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Vietnamese troops and the overthrow of the Pol Pot regime Hanoi in Cambodia only “plays second fiddle”, while the People’s Republic of China, which backed the Khmer Rouge at the time, played is the most important economic partner of the leadership in Phnom Penh and also plays an increasingly important role politically in the country. From a Vietnamese perspective, Cambodia is slowly drifting into Beijing’s sphere of influence.

German development efforts

The German development cooperation has been active since the Wiederverinigung in Vietnam. The focus is on vocational training, the environment (biodiversity and coastal protection) and energy (energy efficiency and renewable energies).

International development efforts

In the area of development cooperation, Japan is the largest donor. Due to a corruption case, the allocation of further funds to Vietnam was initially stopped. Finally, in February 2009, Japan announced that it would resume development aid.

After there had been irregularities in the allocation of Japanese ODA funds to Vietnam a few years ago, it was announced in March 2013 that a Japanese consulting firm had paid around US $ 780,000 in bribes to responsible persons in Vietnam in order to obtain the award for an ODA funded project.

In June 2014, Japan stopped granting new ODA loans again. The background to this was the uncovering of a new corruption case: Japan Transportation Consultants had bribed high-level employees of Vietnam Railways in order to be awarded the contract for an infrastructure project financed by Japanese ODA funds. As a result, six persons responsible were convicted in Vietnam.

As of March 2016, the World Bank had given Vietnam $ 21 billion in ODA to Vietnam, while the Asian Development Bank’s financial support since 1993 has been $ 15.2 billion.

The UN is represented with its important organizations in Vietnam. In addition, Vietnam also receives funding from the EU.

Role of expatriate Vietnamese

Over three million Vietnamese live abroad. The majority of the Vietnamese diaspora, especially in the USA and Australia, are Vietnamese who left their homeland after the end of the Vietnam War and who in some cases showed a very anti-communist attitude. Since the beginning of the reform policy in Vietnam and the associated opening up of the country, the relationship of many Vietnamese abroad to their homeland has relaxed significantly – also because the Vietnamese state is increasingly courting them. The appropriation of foreign Vietnamese sometimes also produces strange flowers: this is how the former FDP leader and Vice Chancellor Rösler became Celebrated in some media in Vietnam because of his Vietnamese origin, but also among Vietnamese in Germany – although he does not feel like Vietnamese by his own admission and cannot understand the corresponding articles due to a lack of Vietnamese language skills.

Since the beginning of the 1990’s, many Vietnamese have been working as workers abroad. there are around half a million. Most of the money they earn in Japan, Malaysia and South Korea in particular, the Vietnamese “guest workers” transfer to their families at home. The export of labor is therefore an important economic factor. In many cases, the Vietnamese have to take out large loans for placement services, which in some cases make women particularly vulnerable.

In October 2019, the death of 39 Vietnamese in a truck container in Essex / Great Britain drastically drew attention to the dark side of the trade in Vietnamese workers. Many Vietnamese who work abroad, for example in nail salons or especially in Great Britain on illegal cannabis farms, send a large part of their wages back to their home villages in Vietnam.

About 85,000 Vietnamese live in Germany – the largest Vietnamese community (approx. 13,000 people) in Berlin, where a veritable “Little Hanoi” has existed in the Lichtenberg market halls for several years. Many of the Vietnamese have now built their own livelihoods – this applies not only to the boat people, but also to many of the former contract workers who stayed in Germany after reunification. However, a small group earns its living from illegal activities such as cigarette smuggling. In this respect, one can say that there is a Vietnamese two-class society in Germany.

Elevated railway in Hanoi