US President Joe Biden began his second day of touring Vietnam on Monday. The two countries signed a “strategic partnership” agreement on Sunday. Both are concerned about China’s growing influence in the region, and the United States and Vietnam are seeking closer trade ties.
For this reason, Vietnam decided to take the step and give the United States the status of strategic partner, the highest rank in the diplomatic sphere. Until now, this status is reserved for four other countries: Russia, India, South Korea and China. A very symbolic announcement, accompanied by a series of trade agreements, especially in the semiconductor sector.
Regarding the sensitive issue of human rights, which was mentioned in the last communiqué, no one expects much progress. In the end, Vietnam was content to free its political opponents. The defense of human rights has long guided American interests in Vietnam, but there are fears that it will not be protected enough, admits Benoît de Tréglodé, Director of Research at the Institute for Strategic Research at the Military School.
“Washington will be less aggressive on human rights issues. We are facing a one-party regime led by the General Secretary of the Vietnamese Communist Party, who is at the end of his term. So, in a term where the The stability of power is a central issue, any threat of destabilization is unthinkable,” he analyzed. And the fight against corruption (which exists) is a formidable weapon in the service of power.
But beyond the announcements of goodwill and various forms of cooperation, no one is deceived: America’s goal is, in fact, to counter China’s territorial ambitions in the China Sea. This is a key issue for Vietnam, which has often criticized Chinese naval incursions into its exclusive zone.
Hanoi is also concerned not alienating its big neighbor, faithful to the so-called “bamboo diplomacy”, as explained by the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong himself: “Strong roots, strong trunks, but flexible branches.” It is a balancing act, with Vietnam seeking to be a reliable partner for the United States while preserving China, its largest trading partner.