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On applying the principle of “firm in objectives, flexible in strategies and tactics” to Vietnam’s diplomacy today

“Firm in objectives, flexible in strategies and tactics” is the teaching of President Ho Chi Minh to the then Minister of Internal Affairs Huynh Thuc Khang prior to his business trip to France to attend the Fontainebleau Conference in May 1946 when the Vietnamese revolutionary government was not fully established and “hung by a hair”. The teaching not only helped us safeguard the independence and the revolutionary government but has become a valuable lesson on diplomacy that has been effectively applied by our Party and State in the national salvation wars before and the cause of renewal, Fatherland construction and defence, and international integration today.

“Firm in objectives, flexible in strategies and tactics” means taking the invariable to respond to the variable. Accordingly, the invariable represents the national interests in which national independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity are the core values; while the variable is the ingenious and flexible response in each particular situation that is aimed to maintain the invariable in whatever circumstance and difficulty. Ho Chi Minh made it clearly that “Our objectives must be firm, but our strategies must be flexible”. To be flexible in strategies, the importance is to have the right evaluation of the international situation and its positive and negative impacts on our country. Particularly, our strategies must determine the limit of concession in order to map out the best policies and approaches for maintaining the strategic principle of national independence and socialism.

The Ceremony to welcome President Ho Chi Minh at Bourges airport
on June 22nd, 1946 (file photo)

Implementing Ho Chi Minh’s diplomatic principle of “firm in objectives, flexible in strategies and tactics”, our Party and State have drawn out the sound diplomatic policies and strategies, meeting both short-term tasks and long-term goals. In reality, our diplomatic activities have always grasped the situation, stuck to the set out goals, acted ingeniously and flexibly in each circumstances to best serve the national interests. Achievements in diplomacy and in settling the relations with our once enemies for the recognized and safeguarded independence is a prime example. In particular, the promotion of the strength of the national unity bloc, the combination of national strength and that of the times and the support of international community in the cause of national salvation and unification as well as Fatherland construction and defence have proved the effectiveness of external lines of the Party and State in general and the diplomatic principle of “firm in objectives and flexible in strategies and tactics” in particular.

Nowadays, the world situation is becoming complicated and unpredictable; major powers have been adjusting their strategies with both cooperation and competition. Therefore, the study and application of President Ho Chi Minh’s principle in diplomacy in order to enhance the effectiveness of external affairs, contribute to maintaining a peaceful and stable environment for the national construction and defence cause, and successfully realize the Resolution of the 12th National Party Congress are of vital importance. In this article, some measures are suggested as follows.

First, it is necessary to be aware of and determine the “invariable” and the “variable” in the international relations today. The invariable is nothing else but national interests, national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unification; the socialism and the leadership role of the Communist Party of Vietnam which are confined as national independence and socialism. This is the goal and the road that President Ho Chi Minh and our Party have decided and led the whole Vietnamese nation to the first phase with significant and historic achievements recorded. The two factors of “national independence” and “socialism” are both conditions and prerequisites of each other, and unified and inseparable. Grasping this viewpoint will help us integrate into the world intensively but not harm our national interests or destabilize the socio-political situation which may adversely impact the leadership role of the Party and the survival of the regime. In the meantime, the exact evaluation of the times, world and regional situation will help us map out the sound foreign policies.

Continuing to “consistently implement the foreign line of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development” is an immutable principle in the current situation. As shown in the history, it is hard to gain independence, but it is even harder to safeguard the independence and self-reliance, especially in the era of globalisation, and intensive international integration which has posed major challenges to our country in the maintenance of independence and self-reliance in the international relations. However, the lesson from Vietnam’s revolutionary cause shows that thanks to our persistence in the foreign line of independence and self-reliance, and the sound policies in the spirit of “flexible strategies”, our Party and State have successfully protected national interests in the times of severe hardships and complexities. This is the lodestar that has been shaped and maintained through external activities of our Party and State since the foundation of the country to date, which should be further promoted in the new context. However, during the implementation process, it is necessary to settle the relation between independence, self-reliance and international integration which requires that we should not only safeguard our independence and self-reliance but also actively take responsibilities in the regional and world affairs.

A manifestation of the effective employment of the diplomatic principle of “firm in objectives, flexible in strategies” to respond to the complicated and changeable situation of our Party and State is to implement the policy of diversification and multilateralisation of foreign relations. Multilateralisation means that we are ready to establish relations with different partners; diversification means that we are ready to expand the relations in many aspects, with many forms, and at various levels. Implementing that policy, to date, we have set up diplomatic relations with 185 out of 193 member states of the UN. In particular, we have established strategic partnership relations with 11 countries, including all the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council; commercial relations with nearly 230 countries and territories; and have become a positive member of over 70 regional and international organisations. As a result, our economic potential, credit and status in international arena have been improved; we have escaped from the condition of an underdeveloped country; the socio-political situation remains stable; defence and security are strengthened; independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity are firmly protected. Upholding the achievements, implementing the present policy of diversification and multilateralisation of foreign relations, our Party, State, industries, organisations and all levels should grasp and stick to the external lines that has been stipulated in the 12th National Party Congress. In particular, we should promote the cooperative, friendly and traditional relations with our neighbours; strengthen and deepen the relations with our strategic partners and major powers which are important to the development and security of the country. Besides, we should actively participate and promote our role in multilateral mechanisms, especially the ASEAN and UN, etc. It is required that whatever foreign policies we adopt, we must maintain the unified leadership of the Party and centralised management of the State over diplomacy; forms and levels of diplomacy should be closely coordinated, particularly between diplomacy, defence and security. Only by doing this, foreign affairs can meet its stated targets and requirements.

Moreover, we should promote the synergy, closely combine the strength of the nation with that of the times. After 30 years of renewal, we have created new a new status and potential. However, the combination between national strength with the strength of the times is an objective requirement which will multiply the country’s strength. Once our potential is improved, our diplomacy will be more effective. President Ho Chi Minh said that when we were strong, we would win in diplomatic field. In this respect, diplomatic cadres are important. Therefore, the Party and State should pay attention to the training and education of diplomatic staff and training diplomatic skills for key cadres at all echelons to meet the mission requirements and contribute to successfully realizing the tasks and goals of external affairs in the current situation.

Major Le Xuan Huan, MA, Political Academy under the Ministry of National Defence

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