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Properly handling relationships with great powers - a determinant to firmly preserving national independence, self-reliance and sovereignty in the process of international integration

Realities of the Vietnamese revolution have highlighted the significance of “diplomatic front” to the previous cause of national liberation and the current one of building and defending the Homeland alike. According to Resolution of the 12th National Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party, “deepening relationships with partner nations, especially strategic ones and great powers, is essential to national development and security, effectively translating established relationship framework into practice”. This fundamental consistent viewpoint is not only indicative of the Party’s developed theoretical thinking on carrying out two strategic tasks of building and defending the Homeland in the process of development and integration, but a lodestar for the Party, people, and the Army in their entirety to effectively conduct foreign affairs with a focus on properly handling relationships with great powers in the new situation.

President Tran Dai Quang talks with leaders of delegations taking part in the 25th APEC Summit (photo: VNA)

The current world situation has seen a gradual shift from unipolar world order to multipolar one with the emergence of various international power centres. Major powers have made adjustments to their strategies in which on the one side, they cooperate and compromise with each other; on the other, they contain and compete with one another, thereby impacting greatly on regional and global complexion characterized by two-way interrelationship and interdependence amongst small and major powers through diverse, multi-tiered and multi-dimensional links as a result of objective needs of intertwined interests. Located in geostrategically significant position and possessing development potential in Asia Pacific region, Vietnam is always great powers’ focus of attention on various aspects, particularly on defence and security ones in positive and negative terms, which presents high demands for the work of foreign affairs in general and handling relationships with major powers in particular. To this end, it is essential to fully comprehend and seriously execute Party and State’s diplomatic line and promote a sense of solidarity and unity among the Party, people, and the Army in their entirety as a basis for the key measures to be taken synchronously as follows.

First,  for the sake of high consistency in awareness and action, continuously perceiving the Party’s diplomatic line and viewpoints to properly handle relations with great powers in the new situation. This acts as a central measure to achieve high consistency in awareness, ideology, and action among the Party, people, and the Army in their entirety towards the work of foreign affairs in general and proper management of relationships with major powers in particular in a bid to protect national independence, self-reliance and sovereignty in the process of active and proactive international integration. It should be noted that it is more important to carry out guidelines and policies than to formulate those which will be of little values without being propagated, grasped and enforced in reality no matter how creative and sensible they are. Therefore, great importance should be attached to the work of propagation so that cadres, party members, and people are able to thoroughly grasp Party lines and viewpoints, notably Resolution of the 12th National Party Congress; Resolution of the 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (11th tenure) on Strategy for defending the Homeland in the new situation; Resolution No. 22-NQ/TW by the Politburo on “international integration” and Resolution No. 806-NQ/QUTW, dated 31-12-2013 by the Central Military Commission on “defence international integration and diplomacy towards 2020 and beyond”, with a focus on contents of Resolution of the 12th Party Congress on further promoting and deepening relationships with partner nations, especially major powers towards national development and security for the sake of high implementation effectiveness among the Party, people and the Army in their entirety.

For the sake of efficient propagation, branches, sectors and local governments at levels need to comprehend the fundamentals of international integration, particularly those of cooperative relationships with great powers. Accordingly, in addition to strictly abiding by the principle of supreme national interest in accord with the foreign line of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development, diversification and multilateralization, there are correlative and intertwined challenges and opportunities in the relationships with great powers. Grounded in those viewpoints, forms and contents of propagation should be diverse and practical whilst the work of propagation should be carried out in a comprehensive, persuasive, genuine and objective fashion with prominence given to Party line and viewpoints on foreign policy, preventing hostile forces from using loopholes to damage our friendship relations with other nations. When it comes to the work of propagation, it is best to cover opportunities and challenges as well as the strengths and weaknesses in an objective, cautious and upbeat manner.

The realities have shown that it is important but sensitive to propagate the work of foreign affairs, especially relationships with great powers. Hence, it is essential to elaborately design plans, forms, contents and solutions concerning the work of propagation on a basis of Central Propaganda Department’s directions whilst tightly combining the domestic media with our foreign media in Vietnamese expatriates’ communities. In addition, it is crucial to foster defence and security training for the whole people, particularly key cadres at all-level sectors and localities with emphasis placed on promoting  national independence, self-reliance and sovereignty in our relations with major powers, thereby generating profound transformation in their awareness and sense of responsibilities.

Second, regularly grasping situations regarding national independence, self-reliance and sovereignty, especially the moves by great powers in order to formulate appropriate counter-measures in cooperative relationships. To properly deal with relationships with great powers, first of all, it is important to firmly grasp the situations and accurately evaluate partners of cooperation and objects of struggle with direct respect to national independence, self-reliance and sovereignty in the immediate and long term. According to Resolution of the 8th Plenum of the Party Central Committee (11th tenure) on Strategy for defending the Homeland in the new situation, our Party affirmed any country that honours Vietnam’s independence and sovereignty, and wishes to establish and expand friendly relations and cooperation on a basis of equality and mutual benefits with Vietnam is its partners of cooperation; any force that plots and acts against Vietnamese goals in the cause of Homeland protection and building is its objects of struggle. That statement is the Party’s inclusive and consistent line on partners of cooperation and objects of struggle that needs to be thoroughly perceived and flexibly applied by all-level sectors and forces in the process of integration, collaboration, and development. Amidst current complex situations, in-depth research of resolutions and empirical knowledge enable us to realize that partners of cooperation and objects of struggle are closely intertwined and interrelated in line with different specific contexts. In other words, a great power is now a partner of cooperation, now an object of struggle. Thus, it is vital to comprehend that principle to deal with relationships with great powers in a proper and proactive fashion.

Continuously stimulating the work of situational analysis and prediction pertaining to great powers and groups of great powers, particularly positive and negative developments and moves to the cause of national independence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity, thereby identifying nature, reasons, and development trends, and analyzing implications for international relations and national defence and security, etc. as a basis for proposing proper countermeasures and policies on foreign relations to the Party and the State. The current international context has seen fierce strategic competition amongst major powers, impacting greatly on regional and global situation, including Vietnam. Hence, the work of situational analysis and prediction must be comprehensive and focalized with emphasis placed on great powers.

Third, flexibly carrying out both cooperation and struggle, suitably applying countermeasures to every great power. It is noted that great powers always have a crucial role to play in international relations. Therefore, our Party and State’s strategic line is to promote cooperative relations with great powers. Still, the relationships with great powers are always characterized by opportunities and challenges, even imposition and dependence. We will be highly susceptible to be at a disadvantage unless handling those relationships consciously and wisely. Additionally, amid globalization trends, for the sake of their own interests, great powers themselves have a need to form a relation with such  the so-called small nations like Vietnam. Yet, relations among nations based on respect for principle of equal rights regardless of their size. A certain nation is small, but geostrategically significant. Conversely, a certain nation is geographically and demographically huge, but its status is relatively low in international community. Therefore, it is necessary to feel confident, not inferior in relationships with great powers, thereby carrying out both cooperation and struggle via appropriate countermeasures in an active, proactive and flexible fashion which is considered to be a lodestar for handling relations with great powers in a bid to promote national development and firmly safeguard national independence, self-reliance and sovereignty amidst integration trends. To this end, it is essential to thoroughly grasp and strictly implement the Party’s diplomatic policies based on principle of independence and self-reliance in relationships with other nations, especially with major ones whilst proactively enhancing collaboration and confidence with other partner nations in which it is tactful not to lead other nations to think that Vietnam is “shaking hands” with this nation to oppose the other to the detriment of national interests.

At present, Vietnamese relationships with great powers have been flourishing, thereby contributing greatly to the national renewal process and the cause of building and defending the Homeland as well as to Vietnamese enhanced status on the international stage. However, far from complacent about attained results, we must be conscious of positive and negative aspects of our relationships with every major power, and proactively brace ourselves for every possible situation, especially in the event of conflicts of interests. Therefore, Party line on partners of cooperation and objects of struggle must be firmly grasped as a basis for carrying out both cooperation and struggle over every specific issue under the motto: promoting agreement, reducing disagreement, formulating flexible and sensible countermeasures to avoid confrontation, tension, and dependence on the principle of ensuring national independence, self-reliance, and supreme national interests.

Continuously adopting “equidistance policy”- an inevitable choice in maintaining relationships with great powers. Yet, amidst incrementally complex regional and global situations, in spite of the fact that this policy is of the essence, we need to take a more flexible approach for the sake of optimal interests. Accordingly, in parallel with deepening comprehensive partnership and comprehensive strategic partnership with every great power, it is necessary to foster our relations with other developing countries through appropriate mechanism for cooperation, dialogue, and exchange, thereby enlisting the relationship with this great power to influence the relationship with the other in order to deal with complex incidents, and avoiding being “a pawn” in great powers’ interests in the international relations.  Fourth, regular attention is paid to reinforcing strong national potential as a basis for not only handling relationships with great powers, but enhancing Vietnamese status and prestige in the international arena. In addition to laying down national diplomatic line, policy, and approach, national potential is essential to enhancing national status and prestige in the international arena  as far as international relations and relationships with great powers are concerned. Therefore, regularly  intensifying stronger national potential has not merely further facilitated Vietnamese international integration in an active and proactive fashion, but contributed to its deepened relationships with strategic partners and major powers as stated in Resolution of the 12th Party Congress “strengthening international integration on the basis of maximizing the inner strength, and promoting national synergy and competitiveness”, ensuring that Vietnam is a friend, a reliable partner, and a responsible member in the international community.

Over the past years, particularly following more than 30 years of Party-led national renewal process, Vietnam has attained enormous and historical achievements, thereby increasing national potential. From a sanctioned country with underdeveloped and “closed” economy, Vietnamese economy has been thriving robustly. To date, Vietnam has established its diplomatic relationships with over 170 nations, expanded commercial and economic relations with 221 nations and territories, thereby contributing to Vietnamese people’s visibly increased social securities and living standards. In 2015, Vietnam was one of the nations that achieved the goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger 10 years in advance in the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Moreover, Vietnam has joined and become an official member of various regional and international organizations, namely the 150th member of the WTO in 2007; non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in the 2008-2009 period; the President of the UN Conference on Disarmament in 2009, etc. Those serve as a solid foundation for recognizing Vietnamese status in the international relations in general and relationships with great powers in particular.

Fifth, strengthening international defence-security cooperation with great powers. In general, as the world economic hubs, great powers have the edge on all fronts, particularly in the field of politics, military, and scientific and technological potential. Hence, strengthening international defence-security cooperation with great powers is of great importance because on the one hand, it promotes mutual understanding and confidence in the international relations, maintains a peaceful environment for mutual cooperation and development, and enhances national status and prestige; on the other, it helps enlist all resources and shared experiences to build people’s armed forces and boost national defence-security potential. Simultaneously, it acts as a strategic orientation for defending the Homeland from afar via peaceful means.

On perceiving those viewpoints, over the past years, Vietnam has effectively facilitated and expanded its defence-security cooperation relations with many nations, including great powers via breakthrough and appropriate solutions. Up to now, Vietnam has formed its defence relations with over 80 nations on different levels, including 5 great powers in their capacity as permanent members of the UN Security Council, thereby creating enabling conditions for the cause of building and defending the Homeland. In particular, in 2010, Vietnam successfully hosted the first ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus with the participation of some great powers, thereby increasing Vietnamese People’s Army’s status and kudos regionally and globally, especially in the eyes of great powers. Alongside other external activities, this acts as a significant prerequisite for continued promotion of Vietnamese defence-security cooperation relations with great powers. Subsequently, for the sake of unified leadership, Ministry of National Defence and Ministry of Public Security in their advisory capacity on defence-security foreign policy need to continuously increase the quality of strategic research and the work of situational analysis and prediction on great powers as a basis for proactively mapping out comprehensive strategies as well as synchronous solutions in which it is necessary to formulate sustainable defence-security relation projects with major partner powers with developed defence industry with emphasis placed on strategic research, modernization of people’s army and public security; enhancement of national defensive capability, and handling traditional and non-traditional security challenges on a global scale. Besides, it is crucial to enlist support of great powers in carrying out the project of sending Vietnamese people to work in international organizations, particularly in the UN affiliates.

Bilateral defence-security cooperation with great powers has been continuously expanded in a comprehensive and focalized fashion with a focus on effectively implementing signed cooperation agreements with every great power. In terms of defence cooperation, it is necessary to combine military commercial, economic, and technical activities and military industrial collaboration with other military cooperation activities to successfully meet stated targets of integration and foreign activities. Cautious and strategic approach is taken to set up modern equipment and arms sales cooperation with great powers, ensuring that possible incidents and scenarios concerning technology transfer and cooperation, etc can be fully foreseen in an effort to avoid passivity and dependence on partner nations. In addition, it is essential to facilitate regular and effective coordination amongst Ministry of National Defence, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other central ministries and sectors and localities in relevant external activities to create the total strength in defence-security cooperation with great powers.

Fostering relationships with great powers is a lodestar of our Party and State as enshrined in Resolution of the 12th Party Congress and Resolution No. 22-NQ/TW by the Politburo (11th tenure) that needs to be continuously grasped and effectively implemented by the Party, people, and the Army in their entirety amidst current extensive globalization trends and international integration. In particular, properly handling relationships with great powers is a matter of great importance in firmly safeguarding national independence, self-reliance and sovereignty in the new situation.

Senior Lieutenant Gen. Nguyen Trong Nghia, Member of  the Party Central Committee, Member of the Central Military Commission, Deputy Head of the VPA’s General Department of Politics

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