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External work - a motivation to realize Vietnam’s two strategic missions of building and safeguarding the homeland*
23/11/2016 14:25' Send Print
Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong addresses the Conference. Photo: VNA

On the occasion of attending the 29th Diplomatic Conference – an important event not only for the diplomatic sector, but also all arms forming the external front of the country, I would like to extend to veteran diplomats and delegates my warmest greetings and best wishes. I also warmly welcome heads of diplomatic representative offices from 100 countries and territories worldwide, who bring to the conference latest news about the situation of regions, showing a panorama of rich international life.

This diplomatic conference is a chance for all of us to look back to the process of implementing the Resolution of the 11th National Party Congress on external work, fully grasp the spirit and content of the Resolution of the 12th National Party Congress and propose measures to effectively implement key external tasks in the coming years. This is also an occasion for staff of the external affairs sector to be better aware of the situation and position of our country in the region and the world, and the importance of external work in the overall strategy of building and safeguarding the country, creating a new impetus for the whole sector, every agency and individual in their work.

As you all know, on the results of the external work in the past time, the 12th National Party Congress generally stated: “The peaceful environment favourable for the development of independence, sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity continues to be maintained. External relations have been expanded and further go into quality. Relations with neighbouring and ASEAN countries have been consolidated. Strategic and comprehensive partnership has been established with many important partners. International integration has been enhanced, making an important contribution to strengthening resources for development and implementation of national industrialization and modernization. Vietnam has also been proactive in participating in common international activities, forums, regional and international organizations, thus enhancing the country’s position. The Party’s external work, the State diplomatic work and people-to-people external affairs have been synchronously and effectively carried out with a new step of development”1, namely:

- External activities have made an important contribution to maintaining and consolidating international environment favourable for building and safeguarding the country. With active and seething external activities, we have expanded and raised to the new height cooperative ties and partnership with many countries, including big nations, taken the advantage of wide support from people worldwide for our people’s just cause. It is the humane, lenient nature of our nation that has helped Vietnam’s diplomacy to eliminate hatred and fill the gap between our country and other countries, including countries that used to be our former foe.

- External activities have made a worthy contribution to the tasks of safeguarding the sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of our country. We have completed the border delineation and landmark planting with Laos and China and are promoting this work with Cambodia. We have also been negotiating on territorial waters delineation for common development with China at the entrance area of the Bac Bo Gulf, negotiating on delineation of exclusive economic zone with Indonesia, and settling problems relating the expanded continental shelf with Malaysia. On complicated problems in the East Sea, we have always upheld the banner of peace, cooperation and settlement of all disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international laws, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the Declaration on Code of Conduct in the East Sea between ASEAN and China and at all bilateral and multilateral, regional and international forums, closely coordinated national defense and security external activities and people-to-people external work in order to control differences, at the same time seek basic and long-term solutions to all disputes. The diplomatic sector has played the vanguard role in peacetime, contributing to safeguarding security, independence and sovereignty of the country.

- External activities have been proactive in strongly and effectively implementing the major guidelines on international integration set by the 11th National Party Congress and concretized in Resolution 22-NQ/TW of the Party Political Bureau, 11th Tenure. International integration has been implemented strongly in all channels, including Party’s external relations, State diplomacy, National Assembly’s external activities, people-to-people external affairs that take place in all aspects of social life. Efforts made in the external work have developed Vietnam’s role in many forums and international organizations, taking advantage to acquire worthy positions in the UN Security Council, Human Right Committee, and Economic and Social Council. In particular, Vietnam has brought into full play its role as an active member in the process of building an ASEAN Community. Vietnam has been highly valued in its implementation of the UN Millennium Goals and its participation for the first time with trust in activities of the UN Peace Keeping Mission.

- External activities have made practical contributions to maximizing outside resources to serve socio-economic development. Although the political and economic situation in the world is changing unfavourably, Vietnam continues to be an attractive destination for many foreign investors. Up to now, the total number of on-going foreign direct investment projects in Vietnam is 21,666 with total registered capital of US$293 billion. Some 100 countries and territories and over 100 world-leading multi-national groups are present in Vietnam. We have successfully negotiated many free trade agreements with 55 countries, opening up prospects for mobilizing more resources from outside for national development.

- Clear changes have been seen in the agitation work among overseas Vietnamese communities in the spirit of Resolution 36-NQ/TW of the Party Political Bureau. Overseas Vietnamese have increasingly been turning their thought to their homeland, attached to and making practical contribution to building and safeguarding the country. Vietnamese representations overseas have been fulfilling their task of defending Vietnamese citizens and really become a reliable mainstay for Vietnamese people living and working overseas.

Those achievements are attributed to the clear-sighted, calm and sound-minded leadership of the Party Central Committee, directly the Political Bureau and the Secretariat; the proactive and flexible management of the State and positive activities of all sectors and levels, including the diplomatic sector that goes in the van. On this occasion, on behalf of Party and State leaders, I warmly applaud and praise the great and significant contributions made by the staff involved in external work in general and in the diplomatic sector in particular.

However, there remain some limitations in the external work in the past time; some work has not yet been done or done not well as pointed out by the 12th National Party Congress. They include some aspects of the external work and international economic integration which have not been proactive and highly effective. We have not undertaken synchronous and effective solutions to mitigate negative impacts in the process of strong international integration; in perception and direction in practice sometime have not kept pace with rapid and complicated changes of the situation; coordination between sectors and localities is not close; and strategic research and projection of the situation not as expected.

From all those achievements and limitations mentioned above and in general from all rich and seething activities in the diplomatic front in the past time, we can draw the following practical lessons to be learned:

- Lesson on combining the national strength and the strength of the time, harmonizing national interests with international obligations. The world situation is changing complicatedly, yet the major trend and earnest aspirations of nations are to maintain peace and expand cooperation for development. Vietnam has determined clearer its position in international labour distribution, improved its position in the regional and global value chain, production chain and supply chain. Our consistent guidelines, policies and goals are always relevant to that major trend of the world situation. Our national interests now are to ensure a favourable international environment for development. This is fully in line with the interests of the world people for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress.

- Lesson on persistence on principles and flexibility in tactics. Our principle is national independence and socialism. Our tactic is mobile and flexible adjustment depending on issues, time and target audience or partners, in comply with Uncle Ho’s great thoughts:

“Invariant responds to variables,” “More friends, fewer enemies,” “Make friends with all democratic countries without causing animosity with anyone.”

- Lesson on enhancing the consensus within the Party, army and people as taught by Uncle Ho: “The cause succeeds thanks to consensus.” Correct foreign policies and effective implementation of specific policies have contributed to creating a consensus of the entire political system. Mechanisms of unified management of external affairs are further completed; mechanism on combining political and economic diplomacy and security and national defense diplomacy, social and cultural diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy, even environmental diplomacy and between central and grassroots levels have made much progress, contributing to the dynamism and highly effective external activities.

- Lesson on building the sector and personnel work which was considered by Uncle Ho as “the roots of all work.” Generations of staff doing external work have gloriously accomplished their tasks in different historical stages of the country, including the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the function of giving advice to and directly implementing external work. “Ringing bell in other countries” is a difficult and hard work, requiring special quality of staff doing external work. Efforts made in the external front in the past time have created generations of foreign affairs personnel who have increasingly cumulated both revolutionary qualities and expertise, initially demonstrating the bravery, ethics and manners of the children and grandchildren of Ho Chi Minh.

- Finally is the overall lesson on the unified and absolute leadership of the Party and centralized State management. Party leadership agencies, first of all the Political Bureau and the Secretariat and advisory bodies have been keen in their judgment and grasp of the situation, and determined in taking specific measures and policies. Many guidelines and solutions to settle complicated issues, including the East Sea, calculation and selection of good timing for major external activities, including receiving and making high-level visits have had strong impacts, very convincing, creating a high consensus within the Party and the entire people and receiving sympathy and support from the international public.

I would like the conference to focus on discussing, supplementing and clarifying lessons learned from the reality of the past years, to serve as a basis for implementing new, greater and more complicated tasks in coming time.

At present, Vietnam is entering a new stage of development with extremely important tasks. External work is not only the continuation of domestic policies but also a strong motivation, making a worthy contribution to realizing the two strategic missions of building and safeguarding the homeland of Socialist Vietnam. The entire diplomatic sector in particular and external affairs in general is facing major, important tasks and requirements.

First of all is the task of making optimal use of outside resources for national development. The 12th National Party Congress set an overall goal for the next five years which is to promote comprehensive and synchronous renovation, rapidly and sustainably develop economy, strive to take our country to as basically industrialized country toward modernity. The achievements recorded over the past 30 years of Renovation is a favourable precondition for implementing those tasks, yet our country is encountering many difficulties and challenges. In the short term, we have to overcome consequences of the world financial and monetary crisis, as well as the inherent weaknesses of the economy and shortcomings in directing and executing; while suffering many serious consequences of the climate change, environmental disasters and many challenges newly emerged from the world economy. On the long term, the world economy is undergoing a process of comprehensive restructuring, from production and consumption structures to market and monetary structures. Moreover, scientific and technological advances open up the fourth industrial revolution, taking humankind to a new development plane.

So, our economy has to resolve immediate issues while facing very deep and wide changes of the world economy. If our country cannot overcome these novel and complicated challenges, the risk of lagging behind will be greater. The diplomatic sector cannot stand outside but contributes to task of resolving those issues of strategic importance. The Conference should discuss in depth what to be done by the diplomatic sector. I would like to give the following suggestions:

As a sector with easy access to information about the world’s political, economic and scientific and technological affairs and market, having representative offices in all of the five continents, the diplomatic sector should prioritize and ask representative offices overseas, functional agencies affiliated to the Ministry to strengthen their research and forecast and provide updated information about short-term and long-term developments of regional and world economies to help Vietnamese leaders to have exact and timely assessment to direct and manage the domestic economy relevant to objective laws and common development trend.

Today, our country is integrating deeper internationally compared to the previous period, showing through the signing of many new-generation free trade agreements. This new situation places heavy responsibility on the diplomatic sector to contribute to putting the signed agreements into life in the spirit of bringing highest benefits to the country, minimizing adverse impacts from possible challenges. For this purpose, the diplomatic sector needs to work hand in hand with related sectors, proactively expand markets, and seek partners in trade, investment and tourism with high quality, contributing to implementing economic restructuring, closely linking with renewal of the growth model, improving quality, efficiency and competitiveness of the country’s economy. The diplomatic sector needs to undertake practical measures to help other sectors and localities, particularly businesses in expanding external cooperation to market goods and make use of foreign capital, technologies and managerial skills.

Along with the task of national development, the diplomatic sector has to burden a major and extremely complicated task, which is to contribute to safeguarding the country’s independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and maintaining a peaceful and stable environment for development. This task becomes even more complicated and heavier due to new developments of regional and world situation. Although peace, national independence, democracy, cooperation and development remain a major trend, the world political and security situation is changing very fast and unpredictable. Every day, we witness armed conflicts, intervention and subversive activities, terrorism, local wars, cyber wars, acts of violation of national sovereignty, and territorial and resources disputes taking place in many places. In Asia and the Pacific and Southeast Asia, complicated changes are taken place relating territorial, sovereignty and island disputes and strategic competition between some big countries, creating instability. This situation requires us to be sharp-minded in forecasting the situation so as not to be in unexpected and passive position. For this end, it is needed to pay attention to strategic forecast research, making clear the root cause of current developments in the world, particularly the cooperative while competitive relations between big countries in key regions, including Asia and the Pacific and East Asia, which can affect our country’s interests, so as to provide timely recommendations on coping measures, both immediate and long-term.

In the cause of national defense, it is needed to thoroughly grasp leaders’ directions on the relationship between cooperation and fighting, while being determined to safeguard the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, protect national interests and maintain a peaceful and cooperative environment for development. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to keep in mind the principles of settling disputes by peaceful means, including bilateral negotiations on issues related to two countries and multilateral negotiations on issues related to many countries and parties, and persist in striving for a basic and long-term solution based on international laws.

In the interconnected world and globalization at present, defense and security diplomacy plays an important position. The diplomatic sector needs to closely coordinate with defense and security sectors to proactively carry out activities in this essential field. Maintaining a favourable environment for development and safeguarding of independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity is a close organic and interactive relationship; therefore it is always defined as a high priority and primary important condition for the cause of building and safeguarding the country. This is also the thought of our forefathers: “Safeguarding the country from far away,” “Safeguarding the country since it is not yet in danger.”

Success or failure of the diplomatic work depends on real strength and position. The real strength and position here do not only manifest physical strength but also “soft strength.” That is our just cause, the strength of great national unity, and the sympathy and support from world people who love peace and justice. It is also the implementation of foreign guidelines and policies in a wise and clever manner as an art under Ho Chi Minh’s great thoughts. If in the past during the wars of resistance against foreign invaders for national salvation, with their just cause and blood, our people won support and very high position in the conscience of the humanity, today, thanks to the Renovation and foreign policy of peace and openness, Vietnam has acquired a new position in international relations. In another word, we must always place our nation in the current of the time, uphold the great cause of the nation, take the advantage of the sympathy of progressive mankind, and enhance both the real strength and position of the country in the most sustainable manner.

In the framework of implementing the foreign line set by the 12th National Party Congress, we need to focus on promoting our relationship with neighboring and major countries and traditional friends and enhance the central role of the ASEAN Community. We should be persistent with strengthening cooperation on the basis of respecting independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit.

The diplomatic sector needs to combine people-to-people diplomacy with culture, art, information, and communication sectors, and bring into full play the nation’s “soft strength,” starting with culture. With culture, there is no high or low character, but only diversity. Vietnam’s “soft strength” is shown first of all in the attraction of its cultural values, including tangible and intangible values, spiritual values and values of the Vietnamese. We need to develop those values to create our national “brand” very attractive to the outside world, contributing to raising the spirit of national pride and self-confidence in communication and widely promoting Vietnam’s cultural values in the world.

To accomplish those difficult and challenging tasks, it is essential to strengthen the work of Party building and rectification as well as sector building, consolidate the organization and personnel in all fields focusing on strictly implementing the Resolution of the 4th Plenum of the Party Central Committee, 11th Tenure, on Party building and the content of Party building work in the Resolution of the 12th National Party Congress in order to enhance the role of Party organizations, the political and moral conduct of Party officials and members.

All cadres, Party members, civil servants and public employees of the sector need to constantly train themselves to be politically stable and always loyal to the Party’s ideal and the nation’s interests, and sound-minded and proactive in the prevention and fight against “peaceful evolution” by hostile forces. You should discuss in constructive spirit and be serious in examining whether there are signs of ideological degradation within the organization. Whether there are signs of “self-evolution”, “self-transformation.” And whether there are words not matching deeds and even in external communication, and not enough courage to defend the Party’s and country’s viewpoint. Due to the diplomatic sector’s particularity, its officials, civil servants and public employees often have to be in contact with and work and live overseas, it is easy to be tempted. Therefore, they need to be brave in looking straight to the truth to see whether there are signs of erroneous ideas, morality and lifestyle; and signs of bribery for jobs, for positions or for better places of work. On this basis, practical and specific measures should be worked out for building and rectification of the Party and the entire sector’s machinery.

More than anyone else, diplomatic staff needs to learn and work following the examples set by Uncle Ho, an eminent diplomat in both intelligence and personality. You should learn from Uncle Ho to train your revolutionary quality and morality, and to fight individualism. The sector needs to build a streamlined and efficient apparatus; strengthen the fight against corruption, bureaucracy, imperiousness, and authoritarianism, and acts causing troubles to people whom the sector has the obligation to protect their interests and the responsibility to serve, including Vietnamese and foreign citizens. On this occasion, you also need to study the structure and organizational rearrangement in the country and the network of representative offices overseas on the basis of taking efficiency as a highest criterion in order to improve the quality of the sector’s activities while saving and reducing the burden for the State budget which is currently limited.

I hope you should discuss in depth and make clearer perception of the above-mentioned essential tasks and work out practical and specific measures to successfully fulfill the tasks assigned by the Party and State.

In a world full of changes, our country is facing many opportunities for development and also many difficulties and challenges, the external work should be an effective peace remedy to narrow differences, prevent conflicts and expand cooperation, opening up ways for solutions. The 29th Diplomatic Conference takes place at a time when we celebrate the 71st anniversary of the August Revolution and National Day on 2 September, two events that started a new stage of development of our country in contemporary history, at the same time left invaluable lessons on the position and role of the external work in the process of fighting for building and safeguarding the country. Over the past 70 years, under the leadership of the Party and President Ho Chi Minh, the external work has recorded many glorious achievements, built a unique diplomatic school imbued with “Vietnamese bamboo” identity, very soft but tough, kind but indomitable, knowing to be flexible and determined and knowing the time and position and knowing ourselves and others… showing the soul and courage of the Vietnamese nation. I hope that staff doing external work will always be imbued with Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts and the lessons of the August Revolution and National Day, always strive for the cause of development of the country and everlasting of the nation.

I take this opportunity to once again thank and wish veteran diplomats, all delegates and Party officials and members, civil servants and public employees of the diplomatic sector, staff doing the external work at central and local levels the best of health and new successes in your important tasks. I would also like to ask the heads of diplomatic representative offices overseas to convey my best regards and warmest greetings to the officials, civil servants and employees and overseas Vietnamese communities. Our Party and State always consider overseas Vietnamese community an inseparable part of the nation and wish that overseas Vietnamese will always turn their thought to the homeland, contribute to making our beloved country further prosperous and the friendship and cooperative ties between our people and people all over the closer and lasting.

* The title is given by Communist Review

(1) Document of the 12th National Party Congress, Party Central Committee Office, Hanoi 2016, p.p.151-152

Nguyen Phu TrongGeneral Secretary of the CentraCCommittee of the Communist Party of Vietnam