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Foreign relations for peace, cooperation and development; proactive and active international integration: reality and experiences of Vietnam
26/9/2018 9:6' Send Print
Artwork. Photo: VNA

The Communist Party of Viet Nam’s experiences and practices in external relations and international integration over the past 30 years can be assessed in following main contents.

Fully aware of the common trend of the times, building and implementing foreign policy of peace, cooperation and development

Awareness of the times, and the world situation is of particular importance to develop correct foreign policy. Scientific progress in the Vietnamese Communist Party’s perception of the times, the world and regional situation is manifested in several aspects:

First, awareness of the times and the world is always scientific, consistent and thorough.

Although the world has undergone many changes, the Communist Party of Vietnam still affirms that the present times is the transition period to socialism on a global scale, starting from the Russian October Revolution in 1917. This is a long historical time spanning many stages and periods with different conflicts’ characteristics and contents as well as different political, economic and social issues. The world can change but the times in broad sense does not change. Building on this awareness, the Party has set out right strategies, bringing the Vietnamese revolution firmly from one victory to another.

The Party's perception of the times is not rigid, and unchangeable, but has been adjusted to the changing world situation over time. Objectively and selectively absorbing new awareness and approaches concerning the times, the Party has developed theories and concretize issues of the times by presenting the content of "the current period of the times." Depending on whether it is five or ten year period, the Party emphasizes the world's most prominent features in terms of politics, economics, society, and trends. Documents of the 12th Party Congress asserted: "The world situation in the coming years will develop complicatedly, but peace, national independence, democracy, cooperation and development are still the major trend. Globalization and international integration will be strengthened. Cooperation, competition, struggle and interdependence among countries, especially among powers will increase. The scientific and technological revolution, especially information technology will continue to grow strongly, resulting in a quantum lift in various fields, creating both opportunities and challenges for all nations.” (1) Reality shows that the Party's perception and viewpoints of the world context are closely aligned with the current situation.

Second, clear identification of the right direction and tasks of external relations.

The Communist Party of Vietnam has become increasingly aware that the ultimate goal of its foreign policy is national interests. It is necessary to define clearer the role of external relations in the cause of national construction and defense, better understand the relation between firm maintenance of independence, self-reliance and socialist orientation with expansion and enhancement of effective external activities, the need to strengthen internal strength to bring into full play external relations.

The Party identifies that the major motto and direction for external relations are peace, cooperation and development. While identifying co-operation and development a common trend, the Party also sees that cooperation must go with struggle and competition in order to protect the legitimate interests of the nation and at the same time struggle and competition must be in line with international law for better cooperation without confrontation. To do so, in the current interlacing and complex relations in the world, there is a need for a flexible foreign policy coupled with subtle diplomatic device to protect national interests while safeguarding peace. The 12th Party Congress put forth the direction and tasks of foreign affairs as follows: “Ensure the supreme national interests on the basis of fundamental principles of international law, equality and mutual benefit; consistently implement the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development, multilateralization and diversification of external relations, proactive and positive international integration... being a friend and a reliable partner and a responsible member of the international community.”

Implementation of the foreign policy for peace, cooperation and development, over the past years Vietnam has expanded foreign relations, maintained independence and national sovereignty, established stable and long-term relations with other countries, created a peaceful environment and taken advantage of favorable conditions of international environment for development. Foreign relations have been expanded and deepened. Friendship relations and cooperation with other countries, especially neighboring countries, countries with traditional relations and territories in the world have been strengthened on the basis of respect for independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and political regime, and relations with important partners have been deepened. Vietnam has established strategic partnerships with 16 countries, and comprehensive partnerships with 10 countries, heightened its profile in the international arena, increasingly, positively and responsibly contributing to regional and world political life, and brought into play its active role in the ASEAN community. In addition to strengthening state diplomacy, the Party’s external relations and the people-to-people exchanges have been expanded, raising the role and prestige of Vietnam in multilateral forums.

The 12th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam made an overall review of important results in its foreign affairs, confirming that "Peaceful environment conducive to development, independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity has been maintained. Foreign relations have been expanded and deepened. Relations with neighboring countries and ASEAN countries have been strengthened. Vietnam has established strategic partnership, and comprehensive partnership with many important partners ... The country has proactively, and actively participated in the common work of the international community, regional and international forums and organizations, and enhanced the position of the country." (3)

It can be said that the successful implementation of the Party foreign policy during the past 30 years of renovation has contributed significantly to national defense, independence and sovereignty, maintained political stability, improved the Party and country’s position in the international arena, contributed to building an international environment of peace, independence, cooperation, development and mutual trust, pooled important resources from outside to boost industrialization and modernization and contributed to addressing international issues for peace, cooperation and development.

Implementation of strategic orientation to proactively and actively integrate internationally

At present, when globalization is no longer a trend but already a dynamic evolution of the world, international integration is an attraction to all nations. Under the impact of globalization, the need for international integration has emerged. If globalization is inevitable, international integration is an objective requirement. Recognizing these radical and objective changes, over the past 30 years of renewal, through National Congresses and Central Committees Plenums, the Communist Party of Vietnam has step by step formulated and guided the implementation of strategic orientations for proactive and active international integration, thus contributing to the successful implementation of the task of building and defending the socialist Fatherland of Vietnam.

The Communist Party of Vietnam holds that international integration is the cause of the entire people and the whole political system under the leadership of the Party. All mechanisms and policies must bring into full play the proactive, active and creative endeavors of all organizations and individuals, effectively tapping the potentials of the entire society and people of all strata. International integration is based on maximizing internal resources, closely associated with institutional perfection, improvement of human resources’ quality, modernization of infrastructure, elevation of national aggregated strength and competitiveness, and closely linked with connectivity of area and region. In the country. International economic integration is central and international integration in other fields must facilitate economic integration and contribute positively to economic development, national defense and security, preserve and promote national cultural identity, social and cultural development. International integration in different fields must be implemented synchronously in a holistic international integration strategy with a suitable roadmap and steps in line with the actual conditions and capabilities of the country.

Realizing this important strategic orientation, Viet Nam has intensified and deepened relations with its partners, especially those important to the development and security of the country, making these relations substantive. It is possible to assess the current status of Vietnam's international integration in some specific areas.

First, international economic integration

So far, Vietnam has signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan, Chile, the European Union (EU) and South Korea; Vietnam and ASEAN signed FTAs with India, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and China. After Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007, foreign investors have shifted to Vietnam, which is politically and economically stable with abundant labor force and low costs. In recent years, foreign direct investment (FDI) reaches an average of almost US$11 billion per year, export turnover in 2017 bagged $214 billion, 40 times higher that that of 1995 when Vietnam started its international economic integration, and export turnover only reached $5 billion. The signing and upcoming implementation of new generation FTAs offer the opportunity to expand market diversification with high levels of incentives, deep participation in global supply and production chains as well as shaping of regional and international institutions, mechanisms, and economic structure. Consumers have more opportunity to choose goods, services of high quality at competitive prices, meeting hygiene and environmental standards.

Second, cultural, social and environmental international integration

At the regional level, especially within ASEAN, Vietnam has played an active role in building the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community towards "unity in diversity." At the global level, Vietnam has increasingly involved in multilateral cultural institutions and forums, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Francophone Community, and the World Heritage Committee. Not only participating in and honoring commitments, as a member of international organizations, Vietnam has also contributed to revising, perfecting, and building new standards and initiatives of these organizations.

International cultural and social integration has helped Vietnam increase access to different cultures, absorb advanced values of mankind, learn good experiences to preserve and promote cultural traditions, better integrate traditional with contemporary culture, take advantage of opportunities to promote Vietnamese culture and cultural values to the world.

International integration in terms of environment and climate change response has helped the country and the Party gain valuable experiences and resources to develop effective policies and solutions in the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters, safeguarding national security and human safety.

Third, international integration in politics, defense and security

At bilateral level, Vietnam's international integration in the past years has shifted from focusing on expanding to deepening stable relations with other countries. Viet Nam has promoted and deepened bilateral relations with countries, especially neighboring, regional, and traditional friendly countries, big powers, and potential partners.

In terms of defense and security, Vietnam has gradually integrated in specific situation and time. It has involved in most of the regional security forums, such as the ASEAN conferences. At the global level, Vietnam has joined the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) since 1990 and participated in the ASEAN Chief of Police Forum. In May 2014, Vietnam officially sent officers to participate in UN peacekeeping forces.

Bilateral defense and security relations have been expanded. To date, Vietnam has had defense relations with more than 80 countries, including all members of the UN Security Council Standing Committee; signed 50 agreements, memorandum of understanding on supporting criminal justice against crimes, and drug prevention with other countries. Multilateral defense and security relations have developed in terms of quantity, quality and efficiency.

After 30 years implementing the foreign policy of peace, cooperation, development, proactive and active international integration of the Party, initial experiences can be gained.

First, it is important to ensure and enhance the Party leadership and State management, bring into full play the strength of both the political system and the entire people in international integration and foreign affairs for peace, cooperation and development, proactively and actively integrate into the international community, contribute to preserving the environment of peace and stability, protect national independence, sovereignty and the supreme interests of the nation, maintain the socialist orientation, and enhance Vietnam's position in the international arena. Vietnam must proactively and consistently participate in safeguarding peace, cooperation and development, implement independent and self-reliant foreign policy, create a framework for stable, long-term, in-depth cooperative relations for mutual benefit, intermingled strategic geopolitical interests, foil all sabotage activities of hostile forces, and successfully build and defend the Fatherland.

Second, it is necessary to be properly aware of the world and national situation, proactively study the situation, raise forecasting capacity, analyze immediate and long-term developments to improve capacity in developing Party lines, orientations, and promptly direct and coordinate the foreign affairs and international integration. The implementation of international commitments in external relations and international integration requires and facilitates the Party’s innovation of its theoretical thinking on the contemporary times and the world, expands relations with other parties, strengthen the Party external relations, raise the Party and the country’s position in the international arena, contribute to renewing the leadership style, raise the Party leadership and combat capability. Thus, the Party leads the perfection of institutions, policies and laws according to international criteria, ensuring that the country can adapt to the rapid international and regional changes.

Third, it is important to always ensure the purpose and practicality of foreign affairs and international integration, aim at the ultimate goal of national interests, and development, protection of the regime, contribute to improving people’s material and spiritual life, widely promote the image of Vietnam, its land and people to friends in the world. Efforts must be made in economic restructuring, trade promotion, labor cooperation, attraction of investment and tourists, external relations and international integration, job generation, improve people’s incomes and life. Cultural, education, training, science and technology cooperation are to create opportunities for people from all walks of life to access knowledge and good values of humankind, thus improving the educational level, the intellectual level and spiritual life of the people.

Fourth, it is important to recognize negative impacts and challenges in implementing foreign policy and international integration.

In the context of international integration, adverse changes in political and economic life in the region and the world have rapidly and strongly impacted Vietnam's economy through trade, investment and monetary and financial channels. The process can also increase the risk of instability in political security, social order and safety. Openness, liberalization, integration can create opportunities for adverse and negative phenomena in regional and international security, such as terrorism, international crime, cyber security breaches to penetrate into Vietnam. This situation affects the fields of politics, thought, ethics and lifestyle. In addition, hostile and reactionary forces can take advantage of international integration to push up economic sabotage through cooperation, and investment to influence internal affairs, causing "self-evolution," "self-transformation," and "peaceful evolution."

In order to grasp opportunities and overcome threats in external relation expansion and international integration, the Communist Party of Vietnam sets out the task of rationally settling relations between independence, self-reliance with proactive, and active international integration, between national interests and obligations with disadvantages in international institutions, between domestic socio-economic objectives and external demands and requirements, between economic and trade issues with other sectors. The important factor in direction and execution is to adapt in time, flexibly response, make a good use of comparative advantages, learn and absorb good practices of international friends, and adjust and overcome in time limitations and weaknesses.

(1), (2) Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Central Office, Hanoi, 2016, pp. 70-71, 153
(3) Documents of the 12th National Congress, Id., pp. 151 - 152

This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 910 (August 2018)

Prof. Vu Van Hien, PhDVice Chairman of the Central Theoretical Council