Reference ID 10HANOI11
Created 2010-01-27 02:55
Released 2011-08-30 01:44
Origin Embassy Hanoi
VZCZCXRO8782 OO RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHGH RUEHHM RUEHPB DE RUEHHI #0011/01 0270256 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O R 270255Z JAN 10 FM AMEMBASSY HANOI TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0786 INFO ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC RHMCSUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0057 RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 0418 RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 HANOI 000011
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/27 TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ECON SENV MARR CH VM SUBJECT: internal politics? How much influence does China have over Vietnam's
REF: A) 09 HANOI 413, 417, 537; B) 09 HANOI 809, 823, 881 C) 09 HANOI 672; D) 09 HANOI 897 E) 08 HCMC 815, 596, 09 HANOI 805, 807, 926; F) 09 HANOI 1094 G) HANOI 7; H) 09 HANOI 330, 899; I) 09 HANOI 927; J) 09 HANOI 909
CLASSIFIED BY: Michael Michalak, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: pervasive in
the most routine of times, appears to have taken on an added urgency in the wake of sensitive border negotiations, protracted controversy over Chinese investment in bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands, and China's imposition this summer of a unilateral "fishing ban" in the South China Sea. of A wide range
contacts, particularly in the Western-oriented intellectual and dissident community, insist that China wields an inordinate and growing felt sway over Vietnamese decision-making, with influence
on issues such as the control of information on territorial disputes; resource, environmental, and energy strategy; and personnel decisions in advance of Vietnam's 2011 Party Congress. Some insist that "pro-China" forces in the Vietnamese security services are behind the recent crackdown on political dissent, acting at the behest of Beijing. prosaic. The reality is much more
Given its proximity, size, and economic might, China remains a predominant necessarily constrains Vietnam's consideration options. for Vietnam's does not, leadership however, and
The Panda's Long Paw
¶2. (C) oriented
intellectual, journalistic, and dissident communities have ratcheted up their criticism of China, taking particular aim at what they Vietnam's describe as Beijing's inordinate influence over
Spurred initially by an unprecedented
barrage of public/online opposition to Chinese involvement in bauxite development in the Central Highlands (ref A), critics were further incensed by the PRC's enforcement this summer of its unilateral "fishing ban" in the South China Sea. Concerns about
China's influence have been amplified in advance of the Eleventh Party Congress Vietnam's in January 2011, with different members of
Politburo whispered to be under Beijing's sway.
This past year,
General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, PM Nguyen Tan Dung, Standing Secretary Truong Tan Sang, National Assembly Chair Nguyen Phu Trong, Hanoi Party Chief Pham Quang Nghi, and propaganda czar To Huy Rua have inconsistently all been characterized -variously and
-- as Beijing's man in Hanoi.
These are not innocent,
in Vietnam, a pro-China label is hardly an advantage; rather, it can be used as a political cudgel, as we saw at the height of the bauxite controversy.
(C) Among many of our contacts it is taken as an article of
faith that China will try to dictate the leadership succession in 2011 (ref represents B). Vu Thu Thanh, a former MFA official who
the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council in Hanoi, contends that China would use this year's ASEAN meetings in Hanoi to shape the Party Congress, particularly on personnel matters. Thanh's former colleagues assume in the MFA and counterparts in other ministries
that China keeps files on rising cadre, encouraging the careers of those who appear to be in sync ideologically and subverting those it disapproves, connected he insisted. Nguyen Tran Bat, the well-
chairman of the InvestConsult Group, similarly asserted that "everyone" in government is suspicious of China's intelligence services, which Bat claimed are pervasive in Vietnam and weigh in on promotion decisions. Thanh's brother Nguyen Tran Khanh, who
handles the company's business in HCMC, was even more direct,
002 OF 004
by providing opportunities for personal gain.
Neither Thanh nor
Bat could provide specific examples -- nor could anyone else -but the belief National is widespread that China exercises influence.
Assembly Representative Nguyen Lan Dung, who serves on the Vietnam-China Parliamentary Caucus, was skeptical of any direct Chinese role in personnel matters, though he noted that the fact that the effect notion is out there likely has a "self-censoring"
And Sharp, Pointy Teeth
¶4. (C) More ominously, several of our contacts assert that China is behind Vietnam's recent crackdown on human rights (ref C), just as they have long blamed China for "exporting" environmental pollution to Vietnam. Deputy Secretary leading At a lunch hosted by the Ambassador for (ref D), the editor of Vietnam's
online news service, VietnamNet, Nguyen Anh Toan, and Hanoi
University Law Professor Hoang Ngoc Giao complained that Vietnam had acquiesced to demands from Chinese diplomats in Hanoi that journalists responsible for articles critical of China be fired. Senior economist Le Dang Doanh pointed to swift action by the MPS to clamp down on a group of youths who unveiled T-shirts saying "The Spratleys Belong to Vietnam" at the 2009 National Day celebrations as an act of Chinese perfidy. of Similarly, several
Vietnam's political blogs blamed China for the conviction last year of blogger charges, Dieu Cay on politically motivated tax evasion
as well as the detention in August of bloggers known for antiChina views who had "plotted" to distribute T-shirts proclaiming Vietnam's ownership of the Paracels/Spratleys (ref E).
(C) Conspiracy theories abound. the Ministry of
The most fully articulated General Department II
point to ("GDII"),
a shadowy intelligence service headed by the influential and (critics say) pro-China Vice Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh. Several of these theories are conjoined in an omnibus treatment compiled by the former Bangkok Bureau Chief for the Far Eastern Economic Review in an article published online for the Asia Times (http://www.atimes.com/ atimes/China/KI12Ad04.html). In it, the
author quotes a senior member of the exiled dissident political party Viet Tan who asserts that GDII is "one of the primary means
for China to assert influence in Vietnam."
GDII is certainly
suspect, having been involved in a Watergate-style wiretapping scandal of former General Secretary Le Kha Phieu's Politburo rivals in the 1990s; and General Vinh's father in law, General Dung Vu Ching (who in intelligence), his day also headed Vietnam's military
is infamous for his efforts to slander Vietnam War hero General Vo Nguyen Giap and the reformist former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet as CIA spies. What is much less apparent -- asserted but not The article cites Carlyle a Thayer in
substantiated -- is the link to China. Australian describing Defense University
the wiretapping commentary, Thayer himself stooge. (See
separate CDII is
http://www.scribd.com/doc/19695242/Thayer-Vie Intellig ence-in-Domestic-Affairs.)
(C) General Vinh is no soft touch.
At a press conference
unveiling Vietnam's 2009 Defense White Paper, Vinh identified "pernicious democracy efforts to use the mantle of human rights and
to encourage anti-Party and anti-State forces" as a security challenge second only to the effects of the global economic downturn. candidly At the same time, however, Vinh also mentioned
the possibility of military conflict with China over the South China Sea though -a topic usually avoided in public comments --
he was at pains to sound diplomatic.
In a meeting the following
week with the Ambassador and a visiting delegation from the U.S.-China Congressional Commission, General Vinh presented a
003 OF 004
mostly benign picture of China's influence, emphasizing that China's economic success provided substantial opportunities for Vietnam and could be a force for regional stability. Again,
however, he did not shy away from the more threatening aspects of China's diplomatic, economic, and military rise. Vinh expressly rejected China's expansive claims in the South China Sea and, when pressed, insisted that Vietnam "knows how to fight and to win" and would "do what is necessary" to safeguard its territory. are These
views firmly in line with Vietnam's pragmatic approach to China (ref F) Defense, and echo the tone taken by Vietnam's Minister of
Phung Quang Thanh, in his December 2009 visit to the United States: if Vinh is China's shill, he hides it well.
Similarities in Political Structure, Culture, and Perspective
¶7. (C) Vietnam
and China's Party/state structures approach dissent (there are also differences too: on religion, for example, Vietnam has generally taken a more relaxed stance and is not listed as a Country of Particular largely Concern. Ref G). These systems, similarities, shared however,
reflect cognate perspectives,
and, with these, a common obsession with internal stability and regime security. from "Peaceful evolution" may be a term borrowed
Chinese political campaigns of the early 1990s, but Vietnam's hardliners do not need China to tell them to be paranoid, as even a cursory glance at the CPV's most recent internal screed, Decree 34, makes plain (ref H). the As the former chair of China Studies at
Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, Nguyen Huy Quy, put it, Vietnam and China are members of a very small number of capitalistoriented Communist countries, and this gives their leaders ample common ground.
¶8. (C) To put things differently: It is true that many of those caught up in Vietnam's current crackdown expressed anti-China views; it is also true that Vietnam's relationship with China is a fraught subject. It does not, though, follow that Vietnam is
necessarily acting on China's instruction in suppressing dissent or that there is a secretive pro-China cabal. enough There is reason
domestically for Vietnam's leaders to want to keep the lid on -popular ill will, though initially directed at Beijing, could easily turn in a less welcome direction. The issue is control.
Vietnam's state-controlled media itself frequently publishes language sharply critical of China, and a prominent editor of the Party's official website, Dao Duy Quat, was publicly reprimanded in September for not inserting the appropriate "tough" language in an article about chivalrously blamed on his mushroom's" Chinese naval exercises The slogans (an on oversight blogger he
dissident T-shirts simply (and smartly) repeated official pronouncements. neither China does not dictate Vietnam's line, but
does Vietnam's public.
(C) And then there is corruption.
Allegations on the blogs
that PM's Dung's support on bauxite were bought with Chinese money
are fanciful; however, Khanh of InvestConsult is probably not far off the mark when he complains of shady dealings. There is a
larger nexus between ideological hardliners such as Rua (ref I) and "non-partisan," Party but corrupt political magnates such as HCMC
Boss Le Thanh Hai, which reinforces China's interests, even if China does not dictate terms. the Rua and his ilk aim to preserve
vanguard position of the Communist Party, a perspective they share with China's political leaders. Others, a majority perhaps, oppose
reform because it threatens access to patronage -- another structural feature shared with China. participant's interest, are acting according Again, though, the to their (narrow) self-
not on China's orders.
004 OF 004
The Nature of China's influence
(C) None of this is to imply that Vietnam's leaders can Beijing. To the contrary: Basic structural
do) ignore asymmetries
in the There
options. on the
is pressure Vietnamese
side, lessons learned.
(China's ambassador to Vietnam, Sun
Guoxiang, told the Ambassador that the pace of visits is so intense that officials below the rank of vice minister do not even merit a control officer, and there are important visits conducted at the provincial level that do not even involve the PRC Embassy.) Asked directly, Vietnamese influenced officials flatly deny that they are
by China -- but one can imagine, for example, that the same Vietnamese officials that shut down access to FaceBook (ref J) are eagerly observing China's reaction to Google, just as an earlier generation of economic policymakers drew from China's experience with agricultural reform and export-processing zones. here readily brother) admit to an "em-anh" (younger Officials elder
relationship with China.
The point is, rather, that Beijing's
influence is much less direct than critics assert, and it is constantly refracted through the lens of domestic interests, intrigue, and pride. with How Vietnam should deal most effectively
China is a subject of considerable internal division, but this is a debate that goes well beyond a putative battle between pro- and anti-China factions. for It is all too easy -- for us as well as
critical voices within Vietnam -- to point the finger at China. In
the end, Vietnam remains resolutely independent, and with this comes ownership of its own successes and failings.
(U) This cable was coordinated with ConGen HCMC.
VIETNAM’S RELATIONS WITH CHINA AND NORTH KOREA: THE NEXT FIVE YEARS
Carlyle A. Thayer March 2, 2010 This report presents a forward‐looking analysis of likely Vietnamese foreign policy initiatives towards China over the next five years. It explores two major questions. What is Hanoi seeking to gain from diplomatic, military and economic exchanges with Beijing? What sort of influence does China assert over Vietnam?
In January 1950, both the People’s Republic of China extended diplomatic recognition to Vietnam’s fledgling communist regime, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (later renamed the Socialist Republic of Vietnam). China supported the Vietnamese communists in their successful resistance to French colonialism. Relations were described “as close as lips and teeth.” China also provided material and personnel support to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War (1965‐73). Hanoi’s relations with Beijing deteriorated during the Cambodian conflict (1979‐91). When Vietnam invaded Cambodia China retaliated by attacking Vietnam and providing military support to the Khmer Rouge. Vietnam and China normalized diplomatic relations in 1991 after an international conference in Paris reached a comprehensive political settlement in Cambodia. In March 1999, a summit meeting of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) adopted a fourteen‐character guideline calling for “long‐term, stable, future‐orientated, good‐neighborly and all‐round cooperative relations.” The following year at a summit meeting of state presidents, China and Vietnam codified bilateral relations in a Joint Statement for Comprehensive Cooperation
in the New Century. This document served as a framework for long‐term state‐to‐state relations. In 2006, Vietnam and China agreed to coordinate all aspects of their bilateral relationship through a Joint Steering Committee on Bilateral Cooperation which met on an annual basis at deputy prime minister level. In June 2008, following another summit of party leaders in Beijing, bilateral relations were raised to that of “strategic partners,” and a year later this was upgraded to a “strategic cooperative partnership.” At the third meeting of the Joint Steering Committee in March 2009, Vietnam and China set up a hot line to deal with urgent issues (particularly clashes in the South China Sea). In sum, Sino‐Vietnamese relations have been structured through the framework of a long‐term cooperation agreement, a Joint Steering Committee on Bilateral Cooperation, and regular high‐level summit meetings between party and state leaders. This has resulted in a dense network of agreements between party, state, military and mass organizations at all levels. In 2009, Vietnam and China exchanged 267 delegations of which 108 were at deputy minister level or higher.
Vietnam and China: Asymmetric Relations
The relationship between Vietnam and China is a highly asymmetric one in all dimensions of power. Vietnam, with a population of 89 million, ranks as the world’s thirteenth most populous country, yet it is only a middle sized Chinese province by comparison. The major strategic preoccupation of the Vietnamese leadership is how to
use the levers of diplomacy, military ties and economic relations to maintain their autonomy and independence and prevent from being pulled into China’s orbit. Vietnam uses high‐level party and state visits as a diplomatic tool to codify its relations with China. Vietnam has negotiated a web of joint statements, agreements, and treaties in order to make Chinese behavior more predictable and less likely to harm Vietnam’s national interests. Vietnam has built on the normalization of political relations through a diplomatic strategy that stresses the legacy of past close relations and mutual benefit over contemporary differences. A prime example may be found in Vietnam’s approach to managing territorial disputes with China. Vietnam obtained Chinese agreement to detach these issues from high‐level consideration and to relegate them to technical working groups, and to solve the easier problems before the more difficult. Vietnam’s diplomatic strategy emphasized common interests, such as making the land border safe and secure so that both sides could benefit from cross‐border trade. As a result a treaty on the land border and agreement demarcating the Gulf of Tonkin were reached. Over the next five years Vietnam will set a priority on ensuring that its territorial conflicts with China in the South China Sea are kept peaceful and that a modus vivendi is worked out to jointly exploit the resources of the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. Vietnam will rely primarily on diplomacy, but it will also back this up with enhanced maritime defense capabilities.
Vietnam will pursue three strategies. First, it will continue bilateral negotiations with China to conclude an agreement on the principles to govern their actions in contested waters. Discussions are already in train. Once agreement is reached Vietnam will explore with China the possibilities of joint development in less sensitive areas. Vietnam’s second strategy will be to promote multilateral efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. Vietnam will seek to involve other foreign companies in joint development in order to ensure that their home governments have a continuing interest in stability in this region. The challenge for Vietnam will be to work out how much foreign involvement China will tolerate. Vietnam will also seek to upgrade ASEAN’s 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea into a more binding Code of Conduct. As ASEAN Chair in 2010 Vietnam has a window of opportunity to promote an ASEAN‐China Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Vietnam’s third strategy will be to develop sufficient military capacity to deter China from using force. For example, Vietnam will take delivery of six Kilo‐class submarines from Russia over a six‐year period. Vietnam will also develop integrated or joint air naval forces and command headquarters. This is a defensive strategy aimed at area denial. Vietnam’s military relations with China are at a nascent stage. Over the next five years Vietnam will seek to gradually expand defense cooperation for political and practical reasons. Vietnam will seek enhanced military ties with China as a form of confidence building, but also as a means to develop influence with the People’s Liberation Army, an important actor in China’s political system. Confidence building measures will take the
form of border security cooperation in remote areas, increased naval port visits,1 search and rescue exercises and stepped up joint naval patrols to protect fisheries in the Gulf of Tonkin and later the South China Sea. On the practical side, Vietnam will seek to build on recent agreements to expand training exchanges at all levels and to promote cooperation by national defense industries in military technology, light arms and ammunition production. Vietnam will seek material benefits from defense cooperation; but will use military relations with China as “political cover” for enhanced military ties with the United States. Vietnam will also seek to shape its defense relations with China through multilateral channels such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting with dialogue partners. This process has just got off the ground and Vietnam, as ASEAN Chair for 2010, is planning to host its first meeting. When Vietnam normalized relations with China smuggling became a major issue as Chinese goods flooded into Vietnam’s domestic market. The opening of the land frontier quickly led to increased cross‐border trade and greater autonomy for local government authorities. Regularizing trade with China has served to reinforce Hanoi’s authority over the localities. Since 1991, trade between China and Vietnam has grown astronomically. China is now Vietnam’s largest trading partner. China supplies Vietnam with machinery, refined oil and steel. In return, Vietnam supplies China with unrefined oil, coal and rubber. The single most important issue in the trade relationship is the imbalance in 1Since normalization in 1991, the People’s Liberation Army‐Navy has made only three port calls to Vietnam, and the Vietnamese navy has visited China only once.
China’s favor ($11.1 billion in 2008). In 2008, China exported $15.7 billion worth of goods to Vietnam, while Vietnam managed to export only $4.6 billion to China. China’s trade surplus has figured at every high‐level summit in recent years. Party and state leaders agree that efforts should be make to make it more balanced. But how? Restricting Chinese imports is not on the cards. The structure of Vietnamese exports had changed little over the years and no major change is expected in the coming years. Vietnamese domestic manufacturers cannot produce quality goods that are competitive in the Chinese market place. Vietnamese leaders have called for increased Chinese investment; although China has responded the total amount of investment ($3 billion) is modest when compared to other foreign investors. Future trade between China and Vietnam will be influenced by the ASEAN‐China Free Trade Agreement that took effect in January 2010. Chinese tariffs will be lowered making it easier for Vietnam to sell its goods in China. And Vietnam will also be able to take part in a regional division of labor by producing components for assembly elsewhere within the free trade area. For Vietnam to fully take advantage of these trade opportunities it will have to get its domestic house in order and make Vietnamese businesses more competitive in the Chinese market. Vietnam’s massive trade deficit with China must be placed in the context of Vietnam’s current trade deficit of $19 billion with the rest of the world (2009). Vietnam needs continued access to markets in the United States where it has a $9 billion surplus (2009).
In addition to the economic benefits of trade, there are also geo‐strategic considerations at play. The growth of trade has been accompanied by a massive upgrading and construction of infrastructure – roads, bridges, railways – much of it funded by the Asian Development Bank and World Bank as part of the Greater Mekong Sub‐region. Increasingly mainland Southeast Asia is being linked to southwestern China. In addition, Vietnam and China are promoting the development of the “two corridors and one economic beltway” linking southern China, Hainan island and northern Vietnam. From Hanoi’s point of view, this not only serves Vietnam’s development needs, but also enmeshes China and provides Beijing incentives for cooperative behavior. Vietnam utilizes diplomatic, military and economic means to achieve the strategic objective of obtaining China’s acknowledgment of Vietnam’s independence and autonomy in return for which Vietnam recognizes China’s regional primacy. China asserts considerable direct and indirect influence on Vietnam. Probably no major decision of any nature is made in Hanoi without taking Chinese interests and likely responses into account. China exerts direct pressure through high‐level meetings by national leaders. Party‐to‐party relations represent a special conduit for Chinese influence. Vietnam’s model of economic development borrows heavily but not exclusively from Chinese experience. Vietnamese foreign policy also infused mimics Chinese formulations, such as the general strategic trend in Asia Pacific is one of “peace, cooperation and development.” Hanoi also adapts Chinese ideology to its own needs, such as “the threat of peaceful evolution.” Entire Chinese books on
the subject have been translated into Vietnamese and made compulsory reading for Central Committee members and delegates to national party congresses. The slow pace of U.S.‐Vietnam military‐to‐military relations can be attributed in part to concerns about China’s reaction. The 2009 Defense White paper makes no mention of the 1979 border war with China so as not to offend Beijing. The Chinese Embassy regularly intervenes to protest any publication or action that is seen as infringing Chinese sovereignty, especially in the South China Sea. No other foreign state is as assertive or influential in Hanoi than China.
VIETNAM’S RELATIONS WITH CHINA: THE NEXT FIVE YEARS
Carlyle A. Thayer
March 27, 2010 Vietnam’s management of relations with China has always been the prerogative of a small group within the party and state elite. Vietnam’s elite has not always been unified on how to manage relations with its northern neighbor. Historically internal party contention on relations with China has been insulated from the general public through party discipline and strict controls on the media and publishing industry. Since 2007, the emergence of an anti‐China backlash among a widening circle of Vietnam’s political elite has broken through this insulation and posed two major difficulties for the Vietnamese leadership. 1. The first difficulty is gaining consensus within the party Central Committee about the best way to respond to China’s increasingly assertive actions in the South China Sea. In January 2007, the party Central Committee’s fourth plenum resolved to draw up a national “Maritime Strategy Towards the Year 2020” to integrate economic development of coastal areas with the exploitation of marine resources in the East Sea. Vietnamese economists estimated that by 2020, the marine economy would contribute up to 55 percent of GDP and between 55‐60 percent of exports. Vietnam’s maritime development strategy was completed during 2007 but was not released publicly. According to a very senior party official, Chinese intelligence acquired a copy of this classified document and then began to apply pressure on foreign companies, such as ExxonMobil and India’s ONGC, that were likely to be involved in
developing Vietnam’s maritime sector. These companies were warned that their commercial interests in China would suffer if they developed areas claimed by China. China’s actions impacted negatively on Vietnamese party conservatives who had gained influence during the global financial crisis by touting the Chinese economic model and “the threat of peaceful evolution.” Prior to 2007, party conservatives supported pro‐China policies and put a brake on foreign policy initiatives towards closer security relations with the United States. After 2007, party conservatives supported “self‐help” policies in defense through major equipment procurements (Kilo‐class submarines and Su‐30 multirole fighters) and continued to warn of “the threat of peaceful evolution” in domestic affairs. The key difficulty in forging internal party consensus lies in the extent to which Vietnam should move beyond self‐help to soliciting external support from the United States and other countries to counter Chinese assertiveness. Developing defense and security ties (as distinct from political and diplomatic relations) with the U.S. is likely to be the most contentious foreign policy issue to be considered in advance of the forthcoming eleventh national party congress. 2. The second difficulty for Vietnam relates to the domestic management of rising anti‐China sentiment. In short, how should the regime harness rising patriotic anti‐China sentiment to buttress one‐party rule without overplaying their hand and provoking sanctions from China. In 2007, student demonstrations elicited a protest from the Chinese Embassy. Vietnam responded by assuring China (and all ASEAN ambassadors) that the protests were spontaneous and not officially sanctioned. China has kept up its diplomatic pressure by continually lodging
objections to any action that challenges Chinese sovereignty in the South China Sea, including revisions in provincial history textbooks and press reporting. The emergence of anti‐China student protests in 2007 presented Vietnamese leaders with a unique dilemma. Should they suppress independent political activity? Or should they harness the students’ nationalism to bolster regime legitimacy? The Vietnamese state routinely exercises censorship over media reporting that could harm relations with China. This policy is pragmatic but it is also shaped by repeated Chinese diplomatic interventions protesting any slights on Chinese sovereignty in general and the South China Sea in particular. In 2007, Vietnamese students were able to demonstrate that they could by‐pass state controls over the media to obtain independent information on Chinese actions in the South China Sea. Not only that, but the students also demonstrated they were able to use cell phones and internet chat rooms to create a network and organize public demonstrations complete with color‐coded t‐shirts (bearing the gold star on a red background). The dilemma for Vietnamese authorities was how to respond to student protests. Clearly, the government could not be seen as repressing actions that were widely viewed as patriotic by a growing number of Vietnam’s political elite. But from the point of view of officialdom, if students were permitted to independently access information, form networks, and stage public protests against China, where would this lead? Indeed, in 2006 political activists formed a pro‐ democracy network known as Bloc 8406 on the same basis. Vietnamese authorities quietly clamped down on student activism by sending security officials to universities and colleges to warn administrators and the students involved of the consequences of further protests.
Propaganda sessions were held in party cells and units to reinforce the party’s line towards China. The student demonstrations specifically protested Chinese actions in the South China Sea and were not overtly critical of government policy. Some foreign affairs officials privately welcomed the student protests as strengthening their hand in negotiations with China. But security officials showed no sympathy when political dissidents expanded their agenda by criticizing China domestic human rights record and raising questions about the government’s handling of relations with China on Vietnamese language blog sites. Vietnamese security officials moved swiftly to repress such actions, especially when dissidents sought to disrupt the carrying of China’s Olympic torch through Ho Chi Minh City. In 2008‐09, Vietnam’s domestic anti‐China backlash spread from the political fringe to a wider circle of the political elite who not only criticized Chinese actions but also began to question their government’s handling of relations with China. Two developments spurred this shift. The first was related to the government’s decision to grant a Chinese company rights to mine bauxite ore in the Central Highlands. What began as a protest about environmental protection quickly became highly political when national security concerns were raised by no less a figure than General Vo Nguyen Giap. General Giap’s intervention, in the form of three open letters to party and state leaders, served as a catalyst for other retired high‐ranking state, military and party officials to voice similar concerns. These views were widely circulated in Vietnam over the internet and in photocopy form. The second development to elicit an anti‐China response in Vietnam arose from increased Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, especially the aggressive manner in which China
enforced its unilateral fishing ban in May‐August 2009 at the expense of Vietnam’s domestic fishing industry. Anti‐China sentiment thus spread from the political elite to fishing communities along the coast. Provincial officials reported expressed frustration at the central government’s inability to secure the quick release of fishermen held in detention on Hainan island. Four prominent bloggers were detained and questioned about their internet sites when they posted commentary, inter alia, criticizing Vietnam’s handling of relations with China. The spreading anti‐China backlash resulted in pressures on the national leadership to take action “to stand up to China.” These pressures were amplified by overseas Vietnamese who criticized the Hanoi government for not doing enough to defend Vietnamese sovereignty. In sum, the Vietnamese regime found that its appeal to nationalism as one of the basis of its legitimacy was being undermined. The regime responded by changing its media strategy to give more coverage to the government’s diplomatic protests to China, by publicizing stories that documented Vietnam’s long historical claims to the South China Sea and the views of foreign analysts sympathetic to Vietnam. The press also was permitted to report on the negative impact of China’s unilateral fishing ban on the domestic fleet at the height of the Vietnamese fishing season. In 2009, however, when two Vietnamese papers published retrospect accounts of the 2007 anti‐China protests and described the students as “patriots” they were temporarily shut down. Despite attempts by the Vietnamese regime to co‐opt anti‐China patriotism for its own ends, the nationalist genie may be out of the bottle. In August 2009, when Chinese netizens published an invasion plan on the internet showing how China could attack and conquer Vietnam in an amphibious invasion, Vietnamese netizens fired salvos into cyberspace defending
their country’s sovereignty. A review of some of the more accessible web site indicates hits in the tens of thousands. Later in the year security officials blocked Facebook and imposed restrictions on Twitter and YouTube in part to restrict discussion of Vietnam’s relations with China. Conclusion It is clear that a loose network has emerged in Vietnam among university students and the political elite that is united by its concerns over China’s threat to Vietnam’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The network can be expected to be activated in response to any action by China that threatens these interests. Vietnam’s one‐party state rests on multiple sources of legitimacy (rational‐legal, economic performance and nationalism). Since late 2007 rising anti‐Chinese patriotism has opened a new front in challenges to the legitimacy of Vietnam’s one‐party state. The anti‐China backlash quickly spread from the political fringe to the center of the political elite (intellectuals, journalists, academics, retired officials, bloggers, union leaders, retired senior military and party officials, National Assembly deputies and party members) who began to question the state’s perceived inadequate response to Chinese derogation of Vietnamese sovereignty and national security. In sum, the Vietnamese party‐state’s claim to nationalism as one of the mainstays of regime legitimacy has come under challenge over its handling of relations with China (with respect to bauxite mining in the Central Highlands and Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea). The emergence of popular opinion adds a new dimension to the functioning of Vietnam’s one‐party state.
China’s Conduits for Influence on the Vietnam Communist Party C i tP t
Professor Carl Thayer Professor Carl Thayer September 6, 2011
Interpreting Vietnamese Politics Interpreting Vietnamese Politics
• STRATFOR – factional in‐fighting re China • Long Le three groupings that differ on what Long Le – three groupings that differ on what is socialist orientation • Alex Vuving – modernisers, anti‐imperialists l d l and rent seekers
• internal power struggle involving links to internal power struggle involving links to China • Economic reforms centred around Prime Economic reforms centred around Prime Mnister Nguyen Tan Dung versus conservative Politburo members with links to China Politburo members with links to China
– Business Monitor International, “China Relations At Head Of Power Struggle, Asia Monitor 20(11) At Head Of Power Struggle ” Asia Monitor, 20(11), November 2009. Southeast Asia, 1‐2.
Three groups differ on socialist orientation • St t h ld l d State should lead society – state first i t t t fi t
– Supported by State‐Owned Enterprises and the military ilit
• Integration with global economy
– Encourage Foreign Direct Investment and entrepreneurship
• Integration with global community
– Invest in human resources, promote new industries that meet international standards
Alexander Vuving Alexander Alexander Vuving
Regime Conservatives Modernizers Rent‐Seekers Rent Seekers
Sino Vietnamese Relations Sino‐Vietnamese Relations
•Acknowledge A k l d ment of China pre-eminence •Acknowledge ment of Vietnam’s autonomy
Viet Nam Viet Nam
$11 billion deficit with China with China
Economic and Trade Relations
$9 billion $9 billion surplus with the US
Joint Steering Committee
High‐level party visits party visits
High‐level High level state visits
Conduits for Chinese Influence Conduits for Chinese Influence
• • • • • Chinese Embassy – human intelligence Chinese Embassy – human intelligence Suborning border province officials Military Regions along border Economic inducements ‐ joint ventures Economic inducements joint ventures Students studying in China (civilian and military) – human intelligence • Party media Party media
Influence Points: Party to Party Influence Points: Party‐to‐Party
Visits by party leaders Visits by party leaders Central Committee commissions visits Ideological seminars General Political Department (army) General Political Department (army) General Directorate II (military intelligence) • Ministry of Public Security Ministry of Public Security • • • • •
Influence Points: Military‐to‐ Military Relations
• High‐level visits
– Defence Ministers, Chief of General Staff etc.
• • • • •
Naval port visits Joint naval exercises Joint naval exercises Professional Military Education and Training Arms sales National defence industry cooperation
Cooperation and Struggle Cooperation and Struggle