South China Sea: Vietnam will soon regret helping USA return
August 3, 2012 (TSR) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Hanoi on July 10 that the US supports Vietnam’s work in resolving the South China Sea issue, but also told Vietnam it needs to do more to protect human rights. She expressed her concerns over “the jailing of journalists, bloggers, lawyers and dissidents for peaceful expression.”
Deputy Minister of Defense and Commander of the Vietnam People’s Army Naval Command, Admiral Nguyen Van Hien also met with Admiral Cecil D. Haney, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, in northern port city of Hai Phong, about 90 km east of Vietnamese capital Hanoi, on July 13.
Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, July 10, 2012
Clinton’s remarks have clearly outlined the direction of Vietnam developing a strategic partnership with the US. The bilateral relationship between Hanoi and Washington is more like a marriage of convenience.
As the end of March this year, Vietnam’s bad debts hit 202 trillion Vietnamese dong (9.6 billion U.S. dollars), accounting for 8.6 percent of the total outstanding credits, reported the central State Bank (SBV) of Vietnam.
Last month, the government said the total bad debt in the banking system has hit US$13.3 billion or 11% of Gross Domestic Product. The bad debt problem has contributed to the abrupt slowing down of Vietnam’s economy.
The government said dealing with bad debts is the main task among its plans to reform the country’s banking system.
The bad debt problem is also affecting Vietnam’s state-owned businesses. The government believes its state-owned enterprises will be unable to repay as much as 20% to 30% of the US$19.8 billion they owe banks.
Vietnam relies heavily on inefficient state-owned firms to boost economic growth. These firms control some 40% of the country’s economic output.
Central bank Gov. Nguyen Van Binh said the government is planning to create a national asset management company with a capital of US$4.8 billion to cope with the worsening debt problem.
Vietnam has to give up its current path of development if it wants to be able to count on US support.
Politically, Vietnam is following the path of China, realizing rapid development by taking the road of gradual reform. Western values haven’t deeply encroached into Vietnam. The influence of political opposition is much less active than it is in China.
An elite class politically allied with the West hasn’t been formed in Vietnam. But such a trend is already being started before it deeply affects Hanoi’s domestic political landscape.
Strong anti-government protests are rare in Vietnam now. A few sporadic incidents are seemingly all against the Chinese government. However, they may change their targets in the future.
Vietnamese mainstream society has acknowledged China’s development model. Many feel powerless over territorial disputes between the two countries. Nationalist sentiment, on the one hand, is uniting Vietnamese society, but is also poisoning Hanoi’s political connection with China. Vietnam is being pushed by the growing nationalist mood toward the US, which likes to reprimand Vietnam politically at the same time as lending its support.
Hanoi is counting on China to vindicate its political choices, but also wants to counter China by leveraging US power. However, the strategy needs to strike a good balance between China, the US and its domestic political forces. It will be difficult to sustain this for long.
The only viable path for Vietnam is to coordinate with China to limit the US pivot to Asia. The territorial disputes should not turn into hostility against each other. Instead of being a link in the US chain containing China, Vietnam can be a post against deep US involvement in Asia.
Hanoi has been keen on facilitating the US return to Asia in the last few years. It should be clear that the pressure Washington has placed on China will be felt in Vietnam. It will very likely be among the first victims if East Asia is overwhelmed by political disturbances.
During her speech in Mongolia Monday, Clinton attacked China’s political system without naming the country. It shows the US pivot to Asia also has a value subtext besides military and economic concerns. Vietnam, just like the Philippines, are all going to be used as pawns for containing and provoking China.
The Obama administration now has a taste of the difficult diplomacy necessary to sharpen the focus of American power on Asia, seeking investment opportunities alongside reforms from rights-abusing governments and working with China while defending US “interests”.
That interest is the South China Sea which hosts about a third of the world’s cargo traffic, rich fishing grounds and vast oil and gas reserves—economic opportunities the US would be locked out of if China were to “seize total control” and have all the Asian nations work side by side in mutual respect and cooperation for the region, to which China incessantly reiterates.
The American Pacific Century plan is an effort to change the direction of US diplomacy and commercial policy and redirect it to the place most likely to become the center of the global economy over the next century.
China has warned repeatedly that “external forces” should not get involved in the regional dispute. USA claims to be neutral when it clearly it is not. America’s hidden motives are quite obvious around the world. Consider the way the Syrian Crisis is handled: USA have been going about threats and provocation, in addition to condoning arms and gun men smuggling through Turkey’s borders while talking about “democracy”, without respecting Syria as a sovereign nation itself.
Asians as a whole are still lukewarm about American hypocritical demands for greater democracy and unilateral rule of bully law. Everyone is very aware that America has always been only interested in their own agenda. Majority are aware the selfish nature of their diplomacy, but countries have to put up with it since America is the biggest military threat on the planet – they have overt and covert military operations in at least 75 countries.
Both China and Vietnam are progressing in terms of creating prosperity and freedom for its people. Clinton and her colleagues should save their slogans and instead prove to the world that they are able to lift the US and the West out of financial chaos.
Source: China Daily