Vietnam as an ASEAN member and a country with claims on parts of South China Sea has been turning into a nightmare for the Chinese Communist Party, is trying really hard to succeed in its charm offensive in Southeast Asia at a time when the USA is busy with its domestic affairs quit vociferously. As Wang Yi went on a comprehensive visit to the ASEAN nations, he went to nine out of the ten-member nations, but at a time when the whole ASEAN as an organisation kowtowed to the Chinese, Vietnam stood tall, with morally hardened backbone.
Vietnam has become the only Southeast Asian nation to take on Beijing over the issues of the South China Sea and management of the Mekong River, and now, as all other countries of the region are trying to placate the CCP by buying a namesake COVID vaccine, with just above 50% efficacy, Vietnam is the only country that is neither buying the Chinese goodwill and nor its vaccine to the extent ASEAN’s other member countries are buying. It has taken a more diverse approach as it is in negotiations to buy products from Britain, the US, Russia, and China.
Vietnam has trodden a careful path for a very long time, and it was hopeful that, as China becomes stronger it will also grow wiser, but to the contrary, China has turned into a megalomaniac and a bully. Its belligerent actions have costed its neighbours a lot of economic, strategic and social capital to keep their flock in order while maintaining their sovereignty from being infringed upon by Beijing.
Wang Yi must have been really concerned about visiting Vietnam, as it was most likely not going to give him a red-carpet welcome, as well as, he was not going to receive a red carpet welcome. And with all the fare share of shame that the Chinese Foreign Minister has received in 2020 on part of Xi Jinping and CCP, he is sure to have developed a sixth sense about the same. Thus, he travelled to all the other nations and not to Vietnam as this would have turned the whole charm offensive into a shame defensive.
While the businesses and manufacturing that are moving out of China are becoming attracted to the opportunities and options in Vietnam, Hanoi has become confident in its ability to emerge as an option to China. Thus, instead of kowtowing to CCP which is sure to backstab them, Vietnam is standing like a wall and not relenting to peer pressure.
Vietnam has also been cooperating with countries which have a common interest in the free and open channels of trade and commerce, which is under threat in the South China Sea. In the South China Sea, the Indian and Vietnamese Navies performed PASSEX or Passage Exercise. The Indian Navy ship INS Kiltan, which reached Nha Rong Port in Ho Chi Minh City, took part in exercises from 26 to 27 December. The Indian ship reached Vietnamese shores with 10 tons of humanitarian assistance under Mission Sagar 3.
In addition to this, before the charm offensive could have come to the shores of Vietnam, the Japanese are joint venturing with Vietnam. Japanese energy firm Inpex has settled a four-year-old legal dispute against a Singapore-based firm to retain its oil and gas concession with Vietnam in the hotly-contested South China Sea. The Japanese firm has won the right to drill in some of the world’s most fraught offshore fields.
The Vietnamese government has approved field development plans for Blocks 05-1B and 05-1C. With this, Japan and Vietnam are all set to drill oil and gas together. This is a huge setback for Beijing, given that the offshore fields are located within China’s so-called nine-dash line, an imaginary maritime boundary wherein the paper dragon claims 90 per cent of the disputed waterways. This being one example of many ways in which QUAD members are working with Vietnam to increase its influence in the South China Sea and thus, diversify the power dynamics in these contested waters.
While China would have found it convenient to charm the Vietnamese and make them kowtow, which they have been trying from time immemorial, and failing every time, the country is turning out to be the nightmare of the antagonist China. And now, it is siding with its population, by not subjecting the population to the low efficacy shady Chinese vaccine just to get in the good books of Beijing. And in the long run, when the people will see these actions of ASEAN nations in retrospect, Vietnam will turn out to be the only country which did not compromise with its morals and its sovereign duty to look out for its citizens.