On the 75th anniversary of Vietnam’s independence, the country’s leaders, foreign officials and experts have spoken highly of the nation’s achievements and its regional and global contributions since 1945.
Leaders of countries around the world, including Cambodia, China, Cuba, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, Singapore and Thailand recently sent messages and letters of congratulations to Vietnamese party and state leaders in honor of the 75th anniversary of Vietnam’s National Day on September 2, which commemorates the country’s independence. They point to a rising global recognition of Vietnam’s fast-growing economy and the country’s active participation in addressing regional and international issues.
At a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of National Day, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said that in the last 75 years, Vietnam’s important achievements have included improvements to its people’s quality of life, high and sustainable economic growth, prolonged socio-political stability, firm defense and security, broadened and deepened external relations and active and responsible contributions to peace and cooperation in the region and the world.
Although Vietnam has been hit hard by the global pandemic, the country managed to post economic growth of nearly 2% in the first half of this year, with a trade surplus of US$11 billion. The Vietnamese government is determined to restructure the economy sustainably and switch to a digital economy, the prime minister said.
Regarding external relations, Vietnam will stick to its foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, multilateralism and proactive global integration. Vietnam has built its geopolitics on strengthening cooperation with countries on the basis of respect for independence, sovereignty, equality and mutual benefits, handling differences through peaceful measures in accordance with international law.
At the National Day ceremony on August 28 in Hanoi, Palestinian Ambassador to Vietnam Saadi Salama, who is currently head of the diplomatic corps in Vietnam, spoke highly of Vietnam’s contributions as the 20202 ASEAN Chair and a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2020-2021. He also pointed to Vietnam’s achievements through nearly 35 years of “Doi Moi” (renewal).
When Vietnam adopted Doi Moi policies in late 1986, the country was subject to an international trade and aid boycott due to its intervention to oppose the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, according to Professor Carlyle Thayer of the University of New South Wales at Australian Defense Force Academy said.
In May 1988, the Central Committee of the Vietnam Communist Party adopted Resolution No. 13, which set out a far-reaching policy to prioritize economic development by creating a favorable security environment. Vietnam withdrew the last of its military forces from Cambodia in September 1989. Vietnam also participated in a major international conference in Paris that reached a comprehensive settlement on the Cambodian conflict in October 1991.
Vietnam was then able to normalize relations with China, negotiate with Japan and the European Union to lift their sanctions, and in 1995 normalize relations with the United States.
Vietnam seized opportunities from the Cambodian settlement to turn the relations between Indochina and ASEAN from confrontation to peaceful coexistence. In 1995, Vietnam joined ASEAN as its seventh member and thus became eligible to participate in all ASEAN-related institutions. According to Thayer, this provided a firm foundation for opening up and integrating with the region and the world.
Vietnam also became a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Starting in 2001, Vietnam began negotiating strategic partnerships with the major powers and other important states. Today it has 16 strategic partnerships with Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and Thailand. Over time several of these relationships have been upgraded to comprehensive strategic partnerships. In addition, Vietnam has negotiated 12 agreements on comprehensive partnerships around the world.
In the 2008-2009, Vietnam was elected to the United Nations Security Council for the first time. It contributed positively to nuclear non-proliferation. Additionally, participation on the Security Council led to Vietnam’s decision to contribute to UN peacekeeping, first by sending a small number of military observers to test the waters, and then by dispatching a Level-II grade field hospital to South Sudan. Vietnam has also committed to providing engineering specialists to help with the disposal of unexploded ordnance.
The United States has recognized Vietnam’s constructive role in international relations by listing the country as a potential strategic partner in all major security and defense policy documents adopted under President Donald Trump. These policy documents include the US National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy of the United States and the US Indo-Pacific Strategy. The United States asked Vietnam to host the second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February 2019.
“The greatest achievement of Vietnamese diplomacy since 1986 was to extricate itself from Cambodia and reorient its foreign policy after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union by simultaneously normalizing relations with the United States and joining ASEAN in July 1995,” Professor Thayer stated.
Recently, Vietnam has used its role as ASEAN Chair to take a proactive leadership role in ASEAN to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Vietnam convened a video conference meeting of ASEAN Health Ministers on April 7 and two back-to-back summits on April 14. The first was the Special ASEAN Summit on Coronavirus Disease COVID-19 and the second was the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit. Vietnam was successful in securing consensus on a regional response to the coronavirus and in initiating preliminary discussions on a post-COVID recovery.
Vietnam, which initially had to postpone the 36th ASEAN Summit, managed to host the summit by video conference on June 23. At both ASEAN summits, Vietnam used the occasion to draw on support and cooperation from its dialogue partners.
According to Professor Thayer, as ASEAN Chair and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Vietnam has already launched two promising initiatives. The first is to hold a debate on compliance with the UN Charter at the United Nations. The second initiative is to arrange the first ever meeting between the United Nations and ASEAN as a regional organization.
As an emerging leader through the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam will continue to play an ever-larger role in regional and global geopolitics. Its policies from the ASEAN level to the UN are supporting key multilateral initiatives and promoting vital global connections to address regional and international issues.