China’s President Xi Jinping has planned to embark on a two-day diplomatic mission to Vietnam with the aim of fortifying bilateral relations. This visit follows closely on the heels of US President Joe Biden’s stopover in Hanoi in September, during which efforts were made to bolster support against Beijing’s expanding influence in the region.
China and Vietnam share a border, robust economic ties, and are governed by ruling communist parties. Despite these commonalities, Xi’s upcoming trip marks his first visit to Vietnam in six years.
Analysts suggest that, from China’s perspective, this visit serves to underscore that Vietnam remains within its sphere of influence, countering any perception of a shift towards rival factions.
Huong Le Thu, Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the International Crisis Group, noted that Vietnam views this as a success of its ‘bamboo diplomacy,’ enabling it to navigate between competing global powers without taking a definitive stance.
President Xi will commence his visit with an official welcome at the presidential palace, followed by talks with Nguyen Phu Trong, the leader of Vietnam’s ruling communist party. On Wednesday, a wreath-laying ceremony at the mausoleum of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh will precede meetings with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and President Vo Van Thuong. Currently holding a comprehensive strategic partnership, China and Vietnam will discuss elevating their relations further during the visit.
The agenda includes discussions on politics, security, practical cooperation, public opinion formation, multilateral issues, and maritime concerns. Vietnam shares apprehensions with the United States regarding China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea.
China’s recent release of an official map asserting sovereignty over the contested waterway upset several ASEAN members, including Vietnam. Maritime borders remain a sensitive issue for Hanoi, as demonstrated by its ban on a movie due to a depiction of the nine-dash line used in official Chinese maps.
Political researcher Nguyen Khac Giang suggests that Xi’s visit provides an opportunity for Beijing to strengthen ties with Vietnam through the ‘Community of Common Destiny’ concept. While Vietnam may remain cautious about joining China-led political initiatives, progress in economic cooperation, particularly in infrastructure development and green energy transitions, is anticipated.
Recent reports indicate potential collaboration between China Rare Earth Group Co. and Vietnam’s mining giant Vinacomin. This comes as the United States and Vietnam agreed in September to cooperate on quantifying and developing Vietnam’s rare earth resources, emphasizing Vietnam’s pivotal role in diversifying supply chains.