In the newspaper of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), the people of the party in the past keep praising themselves as “the will of the Party, the heart of the People” to show that the people have faith in the party, and the party always follows the wishes of the people.
But, in fact, has it been?
The situation of lawsuits and injustice is more and more, and the state-controlled media and state agencies cannot deny it. Corruption from very high levels down to the village has become a systemic issue – the party has to call it “internal invasion.” Regarding the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea), people doubt when the aggressive anti-Chinese protests are suppressed in different ways.
The Party refused to issue the Law on Protests, the Law on Association so that state-owned associations could continue to live on the people’s tax dollars, and the regime tightens its control over the media, how could the party listen to the people and understanding their hearts?
Yet there seems to be one thing the Party and the People can come together with: the Trump phenomenon.
For about 15 years now, with Vietnam, the East Sea issue has always been boiled by China’s aggression. Vietnam’s boring chorus of vocal protest, international response, and threats from the US does not appear to be working at all.
For that reason, in Vietnam, people’s hearts are always uneasy; suspicions about the party or state compromise with China. Demonstrations, social networks, petitions, research projects … year after year, flared up and then extinguished or gradually quieted. Deadlock from both sides!
American – Vietnamese businessmen signed a cooperation agreement in the presence of the US and Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi during President Trump’s visit on December 27, 2019
Trump administration has chosen a radically different approach to the problem than many previous presidents. At the same time many continuous measures related to foreign affairs, complementary contributions are unprecedented; shocking all over the globe, from allies to enemies, inside and out opponents jumped. From the elite class of society (left-left, left-wing) including “senior” intellectuals, experienced media, including “top” politicians and tycoon ranks (stick with many benefits with China) like being humiliated like idiots but hypocritical; to turn from being just like an opponent, disagreeing as an enemy to Trump administration.
In less than four years, the volume and quality of the US’s moves and decisions, not only in the South China Sea but also in many other related fields, “battlefields“, including more Mekong River issue, is exceptionally large. With the Taiwan issue being closest and clearest.
The Vietnamese government clearly has been embracing this approach with enthusiasm, but discreetly and carefully. From two trips of President Trump, including historic negotiations with the President of North Korea, to a series of visits by many US warships and aircraft carriers, and the most recent surprise visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are few of the many proofs.
It is not difficult to sense a new trend in dealing with China.
The Communist Party of Vietnam, with its ideological ties with China that cannot be removed anytime soon, is compelled to quietly “dilute” the “red” more quickly through seeking solutions to internationalize the East Sea issue.
The COVID -19 pandemic turned out to be one more chance in risk. There are no longer brutal exchanges between the two parties and the unions of the two countries. There have also been no back and forth visits before the 13th Party National Congress.
Outlining the ‘badness of the neighboring party‘
On the part of the people, it seems that there are suggestions. Without demonstrations and seminars, there are other things to make up for. The state media is more comfortable in reporting on the ugliness of (the Communist Party) of China, from the East Sea to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang …
Vietnam for many years has been an emerging economy in Southeast Asia
The VTV phenomenon a few months ago released a documentary, starring many party leaders, severely condemning the Chinese army’s unruly and brutal actions during the invasion of the Northern Border in 1979 is an example in the North of our country. And social networks, a new environment for netizens to “protest”, help each other to know, detect, and expose false signs related to territorial sovereignty and nurture the national spirit in full bloom.
From both sides, they are looking for a common direction, can accept temporarily, gradually reduce conflicts and constant questions.
Where are human rights?
Throughout the quarter of a century, human rights issues in Vietnam have always been concerned and influenced by the US, through all presidents, and in many ways.
However, arrests, trials, prison sentences, and then objections, or intervention to enforced exile for some jailed activists, especially when there is an upcoming high-level visit to the two sides of the two countries’ human rights dialogue becomes boring. The number of political arrests is still increasing, and prison sentences are heavier.
The measures of America and the West applied to Vietnam and China with the aim to promote a democratization change as the two countries carry out economic reforms become ineffective and demagogic. Behind it is also a great influence on economic interests.
For the US, the difficult problem in the geopolitical aspect – Vietnam is too important on the international chessboard for China to be the number one problem.
Three sides: the government, the people of Vietnam, and the US need to find another direction to change this situation.
In doing so, I see we must consider the root causes.
The issue of sea and island sovereignty is one of the reasons. If the US, its allies, and countries agree to continue with the new approach (as mentioned above), it will gradually reduce internal conflicts in Vietnam.
Within the party, the state of Vietnam – with a hard or peaceful view – if it is skillfully influenced by the US, the West will adjust its internal balance of power.
Specifically, with the forces that want to be close to China, they are often willing to take strong action with expressions of fighting for islands and for human rights. The recent strong approach to the South China Sea by the US leaves them vulnerable.
On the other hand, it is necessary to be awake before the internal fighting, tackling, or “marching martial majesty” from within by increasing arrests of the activists (especially when important political events are imminent); it challenges the US and the West, and if they respond strongly, they will meet more difficulties for the long-term strategy of anti-China cooperation.
Another irony is that they are still powerful. Although they do not like Communist China, they are full of corruption; also want to reform institutions, but determined to tighten the democratic freedom of the people to protect their huge wealth.
In contrast, low-profile officials wanting to “escape China“, of course, there is nothing to please Beijing with acts of suppressing the democratic voice. They have found support in the effectiveness of the new solution in recent years from the Trump administration to China.
The maritime and island disputes in the South China Sea and the US – Vietnam – China triangle relationship are also an aspect mentioned by the author.
Distinguishing between a single phenomenon and its profound nature, finding a wise solution to deal with all the above-mentioned forces is not easy.
Thus, by vigorously and persistently adjusting policies with China in the South China Sea and related, will contribute deeply to change the human rights situation in Vietnam in a positive direction; not only relying on, continuing to “script” the measures of direct pressure on human rights as many years ago.
Economics and ideology
In addition, it is impossible not to mention economic factors, which help change from the root of human rights issues …
Warning “currency manipulation” and making “backyard” for Chinese goods in disguise to enter the US, condemning “the worst exploiters“, … for example, is an example of the strategy of gradually separating the regime from China, the “golden friend” of ideology and economic dependence.
That will affect human rights issues and the South China Sea.
On the domestic side, once the economic pressure of the US spread to Vietnam stronger, forcing this regime to accelerate economic reforms. It will positively affect many fields – rule of law, culture, science, environment, …, not just economics; the progressive democracy force will have a more important voice, and will be more trusted by the people; gradually reducing corruption and social injustice.
After the US presidential election, if Mr. Trump is re-elected, the decisions made with China on economics, the East Sea, and Taiwan … in the past few years, with more time to fulfill, will be more effective. Since then, there is little hope for Vietnam, after the Party Congress, the story of “Party’s willingness and the heart of the People” will be less humorous, which is just for talking on the sidewalk, but more realistic in the direction of improving democracy, rule of law, to help unanimously resist China.
And if Mr. Joe Biden is elected, no matter how hard he tries, the way through the Democratic Party (the Donkey icon) will still be the same, even with a little adjustment, trying to find the way that predecessor Donald Trump (Republican-Elephant) explored in relations with China.