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Vietnam Fears Foreign “Threats” Despite Embracing Globalization


Vietnam finds itself in the middle of a conundrum, as a leaked party document reveals, that that happens to involve the United States and China competing to invest in the nation.

This rising Southeast Asian star eagerly woos foreign partners, yet remains deeply wary of outside influence on its people.

The document details the paranoia amid global engagement.

Vietnam’s rulers crave investment, but recoil from colorful foreign ideas.
Critics point out how the paranoia handicaps Vietnam’s potential and how the regime wants prosperity through capitalism, but not the freedoms that fuel it.

On the other hand you have a much more nuanced approach that hints at Vietnam’s hopes to copy China’s model – economic riches under party control.

Can Vietnam overcome its distrust of open society? Or is it doomed to stagnate under the communist involution? This great nation is pulled between past and future. Its next steps will determine Asia’s evolution.

Vietnam is slowly but surely emerging as a rising economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia, but a detrimental paradox lies at the heart of its development success.

The communist regime in Hanoi eagerly courts foreign investment and deep integration into the global economy. Yet it remains deeply suspicious when it comes to outside influences penetrating the broader Vietnamese society and culture.

This contradiction is highlighted by the recent leak of an internal Communist Party document known only as Directive 24.

Issued by the Politburo in July 2022, the directive sounds the alarm bells in regards to the political dangers posed by Vietnam’s deeper integration with international partners.

The directive reflects leaders trapped in Cold War thinking, fearful that foreign contacts inherently threaten regime stability. For a dynamic country with just under 100 million citizens, Vietnam’s paranoid vision of encirclement by “hostile forces” conspiring with local activists seems outdated and counterproductive.

It showcases a regime that might still be clinging to the past and still obsessed with maintaining rigid control even as its citizens gain more and more exposure to the outside world.

Directive 24 sets its alarming tone with a dash of paranoia as it warns the communist party officials to be as vigilant as they can against indescribable “hostile forces” from abroad using things like trade and investment ties to promote other harmful matters like political transformation.

The directive goes on and points to the threat of foreign powers attempting to promote “color revolutions” by forming alliances with local civil society groups and independent trade unions.

Calls for vigilant monitoring of Vietnamese citizens’ interactions with foreigners and tight control over emerging civil society networks is one of key solutions that the directive explores and advises.

The Communist Party appears locked in a permanent siege mentality, trusting neither its own citizens nor the international partners who have fueled Vietnam’s growth. It hopes to tightly restrict political debate even while allowing just enough economic opening to attract foreign capital and technology.

So why is this happening? What does Vietnam gain from trying to circumvent its promised humanitarian policies, when it has so much to lose with severing ties to countries like the United States and China?

For a country whose growth has been powered by deeper links with the US, and various other regional powers, this sends a baffling mixed message. Why is the regime so frightened of openness when engagement abroad has done so much for Vietnam’s development?

It might be a revelation and a peek at the outlook of the Communist Party’s deep-rooted paranoia as Vietnam seeks closer diplomatic and economic bonds with America, China and other regional powers.

It may reveal how Vietnam fears an open society despite the benefits globalization has brought.

The directive lays bare Hanoi’s repressive reflexes even if it attempts to portray Vietnam internationally as a modernizing country. Vietnam, as a matter of fact, bans political opposition and strictly limits civic organizing and activism, so maybe it was all a sham from the beginning?

Well, critics of the communist regime in Vietnam will have you believe in an overarching scheme as they highlight how the directive confirms Vietnam’s authoritarian instincts remain fundamentally unchanged and untouched despite growing global ties.

They argue the regime craves foreign capital and markets but recoils from notions of human rights and democratic governance penetrating its one-party state.

The directive demands vigilance against Vietnamese citizens interacting with foreigners. It instructs officials to tightly monitor industrial zones and prevent groups forming outside party dominance.

So does this make Vietnam’s ultimate goal clear in the midst of the US-China competing for their relations? Does it prove that Vietnam, as the critics implore, maximizes trade and investment benefits without allowing or working towards any form of rival power to emerge?

To understand such an implication, we need to be more nuanced in our approach and judgment of Vietnam and its international relations.

Starting with 2023, the year where nations and superpowers alike paid close attention to Vietnam, thus leading it to emerge as one of Asia’s biggest economic and diplomatic success stories in recent years.

The once impoverished nation has transformed itself into a rising regional power, carefully and strategically balancing ties with both China and the United States.

Everything set Vietnam out for a massive 2023 breakout year, especially on the world stage now more than ever.

In the span of just a few months, Vietnam hosted high-profile state visits from both U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This remarkable feat goes to highlight Vietnam’s strategic importance amid growing superpower competition. While deepening ties with America, Hanoi also wants to preserve its traditional socialist bonds with Beijing.

Vietnam’s global coming out party is being fueled by surging foreign investment and trade. Major western tech firms are pouring money into Vietnamese startups, while China remains Vietnam’s largest trading partner.

Success is becoming second nature as homegrown auto startup “VinFast” is now valued higher than some storied German brands after a successful U.S. market entrance and stock debut.

Rapid economic development is helping Vietnam even modernize its military and achieve greater strategic autonomy.

Flush with new resources, the communist government aims to build a self-reliant defense capacity and deter aggression, after centuries of complete vulnerability to foreign powers and affairs.

Vietnam saw the need for multi-directional diplomacy and developed its “Four Nos” policy after countless wars and tarnished relations plaguing the country and its prosperity – no foreign military alliances, no hosting foreign bases, no partnering with one power against another, and no use of force for expansion.

And thus, Vietnam adopted economic reforms modeled on China’s rise.

But as China grew more powerful, Vietnam strategically moved to balance its influence by courting improved ties with the West.

In what may seem like a shocking development, Landmark trade deals; security partnerships; and bilateral ties with former foe America were fully normalized, alongside several partnerships and trade agreements with Europe.

This multi-vector diplomacy has paid dividends as superpowers compete for Vietnam’s allegiance.

Vietnam’s communist leaders want to avoid overt alignment with either bloc. Their primary goal is to develop a prosperous, stable and independent nation.

And that is where we can start to see what might seem as a much clearer picture for Vietnam’s paranoia and subsequent questionable actions.

Vietnam is possibly trying to not only balance its various foreign relations with two starkly different superpower nations, but it is also trying to balance achieving prosperity to its country and stability within its people.

This requires maintaining constructive ties with all major powers, even if the cost is internal pressures growing for a more liberal system.

The directive looks to be the sign that a moment of realization hit the Vietnamese communist party, followed by quick action and anxious warnings.

With a young, increasingly educated population, Vietnam’s civil society is evolving quickly. Its rulers still place tight limits on dissent, wary of pro-democracy “color revolutions.” But sustained economic progress and prosperity for years to come is something Vietnam can’t just pass on.

So Vietnam’s communist party looks like it might really care for its people and their wellbeing come the future, but they are also not willing to give away control or power.

Vietnam might just try to copy China’s approach. They will let their people enjoy relative wealth and luxury so that they wouldn’t care about democracy or freedom.

The party seems to view prosperity as justification for its monopoly rule, rather than possibly seeing open discourse as the key to continued advancement and further development.

Perhaps this blind gander will prove to be very effective and advantageous in the long run. Or it might just spell their looming doom.

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