Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s state visit to Vietnam reveals the complex and often contradictory nature of China Vietnam relations. While public statements celebrate the “historic friendship” and “comradeship” between the two communist-run nations, underlying tensions remain.

Public Displays of Friendship

Xi Jinping and Nguyen Phu Trong plan to announce Vietnam joining China’s “Community of Common Destiny,” a symbolic move interpreted as a step towards Chinese dominance in the region. China is expected to offer advanced railway technology to help Vietnam, including a rail link passing through potentially resource-rich areas.

Hidden Tensions

Territorial disputes over the South China Sea and historical grievances over China’s colonization of Vietnam remain unresolved. Public sentiment in Vietnam can be fiercely anti-China fueled by nationalism and historical fears. Vietnam’s cautious approach towards Chinese investments under the Belt-and-Road initiative reflects concerns about dependence and public resentment.

Balancing Act

Despite the tensions, Vietnam’s economic dependence on China as its largest trading partner is undeniable. Both countries maintain a close ideological bond due to their shared communist leadership.

Vietnam’s Strategy

Vietnam employs a flexible “bamboo diplomacy,” aiming to benefit from its relationships with both China and the US, while avoiding alliances or dependence on either. China-Vietnam relations remain a complex ballet between cooperation and competition, with the potential for both closer ties and renewed conflict.