Keeping an Angry Readership Posted: Will Vietnam become an American Ally?

Soft power is something China’s leaders want to build both abroad and at home – those among China’s leaders who care about the concept, anyway. Huanqiu Shibao, the trade journal for angry nationalists, tries to involve its angry readers, and is quite probbly following a consensus between a number of stakeholders (not least the propaganda department).

When reading Huanqiu Shibao these days, it feels a bit like reading a copy of Reader’s Digest from the 1960s (I still got some on the attic), and I’m pretty sure that Huanqiu’s more recent approach is modelled after that perfect exemplar of the monolithic conformist Eisenhower ’50s – only from a very different kind of conservatism.

In short, and only my personal, rough working hypothesis of course, Huanqiu has begun a shift away from angry articles on how to become America’s adequate adversary, to the sedate, even-handed and self-confident voice of a rising superpower.

The readership, however, may not change that easily – not if the commenter threads are anything to go by.

It may not exactly be the approach Cheng Tianquan suggests – making Chinese “citizens” participate in foreign affairs -, but at least a try to calm netizens down when it comes to diplomatic issues, as Zhao Qizheng, a public-diplomacy expert, advised earlier this year.

The following are excerpts from a Huanqiu Shibao interview with Qi Jianguo (齐建国), China’s former ambassador to Vietnam.

Main Link: Vietnam won’t become America’s “ally”, published by Huanqiu Shibao on July 26, 2012. Links within blockquote added during translation – JR

[Editor’s note]

Editor’s note: Recently, the establishment of Sansha City in the Paracel Islands was officially established. This lead to “protests” from the Philippines and Vietnam. America also expressed “concern”. The South China Sea situation once again attracted attention. Looking at the entire South China Sea dispute, people can’t help but ask themselves this question: if the Philippines become America’s ally, with American forces protecting it, thus being “able” to deal with China, couldn’t Vietnam, a country from the “socialist camp” and with intense and deep-seated hatred for the U.S. thirty years ago, do likewise?

编者按:日前,中国海南省三沙市在西沙群岛的永兴岛正式成立,引来菲律宾、越南的“抗议”,美国也表示“担忧”,南海局势再度引发关注。回顾整个南海争端,人们不禁会产生这样一个疑问:如果说菲律宾作为美国的盟国,有联合美国势力来保护自己、对付中国的“可能”,那么,越南作为“社会主义阵营”的国家,而且30多年前曾与美国有“血海深仇”,它有这个可能吗?

After Vietnam and America established diplomatic relations, their relations warmed quickly during the past few years. On the South China Sea dispute, America also openly expressed support for Vietnam, and Hillary Clinton openly praised Vietnam’s reforms. One could see Vietnam and America approaching this point of “ability”. However, what is the current situation like? Could Vietnam throw itself completely into America’s arms and become America’s “ally”? Concerning Vietnam’s foreign and domestic political issues, Huanqiu Shibao’s review channel recently interviewed China’s former ambassador to Vietnam, and Asia-Pacific Research Center director Qi Jianguo. The record of the interview will be published in instalments.

越美建交后,两国关系在近年来急速升温,在南海争端上,美国也公开表示支持越南,希拉里还公开赞扬越南的改革,我们看到,越美两国似乎在向着那个“可能”走近。然而,现实情况到底怎样呢?越南会完全投入美国的怀抱、成为美国的“盟国”吗?针对越南的外交内政问题,环球网评论频道近日专访了中国前驻越南大使、亚太研究中心主任齐建国,专访稿件将分期刊出,敬请关注!

[The interview]

Q: After the establishment of diplomatic relations between America and Vietnam, the relations between the two countries have become warmer. Which factors brought the two countries closer together?

美国越南正式建交之后,两国关系逐渐升温,是什么因素吸引两国走得越来越近?

A: Vietnam and America established diplomatic relations in 1995, 17 years ago. Objectively speaking, their relationship went from a mutually cool attitude to a warm one. Two examples: trade and politics. As for trade, America has lifted the trade embargo since 1994, but up until 2000, after only six years of diplomatic relations, a trade agreement was signed. That’s to say, relations wer very normal then. Politically speaking – I had become ambassador in Vietnam by then – American president Clinton visited Vietnam to promote progress in their relations, but because Clinton talked a lot about so-called democracy, human rights etc., points of view Vietnam couldn’t accept, then Vietnam CP secretary Le Kha Phieu criticized these views in their meetings with Clinton, and the meetings ended on rather bad terms. Later, America’s ambassador to Vietnam held an informal meeting. He wasn’t satisfied at all, and said that the last meeting had been “stupid”. He called secretary general Le Kha Phieu a “conservative, tough old man”. This shows that in fact, from 1995 to 2000, through all those years, the bilateral ties had been rather cold.

越南和美国1995年建交,今年是第17个年头。客观地说,越美建交以后,经历了一个从相对冷淡到逐渐升温的过程。这里我举两个例子:经贸和政治。在经贸上,美国从1994年解除对越南的贸易禁令,但一直到2000年,双方建交6年后,才签了双边贸易协定,这说明当时关系非常一般;在政治上,2000年,——那时,我已到越南当大使——美国总统克林顿访问越南,本来是打算推动双边关系取得进展,但因克林顿在各种场合讲了很多所谓民主、人权等越南不能接受的观点,所以,当时越共中央总书记黎可漂在会见中对克林顿的上述言论进行了一系列批判,会见不欢而散。后来,美国驻越南大使搞了个吹风会,他很不满意,说最后一场会见是“愚蠢”的,把黎可漂总书记形容为“保守、强硬的老头儿”。这些都显示出,实际上从1995年到2000年这么多年,双方关系比较冷淡。

Only another five years later, in 2005, ten years after the establishment of diplomatic relations, Vietnam’s prime minister Phan Van Khai visited America. It was the first visit by a Vietnamese leader after the end of the Vietnam war thirty years earlier, and this marked the complete normalization of Vietnamese-American relations. In 2006, as Vietnam hosted the informal meeting of APEC leaders, American president Bush visited Vietnam. After that visit, America gave Vietnam the most-favored nation status (MFN), a status of permanent normal trading, and after that, Vietnamese-American relations moved to a stage of rapid development. Particularly during the past two years, as America accelerated the pace of its return to the Asia-Pacific region, the relations clearly warmed.

又过了5年,到双方建交10周年的时候,2005年,越南总理潘文凯访问美国,这是越战30年以后越南领导人首次访问美国,这才标志着越美关系完整地实现了正常化。2006年,在越南召开了APEC非正式领导人会议,美国总统布什顺访了越南。访问之后,美国就给了越南最惠国待遇,永久性的正常贸易关系的地位,从此以后,越美关系走向了快速发展的阶段。特别是近两年来,随着美国重返亚太步伐加快,越美关系明显升温。

Generally speaking, the warming relations between the two countries were a matter of the past few years. It should be said that the background reason was America’s strategic adjustment. The two sides both hope to develop the relations continuously, with both sides having certain requirements [to each other], which led to the relations as they are today.

总的来说,两国关系升温是近几年的事情。要说背后的原因,就是美国的战略调整。双方都有进一步发展关系的愿望,在战略上互有所求,就出现了今天的关系。

Q: What do the two countries want to get from each other? And can they obtain these things?

两国都想从对方那里得到什么?能不能得到?

A: This needs to be looked at from the background of America’s strategic adjustment. What America wants to get in its shift to the East, or its return to the Asia-Pacific region, is – besides strengthening relations with allies like Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand – the strengthening of relations with “new partners”. That’s America’s new need. As for Vietnam’s relations with America, a strategic position is very important. In America’s view, Vietnam is a new partner. At present, the two sides both prepare the advancement of their relations to “strategic cooperation and partnership”, and make efforts to these ends. For America, the main issue isn’t what to get from trade, but it mainly shows in how it uses Vietnam’s important strategic position.

这个问题要从美国战略调整的背景下来看,美国想得到,比如:美国战略东移或叫重返亚太,它除了要加强同日、韩、澳大利亚、菲律宾、泰国等盟国的关系,还要加强同“新伙伴”的关系,这是它的新需求,而越南对美国来讲,战略地位很重要,在美国心目中,越南就是它的新伙伴。目前,越美双方都提出来准备将两国关系提升为“战略合作伙伴关系”,两国在向这个方向努力。对于美国来讲,从经贸上要得到多少不是主要的,主要表现在利用越南的重要战略地位。

Vietnam wants to get a lot from America, both politically and economically. Vietnam hopes that America will gradually abandon its peaceful-evolution towards it, it hopes for support concerning the South China Sea, and of course it also hopes for economic advantages. Currently, America is Vietnam’s biggest export market, and Vietnam’s biggest foreign-trade surplus is the one with America. China has been Vietnam’s biggest trading partner for seven consecutive years, and Vietnam’s biggest trade deficit is the one with China. Vietnam’s trade surplus with the U.S. can’t make up for the deficit with China.

越南想从美国那里得到的很多,有政治上的,也有经济上的。越南希望美国能逐渐放弃对它的和平演变,希望在南海问题上支持它,当然也希望能在经济上得到好处。现在,美国是越南最大的出口市场,越南在对美贸易中顺差最大。中国连续7年是越南的第一大贸易伙伴,越南在对华贸易中逆差最大,越南对美国贸易的顺差全补到对中国的逆差中都不够。

When it comes to what the two sides can or can’t get from each other what they hope to get, this can’t be considered all at once. This needs to be analyzed issue by issue. What can Vietnam get? It can get advanced technology from America, more investment, even American support concerning the South China Sea. As far as that’s concerned, America is already openly supportive. But it can’t get promises and assurances from America to the end that America “won’t overthrow the communist leadership, and won’t change its socialist system”.

至于双方能不能得到自己所想要的,这不能一概而论,要具体问题具体分析。越南能得到什么?越南可以从美国那里得到先进的技术、更多的投资,甚至在南海问题上得到美国支持,这方面,美国已经公开支持了。但它得不到美国“不推翻越南共产党的领导、不改变它社会主义制度”的承诺和保证。

As for America, it can use Vietnam’s strategic position to broaden its influence in South-East Asia, make it serve its strategic adjustment, but it won’t get a promise to establish its military bases there. At best, their navy will have so-called supplies from Cam Ranh Bay. I experienced something about Cam Ranh Bay myself. It was an American naval base, originally. After the Vietnam war, the Soviet Union took it over, and by 2004, the Russians had completely withdrawn, as the Vietnamese defense ministry itself officially informed me: “From now on, Cam Ranh Bay won’t be leased out to any third country, our Chinese comrade can be at ease about that.” In my view, this Vietnamese commitment has not changed. Cam Ranh Bay won’t be what some people believe it could be – there’s no way that, in the wake of the warming ties, the U.S. navy would use Cam Ranh Bay the way they used it in the past.

对于美国来说,它可以利用越南的战略地位来扩大自己在东南亚的影响,为它的战略调整服务,但它得不到在越南建立军事基地的承诺,顶多是所谓的美国军舰到包括金兰湾在内的越南港口补给。在金兰湾的问题上,我曾亲身经历过一件事,金兰湾原来是美国的军事基地,越战结束后苏联接管,到2004年俄罗斯全部撤退,越南国防部就正式向我通报:“从此以后,金兰湾不会再租给任何第三国,请中国同志放心。”我认为到现在为止,越南的这个承诺还没有变化。金兰湾不会像有的人说的那样,随着越美军事关系的升温,美国要像过去那样使用金兰湾,这是绝不可能的。

[Further remarks on two further questions: U.S.-Vietnamese ties will remain close for the foreseeable future, but ideologically, there is no difference between the way America views China and Vietnam respectively.]

Q: There are views that America wants to use the South-China-Sea dispute and the resulting warming relations with Vietnam to change [“evolutionize”, 演变] Vietnam – that it wants to achieve what they didn’t achieve with the Vietnam war. How do you view this?

有种观点认为,美国想借助南海问题升温两国关系从而演变越南,达到越战时没达到的目的,您怎么看?

A: I can’t really agree with this view, because the relations and the ideologies between the two countries are different in character: one is about the way the two countries’ relations would develop further, and one is about another country’s nature. The latter issue, for the Vietnamese CP, is one of life and death. Generally speaking, these to issues are different in that one is about benefit, and one is about life and death. Even if America should have these ideas, to achieve peaceful evolution by supporting Vietnam in the South China Sea dispute, it will find it hard to achieve.

我不敢赞同这个观点,因为两国关系和意识形态是性质不同的问题:一个是越美两国关系向前发展的问题,一个是要改变另一个国家性质的问题。后一个问题,对于越共来讲,是生死存亡的问题。概括来讲,这两个问题一个是利益问题,一个是生死存亡的问题。即使美国有这个想法,想通过升温两国关系、在南海问题上支持越南来实现和平演变,它也很难做到。

I believe that the ideological influence on both countries is big, and fundamental. To use an example from my time as ambassador to Vietnam: after the establishment of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and America, the period when America wanted to achieve evolution, relations became cold. During the first years of the 21rst century, America supported independence for Vietnam’s four western provinces by preaching the gospel of freedom etc. Several thousand people came to the provincial parliaments for so-called establishment of national parliaments. This resulted in bloodshed and were then suppressed. It is said that America had supported those people financially. […]

我认为,意识形态对两国关系发展影响很大,是个根本性的问题。我举个例子,是我在任驻越大使期间发生的。越美建交以后,本来两国关系将要度过冷淡时期而迈开实质性步伐了,结果美国要对越南进行和平演变,一下两国关系又冷却下来了。21世纪的最初几年,美国曾几次通过福音教传教自由等活动支持越南西部地区四省闹独立,有几千人到一个省的省会参加所谓一个国家的成立大会,结果发生了流血事件,后来被镇压下去了。据说美国对那些人还提供了资金帮助。[…]

Neither will, for a long time to come, America give up its plans to change Vietnam’s socialist system, nor will Vietnam give up [or in, to these American plans]. Ideological differences remain the biggest restricting obstacle in the two countries’ relations.

可以说,在今后比较长的时期之内,要让美国放弃改变越南社会主义制度的计划是不可能的,同时要让越南放弃对美国和平演变的防范,也是不可能的。意识形态仍是制约两国关系发展的最大障碍。

[Further remarks: the shadows of the Vietnam War keep lingering, even if “hate-America” feelings in Vietnam aren’t particularly strong (在今天的越南,“仇美”的社会情绪应该说有,但不是特别的强烈。). Vietnam attaches importance to developing ties with big countries in general, among “three priorities, since the beginning of the century: ties with neighboring countries, ties with traditionally friendly countries, and with big countries – 三个“优先发展”:优先发展同邻国的关系、优先发展同传统友好国家的关系、优先发展同大国的关系 – Vietnamese-U.S. ties would continue to warm as the America made its return to the Asia-Pacific region.]

Q: How much potential is there in Vietnam-U.S. economic relations? How much benefit can America provide for Vietnam?

越美之间经济往来的潜力有多大?美国能给越南带来多少好处?

A: I believe there’s great potential with broad perspectives. Two examples: one big obstacle in Vietnamese-American trade was removed in 1994, the trade embargo. After that, the trade cooperation went through three stages. From 1994 to July 2001, it was the first stage. Then, after the removal of the embargo, the two countries signed their bilateral trade agreement, that was the second stage, from July 2001 to May 2006. Then the two countries signed an agreement for Vietnam’s accession to the WTO, which meant permanent normalization of Vietnam’s position as a trading partner. From 2006 to now, with most-favored-nation status for Vietnam, their trade cooperation entered the phase of quick development.

我认为,越美的经济合作潜力巨大,前景广阔 with broad perspectives。我举两个例子:一个是越美开展经济往来的障碍彻底消除了,1994年美国取消对越南的贸易禁令 Embargo 以后,两国的经贸合作关系经历了3个阶段:1994年到2001年7月份,这是第一个阶段,从取消贸易禁令到越美两国签订“双边贸易协定”;2001年7月到2006年5月,是第二个阶段,越美签了越南入世的协定,这意味着美国已经给了永久的“正常贸易关系地位”;2006年到现在,是第三个阶段,美国给了它最惠国待遇之后,越美经贸合作进入快速发展时期。

Also, Vietnam’s and America’s economies are highly complementary to each other. Goods Vietnam imports from the U.S., like planes, machinery and electronic products, chemical fertilizers, cotton, etc., and exports of textiles, clothing, footwear, frozen shrimps and petroleum products, that’s highly complementary. From 2000, when the bilateral trade agreement was signed, to 2005, within those five years, their trade went up from 1.4 billion to 7.6 billion dollars, of which 6.5 billion came from Vietnamese exports to America. As soon as in 2005, Vietnam’s trade surplus with America reached 5.4 billion US dollars.

另外,越美经济上互补性也很强。越南从美国进口的产品,包括飞机、机电产品、化肥、棉花等等,向美国出口纺织品、服装、鞋类、冷冻虾和石油产品等等,互补性很强。从2000年双边贸易协定签之后到2005年,这5年之内,越美贸易额从14亿美元增加到76亿,其中越南出口美国65亿,仅2005年越南顺差就达54亿多美元。

In 2011, Vietnam-U.S. trade exceeded twenty billion dollars, and Vietnam’s trade surplus with America was biggest, ten billion dollars. Besides, there is foreign direct investment from America, at least twelve billion U.S. dollars. Therefore, America isn’t only Vietnam’s biggest export market, but also one of its biggest investors.

2011年,越美贸易超过了200亿美元,越南对美贸易的顺差最大,有一百多亿美元。此外,还有美国对越南的直接投资,至少120亿美元。因此,美国不仅是越南最大的出口市场,同时也是越南最大的投资方之一。

Interview conducted and edited by Wang Jingtao (王京涛).

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Related

» Only a Great Importer is a Great Power, May 17, 2012

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