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This picture taken and released on 21 November 2020 by the Vietnam News Agency shows Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) bumping elbows to greet US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien during a meeting in Hanoi. (Vietnam News Agency/AFP)

Robust US-Vietnam relations to continue under Biden presidency

Many Vietnamese feel that their country has benefited much from US President Donald Trump’s policies, such as his tough stance on China and the US-China trade war. However, that does not mean that US-Vietnam relations will lose its momentum under a Biden presidency as the two countries strategic goals are aligned, says ISEAS academic Le Hong Hiep.
A woman cycles in Hanoi on 21 September 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

How Vietnam is leveraging anti-China sentiments online

In this era of blossoming social media, anti-China sentiments have morphed and manifested online, compelling Vietnamese authorities to keep close tabs on it. ISEAS academic Dien Nguyen An Luong examines how the Vietnamese authorities have increasingly looked to social media to gauge anti-China sentiments and to calibrate their responses accordingly.
Soldiers of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Marine Corps are seen in training in China, 21 January 2016. (Stringer/REUTERS)

Will China establish military bases in Southeast Asia?

The US Department of Defence has asserted that Beijing has “likely considered” logistics and basing infrastructure in five Southeast Asian countries. It is worth noting that such arrangements are predicated on a host nation’s inclination to support such a presence. At the moment, such willingness appears to be in short supply, except in the case of Cambodia.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits the South China Sea at sunset, 25 February 2019. (US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan D. McLearnon/Handout via REUTERS)

Apart from ASEAN and China, international community and law are part of South China Sea discourse

With Vietnam at the helm of ASEAN this year, the grouping has wielded the aegis of international law to ensure that international and regional concerns about the South China Sea are respected in Code of Conduct negotiations. ISEAS academic Hoang Thi Ha says that while China prefers to settle SCS issues between itself and ASEAN member states, this is not what ASEAN has in mind.
A woman walks along along an alleyway decorated with Vietnamese national flags in Hanoi, 1 September 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

Facing frenemy China, Vietnam shall edge closer to America

Vietnam is caught geopolitically between America, the dominant power, and China, the emerging power. While some observers argue that Vietnam can continue to maintain a neutral position, many smaller states are increasingly finding it difficult to maintain the balancing act. Vietnamese academic Huynh Tam Sang suggests that facing a more assertive China, Vietnam should edge closer to the US by adopting a US-Vietnam “soft alignment” framework where America provides more support for Vietnam’s defence and security needs.
This file photo taken on April 21, 2017 shows an aerial shot of a reef in the disputed Spratly islands. (Ted Aljibe/AFP)

SEA states have few options to mitigate escalating South China Sea tensions

Tensions in the South China Sea have surged since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. China has pressed its jurisdictional claims prompting the US to increase its criticism of Beijing’s actions and its military presence in the South China Sea. In response to China’s activities, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have rejected Beijing’s nine-dash line claims and invoked international law and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling in support of their maritime sovereign rights. ISEAS academic Ian Storey takes stock of the situation and gives a broad sweep of what we can expect in the next 18 months.
A stretch of the 400-kilometre long China-Laos railway in Vientiane, 29 July 2020. (Xinhua)

China's Belt and Road Initiative faces huge challenges in Southeast Asia

Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.
Da Nang beach, Vietnam, where the American MASH unit operated during the Vietnam War. (iStock)

Should Vietnam file a case against China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea?

Vietnam’s recent decision to cancel deals for oil and gas activities in waters around Vanguard Bank has caused significant financial and reputational damage. ISEAS academic Le Hong Hiep says while there are several reasons for Vietnam cancelling the deals, Chinese pressure is high on the list and Hanoi needs to rethink its strategy to avoid similar incidents in the future.
A woman walks past Vietnam national flags along a street in Hanoi, 18 May 2020. (Nhac Nguyen/AFP)

Foreign investors exiting China: Vietnam milks the gains

Vietnam stands to benefit from MNCs’ efforts to diversify their production base beyond China. How much it will actually benefit, however, depends on how fast it can roll out measures to further improve its infrastructure and business environment.