Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son (left) touches his elbow instead of shaking hands during the COVID-19 epidemic with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before the meeting on June 8, 2021 in Chongqing, China – Photo: VNA
Besides the goal of promoting bilateral relations with other countries, Mr. Wang’s visit shows that China attaches great importance to relations with countries located south of its border. The choice of destination this time also reflects China’s interest in specific countries in the region.
Singapore and Vietnam used to be the destinations of US Defense Secretary Austin and US Vice President Harris in July and August. As a small island nation, Singapore has a great influence in ASEAN thanks to its smart foreign policy. and flexible.
Vietnam has a fast-growing economy, is China’s largest trading partner in the bloc, and is increasingly having closer ties with the US.
Meanwhile, Cambodia is considered an ASEAN country with very close relations with China. Along with Laos and Myanmar, Cambodia has also received the most vaccine aid from China with 4 million doses.
China’s trade focus has turned and ASEAN is the destination. In 2019, ASEAN surpassed the US to become China’s second largest trading partner with a total turnover of about 644 billion USD.
In 2020, ASEAN surpassed the European Union (EU) to become China’s largest economic partner. In particular, according to statistics of China Customs, Vietnam is the 6th largest trading partner, the 8th largest goods supply market and the 5th largest export market of China in the world in the year. 2020.
In the context that the trade war between the world’s two largest economies, the US and China, shows no signs of cooling down in the near future, the countries in the south of China become an economic area that this country can push to expand. strong to compensate for the US market.
Along with that, China also provides real resources such as investment, large export markets, connectivity and partnerships in multilateral institutions for Southeast Asian countries.
In November 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed between ASEAN and 5 other countries including: China, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. This agreement has helped build a strong economic relationship with China by reducing taxes, increasing market access, creating opportunities for ASEAN businesses to participate more deeply in regional supply chains.
ASEAN becomes more important to China not only in terms of trade, but also in geopolitics. Southeast Asia has become an important geographic region in the foreign policy of the United States and China.
New competition America – China
It should also be recalled that during a press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the end of August, Ms. Harris emphasized: “The reason I am here is because the US is a global leader, and we value our role. there”. As she looked out over the Indo-Pacific region, Ms. Harris stated: “The United States is a proud part of the Indo-Pacific. And this region is extremely important to security and prosperity. our prosperity”.
But the role of ASEAN in US foreign policy is not new. Since the Obama presidency, Southeast Asia has been considered an integral part of the US pivot and rebalancing strategy, as the region has a hot spot in the South China Sea.
Although Obama’s rebalancing policy is not very clear, China’s links with Southeast Asian countries have undergone significant changes after President Donald Trump took office in 2017. Since then, Southeast Asia Asia has become another battleground in the comprehensive strategic competition between the US and China.
Under President Biden, China has been considered America’s biggest strategic rival. These two superpowers are competing for leadership in the region and the world, as well as for leading the supply of public goods in the hope of recovering the world economy.
As of early September, the US has donated more than 23 million doses of vaccines to Southeast Asia with “no strings attached”. China is no less, donating about 20 million doses of vaccines to this region, but giving more to countries with close relations with them such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines.
On August 5, Chinese President Xi Jinping also announced a donation of 100 million USD to the global vaccine distribution mechanism COVAX. This commitment was made by China after US President Joe Biden announced that he had donated more than 100 million doses of vaccines to low-income countries, and continued to keep his commitment to provide 500 million doses of vaccine for COVAX.
The image of a friendly, positive, and reliable world leader for countries around the world is a new competition between China and the US, and Southeast Asia is the place to feel this most clearly.
Mr. Vuong Nghi visited Vietnam first
At the invitation of Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh and Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China Vuong Nghi will pay an official visit to Vietnam and attend the 13th session of the Committee. Vietnam – China bilateral cooperation steering committee from September 10 to 12.
“The visit of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi takes place in the context that Vietnam-China relations have maintained the trend of development and cooperation in various fields, making encouraging progress. The two sides will discuss measures to further promote the strengths and potentials of cooperation between Vietnam and China, and discuss a number of regional and international issues of concern. Vietnamese delegation Doan Khac Viet said at a regular press conference on September 9.
It is expected that Mr. Vuong Nghi will co-chair with Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh at the 13th meeting of the Steering Committee for bilateral cooperation between Vietnam and China, hold talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son, and hold talks with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. polite greetings to senior leaders of Vietnam.