Dr. Alexander Vuving, a professor at the College of Security Studies, discussed the recent upgrade in bilateral relations between the US and Vietnam. The upgrade was not a normal one but a double upgrade from a comprehensive partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership, skipping the mid-level strategic partnership. The main reason for this leapfrogging was the US offer to turn Vietnam into a major high-tech and semiconductor hub in the US-backed supply chains. This offer became palpable after visits by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and several US corporate delegations. This upgrade benefits both countries in terms of signaling and economic opportunities. For the US, it signals that Vietnam sees them as a comprehensive strategic partner and not a threat to its Communist regime. For Vietnam, it signals to the business world that it is a preferred destination in the US “friendshoring” policy. The elevated partnership will also affect regional security dynamics and economic integration. It will contribute to maintaining a balance of power in the South China Sea and support the restructuring of global supply chains away from China. The upgrade was driven by the rise of China’s power, as China’s expanding influence in the region pushed Vietnam closer to the US, and China’s threat to US global power prompted the US to strengthen ties with countries committed to resisting China. The timing of the upgrade was delayed due to various factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for Vietnam to demonstrate its commitment to Moscow and Beijing. This upgrade is a diplomatic victory for the US and elevates Vietnam’s standing in the world.
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