Vietnam Still Wary of China's Belt and Road Initiative

Viet Anh

10:05 16/11/2018

South China Sea remains a bone of contention and needs to be resolved to create public trust, analyst tells conference.

Vietnam Still Wary of China's Belt and Road Initiative

A man walks past the podium at the Belt and Road summit in Hong Kong, May 18, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Bobby Yip

"Trust is a very important issue as the public still does not fully understand the cooperation between Vietnam and China in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)," Nguyen Xuan Cuong, head of the China Research Institute at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences, said.
He was speaking at the second "Belt and Road Initiative and Vietnam-China Cooperation" conference in Hanoi Wednesday organized by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and the Chinese embassy and attended by over 50 government officials, business executives and others from the two countries.
The BRI is a development strategy proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 as the union of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road.
According to the Chinese government, it is aimed at enhancing regional connectivity by developing infrastructure projects that create land and sea networks connecting Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa.
Cuong highlighted the Maritime Silk Road as a point of trust concern since it passed through the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.
Since the sea plays an important role in Vietnam's security and development, as well as peace and stability in the region, he said Vietnam and China must resolve their disputes in these waters to improve people's trust in the initiative.
In many other Southeast Asian countries too, people are concerned about BRI projects, partly due to worries about rising debt to China, he pointed out.
Hanois Cat Linh-Ha Dong elevated project, using loans from China, makes a trial run in September 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Hanoi's Cat Linh-Ha Dong elevated project, using loans from China, makes a trial run in September 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
Xiong Bo, the newly appointed Chinese ambassador to Vietnam, said the BRI seeks to establish equal and mutually beneficial partnerships, and the two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding on promoting connectivity between the "Two corridors, one economic belt" initiative and the BRI during Xi's visit to Vietnam last November.
The "Two Corridors, One Belt" initiative was proposed in 2004 to promote cooperation between the two countries in many fields such as commerce, industry, agriculture, and tourism.
"Since the beginning of the year top leaders of Vietnam and China have been emphasizing cooperation in connection, and in the coming time this needs to be implemented well."
Vietnam-China relations are developing well and the two countries' leaders should help to direct and further increase economic and trade cooperation, he said. He called for China and the Mekong River downstream countries, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, to cooperate closely on Mekong issues since the river was a key link in the BRI.
He said ASEAN was an important partner for China, as demonstrated by President Xi visiting Vietnam and Laos immediately after the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress in October last year, and called for countries to avoid the "traps" and "western conspiracy theories" on the BRI.
In the last five years many organizations, politicians and researchers in the U.S. and Europe have been claiming that countries participating in the BRI could become economically and politically dependent on China since they would become Beijing's debtors, even lose natural resources and be spied upon by China.
Xi however announced last April that over 80 countries and organizations had joined the BRI and pledged to invest $126 billion in the initiative.
Chinas President Xi Xinping (L) and Vietnams Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong walk in Hanoi during Xis visit to Vietnam in November 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
China's President Xi Xinping (L) and Vietnam's Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong walk in Hanoi during Xi's visit to Vietnam in November 2017. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
In response to concerns raised by the Vietnamese side at the conference, Hu Zhengyue, Vice President of China Public Diplomacy Association and a former Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, said Beijing understands ASEAN member states' concerns and suggested that China and Vietnam should have more exchanges to resolve the remaining issues.
Commenting on the effect of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war on the BRI, Wang Wen, head of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China, said the trade war had caused damage to both sides but was still within control.
The two sides had held five rounds of negotiations and Xi would meet with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina later this month, he said.
Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Van Thao said Vietnam supports economic cooperation and connections within the framework of the BRI that foster peace, development and prosperity for all countries based on the principles of international law, mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.
The two countries had identified five fields of cooperation in the MoU signed last year - policy, infrastructure, finance, commerce, and human resources - he said.
"[We] hope the BRI cooperation would contribute to the development of both countries."

Theo VnExpress