Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Twelve papers by fifteen authors, most of them Vietnamese, have been edited into a comprehensive summary of Vietnam's foreign policy since the Doi Moi reforms of 1986. In Part 1, Le Hong Hiep explains the impact of those reforms on foreign policy, and Carlyle Thayer summarizes Party resolutions, international agreements and summits from then to now. Part 2 goes through Vietnam's bilateral relations with the USA, China, Japan and India, and the decision to join ASEAN in 1995, while Part 3 provides case studies of three issues: The South China Sea disputes, international economic integration, and norms diffusion through free trade. The book's focus is somewhat narrow. With the exception of the chapter on ASEAN and the one on norms diffusion, it does not reveal new, unknown facts, and it does not see foreign policy change in the light of East Asian regional developments. Yet it is a useful introduction, suitable for course work. I particularly recommend Nguyen Thanh Trung and Vu Truong Minh's chapter on the 2014 oil rig crisis in Vietnam-China relations, and To Minh Thu’s on economic integration. Throughout the book we get the image of a Vietnam struggling to maintain good relations with as many countries as possible in order to avoid the inevitable balancing act between the US and China. Vietnam hedges its bets as much as possible, while quietly resisting the EU's attempts to diffuse liberal norms through trade negotiations. China's South China Sea policy constitutes a constant headache but, say Nguyen Vu Tung and Dang Cam Thu, Hanoi never really expected ASEAN to act in unison vis-à-vis China.