Vietnam: The Bipartisan Thorn in China’s Side

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son. (Photo by Luong Thai Linh/AFP/Getty Images.)

This month, as Xi Jingping further consolidates his power during Communist China’s 20th Party Congress, a massive construction project will move forward in North Carolina. The project is an important marker in the evolution of the United States’ Asia strategy, one intended to combat Chinese ambitions.

In March, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced his state would get its first vehicle manufacturing plant, with production expected to start in 2024. The company making the $2 billion investment to build electric vehicles isn’t headquartered in Japan, South Korea, or China, but Vietnam. A few months later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated the “people of Vietnam on the occasion of Vietnam’s National Day” and stressed the U.S. “commitment to a strong, independent, and prosperous Vietnam.” Forty-seven years earlier, in 1975, Americans watched U.S. helicopters frantically loading U.S. government employees on an apartment rooftop in Saigon as North Vietnamese forces neared full control of the capital. 

The journey from enemies to partners, reflected in the steady stream of American officials visiting Hanoi and Vietnam’s inclusion as a “partner” nation in the Biden administration’s’ Indo-Pacific Strategy, is a bipartisan accomplishment. It is an outcome forged over many years by successive administrations and Congresses and rooted largely in a mutual interest in countering China’s expansionism. As much as Vietnam divided our politics before, the U.S.-Vietnam relationship could be evolving into a strategic partnership.  

American and allied navies have enhanced security ties through regular port calls there; bilateral trade and investment are robust; and the U.S. has joined with Vietnam and other regional nations to oppose China’s belligerent declarations and actions in the South China Sea. 

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