China-Vietnam relations enter new phase

Editor’s note: Pan Jin’e is a professor at the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and an expert on Vietnam issues. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN. It has been translated from Chinese and edited for brevity and clarity.

China and Vietnam on Tuesday agreed to issue a joint statement on further deepening and elevating their comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership and building a China-Vietnam community with a shared future that carries strategic significance.

This is a new positioning of China-Vietnam relations, charting the course for bilateral relations in the new era and injecting fresh impetus into the comprehensive deepening and pragmatic development of the relationship.

Notably, both countries are committed to advancing their cooperation within the Belt and Road Initiative and aligning their strategies for the “Two Corridors and One Economic Circle” initiative.

Infrastructure cooperation is especially worth looking forward to. 

Vietnam has long grappled with limitations in economic development speed and capacity due to its outdated infrastructure. 

In contrast, China is recognized globally for its capabilities and speed in infrastructure construction. 

Therefore, strengthening cooperation with China in infrastructure construction aligns with market economic principles and can meet the demands of the Vietnamese market.

Although Vietnam has planned multiple light rail and expressway projects over the past decade, only a few have been completed and have opened to traffic, with the only light rail line being Hanoi Metro Line 2A, that is, the Cat Linh-Ha Dong Line, which was built by a Chinese company. 

During a visit to Hanoi in October, I observed that several light rail projects undertaken by companies from other countries were still being shut down after nearly a decade of delay.

Thus, Vietnamese citizens can directly experience the benefits of Chinese infrastructure investment and the convenience it has brought about.

This contributes positively to the increased investment by Chinese companies in Vietnam. 

In the realm of expressways, the Hanoi-Haiphong Expressway, constructed by a Chinese company, has been completed and opened to traffic. 

In addition to road transport construction, several energy projects constructed by Chinese companies have also significantly propelled Vietnam’s economic development and improved people’s livelihoods.

For instance, power plants like the Hai Duong Thermal Power Plant, Vinh Tan Power Station and Duyen Hai Power Plant, built in cooperation with Chinese companies, are playing a pivotal role in addressing Vietnam’s electricity shortage. 

In Soc Son County, Hanoi, Chinese enterprises have invested in the construction of Vietnam’s largest garbage incineration power plant, effectively contributing to Vietnam’s green energy transition and also addressing the problem of garbage pollution that has long plagued the local people.

However, currently, these projects fall short of realizing the full potential of infrastructure cooperation between the two countries. 

It is understood that currently, the planned China-Vietnam railway has been completed in the Chinese section, the entire line of which is an electrified standard gauge railway, and multiple expressways connecting the China-Vietnam border have been constructed. 

However, the railway and expressways connecting Vietnam to the border area have yet to be completed, constraining Vietnam’s agricultural exports to China. In particular, during the harvest seasons of tropical fruits and agricultural products, the queues of vehicles on roads leading to the China-Vietnam border often stretch for several kilometers. 

Once Vietnam completes the construction of railways and expressways connecting to the border, it is anticipated to generate tremendous drivers for trade connectivity between the two countries, thus facilitating smooth exports of Vietnamese agricultural products to the Chinese market and even to Europe via China. This will bring tangible benefits to Vietnamese farmers.

Therefore, initiating infrastructure construction in the border areas of both countries, including roads and railways, will undoubtedly help alleviate the development challenges faced by Vietnam. 

It will bring welfare to enterprises and farmers, especially the people in border areas, strengthen the people-to-people bond between the two countries, consolidate the public opinion foundation of the China-Vietnam community with a shared future, and align with Vietnam’s view of China as a strategic diplomatic choice and top priority and China’s strategic positioning of Vietnam as a priority for its peripheral diplomacy. 

The cooperation between China and Vietnam in infrastructure is not merely commercial but an extension of the friendship between the two countries, demonstrating the confidence and determination of both sides in future cooperation and development.

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