Going back to the day Vietnam was founded, September 2, 1945, after President Ho Chi Minh had read the Declaration of Independence, then Interior Minister Vo Nguyen Giap spoke on behalf of the Provisional Government regarding Vietnam's foreign policy, which expressly states, "It is our friendly policy towards all countries. We have a special feeling, particularly for China and America. In terms of geography, economic activity, and culture, China is the country nearest to us. We also regard the US as a good friend since it is a democratic nation without territorial ambitions and because it significantly contributed to defeating our enemy, Japanese fascism.”


History is always new


Even though it has been 77 years since the aforementioned proclamation and also that our international relations have had many ups and downs when we consider the Vietnamese
government's foreign policies of the past, they still appear to be new decisions made for the present day. According to people who work in the diplomatic field in Vietnam, particularly those who are trying to develop Vietnam-US relations, that policy reflected Vietnamese leaders' wisdom and foresight. That declaration affirmed that Vietnam has a long-standing commitment to an independent, peaceful, and amicable foreign policy toward all nations while also highlighting the importance of its relations with China and the US, two enormous nations.


About Vietnam's fledgling diplomacy after its independence and the founding of Vietnam-American Association


Since that time, the crucial point of Vietnam's friendly foreign policy has been based on the "unchanging" with other countries in the world and the "variable" and "changeable" acting as its partners. For the two important partners of Vietnam, China and the US, it can be recognized that China was once a nation where the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang) and Chinese Communist parties battled, and has now emerged as a major power, while the United States has risen to become the world's superpower. With flexibility in every situation, Vietnam has undergone a strong transformation from a nation that had to work extremely hard to gain the diplomatic recognition of other countries to one that is today an independent, rapidly developing country with a distinctive position in the world.


History is always new


From Vietnam's perspective, although facing many serious difficulties, Vietnam has consistently and steadfastly adhered to its core values in all aspects of foreign policy, particularly in its relations with the two major countries, China and the United States, over the past eight decades. In the early years of the new government, President Ho Chi Minh guided the Vietnamese state and people through many domestic difficulties, including starvation, illiteracy, and opposition from the foreign-aligned opponent groups, and also faced threats from the outside forces that had many plans to invade Vietnam and topple the fledgling democratic government. The Vietnamese government preserved its revolutionary spirit thanks to its deft handling of the "hanging by a thread" situation in the multifaceted relationship with many opponents at the same time.

This allowed Vietnam to utilize the additional time to build up its military in preparation for the inevitable risk of invasion by the colonial powers. And this is also the first and most valuable historical lesson concerning contemporary Vietnamese foreign policy. It was during Vietnam's political transitional period, 1945–1946, that Vietnam-US relations changed dramatically, from being a good ally and anti-fascist to experiencing hostilities lasting for half a century. It can be seen that the US's most active assistance to the French to re-invade Vietnam and then the "American war" in Vietnam (also known as the "Vietnam war" in America) are dark chapters in the relationship between the two countries.

Even numbers seem to be a destiny in Vietnamese-American history. There were 10 years of indirect US involvement in Vietnam (1945-1955), 20 years (1955-1975) of direct US involvement, and 20 years of a normalization degree of "Comprehensive Partnership" (1995-2013/15). Next year (2013-2023), Vietnam will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the two countries' comprehensive cooperative relationship. Many people think that both countries have previously missed opportunities to build a positive relationship, and now it continues to be questioned. However, it may be said that the two sides have been waiting for peace for a long time because the US is the side that has been unwilling to take advantage of those opportunities.

From the first day, Vietnam has always oriented towards friendship and cooperation between the two nations, and Vietnam-US Friendship Association was also established in October 1945. Even during the war, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam would always welcome the US President to visit Vietnam with not guns but businessmen; friendship with the American people has always been built. Coming back from the war years and then more than 10 years of the US harsh embargo on Vietnam, to compare with the amount of more than 100 billion USD in goods traded annually between the two countries today, we have a foundation for more confidence about the stable development between Vietnam and the US in the future-a partnership that has endured and is based on many challenges.

It is thought that the lesson for today is that the past conflict cannot be repeated, and in order to serve the interests of both countries, peace and friendship must be maintained permanently. The task of strengthening mutual respect and cooperation will help the ongoing development of the relationship between the two sides in the new era. The Vietnamese people and government are currently making every effort to implement their aspiration of building a peaceful and stable nation. Accordingly, Vietnam's foreign policy remains independent and peaceful, has "no grudge" against anyone, befriends all, and actively contributes to peace and development in the surrounding region and around the world. Since the country's founding, the nature of these policies has been in existence and has not changed.

However, the global situation is changing rapidly, and positive trends, including globalization and stronger economic linkages, are intertwined with unfavorable ones, including the rise of egotistic nationalism, fierce rivalry between powerful centers, the phenomenon of people banding together in "confrontational alliances," or the establishment of partner exclusionary organizations. In addition, traditional and non-traditional security threats are also on the rise. As a result of such significant yet complex worldwide changes, Vietnam and many other countries must quickly adjust. People are currently discussing the topic of whether the current global order should be preserved or altered while the relationship between various power centers still has a significant impact. To put it another way, they continue to be dominant, even though pressure increases as a result of strong actions.

However, today, despite their strength, not just one or a few countries can decide on all issues. Small and medium-sized countries' influence, voice, and sense of independence are increasing every day. And it is believed that given the lesson learned from its past and present, Vietnam under any circumstances, would always pursue an independent and self-reliable foreign policy, and not isolation, but rather deep integration for development and consolidation of national security and economic growth.

According to the mentioned discussion, the lesson from the multi-partner international chess game - as flexible and clever as in the incredibly challenging early days of the newly established State of Vietnam, is still relevant. Vietnam's strength and position, however, are different from that point. The new world order has been established, in which interdependence has significantly increased, the multi-center trend is emerging, and small countries have the opportunity and are more proactive than ever to exploit and take advantage of that condition for their own benefit. It has been seen that the international situation and solutions change rapidly and complicatedly. However, Vietnam is not as vulnerable to changes in the international environment as it was in the past when the nation was still weak, ununified, and superficially integrated.

In order to maintain a strategic balance in the imbalance status compared to large countries, the Vietnam-US relationship will have more opportunities to flourish, much like a large spider string in the huge web of international relations. Although there are still many obstacles to overcome, small and medium-sized countries can take advantage of the multi-center status in the world to increase their independence, and engage in diplomacy "without choosing sides" to advance their interests. History does not repeat itself, but the current circumstance serves as a stark reminder of the first and most profound lesson learned by Vietnamese diplomacy during the nation-building phase: how to play international chess in new conditions. And as Ho Chi Minh pointed out in the Art of Diplomacy, in order to succeed, we must be smarter, more flexible, and more skillful than ever.