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Vietnam: China’s State Councilor Makes Return Visit

By Carl Thayer, C3S Paper No.2066


According to the following press release:

At the invitation of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam Pham Binh Minh, from October 26th to 27th, 2014 State Councilor of the People’s Republic of China Yang Jiechi will visit Viet Nam and co-chair the 7th Session of Viet Nam – China Steering Committee for Bilateral Relations What is your assessment of the purpose of this visit?

ANSWER: The convening of the seventh session of the Vietnam-China Steering Committee for Bilateral Relations is an extraordinary development. Meetings of the Steering Committee have been held biennially in recent years. The fifth meeting was held in September 2011 and the sixth meeting was held in May 2013. The seventh meeting should have been scheduled for 2015.

At the height of the oil rig crisis Vietnam and China held an unnumbered meeting of the Steering Committee for Bilateral relations. Now it appears the seventh meeting has been brought forward to October this year.

China’s State Councilor Yang Jiechi will be making his second visit to Vietnam this year. This signals that the top Chinese leadership is willing to engage with Vietnam to reset their bilateral relations that were severely strained during the oilrig crisis. In the past both sides have advocated “taking the larger view” of bilateral relations and this appears to be the case with the holding of the Seventh Steering Committee meeting. This meeting will be held without the recriminations that marred the June meeting. It is also being held after the unprecedented visit to Beijing of Vietnam’s Defence Minister and eleven senior generals and an admiral.

It will be important to note if Councilor Yang and Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh can agree to re-start government-to-government talks on the waters outside the mouth of the Gulf of Tonkin, and whether Councilor Yang will announce the lifting of China’s travel advisory and thus promote cross border travel including tourism.

State Councilor Yang’s program (see below) indicates he will be treated with respect with a courtesy call scheduled with President Truong Tan Sang and a likely meeting with party Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong. All indications are that Yang’s visit will make an important positive turning point in bilateral relations.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam: China’s State Councilor Makes Return Visit,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, October 25, 2014. All background briefs are posted on Scribd.com (search for Thayer).

Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.

(Article reprinted with the permission of the author Carlyle A. Thayer, Emeritus Professor,The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra email: Carlthayer@webone.com.au)

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