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What makes Vietnam a valuable US ally?

Aug 22, 2023

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President Joe Biden is set to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam during his state visit to the country in September. Vietnam ranks as the United States’ tenth-largest trading partner, with the U.S. being its top export market since 2002.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan is bullish on Vietnam. He explains why this Southeast Asian nation, despite its non-democratic government, remains a crucial trade ally for the U.S.

Excerpted from Peter’s Aug. 22 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter.

Biden recently announced that he’d be making a trip to Vietnam, which will likely occur in September when he visits other regional powers. But what makes Vietnam such a valuable asset to have in the US portfolio of allies?

Is it because they’re a major regional power? Or because they have a better demographic profile than others in the region? Sure, that factors into it, but it really comes down to positioning and attitude.

Due to geographic challenges, the integration process (and political unification) following the Vietnam War has been an ongoing endeavor. While there’s no brushing past the ‘history’ that Vietnam and the US share, that pales in comparison to their history with the Chinese. If there’s one thing all the Vietnamese can agree on…it’s that they hate China.

But let’s not forget that the Vietnamese bring more to the table than just a desire to crush the Chinese. They would be a solid trade partner with strong demographics, a sound education system, and excellent relations with other regional allies. Sounds like a damn good deal for the US. The only sticking point is the Chinese-style political system that still exists in Vietnam…

Hey everybody, Peter Zion here coming to you from the mosquito Western traverse on Porsche peak. Over here, we’ve got the Collegiate Peaks are some of my favorite I can in Colorado. Today we’re talking about Vietnam. Joe Biden has announced that I could go to Vietnam soon, it’ll probably be in September when he’s already got a series of Asian summits planned. This trip was supposed to happen a few months ago. But it got cancelled because of a debt ceiling talks. Anyway, Vietnam is one of the up and coming allies in the American portfolio and a major regional power in its own right, unique among many of the advanced or advancing developing countries. Vietnam actually has a healthy demography. So even if it keeps aging at its current rate, it’s still going to be a major regional power 3040 50 years from now. But more to the point is they’ve got the attitude, and the positioning that is necessary. Now. For those of you who remember your history, we had the Vietnam War, where northern Vietnam and southern Vietnam duked it out with the Russians backing the north, and the Americans backing the South. Ultimately, the South lost, the whole place was integrated into one. But integration is a work in progress. One of the things to keep in mind about Vietnam is it’s basically a barbell, with about 45% of the population in the south around Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City now, but 45% in the north around Hanoi that is a long, thin, rugged coastal strip in between that has almost nobody that makes the concept of political unification, even with a military occupation somewhat difficult. And this is something that the Vietnamese are going to be working on for the better part of the next century. That assumes that there’s no unrest. That assumes there’s no additional civil war, but I think that either of those are on the horizon. But you can never guarantee it when you’ve got populations so separated. One thing all Vietnamese agree on, is that the Chinese are awful. There’s this park of monuments in, in Hanoi, where they commemorate all of their fallen and their wars, kind of like what the United States does on the mall. In DC. There’s a small, roughly waist high one, commemorating the 20 years of the American Vietnamese conflict. And then there’s a taller one that’s taller than me, commemorating the 200 years conflicts between the Vietnamese and the French, who are the colonial power there. And then there’s a two story monument that commemorates the 2000 years of warfare with this Han Chinese. So there’s no love lost here. And if you are looking for a strategic partner, it’s hard to get better than Vietnam. Because the demographics are good. They’re a great trade partner, very hard working, their educational system is probably the best for their peer class. 40% of their college graduates are STEM graduates, if you can believe that. They’re tempting to jump over China technologically. And because of the partnerships, they’ve been able to work out with American educational and manufacturing institutions, they have a reasonable chance of pulling that off, sometime at the end or this decade or early next. So this is kind of the partner that you want. They also have excellent relations with the Japanese, and the ties and the Australian so they’re slotting in to the American Alliance and then work surprisingly well. There’s just really one problem. There’s nothing nothing, nothing about Vietnam that is democratic. It’s basically not a Chinese style Politburo top down leadership from Hanoi. And considering that they’re in the midst of a cultural unification process, I really don’t see Hanoi loosening that grip but that’s going to keep Vietnam out of the American inner circle of allies. But for everything else, it’s great match. All right. I gotta go put on a bigger hats literally up here.

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