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Saturday, September 25, 2021
ANBOUND's Observation: Differences between Vietnam and China in Socialist Concepts
Chan Kung

On September 24, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a phone conversation with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Phu Trong. In the subsequent reports about the conversation, there are some subtle differences between the two countries.

On the Chinese side, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China released the content of the conversation soon afterwards, and the major mainstream media in China reported the corresponding content the soonest time. On the Vietnamese side however, the Vietnamese media only reproduced the photo report of the Vietnam News Agency (VNA). The report, except for the title "Tổng Bí thư Nguyễn Phú Trọng điện đàm với ông Tập Cận Bình (General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong had a phone conversation with Mr. Xi Jinping)", did not describe much the content of the conversation, and only used three photos to indicate Nguyen Phu Trong talking with Xi Jinping. It was not until five hours after the end of the conversation that Vietnam republished the content under the title " Việt Nam-Trung Quốc dành riêng cho hợp tác phòng, chống COVID-19 (Vietnam and China dedicated to cooperation in the prevention and control of COVID-19)". Such practice is indeed a rare occurrence.

There are reasons for Hanoi's approach. The Vietnamese side needs to make some theoretical revisions that are in line with its standard. For example, Xi Jinping emphasized on the phone that "defending the security of the Communist Party's governance and the security of the socialist system is the most fundamental common strategic interest of both China and Vietnam", which has been selectively ignored by the Vietnamese side.

First of all, the definition of "defending the security of the socialist system" could be different from the current environment in Vietnam. According to "Some Theoretical and Practical Issues about Socialism and the Path to Socialism in Vietnam" issued by Nguyen Phu Trong on May 20, Vietnam still believes that it is not in the stage of socialism, but rather "in a constructional and transitional period towards socialism". During the transitional period, Vietnam can only develop its "socialist-oriented market economic system". This is even one level lower than the concept of the "primary stage of socialism" adopted by China.

Secondly, the specific content of Xi Jinping's speech "to defend the security of the Communist Party's governance and the security of the socialist system" is of course similar to the "opposing wrong and hostile views and protecting the party's socialist ideological foundation and Vietnam's socialist path" of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). However, the Chinese President's speech would sound stronger to CPV, and it does not correspond well with CPV's belief that it has "increasingly strengthened organizational leadership role of the party" in the political system after the 13th National Congress.

In addition, the changes in Vietnam's COVID-19 situation have a certain impact on its socialist construction and the prestige of the ruling party.

On September 3, a riot broke out in a field hospital at Thoi Hoa in Binh Duong Province, which has previously admitted about 13,000 people. Hundreds of patients destroyed the hospital fence and went to the treatment area to grab meals. This embarrassing situation is related to the temporary housing of a large number of patients in the hospital. (Photo taken from Tuoi Tre News)

At present, in Binh Duong Province, Ho Chi Minh City and other places, there are about 11 medical facilities like the field hospital at Thoi Hoa that accommodate a large number of mild and asymptomatic patients. Among them, the Vietnamese military has admitted about 6,000 patients. (Photo taken from Tuoi Tre News)

In the field hospitals, most patients only need simple treatment. (Photo taken from Tuoi Tre News)

Due to the riots on September 3, hospitals in various places also had to strengthen police control. (Photo taken from Tuoi Tre News)

Vietnamese authorities and military can still ensure three meals a day in field hospitals, and many ordinary people admitted to the hospitals are happy to show their meals. (Photo taken from Tuoi Tre News)

Of course, the Vietnamese authority also understands the status quo well. The documents of the 13th National Congress of the CPV clearly stated the disadvantages facing the CPV and Vietnamese socialism. The CPV believes that the innovation in its own leadership style of the political system is still slow, and neither are some party members and cadres true pioneers and role models. When it comes to theoretical tools, Vietnam claims to inherit the thoughts of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, and that they will still use "Lenin's theory on defending the socialist motherland" even in 2021. Vietnam too, tries its best to show the self-confidence of its own system vis-à-vis Beijing.

All in all, the Chinese side's speech was revised in Vietnam, so as to meet the needs of the Vietnamese side. As far as the current situation is concerned, Vietnam's first priority in "defending the security of the Communist Party's governance and the security of the socialist system" may still be the prevention and control of COVID-19.

As Hanoi has already purchased 50 million doses of China's COVID-19 vaccines, it thanked China for the support and assistance provided in fighting the pandemic and restoring its economic and social development. This may mean that as long as the "Vietnam-China comprehensive strategic partnership" is still a high priority for Hanoi, then Vietnam's preference of certain words might not be all that important for China.