Vietnam, hope of the Western world

Share
Related Topics
How the world has changed. The Association of South-East Asian Nations, or Asean, set up in the heyday of the "domino theory" as a bulwark against Communism, has just admitted Vietnam as its seventh member. Cambodia and Laos, the other two members of what was once Communist Indochina, are expected to join Asean soon, along with Burma. Where US military might failed, the power of the market has triumphed.

Expansion of Asean to a 10-member grouping is causing some problems familiar in Europe. One or two of the core members are nervous that the organisation may be about to lose its cohesion and identity; with the addition of Vietnam's 72 million people, Asean's combined population of 420 million already exceeds that of Europe or North America. Adding another two or three countries as impoverished as Vietnam poses grave difficulties of economic integration.

But Asean's search for an economic role has always looked half-hearted. Its members tend to compete against each other with the same goods in the same markets, and to solicit investment from the same sources. What Asean has done well is to create the political conditions for its members to make money in a region that was one of the world's most unstable when the organisation was founded, and that remains capable of eruption again, despite the huge economic advance that has taken place.

South-East Asia has always been overshadowed by China, whose political and military ambitions seem to be expanding along with its wealth and self-confidence. Peking's claims to the whole of the South China Sea put it in conflict with four of Asean's seven members - including Vietnam, which has had several armed clashes and one brief war with its giant neighbour in recent years - and have ensured that much of the region's earnings are spent on arms. The attraction of Vietnam to the rest of Asean is its military weight and experience, which help to offset its economic disadvantages.

Warren Christopher, who opens the first American embassy in Hanoi this week, should appreciate the value of Vietnam in Asean as a counterweight to China, with which American relations are at their worst for some time. But the organisation's usefulness to the US and the West goes beyond that. Tomorrow Mr Christopher will attend the Asean regional forum, which brings together all the international and regional powers to discuss the kind of foreign policy and security issues Nato has existed to deal with in Europe for half a century. That is a vital function in Asia, where nuclear mavericks such as North Korea may tempt others to emulate them, and the closest thing to collective security is a fraying network of bilateral relations with the US. Against this uncertain background there is a fine irony in the fact that the addition of Vietnam to Asean's membership should be such good news.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software / Web Developer - ASP.NET

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company produces a wide ra...

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones