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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste