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Vietnam Briefing: The Election Is Over. But The Fate Of Party Critics Is Still Grim.

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Local residents queue at a voting station in Hanoi on Sunday as Vietnam holds legislative polls to elect a new 500-seat National Assembly. Photo: AFP

The Vietnam Briefing, which is released every Monday morning Vietnam time, is a look at Vietnam’s political developments of the past week.


The 2021 National Assembly election is over. Rumors are spreading.

It is reported that almost 70 million people were expected to cast their ballots yesterday, Sunday, May 23. The election witnessed the nominations of 866 candidates, with 500 seats up for grabs in the parliament.

The number of non-party candidates this year is lower than the last election in 2016, falling from 97 to only 74 candidates. Recently, the National Assembly includes just around 8 percent of independent members, while Party members account for 92 percent of the parliamentary seats. 

How does the National Assembly election work in Vietnam? Is it democratic? Could non-party members run for election? These questions are answered by The Vietnamese’s recently published articles: “The Odds Against Your Favor: How Does The National Assembly Election In Vietnam Work?” and “An Authoritarian Nightmare: The Self-Nomination Movement In 2016.”

Surprise at the last minute: Published articles about independent candidate Luong The Huy on state media have disappeared since Saturday evening, as reported by BBC News Vietnamese service.

Rumors are spreading on social media. This was expected. It happens as usual.

  • Some voters went on Facebook to report that they saw some voters holding several ballots in hand and election officers did nothing, suspectedly committing electoral fraud. This is probably the most common rumor about elections in Vietnam for decades now. 
  • Some other voters said there were election officers instructing them who to vote for.
  • Those who had a chance to witness vote counting in previous elections said there was very suspicious and unexplainable conduct behind closed doors that didn’t follow official guidelines, such as the transfer of invalid ballots into valid boxes.
  • As the media in Vietnam is controlled by the government, there has been no known investigation by journalists to verify these rumors with concrete evidence. The existence of rumors in Vietnam’s politics, and how many ordinary people believe in them, say a lot about how intransparent the system is.

Activist Pham Doan Trang recognized as an honorary member of German writer-activist organization

Last Wednesday, the German branch of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists (PEN) recognized activist and prisoner of conscience Pham Doan Trang as an honorary member. PEN is an international organization aimed at defending “persecuted and suppressed writers” as well as advocating for freedom of speech. 

Using its announcement in German, PEN advocated for Trang’s immediate and unconditional release and condemned the Vietnamese authority’s brutal treatment of her. PEN also recognized Trang’s work as a co-founder and editor for The Vietnamese and Luat Khoa Magazine, as well as her human rights report on the Dong Tam land dispute, co-authored with activist Will Nguyen. 

Trang is a co-founder of Legal Initiatives for Vietnam (LIV), which publishes The Vietnamese and Luat Khoa. She is the author of many books focused  on educating the Vietnamese people about politics, such as “Politics for the Common People” and “Nonviolent Resistance.” In 2019, Trang was awarded the Prize for Impact from Reporters Without Borders. 

In 2020, Trang was imprisoned by the Vietnamese authorities and charged with “conducting propaganda” against the state. Up until now, after more than seven months in prison, she is still being held incommunicado. Her family and her lawyer have not been allowed to meet with her. 


Independent journalists face persecution 

The investigation of the Báo Sạch (Clean Newspaper) case has been finalized with Can Tho Police formally recommending the city’s People’s Procuracy to prosecute four journalists of the group: Truong Chau Huu Danh, Nguyen Phuoc Trung Bao, Doan Kien Giang, and Nguyen Thanh Nha.

They now face up to seven years in prison, on the charge of “abusing democratic freedom” under Article 331 of the Penal Code.

The investigative agency said it would continue to investigate other suspected activities of the group. They did not rule out the possibility of filing new charges against the group’s members under Article 337 of the Penal Code, which is “deliberate disclosure of classified information; appropriation, trading, destruction of classified documents.”


COVID-19 in Vietnam: Panic, panic, and panic. 

Panic took over Vietnam as the country witnessed new surges of COVID-19 cases. Even though the number of cases in Vietnam has been low compared to other countries, only around 1 percent of the population has been vaccinated. The Vietnamese government has promised to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines for free, but those who have gotten the shot so far are mostly front-line workers, diplomats, and military officers. 

At the moment, only AstraZeneca is available in Vietnam. 

The desperation for COVID-19 vaccines has manifested itself in the form of tourism. According to Tuoi Tre News, a travel company in Ho Chi Minh City recently launched a new “vaccination tour” for their customers. This “tour” would take customers to the United States to get vaccinated with one of the three options: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Pricing starts at almost $2,000. The travel package is said to target “business people, high-income earners, and white-collar workers.”

The government has said it will buy and deliver 31 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of this year. Vietnam currently has three domestically produced vaccines, but none of them have been approved. Although Vietnam is producing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, the country has not considered Chinese vaccines. Public opinion in Vietnam, filled with anti-China sentiment, has shown much distrust of China’s vaccine diplomacy


Vietnam’s stance on the Israel-Palstinian conflict 

Despite the VCP’s historical connection to Palestine as fellow anti-imperialist revolutionaries, the country has taken a moderate stance on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. While state-controlled media outlets dramatically state that Vietnam condemns violence in the conflict, the country actually has not taken a side in the conflict, only condemning general “attacks targeting civilians.” Dang Dinh Quy, Vietnam’s ambassador to the United Nations, only suggested that “both sides, especially Israel” should “respect international humanitarian law.” 

Why doesn’t Vietnam side with Palestine? Even though siding with Palestine would provide a chance for the VCP to demonstrate its commitment to anti-imperialist ideology, which is ideal for communist propaganda, Vietnam’s long-standing defense policy prohibits it from “siding with one country against another.” Although the defense policy does have some room for flexible consideration on a case-by-case basis, it seems that playing the ideological game is not Vietnam’s priority anymore. 


Learn more about Vietnam: 

Vietnam’s National Assembly Vote: A Futile Gesture

The Diplomat/Mu Sochua/May 19, 2021

“As in previous elections, the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP), which runs one of the few remaining single-party states in the world, is expected to dominate the polls and extend its rule for the next five years. Voter turnout on polling day is also expected to be high, if previous elections are anything to go by, despite an intensified crackdown on human rights over the last few years.”

Vietnam may not want China’s Covid-19 vaccines, but how long can it stay immune to them?

South China Morning Post/Dien Nguyen An Luong/May 20, 2021 

“Leaving China-developed jabs off the table altogether risks derailing efforts to expedite a much-needed vaccination drive, which could dent extraordinarily high public approval ratings of the government’s handling of the pandemic. But a nod to Chinese shots is likely to force the authorities to grapple with an even more daunting challenge: how to talk an increasingly anti-China audience at home into taking them.”

Full steam ahead on Vietnam’s anti-corruption campaign

East Asia Forum/Hai Hong Nguyen, UQ/May 20, 2021

“Public attention is being drawn to how Trong and the new 18-member Politburo will decide on the fate of the ‘three big fish’ and former members of the Politburo: former party boss of Hanoi Hoang Trung Hai, former party boss of Ho Chi Minh City Le Thanh Hai and former governor of the State Bank of Vietnam Nguyen Van Binh. All three men were disciplined last year.”

Do China and Vietnam Have Similar Alliance Policies?

The Diplomat/Khang Vu/May 18, 2021 

“Similar to China, Vietnam also has a formal alliance commitment to Laos that survived the end of the Cold War. Vietnam is famous for its “Three Nos” defense policy – no military alliances, no foreign military bases on Vietnamese territory, and no reliance on any country to combat others – but its alliance with Laos is the exception to its alliance policies the same way North Korea is to China. Scholars often consider the Sino-Korean alliance to be a deviant case that goes beyond the scope of existing alliance theories. However, the existence of another deviant Vietnam-Laos case implies that there is a pattern that is worth further research, especially so when Vietnam and China are communist countries that once fought a common U.S. enemy. Deviant cases are significant in the sense that they can be the exceptions that prove the rule. Ignoring them can risk selecting on the dependent variable, which could lead to biased results in studies of Chinese and Vietnamese alliance policies.”

China and the US: Who Has More Influence in Vietnam?

The Diplomat/Mengzhen Xia and Dingding Chen/May 21, 2021

“As soon as the Biden administration came into power in the United States, Washington decided to strengthen its Indo-Pacific strategy, intending to highlight its presence in Asia and to deter the rise of China. Vietnam, fresh off a year of serving as the ASEAN chair and currently a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council through 2021, is becoming increasingly important in this effort. Washington seeks to upgrade U.S.-Vietnam ties and deepen their “comprehensive partnership” with an eye toward balancing and confining China. Both China and the United States are competing to exert a positive – and bigger – influence on Vietnam through various economic and political policies, such as the Belt and Road Initiative from China and maritime security cooperation from the United States.”


Events to watch this week:

Seminar: Responsiveness in the Shadow of Repression: Vietnam and China Compared

Date: May 27
Organizer: Southeast Asia Program, Stanford University

Vietnam Briefing

Vietnam Briefing: Prosecutions Against Bao Sach Journalists; Beijing Seeks To Reaffirm Its Influence In The South China Sea

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Photo credit: RFA.

Prosecutions against members of online-based Bao Sach (Clean Newspaper) outlet

RFA reports:

  • On Wednesday, September 8, Vietnamese authorities indicted five journalists from the Bao Sach group, an independent journalism project, on charges of “abusing democracy and freedom to infringe on state interests.”
  • According to the indictment issued by the Procuracy of Thoi Lai District, Can Tho City, the Bao Sach journalists posted “reactionary information and videos” and delved into information that was “inappropriate, distorting, against the country’s interests, and slanderous of the people’s administration,” in violation of Article 331 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
  • The five indicted journalists are: Truong Chau Huu Danh, Nguyen Thanh Nha, Doan Kien Giang, Nguyen Phuong Trung Bao, and Le The Thang. Thang remains under house arrest, while the other four members have been arrested and detained.
  • According to state media, the indictment also states that the group’s members have allegedly “taken advantage of the freedom of speech and press” to write and upload “unverified, negative, biased and false” information on their Facebook fan page, Facebook group, and YouTube channel.
  • In the Freedom in the World 2021 report by Washington D.C.-based Freedom House, Vietnam scored three out of 40 in political rights, and 16 out of 60 in civil liberties. The Vietnamese Communist Party has consistently shown little tolerance for dissident and opposition voices, while many independent journalists and publishers in the country have continually faced harassment, arrests, or even imprisonment.

Former vice president of the Vietnam Independent Journalism Association (IJAVN) denied citizenship rights

RFA reports:

  • Vietnamese authorities have rejected petition letters calling for an investigation into legal proceedings against detained blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy, a former vice president of IJAVN, who is currently serving an 11-year jail term for “making, storing, and disseminating documents and materials for anti-state purposes” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
  • According to Nguyen Thi Lan, Thuy’s wife, her husband had called home from the An Phuoc Detention Center, Binh Duong Province, telling her that he had asked the detention center to send his petition letters to the procuracy and other agencies. However, the central authorities responded by saying that he did not have citizenship rights, which is ridiculous and unreasonable, Lan told RFA Vietnamese.
  • “The authorities did, however, suggest that he request an appeal to reconsider the court decision if he did not agree with it,” Lan added. “They said his petition was not valid because he no longer had necessary citizen rights to file it.”
  • Nguyen Tuong Thuy was indicted along with two other IJAVN members, Pham Chi Dung and Le Huu Minh Tuan, on November 10, 2020, for “making, storing, and disseminating documents and materials for anti-state purposes” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison along with Tuan, while Dung was given 15 years.

Another member of the U.S.-based Provisional Government of Vietnam was charged for “carrying out activities to overthrow the government”

RFA reports:

  • On Friday, September 10, Vietnamese authorities arrested and charged a woman with “carrying out activities to overthrow the government,” making her the third person this year detained for joining the Provisional Government of Vietnam, an exile Vietnamese opposition group based in Orange County, California.
  • Le Thi Kim Phi, 62, used a Facebook profile under the name “Phi Kim” to connect with members of the organization, said the investigation division of the An Giang Police.
  • The Vietnamese government designated the group a terrorist organization in January 2018 after members were charged with a plot to attack Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport with petrol bombs ahead of a major holiday the year before.

COVID-19 situation in Vietnam

  • Overall, Vietnam has surpassed 600,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases with more than 15,000 deaths recorded. As of now, less than 5 percent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.
  • Vietnam sentenced a man to five years in jail for “spreading coronavirus,” reports The New York Times: “The man, Le Van Tri, 28, was convicted of “spreading dangerous infectious diseases” to eight people, one of whom died from virus complications. His sentence for failing to comply with Covid-19 quarantine restrictions also included a fine of 20 million dong, around $880.”
  • Hunger became a reality for tens of thousands of Vietnamese during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes The Guardian. “The government promised to feed everyone and enlisted the military to help deliver supplies to those in need, but vast swaths of the population have received nothing. Last week, Vietnamese media reported that more than 100 people in one district had protested over the lack of help.”
  • Standing at 4.95 percent, Ho Chi Minh City has the highest COVID death rate in Southeast Asia, reports Nikkei Asia: “The city’s death rate stands out in the region. The short-term fatality rate in neighboring Cambodia stood at 2.38% while Thailand’s was 1.34% although the kingdom is battling its worst outbreak of the virus so far, with around 15,000 new cases a day, according to Our World in Data.”
  • The Hayat-Vax coronavirus vaccine has been approved for emergency use in Vietnam, reports Reuters. The vaccine, which is manufactured in China and packaged in the United Arab Emirates, is the seventh vaccine to be endorsed in the Southeast Asian country.
  • European investors are considering relocating their operations in Vietnam over harsh COVID-19 restrictions, reports Reuters. “A sharp rise in coronavirus cases since late April has seen movement restrictions imposed widely, affecting workers and forcing many companies to suspend operations, which resulted in falls in August exports, industrial output and retail sales.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip to Vietnam 

  • On Friday, September 10, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Vietnam for a three-day visit, with a goal of reasserting Beijing’s influence in the country following high-profile visits by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
  • In an official statement, Wang warned Vietnam of interference from “regional outsiders” in the South China Sea issue, urging the country to “treasure the hard-won peace and stability” and refrain from unilateral moves that could “complicate the conditions” or “magnify conflicts” over territorial disputes between the two countries. “[We should] send a positive message to the international community that the people of China and Vietnam have the wisdom to manage conflicts, and further expand areas of cooperation,” he added.
  • China also offered Vietnam an additional three million vaccine doses during Wang’s visit, raising the number of vaccines donated from China to the country to 5.7 million doses.
  • Meanwhile, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi was also in Vietnam on Saturday, where he signed a deal allowing the transfer of defense equipment and technology from Japan to Vietnam amid China’s growing military influence, reports Associated Press. Minister Kishi said the signed deal elevates their defense partnership “to a new level” and that Japan plans to deepen defense ties between Vietnam and Japan through “multinational joint exercises” among other things.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

US, China dueling for power on the Mekong

Asia Times/ Bertil Lintner/ September 5

“While in Singapore, Harris said that ‘our partnerships in Singapore, in Southeast Asia, and throughout the Indo-Pacific are a top priority for the United States.’ She also spoke against China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea, a message she repeated during her subsequent trip to Vietnam.

But the odds are arguably stacked against Washington on the Mekong. China is moving ahead faster and with more determination than the US in asserting its influence on Mekong River nations.

Because China sits at the river’s headwaters and has shown its power to turn it off at will, the MRC, Mekong-US Partnership, and Japan’s initiatives seem destined to become sideshows in another rising contest for regional influence.”

Washington’s Challenge in Southeast Asia: The View From Vietnam

The Diplomat/ Ngo Minh Tri/ September 8

“If the U.S. wants stronger support and closer partnership with Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, it must change the approach, rebalancing its focus away from security to focus on the economic cooperation that is central to the future prosperity of Vietnam and other ASEAN members. Geographic proximity and economic interdependence mean that Southeast Asian nations are reluctant to treat China as a hostile adversary.”

Vietnam in pragmatic balancing act between China, US

Asia Times/ Hai Hong Nguyen/ September 10

“Overall, the main purpose of Wang’s trip to Hanoi is to pull Vietnam back from getting closer to the US and at the same time floating a message to the US that China’s ties with Vietnam are unbreakable.

Vietnam has been successful and greatly benefited from maintaining the balance in its relationship with both the United States and China. However, Vietnam’s approach is more pragmatic than it once was. It will not be dragged into the competition or rivalry between the two major powers.”


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Vietnam Briefing

Vietnam Briefing: Vietnam Arrests And Indicts Political Dissidents Amid COVID-19 Pandemic; South China Sea Becomes A Hot Issue Between Vietnam And China

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Photo (left to right): Thinh Nguyen/ The New York Times, Zing News, state media. Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.
Photo (left to right): Thinh Nguyen/ The New York Times, Zing News, state media. Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

The case of journalist Pham Doan Trang: Investigation process completed, leading to her indictment

  • On Aug 26, 2021, Hanoi Police announced that they had completed the investigations into Pham Doan Trang on the allegation of “spreading information against the State.” The government is now allowing lawyers to defend her for the first time since she was arrested last October.
  • Last year, on October 6, Pham Doan Trang was arrested by Vietnamese state security and she was subsequently charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the 1999 Penal Code and “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 117 of the 2015 Penal Code. Since then, Trang has been held incommunicado and denied visits from her family and lawyers.
  • Trinh Huu Long, a personal representative of Pham Doan Trang, claimed that her arrest was “completely unconstitutional, [and] in violation of the law.” Pham Doan Trang is a prominent journalist and democracy activist, famously known for her political books written for general readers and articles with sharp criticisms against Vietnam’s Communist government. “The authorities would do better to respect Doan Trang’s work rather than punish her,” Long concluded.
  • Pham Doan Trang could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Vietnamese police disguised as health workers arrest a dissident blogger

RFA reports:

  • On Aug 30, Vietnamese police arrested Bui Van Thuan, a dissident Facebook user, for criticizing the government in his online posts, especially his comments on the Dong Tam land dispute incident.
  • After cutting power to Thuan’s house in Nghi Son Town, Thanh Hoa Province, police officers, disguised as medical workers, asked his wife to let them in to take a health statement. “They said they were in a hurry and urged me to open the door quickly so that they could go to see others, so I invited them to come into the living room,” Thuan’s wife, Trinh Thi Nhung, said.
  • After getting into the house, a male officer “broke into the bedroom and restrained and handcuffed my husband just as he had woken up and was about to come out,” she said. The police then carried out a search of the house, handcuffing both the blogger and his wife, and confisticating a jar of lime-flavored honey, despite opposition from the family, and a copy of “The Handbook for Families of Prisoners” published by Pham Doan Trang as they left, according to Nhung.
  • Thuan was later formally prosecuted for “storing publications and materials against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Criminal Code,” according to police documents reviewed by VOA. His arrest came just after the U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Vietnam, where she raised concerns about human rights issues.
  • Last year, when the dissident blogger was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, he expressed concerns about Facebook’s compliance with Vietnamese authorities to suppress free speech by suspending dissidents’ accounts and censoring critical voices against the government.

Australia continues to urge Vietnam to release Vietnamese-Australian political prisoner Chau Van Kham

RFA and ABC News report:

  • On Aug 30, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne sent a letter to MP Chris Hayes, advocating for the release of political prisoner Chau Van Kham.
  • Chau Van Kham was arrested in Jan 2019 in Ho Chi Minh City; he was later sentenced to 12 years in prison for alleged “terrorist activities against the People’s government.” Kham is a member of Viet Tan, a democracy and human rights organization regarded as a “terrorist group” by the Vietnamese government. However, the United Nations considers Viet Tan a “peaceful organization advocating for democratic reform.”
  • Meanwhile, Chau Van Kham’s family has spent more than two years advocating for his vaccination against COVID-19 once it is made available as the coronavirus situation began to deteriorate in Vietnam, especially with recent outbreaks in many prisons. “My husband is 72 years old, it’s easy for him to get COVID and die there. That’s why I want a vaccine for my husband,” said Trang Chau, his wife.
  • He was not among those released under an amnesty annually granted on Vietnamese Independence day on September 2.

COVID-19 situation in Vietnam

  • Quick take: Vietnam has recorded over 520,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases with more than 13,000 deaths. Fully vaccinated people only account for under 3 percent of the country’s population.
  • Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh warns of a lengthy battle against COVID-19, reports Reuters. “We cannot resort to quarantine and lockdown measures forever, as it will cause difficulty for the people and the economy,” he said during a meeting with an antivirus committee last Wednesday. The highly transmissive Delta variant has shattered Vietnam’s early success in containing COVID-19 infections.
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s coronavirus epicenter, is considering a plan to reopen its economic activities from September 15, shifting from the “zero COVID-19” strategy to “living with the virus” policy, reports Reuters. The city has been gripped by a recent sharp rise of coronavirus infections and has remained under stringent lockdown since. So far, half of Vietnam’s confirmed cases, and 80 percent of its fatalities, have been recorded in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Vietnam ranked bottom in Nikkei Asia’s Covid Recovery Index, mostly due to the country’s surge in COVID-19 cases, slow vaccination rates and rigid social distancing measures, which caused disruptions in the supply chain. The Nikkei chart ranks more than 120 countries and regions around the world on the assessment of infection management, vaccine rollouts and social mobility. This is the second time Vietnam is listed at the bottom.
  • Hanoi will send over 1,200 city residents from its largest COVID-19 cluster to a centralized quarantine facility on the city’s outskirts, reports VnExpress. The affected neighborhood, which is located in Thanh Xuan District, has reported more than 300 coronavirus cases since August 23. At the same time, Hanoi authorities are also set to extend lockdown measures until September 21, while maintaining strict COVID-19 restrictions in high risk areas.
  • Vietnam to receive an additional two million AstraZeneca vaccine doses, reports VnExpress: “Three batches of 2,016,460 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses have arrived in Ho Chi Minh City this week. The batches, part of a 30 million dose contract between AstraZeneca and the Vietnam Vaccine JSC (VNVC), arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
  • Ho Chi Minh City faces a food delivery crisis, reports Nikkei Asia: “The government-led delivery operation became overwhelmed during the first week, prompting the city to issue a written request to local supermarkets and online platforms to participate in delivery services. The move followed an announcement from the city on August 28, allowing as many as 25,000 shippers to join the delivery rollout. However, involving local businesses has done little to improve the situation.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman makes statement on China’s revised Maritime Traffic Safety Law

  • On September 1, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang made a statement on China’s official enforcement of its revised Maritime Traffic Safety Law, reports state-run VietnamPlus: “Vietnam resolutely and persistently safeguards its sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its waters determined in line with the provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982),” said Hang.
  • On August 27, China’s Maritime Safety Administration announced that foreign vessels entering its “territorial waters,” which refers to its unlawful nine-dash line, must “report ship and cargo information to China’s maritime administrations,” according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
  • The revised Maritime Traffic Safety Law, which took effect on September 1, “comes amid escalating tension between China and rival claimants, as well as Western nations led by the US and its expanded military presence in the region,” writes the SCMP.
  • One day later, on August 28, Science Advances magazine took down a Facebook post of an attached scientific research showing China’s nine-dash line map after Vietnam’s social media users flooded its comment section with opposition and criticisms. Despite its effectiveness this time, the aggressive strategy utilized by Vietnamese social media users, or its “public opinion shapers,” has also been deployed to attack pro-democracy activists and foreign ambassadors’ social network accounts in Vietnam, particularly when they raise concerns about the country’s poor human rights record.

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

Vietnam Lost Public Buy-in. Its COVID-19 Struggles Followed

The Diplomat/ Le Vinh Trien and Kris Hartley/ September 1

“Anti-epidemic measures developed without collaboration fail to reflect the voices of diverse communities. When the political power among these communities is imbalanced, policy inconsistencies arise and a chain reaction emerges. Case counts rise as people resist restrictive behavior protocols, straining health care capacity and imperiling vulnerable groups. Ultimately, mixed messaging at the policy level widens the trust gap between government and citizens.”

Taliban Comparisons Are Unfair to Vietnam’s Leaders

Foreign Policy/ Chris Humphrey/ September 1

“There is no moral equivalence between North Vietnamese forces and the Taliban. During World War II, the Viet Minh actually supported the United States and its allies by serving as the only Vietnamese force resisting Japan’s invasion of Indochina. This preamble for conflict hardly compares to the Taliban militia, which massacred minority Hazara communities and forced Hindus to carry yellow badges to set them apart from Afghan Muslims—like Jews in Nazi Germany.”

Opinion: A lesson for America from the fall of Saigon in 1975

CNN/ Hao-Nhien Vu/ August 31

“The Afghans solved their problem by valiantly fighting the Soviet Union forces that invaded their country, and the Vietnamese benefited from the eventual dissolution of the USSR. Little to none of the economic reform that made Vietnam’s economy a vibrant one would likely have happened had the Soviet Union still been around.”

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Vietnam Briefing

Vietnam Briefing: Results From U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ Visit; Vaccine Donations To Arrive In Vietnam Amid Surge In COVID-19 Cases

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Photo: Nhat Bac/ VGP (left), Reuters/ Stringer (right). Graphic: The Vietnamese Magazine.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Vietnam: Main takeaways

  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Vietnam’s top officials met on Wednesday, August 25, carrying out talks on several key areas, including the enhancement of maritime security, boosting economic cooperation, combating climate change and providing healthcare support, reports Reuters.
  • Earlier, on Tuesday, Harris’ flight from Singapore to Hanoi was delayed by more than three hours after the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi was made aware of an “anomalous health incident,” which referred to the mysterious Havana Syndrome.
  • Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh held an unannounced meeting with Chinese Ambassador Xiong Bo, just before Harris’ arrival, affirming that “Vietnam does not align itself with one country against another.” Beijing also offered Vietnam an additional 2 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine during the meeting.
  • Vice President Harris made sharp criticism at China’s “bullying” in the South China Sea while urging Vietnam to join the United States against Beijing’s advances, reports Associated Press. “We need to find ways to pressure and raise the pressure, frankly, on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to challenge its bullying and excessive maritime claims,” Harris said at the opening of a meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam has signed an agreement with Hanoi authorities, in the presence of Vice President Harris, for a land lease to build a new $1.2 billion embassy campus in the city, reports VnExpress. The new embassy, which will be located in the Cau Giay District, is a project announced by Vietnam and the United States in 2019.
  • Vice President Harris announced that the United States would donate one million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to Vietnam, bringing the total number of vaccines donated by the United States to the country to six million doses. Meanwhile, a new regional office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will open in Hanoi, with a mission of “protecting Americans and people of the region” and “building key relationships to tackle shared health priorities,” according to the CDC press release.
  • “We’re not going to shy away from difficult conversations,” said Vice President Harris during her meeting with Vietnamese leaders regarding human rights abuses and political activism in Vietnam, according to Associated Press. However, the results of those discussions remain unclear. Overall, Vietnam is notoriously known for its crackdown on freedom of speech and the arrests of political dissidents.
  • Strengthening the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership, from the White House press release: “The Vice President’s travel to Vietnam signifies the United States’ deep commitment not only to the region but also to the U.S. – Vietnam relationship. In bilateral meetings with Vietnamese leaders, Vice President Harris reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam, as well a free, open, healthy, and resilient Indo-Pacific region.”

The Covid-19 situation in Vietnam

  • In total, Vietnam has recorded over 430,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases with more than 10,000 deaths as of Sunday, August 29, 2021.
  • Vietnam to deploy troops to contain the surge of Covid-19 infections in Binh Duong Province, a major manufacturing hub, reports Reuters. The southern province, which is located nearby Ho Chi Minh City, is expected to record an additional 50,000 coronavirus cases over the next two weeks.
  • Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam was replaced by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh as head of the National Steering Committee for Covid-19 prevention and control. The replacement decision came amid the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Southeast Asian nation.
  • Ho Chi Minh City to resume delivery service operations in the city reports VnExpress. According to local authorities, delivery drivers, popularly known as “shippers” in Vietnam, will be allowed to operate in Covid-19 high-risk districts to relieve shopping demands among locals. Delivery drivers, along with temporary contractors and migrant workers, are among the most vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 pandemic in Vietnam.
  • Vietnam’s homegrown Covid-19 vaccine NanoCovax to be granted emergency use after being approved by The National Committee for Ethics in Biomedical Research, reports VietnamPlus: “The National Committee for Ethics in Biomedical Research under the Ministry of Health (MoH) has agreed that the mid-term results from Nano Covax’s phase 3 clinical trials will be submitted to the Advisory Council for the Registration of Circulation of Drugs and Medicinal Ingredients for considering the issuance of a registration certificate for the conditional circulation of the vaccine.”
  • Covid-19 vaccine donations to Vietnam: Australia donated to Vietnam a total of 403,000 AstraZeneca doses, as part of an “ongoing commitment to help Vietnam in its fight against the pandemic,” wrote the Australian Embassy in Vietnam. Meanwhile, on August 25, Italy also announced its donation of over 800,000 AstraZeneca doses to Vietnam via the COVAX Initiative, while over 500,000 vaccine doses, also made by AstraZeneca, arrived in Hanoi on August 23 as a donation from the Polish government.
  • The Vatican sends financial aid to help Vietnam deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Reuters: “About $70,000 was sent to Bangladesh for continuing recovery assistance from Cyclone Yaas, which left tens of thousands of people homeless last May, and about 100,000 euros to Vietnam, where food supplies have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Vietnam Insight: Learn more about Vietnam

China’s Wedge Strategy Towards the US-Vietnam Partnership

The Diplomat/ Khang Vu/ August 25

“Vietnam falls into a different category of Chinese wedge strategy, in which China seeks to reinforce Vietnamese neutrality, instead of de-aligning it, since Vietnam is not a formal U.S. ally. Hanoi considers itself a neutral country under its “four noes” policy, of “no military alliance, no affiliation with one country to counteract the other, no foreign military base in the Vietnamese territory to act against other countries, and no force or threatening to use force in international relations.” Such a policy is rooted in Hanoi’s search for a balance between ideological values and national security interests, which stipulates that Vietnam only allies with states that share both. Vietnam is officially neutral between the United States and China, since it only shares security interests with the former and ideological values with the latter (as well as strong economic ties to both.)”

Who is winning the US-China battle for the hearts and minds of Vietnam’s cybersphere?

South China Morning Post/ Dien Nguyen An Luong/ August 24

“When both countries sought to burnish their vaccine diplomacy campaigns in Vietnamese cyberspace, the US beat China by a wide margin in terms of positive public reactions, reflecting the fact the Vietnamese public prizes US vaccines over Chinese ones. Such sentiments were reflected in an analysis of Facebook posts and their average engagements on vaccine diplomacy that were among the most engaged content between January and July.”

Kamala Harris has a chance to stand up for democracy this week. She should take it.

The Washington Post/ Will Nguyen/ August 23

“One of the few socialist republics left in the world, Vietnam is an authoritarian state run by a nominally communist party, ruling over a population that is among the most pro-capitalist and pro-American on Earth. The precipitous fall of Afghanistan reveals that the United States cannot simply impose liberal democracy on other countries, even if they share such affinities. The desire for rights and reform must come from the people themselves. And in Vietnam, it is.”

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