China wants to literally dig its way around geopolitical challenges — RT World News

The Beijing-financed shipping channel would reduce regional dependence on Vietnam, a fellow communist country and traditional rival.

by Timur FomenkoPolitical analyst

China and Vietnam, two communist neighbors with a shared revolutionary heritage, are experiencing a state of strategic anxiety. They are not enemies, they have important business relationships, but they are not friends either.

This is because Vietnamese nationalism views Beijing with suspicion that has historical roots, with its legacy of seeking to maintain its independence against ancient Chinese dynasties. As China rose again, these sentiments increased in Hanoi, especially with the 1978 Sino-Vietnamese War and overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, known to the Vietnamese as the East Sea.

Likewise, China is wary of the idea of ​​Vietnam allying itself with a foreign power as part of a containment coalition against it, which is itself an instigator of conflict. Although the two countries are not currently in hostility, and have worked to improve bilateral relations amid these strong points of contention, these mutual suspicions remain, resulting in them continuing to subtly hedge against each other, even as they cooperate on the matter. Some projects, in undeclared competition. For example, one might note that Vietnam has recently forged parallel strategic partnerships with the United States, Australia, and Japan, moves that would have been unthinkable decades ago.

While Vietnam is hedging its bets, China is also expanding its strategic options. Beyond the South China Sea/East Sea debate, Beijing is making efforts to attract two countries in Southeast Asia that have traditionally been dependent on and influenced by Vietnam: Laos and Cambodia. Given the geographical reality, Vietnam had the upper hand against these countries, as it actually did “envelops itself” Around the east coast of Southeast Asia. This makes Laos a landlocked country, while Cambodia has only a small portion of coastline. This meant that Vietnam, for most intents and purposes, served as the two countries' main supply route and access point to the sea.

They both resented Vietnam's dominance and, as a result, a decades-long struggle for influence between Beijing and Hanoi over them, including Beijing's support in the 1970s for the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. However, with the rise of China, the balance of power quickly shifted in its favour, as it opened up game-changing resources and projects that are now rewriting the geographical constraints of this region through the Belt and Road Initiative. As part of its Belt and Road Initiative, China has for the first time given landlocked Laos a new lifeline Construction of the railway between China and Laos.

Opened in 2021, this high-speed commercial shipping route, and the accompanying highway, connect Laos' capital Vientiane to China, meaning the country no longer needs to rely on Vietnam for port access. This has allowed Laos not only to export goods to China, but also to become an intermediary between China and Thailand, with more railway lines being built to form a complete route between Beijing and Bangkok. The China-Laos railway is a strategic game changer, but even more important is the new line Roof of the Funan Canal in Cambodia.

The canal is a massive Chinese-funded and Chinese-contracted waterway that extends more than 110 miles (180 kilometers) from the Mekong River in Phnom Penh to the sea, and construction is scheduled to begin this year. By building this canal, Cambodia will now be able to bypass the Mekong Delta, which is located in Vietnamese territory, thus turning its capital into a direct port. This channel strengthens China-backed Cambodia and deals a strategic blow to Vietnam, weakening its grip on its neighbour. Thus, Cambodia is transforming from a historical vassal state to Hanoi into a commercial competitor. Not surprising The Techo Funan channel has attracted Vietnamese concerns and opposition.

When we look at all this together, China is actually working to strengthen Laos and Cambodia at the expense of Vietnam. This is also part of Beijing's strategy to use the Belt and Road Initiative to integrate the interior of the continent and create trade routes beyond the disputed waters of the South China Sea, which the United States and its allies are militarizing. How does Hanoi react to these developments? The answer, oddly enough, is through greater integration with China in order to increase competition with trade coming from China. as the saying goes, If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!” On April 11, Vietnam declared Work will begin on two high-speed rail links Which will connect its northern cities to Yunnan and Guanxi provinces in China. Why? So that Vietnam can continue to promote itself as the closest and main overseas destination for Chinese companies, suppliers and goods, so that it itself can become the next industrial powerhouse. Hence, in order to continue to retain the advantage and ensure China's dependence on Vietnam, China's success must be upheld, thus ensuring that Chinese trade destined for Southeast Asian ports is not drained by what originates in Cambodia.

Either way, what this shows is that the competition between Beijing and Hanoi is complex and overlapping, but far from adversarial. The two countries have different and conflicting goals, but there are also many complementary goals, for which it is beneficial for both to maintain the amicable status quo. Hanoi fears that the Chinese presence will appear everywhere around it, including alienating its neighbors, which is pushing it back to the world. The “old enemy” is the United States, although at the same time it is forced to acknowledge that Beijing cannot be ignored, and that it continues to reap benefits by being in China’s game. Vietnam has to eat dinner at the table making sure it's not a menu.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of RT.

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