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Harvard International Review

Ideology and Nationalism in Vietnamese Foreign Policy


Author(s): William J. Duiker
Source: Harvard International Review, Vol. 9, No. 2 (January 1987), pp. 16, 18-22
Published by: Harvard International Review
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42759935
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Revolutionary States

and Nationalism in
Ideology

Vietnamese Foreign Policy

By William J. Duiker

therecent Vietnam War,oneofthemajorsources ideological components inthemaking offoreign policyis a fact


ofdisagreement between advocatesandopponents of longrecognized bytheVietnamese communist leaders themselves.
During US involvement intheconflict relatedtotheprobable In a speechgivento theNationalAssembly inJune1976,for
consequences ofa communist victory inSouthVietnam. Behind example, PartySecretary GeneralLe DuannotedthattheSRV
thedispute laytwodifferent interpretations ofthecharacter ofthe hadtwoessential tasksinthepostwar era.In thefirst place,he
communist movement in Vietnam.To advocates,veteran said,theVietnamese peoplemustattempt tofulfill
their "national
communist leaderslikeHo ChiMinhwerehard-bitten Leninists duties,"to healthewoundsofwar,developtheeconomy, and
subjecttothe guidance of Moscow or Peking and dedicated to the buildthematerial and technicalbasis for socialism. On the other
causeofworldrevolution. A defeat fortheUnitedStatesinSouth hand,theSRV mustalso fulfill its "international duties,"to
Vietnam wouldlead inevitably to an expansion ofcommunist "continue tostandsidebysidewiththesocialist countries andthe
powerthroughout Southeast Asia and irreparably weaken the people of other countries in the undaunted for
struggle peace,
positionof the freeworldthroughout the Pacificregion. nationalindependence, democracy, and socialism."Six years
Opponents countered thatHo ChiMinhandhisfollowers were later,initsPoliticalReport totheFifth NationalCongress ofthe
motivated primarily bynationalist concerns. Oncethecountry Vietnamese Communist Party(VCP), theCentralCommittee
had achievedreunification, theycontended, Vietnamwould returned tothistheme, pointing outthattheHanoiregime had
present nodangertoitsneighbors. alwaysfollowed the"Leninist"policyofcombining "genuine
Today,overa decadeafter theendofthewar,thedebateover patriotism" and pure "proletarian internationalism" in the
theunderlying natureofVietnamese communism has notbeen conduct ofitsforeign policy.
resolved.The factsarenotindispute.Vietnam, nowformally What,then,are Vietnam's"national"and "international"
theSocialistRepublicofVietnam
titled (SRV), is a unified state obligations,andhowaretheyinterpreted bytheHanoiregime in
undercommunist rule.In December1978, the Vietnamese theformulation andconduct offoreign policy? Is thereference to
Armyoverthrew the revolutionary regimeof Pol Pot in "proletarian internationalism" mererhetoric, orshoulditbeseen
neighboring Cambodia and installeda new government in Phnom as anintegralcomponent of Hanoi's behavior intheinternational
Penh.Today,Vietnam hasformed a "specialrelationship" with arena?To answersuchquestions, wemustexaminesomeofthe
thecommunist regimes inneighboring Laos andCambodia,and keyconcerns ofVietnamese policymakers inthepostwar eraand
itsarmedforcesarereputed to be amongthelargestandmost how the regimehas attempted to deal withthem.We will
powerful in Asia. The interpretation ofthesefacts,however, concludewithananalysisoftherelative importance ofideology
varieswidely.Whilesomeobservers viewHanoi'sactionsas and nationalism in the formulation of Vietnameseforeign
primarily defensive innatureandrelatedto an understandablepolicy.
concern fornationalsecurity, others interpret themas evidence
of the inherently aggressiveand revolutionary characterof Vietnamand Indochina
Vietnamese communism.
Suchdisagreements bringintoclearrelief oneofthecentral Anydiscussionof theallegedlyrevolutionary character of
problems for the observer attempting to undertake an objective postwar Vietnamese foreignpolicy must inevitably begin with the
analysisofVietnamese foreign policybehavior. Whatroledoes issueofCambodia,foritis Vietnam's occupation ofCambodia
therevolutionary experience playintheformulation offoreign which, aboveall,hasinspired anxiety amongitsnon-communist
policyin Hanoi?AreVietnamese leadersdedicatedLeninists neighbors. Criticschargethatthe Vietnamesetreatment of
motivated by the desire to promote the interestsof international Cambodia and itsneighbor Laos since 1975 stands as proof of
communism? Or is ideologymerelyan instrument used by theinherently aggressive and expansionistic character of the
Vietnamese leadersinthepursuit ofpurely national objectives? Hanoiregime andthedanger thatitwillattempt torealizefuture
What,forthatmatter, arethoseobjectives? CanVietnam livein revolutionary gainsintheregion.
peacewithitsnon-communist neighbors, orwillitinevitably seek Vietnamese spokesmen wouldundoubtedly concedethevital
toexportrevolution beyonditsownborders? importance of Cambodia and Laos to the futureof the
Itshouldbe notedattheoutsetthatthesearenotquestions of Vietnamese Revolution. In his 1976 addresscitedabove,Le
mereacademicinterest. The existenceof bothnationaland Duanpointed outthatthesolidarity andfraternal friendship with
Laos andCambodiawas "theprimary andbasiccontent ofour
foreignpolicy ." InitsPoliticalReport totheFifth Congress ofthe
WilliamJ. Duiker is Professorof East Asian Historyat VCP in 1982,theCentralCommittee referred to the
State University. Dr. Duikeris theauthorof "special
Pennsylvania as an law"and"a matter ofsurvival
numerous booksand articleson Vietnam's history , including relationship" "evolutionary
for thedestiny of the three nations."
hismostrecent book,Vietnam SincetheFall ofSaigon.
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William J. Duiker

This "special relationship" is a productof historyand underlying antagonism between theleadersofthetwoparties


revolutionary experience. Historically,thethree nations emerged remained high,andintheearly1970's,Pol Potsystematically
fromseparateand distinctcultural,ethnic,and linguistic attempted toeliminate all Cambodian party members suspected
traditions.By thenineteenth century, however, theirdestinies ofpro-Vietnamese tendencies. Oncethewarwasover,thenew
hadbeguntoconverge. Thiswasparticularly trueinthecase of regime inPhnom Penhrejected Hanoi'sappealsfortheformation
Vietnamand Cambodia. In the seventeenth centurythe ofa "specialrelationship" withLaos andVietnam andengaged
Vietnamesehad seized the lowerMekongDelta fromthe ina bitter border dispute with the Vietnamese alongtheir mutual
declining Cambodian empire ofAngkor. In theearlynineteenthfrontier.
century, Vietnam begantocompete withThailandtoestablish a Atfirst,
theVietnamese adopteda cautious attitude toward the
protectorate overtheremaining Khmerterritories. Thatprocess disputeand apparently attempted to settlethe matterby a
was arrested bytheconquestofall Indochina bytheFrench. combination ofpolitical andmilitary pressure andnegotiations.
Francedivided Vietnam intothreeseparate administrative units By1978,however, Vietnamese leadershadbecomeincreasingly
andestablished separateprotectorates inLaos andCambodia. convinced thatPol Potwasbeingencouraged inhisrecalcitrant
At first,leadingelementsin the Vietnamesecommunist attitude bytheChinese.Fortwodecades,thePeking regime had
movement didnotappeartorealizetheimportance ofLaos and quietlycompetedwith Hanoi for influencein Laos and
Cambodiato theirown revolution. On the founding of the Cambodia. Now,theVietnamese becameconvinced thatthenew
Communist Partyin February1930, Partyleadersviewed DengXiaopingleadership in Chinawas attempting to use Pol
CambodiaandLaos as culturally distinct andsociallybackward, Pot as a leverto keepthemoutofCambodiaandprevent the
linkedwithVietnam onlyby the accident of colonial policy. In formationof a "special relationship" among thethree Indochinese
recognition of this fact,theytook the name Vietnamese countries. After aneffort toprovoke aninternal uprising proved
Communist Partyin orderto appeal forsupportfromanti- abortive, Hanoilaunched aninvasion inDecember1978which
colonial elementsinside Vietnam.The Vietnamesewere toppled thePolPotregime andplacedpro-Vietnamese elements
instructed to adoptthenameIndochinese Communist Party in powerin PhnomPenh.The following February, theSRV
(ICP) andto struggle to promote a commonrevolution in the signeda TreatyofPeace andFriendship withthenewregime. A
threecountries. similartreaty hadbeennegotiated withLaos in 1976.
Attheoutset, thelinkage ofthethreecountries inthecauseof TheVietnamese occupation ofCambodiaprovoked a serious
revolution was morein theorythanin fact.Although Party crisisin Sino-Vietnamese relations. PekingchargedVietnam
documents occasionally referred to thefuture creation ofa so- withattempting tosetupanIndochinese Federation andserving
called"Indochinese Federation" ofthethreecountries under as "Moscow'spuppetin Asia." SomeofHanoi'smorevocal
Vietnamese tutelage,ICP leaderswereconvincedthatthe criticschargedthattheVietnamese occupation of Cambodia
Cambodian andLaotianpeopleshadlittle politicalconsciousness confirmed theinherently aggressive andexpansionistic character
and devotedlittleeffort to revolutionary workin the two ofVietnamese communism andcalledforconcerted measures by
protectorates. Most existingrevolutionary cells in Laos and otherstatesto resistfurther encroachment bytheSRV in the
CambodiawerecomposedofethnicVietnamese. region.
Inthelate1940's,however, ICP strategists begantorecognize
thestrategic importance of Laos and Cambodiato thefuture Vietnamin RegionalPolitics
successof the Vietnamese revolution. Simultaneously, anti-
colonial sentiment began to emergeamong Laotian and Beyondtheimmediate issueofCambodia,a secondsourceof
Cambodian elites.Paradoxically, however, theriseofpatriotic anxiety forVietnam's neighbors is thelatter's potential support
sentiment in the lattertwo countriesmade the issue of forrevolutionary movements elsewhere intheregion.Herethe
Vietnamese domination overthecommon revolution a sensitive recordis somewhat ambiguous. On severaloccasions,theSRV
and
issue, at theThird Congress of the Party in 195 1 the
, concept has formally denied any intention to promoterevolution in
oftheIndochinese Federation was reportedly abandoned, and neighboring countries and has offered to negotiate a treatyof
threeseparateorganizations were established.Intra-partymutualnon-interference withnon-communist nationsin the
documents makeitclear,however, thatthetwofledgling parties region. On theotherhand,Hanoi'sstatements andactionshave
inLaos andCambodiawouldbesubject toguidance bytheparent occasionallysuggested thatundercertaincircumstances, the
ICP, nowrenamed theVietnamese Workers Party,orVWP. regimemightbe inclinedto play a moreaggressive role in
For thenexttwodecades,thethreerevolutionary parties promoting instability and revolution in othernationsin the
cooperated inthecommon struggle against theforces ofFrance, region.
andlatertheUnitedStates.ButVietnamese domination overthe Thisambiguity is basedpartly onVietnam's recent historical
movement createdstrainsin therelationship, particularly in experience. Duringthepasttwodecades,Hanoi'srelations with
Cambodia,whereracialanimosity and historicsuspicionof itsnon-communist neighbors havebeenbasedona combination
Vietnamese intentions randeep. In themid-1960's,a radical ofsuspicion andhostility. Although theAssociation ofSoutheast
factionunder theParis-trained radicalPolPottookpowerwithin AsianNations(ASEAN) wasformed withtheprofessed goalof
the Cambodianrevolutionary movement and began to act promoting Southeast Asianneutralism andtaking theregion out
independently of Vietnamese direction. Afterthecoup d'etat of the Cold War, severalof the ASEAN states,including
which overthrew theneutralistregime ofNorodom Sihanouk and Thailand,Singapore, andthePhilippines, provided theUnited
a
placed pro-Western military in
regime power inPhnom Penh in with
States active or verbal support during theVietnam War.At
1970,theCambodiancommunist forcesacceptedVietnamese thecloseofthewarin 1975,Vietnamese suspicion ofitsnon-
assistancein wagingtheirownrevolutionary struggle, which communist neighbors was reflected in officialforeign policy
resulted ina victorious seizureofpowerinApril1975.Butthe statements. In a jointcommunique issuedbyVietnam andLaos

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Revolutionary States

inFebruary 1976,thetwocountries announced theirreadiness notonlyinforeign


to effects, policybutindomestic as well,
affairs
developtiesoffriendship andcooperation withotherSoutheast sincetheVietnamese economy linkedwiththatof
is intimately
Asiannations onthebasisofmutual respectforsovereignty and theSovietUnionthrough common membership intheMoscow-
theprinciples ofpeacefulcoexistence. Atthesametime,other dominated CouncilforMutualEconomicAssistance (CMEA).
official ASEAN forallegedly
sourcescriticized servingas a tool HowmuchthislinkwiththeSovietUnionaffects Vietnamese
ofAmerican neocolonialism andcitedas evidence theorganiza- foreignpolicyactionsandobjectives ofdebate.China
isa matter
tion'swillingness
toapprove thepresence ofUS militarybasesin hascharged thatHanoihasbecomea Sovietpuppet inSoutheast
theregion. Asiaand,likeCastro'sCuba,Moscow'sideological comrade in
When the crisiswithChina over Cambodiaintensified,providing support movements
forsubversive inthethirdworld.In
however, Hanoisoftened itsstance.During thesummer of1978, connection with thischarge, havebeenunconfirmed
there reports
PrimeMinister PhamVanDongembarked ona tourofASEAN thattheSRVhasprovided trainingandequipment forinsurgency
countries duringwhichhe offered a non-aggression pactwith movements in Africaand CentralAmerica.The Vietnamese
ThailandandpledgedthatVietnam wouldnotprovide support
forinsurgency movements intheregion.Suchpeacefeelers were
interrupted by the Vietnameseinvasionof Cambodia in
Decemberandtheresultant decisionbytheASEAN nations to
joinwithChinain supporting anti-Vietnamese guerrillagroups
operating insidethecountry.
In recentyears,Hanoi has fluctuated betweenconciliatory
statements the of
suggesting possibility improved relations with
theASEAN statesandintimations thatundercertainconditions
theSRV might provide supportfortherevolutionary movement
inThailand.Suchthreats might havebeendismissed atonepoint
as mererhetoric,sincetheleadership oftheCommunist Partyof
Thailand(CPT) wasunderthefirm controlofPeking, butbythe
late 1970's,therewerereports thatHanoiwas providing low-
levelsupportfora new pro-Vietnamese revolutionary party
knownas thePak Mai (New Party).According toonesource,
defectorsfrom theCPT haveallegedthattheVietnamese were
attemptingtosetupa revolutionary baseintheNortheast Plateau
as earlyas 1976.

Vietnamin GlobalAffairs

A thirdissuesometimes raisedinconnection with theallegedly


revolutionarycharacterof Vietnamese foreign policyis therole ToysforVietnam's nextgeneration?
oftheSRV as a member ofthesocialistcommunity. As anallyof
theSovietUnion,theHanoiregime has givenfirmandvocal insistthatthetreaty relationshipwithMoscow,whileroutinely
support to Moscow's positionsin foreign affairsand has been described as the"cornerstone of Vietnamese foreign policy,"
particularlyactivein supporting Sovietpoliciesin thethird doesnotdiminish andindependence
theflexibility oftheSRV in
world. foreignaffairs.
As notedabove,Hanoirecognizes thatitsmembership inthe
socialistcommunity entailsan obligation to reconcileitsown Nationalismand NationalInterestin VietnameseForeign
national withtheneedsoftheglobalrevolution.
interest Meeting Policy
thesedualobligations hasseldombeenaneasytask.Duringthe
bulkoftheVietnam War,thesocialist campwasbitterly divided Itistheobjective toexamine
ofthisarticle therespective rolesof
bytheideological disputebetween ChinaandtheSovietUnion. national interest andideologicalcommitment intheformulation
Onseveral theHanoiregime
occasions, attempted tomediate the ofVietnamese foreignpolicy.Whilea definitivejudgment onthis
disputein orderto minimize the damage to itsown for
struggle question cannot be attempted in the absence of additional
national Despitesuchefforts,
reunification. neitherMoscownor evidence from Hanoi(an eventuality whichis highly unlikelyat
Peking offeredwholehearted support fortheVietnamese intheir thepresent time),information currently availableenablesus to
ownstruggle againsttheUnitedStates. makeat leasta tentative assessment.
After1975,Hanoi'sstanceintheSino-Soviet disputeshifted It shouldbe clearfromtheevidencepresented abovethat
rapidly from one ofneutralityto one of activesupport forthe nationalism has been, and continues to be, a matter ofcrucial
SovietUnion.Thisreappraisal wasprobably lessa consequence importance totheVietnamese Revolution. Atthemoment ofits
of ideologicalissues- althoughit is likelythatVietnamese creation, theCommunist Partywasseenbyitsfounders as,above
leadersstronglydisapproved ofPeking's increasing identificationall, an instrument to achievenationalindependence fromthe
withthe UnitedStatesin international - thanof the French.As one Westernscholarof modernVietnamhas
affairs
growing rivalrybetween ChinaandVietnam inSoutheast Asia. observed,Vietnamese in theearlyyearsof the
intellectuals
Therewas,then,a clearindication of expediency in Hanoi's twentieth century were hauntedby a sense of the loss of
decisionto tilttowardMoscow.Yet it has had far-reachingnationhood ( matnuoc), andmanyindeedviewedcommunism as

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William J. Duiker

a meansof achieving nationalliberation. Even Ho Chi Minh theSoviet-Vietnamese treatywasonlysigned whenthedanger of


wouldlateradmitthathe had been originally attracted to a Chineseattackon theSRV appearedimminent. Previously,
Leninismby its potentialvalue as a strategy to liberatehis Hanoi had avoideda formalcommitment to Moscow and
homeland fromcolonialrule.Duringthe 1930's,theissueof appearedto value its relatively independent stancein inter-
national was
independence briefly played down at the insistence national politics.There is littledoubt that Vietnamese policy
oftheComintern, whichwas thenpassingthrough a sectarian makersare well aware of the highcosts of theirintimate
phase.Butin 1941,withtheformation ofthefamousVietminh relationship withthe SovietUnion (bothdomestically and
Front,theICP openlyplacedthestruggle fornational liberation internationally). Spokesmen fortheregime insist, however, that
beforetheissueofclassstruggle as thematter ofhighest priority therelationship is viewedinHanoias a permanent one,andnot
intheVietnamese Revolution. subjecttonegotiation as a resultofadjustments inVietnamese
Theconcern ofPartyleadersfortheissueofnational survival relations withothermajorpowers.The treatywithMoscow
wasundoubtedly strengthened bytherevolutionary experience. providesHanoi, above all, withsecurityagainstChinese
Facedwithpowerful adversaries andprovided withonlylimited intimidation, and Vietnamese suggestions thatthetreatyis a
assistance from MoscowandPeking, Vietnamese strategists dug permanent feature oftheregionallandscapeimplythatParty
deeplyintotherichnationaltradition of stubborn resistance leaderssee thedisputewithChinaas a long-term one.
againstpowerful invaders andcultivated a strong senseofself-
reliancewithin themovement andinsideVietnamese society as a The Role ofNationalism
whole.One consequenceof thissense of isolationand the
tradition oftoughness and self-sacrifice was thedevelopment The predominant roleofnationalism in Vietnamese foreign
withintheParty leadership ofa "siegementality" anda highlevel policydoesnotmean,however, thatideological concerns donot
of distrust of outsiders, an attitude thatwouldinevitably be playa significantroleinpolicyformulation. Infact, there isevery
carried overintothepostwar era. reasontobelievethattheParty's veteranleadership, which isstill
TheHanoiregime, then,cameoutoftheVietnam Warwitha inpowerinHanoi,aresincere Leniniststowhomdoctrine serves
strongsensitivity to the issue of nationalsecurityand a as a useful perspective from which tointerpretevents takingplace
determination toprotect thegainsoftheVietnamese Revolution. ontheinternational sceneandtoplacetheVietnamese revolution
At the same time,the Party'striumph over its multiple in the broadercontextof the Marxist-Leninist viewof the
adversaries encouraged a highdegreeofconfidence within the unfolding ofworldhistory. Fromthisvantage point, thePartyis
Party and a self-image as the legitimate representative of ablenot only to view theVietnamese Revolution as a watershed
Vietnamese nationaldestiny.Like all revolutionary regimes, inthehistory ofmankind butalsoas a modelforrevolution inthe
Hanoiwas resolvedto restore thenation's"naturalfrontiers"third world.
andachievethe"manifest destiny" oftheVietnamese nation as a A goodexampleofthisglobalpointofviewcanbe seeninan
leading force in mainland Southeast Asia. One manifestation of article
published intheMarch1973 issueofHoc TapbyHoang
thissenseofdestiny, ofcourse,isthe"specialrelationship" with Tung,theneditor ofthePartynewspaper NhanDan anda rising
the Indochinese countries. Like theircounterparts in Soviet spokesman fortheregime inideological matters. In thearticle,
RussiaandChina,theVietnamese emerged from theperiodof HoangTungattempted to placetheVietnamese Revolution in
revolutionary struggle conscious of the need to restore the thebroader context ofthe world revolutionary movement in the
nation's"outerfrontiers" and protect therevolution fromits lasthalfofthepresent century. Revolution,hepointed out,moves
imperialist enemies. incycles,andismarked byperiods ofrapidgrowth ("leapingde-
The courseof postwareventsundoubtedly sharpened such velopment") and relativestagnation (the stageof "orderly
perceptions. Although the threat from global imperialism development"). The years following World War II markeda
represented bytheUnitedStatesappearedto recedewiththe periodofvigorous expansion fortheworldrevolution, withthe
declineintheAmerican presence inSoutheast Asia,a newand riseofcommunist statesinChina,Korea,andEasternEurope.
yethistorically familiar menacearosein itsplace as Hanoi's Duringthe 1950's and 1960's,thepace ofrevolution slowed
erstwhile ally China began to intimidate the Vietnamese while because of thedevelopment of nuclearweapons and the growth of
competing withthemforinfluence inLaos andCambodia.Itwas US military powerintheworld.ButtheVietnam Warexposed
almost certainly the"Chinathreat" (represented metaphoricallytheunderlying weakness ofUS imperialism andexacerbated the
bythephraseofoneVietnamese officialthat,inChina'shands, general crisisofworldcapitalism, capitalism
setting ona decline
Cambodiawouldrepresent a "daggerpointedat theheartof from whichitwillneverrecover andspurring theconfidence of
SouthVietnam"), rather thanthebehavior ofPol Pot himself, national liberation movements throughout theworld.
thatledVietnamese leaderstooverthrow thePhnom Penhregime To the Vietnamese, then,the victoryof the Vietnamese
and replace it with one more amenableto Vietnamese Revolution overtheforces ofworldreaction andimperialism was
influence. aneventofmomentous significance forthehistory oftheworld.
In a similarsense,muchofHanoi'sreaction totheASEAN Whywas Vietnamdestinedto play such a significant role?
states,and the treatyrelationship withthe USSR, can be According toHoangTung,onereasonwasbecauseVietnam was
explainedintermsoftheperceived imperatives ofVietnamese theplacewherethethreemajorrevolutionary currents in the
nationalsecurity. ThailandhasbeenVietnam's natural rivalin world-thenational, democratic andsocialist revolutions- were
Southeast Asiasincewellbefore thecolonialera,andthecurrent united intoa singlecurrent under theleadership ofthecommunist
rivalry overCambodiacan be viewedas a revivalofhistoric party.In thismanner, Vietnam hadineffect becomethefocal
faultlinesofnational conflict thathadbeenartificially obscured pointofthefundamental conflicts andrevolutionary currents of
duringthecolonialperiodandtheearlyyearsoftheColdWar.As thepostwarera. As a resultof this"historic encounter," he
fortherelationship withMoscow,itis probably significant that concluded,the power of global imperialism was rapidly

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Revolutionary States

disintegrating andwouldultimately succumb totherisingforce of mainlandof SoutheastAsia. In effect, then,ideologyand


worldrevolution. nationalism werenotmutually contradictory objectives, butwere
Itis notnecessary toassumethatPartyleadersacceptedinits intertwined in a symbiotic relationship, through whichthe
entirety theMarxist-Leninist interpretationof worldhistory. historic goalsoftheVietnamese Revolution couldbesatisfactorily
Hanoi'sexperience inwaging itsownrevolutionary had fulfilled.
struggle
undoubtedly broughthometherealization thatindividualaction
andhuman willmeantmorethantheory andhistoricinevitability The Role ofIdeology
inhumanaffairs. Noris itlikely thatHanoiwouldsacrifice what
it perceivedto be its own nationalinterest on the altarof Inplacingideology attheserviceofpurely national interests,
proletarian internationalism as interpretedbyMoscow.After all, theVietnamese arefollowing ampleprecedent. Bothofitschief
theVietnamese hadampleevidence thatcommunist states,like mentors inforeign policy,theUSSR andChina,haveroutinely
theircapitalist counterparts, placednational needsatthetopof usedideology tofurther national objectives. BothMoscowand
theirlistofforeign policyobjectives. Pekingmadeliberaluseofrevolutionary symbols oroperations
Butideologynotonlyprovided thePartywitha senseofthe in theireffort to restore theirnaturalfrontiers and guarantee
importance andcentrality oftheVietnamese nationintheregion national security. Theattempt toblendnational andrevolutionary
elements to achievenationalwealthandpowerdoes notmean
thatSovietand Chinesepolicymakersdid notbelievein the
accuracyoftheMarxistvision.LiketheVietnamese, theyboth
appliedideologyin sucha wayas to achievepurelynational
goals.
Ideologyis notalwaysusefulas an instrument of foreign
policy,as bothMoscowandPeking havehadreasontodiscover.
Once theessentialneedsof nationalsecurity havebeenmet,
otherinterests, suchas economic and
development technological
modernization, beginto take precedence.Undersuch con-
ditions,boththeSovietUnionandChinahavetendedto adopt
moremoderate policiesin foreign affairs in orderto attract
Western tradeandtechnology. Suchwasthecase intheSoviet
Unioninthelate1960'sand1970's,andinChinainthe1980's.
Whileideological objectives arenotformally abandoned, they
are expressly de-emphasized in orderto avoidunnecessarily
antagonizing potential benefactors intheWest.Sometimes, of
course,theyarelaterrevived as circumstances demand.
Whether theforeign policyoftheHanoiregime willundergo a
similartransformation hasbeenwidely debatedinrecent years.
So far,theveteran leadership stillappearstoviewtheworldin
terms ofa bitter "struggle between twolines,"thesocialistand
the capitalist.Threatened by the forcesof imperialism and
international reaction without andthoseofnascentcapitalism
within,Hanoistillclingsto itsLeninist viewoftheworld.
YettherearesignsthattheVietnamese, liketheir counterparts
inPeking, maybebeginning todiscover thelimits oftheLeninist
universeand its lack of relevanceto theirfuture needsand
aspirations.A Leninistview of the incipientcollapse of
capitalism anda "leapforward" fortheforces ofworld revolution
virtuallyguarantees a posture ofhostility between theSRV and
itsnon-communist neighbors. Preoccupation withtheissueof
nationalsecurity compelstheregime tomaintain a garrisonstate
at the expenseof developmental needs.The occupationof
Cambodiahasdeprived theSRV ofbadlyneededfinancial and
technological assistancefromtheWest.The resulthas been
economicstagnation and a risinglevelofpoliticaland social
malaisewithin theVietnamese society.
DisplacedSoutheastAsianreceives emergency foodsupplies So farthereare no concreteindications thattheregimeis
prepared to shift itsforeign anddomestic priorities.Underthe
of SoutheastAsia. Throughthe prismof Marxist-Leninistleadership ofSecretary GeneralLe Duan,thePartyhasadopted
historicalinterpretation,Hanoicouldjustify thecreationofthe limited reforms intheeconomic sectorwhilemaintaining a hard
militant allianceofIndochinese countries
againstthepowerof lineintheCambodiandispute.A younger of
generation Party
worldimperialism and international reactionrepresented by andgovernment officials,lessburdened withbittermemories ofthe
China.Itcouldvindicate itsdecisiontooverthrow therenegade warand sensitive to thesuccessesachievedbytheeconomic
Pol Pot regimeand installitselfas a dominant forceon the modernization program inChina,havebeguntocomplain openly

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William J. Duiker

abouttheneedforthe"old men"at thetopto stepasideand Yettheobstaclesareformidable, forVietnamese leadersview


permita newcropofleaderstoadopta moreinnovative approach theirnon-communist neighbors through theprismof Marxist
tostimulatetheeconomy. Duringthespring of1986,therewere historicism and class struggle and are convincedthatsuch
widespread rumors thatLe Duan wouldstepdownat a Party regimes willbe sweptawayin thenextwaveofrevolution in
Congress scheduled fortheendoftheyear.ButLe Duan,who Southeast Asia.Moreimportant, perhaps, Hanoiremains deeply
hadreportedly beenillwithkidney disease,diedinJuly,anda suspiciousof Chinaand willnoteasilyruntheriskof com-
plenarysession ofthe Central Committee namedTruong Chinh, promising its own nationalsecurityin the interests of a
generallyconsidered a leaderofthehardline factionintheParty, settlement.
toreplacehim.TruongChinh,however, is inhislate70's,and HowwillHanoichoose?Willfuture Vietnamese behavior be
manyobservers of thecontemporary scenein Vietnamhave motivated bythelegitimate concerns ofnational orbya
interest,
surmised thathe,too,mustsoonstepasidefora newgeneration desiretopromote theoverthrow ofestablished governments and
ofleaders. thesuccessofthe"three revolutions"?Itisdifficult
toattempt an
The adoptionof a neweconomicstrategy, shouldit occur, answer,becauseVietnamese foreignpolicywillbe contingent
would almostinevitably necessitatea reassessment of the upona number ofunpredictablefactors:thecharacterofthenext
regime'sforeign policy Pressure
priorities. for a of
negotiated generation in
leaders Hanoi, Vietnamese relations
withChina,
settlement of the Cambodiandispute,a necessarystep to theevolving character
oftheColdWarstruggle, as wellas the
stimulate Westerninvolvement in developing theVietnamese politicaland economicconditions in theregionas a whole.
economy, wouldincrease. TherelationshipwithMoscowwould Shouldglobalrecession ora politicalcrisisdestabilize
thenon-
requireexamination. AndHanoimustreachanaccommodationcommunist governments in the Vietnam
area, be
may tempted to
withChina,whosehostility has forcedthe Vietnameseto playa moreactiveroleinpromoting insurgency movements in
maintain an uncomfortably heavyburdenofdefenseexpendi- neighboring countriesas a meansofstrengthening Vietnamese
tures. nationalsecurity.Current conditionsin theregion,however,
Notall ofthesestepswouldbe difficult fortheVietnamese to suggesta strengthening
oftheprevailing trendstowards economic
take.The SRV has alreadyindicated an interestin improvingdevelopment and greaterpoliticalstability.If such trends
relationswiththeWest,andhasoffered tonegotiate a treaty
of continue,Vietnameseleaders may be sorelytemptedto
peacefulcoexistence with thenations of theASEAN alliance. participate intheprocess. □

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