Biden Inks Strategic Partnership with Vietnam on Hanoi Visit

Biden Inks Strategic Partnership with Vietnam on Hanoi Visit
Joe Biden meets Nguyen Phu Trong in Hanoi, September 10, 2023. (POTUS)

The Lede: Following his attendance at the G20 summit in New Delhi, U.S. President Joe Biden flew to Hanoi where he and Vietnam’s General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong elevated their countries’ relationship to "comprehensive strategic partnership," – a designation Vietnam also has given to China and Russia – as the Southeast Asian country straddles the intensifying rivalry between Washington and Beijing.

What We Know:

  • The closer ties between Vietnam and the U.S. come as American businesses eye the country’s young, entrepreneurial workforce for future business potential. The two countries squared away deals on semiconductors and minerals as part of the boost in diplomatic ties.
  • On Monday, executives from Google, Intel, Amkor, Marvell, GlobalFoundries, and Boeing met with Vietnamese tech executives, as well as Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Hanoi. Represented Vietnamese companies include the electric car maker VinFast, Vietnam Airlines, the tech company FPT, the e-wallet company MoMo, and the internet firm VNG. Vietnam Airlines plans to buy 50 Boeing 737 MAX jets, while Honeywell will be working with a Vietnamese partner to develop Vietnam’s first battery energy storage system. The White House also announced AI partnerships in Vietnam involving Microsoft and Nvidia.
  • The two leaders also discussed the possibility that the U.S. and its partners could offer Vietnam help to diversify its sourcing of military supplies away from its dependence on Russia. Vietnam has been working on a new arms deal with Moscow even while it hosted the U.S. president.
  • Biden also acknowledged that he had spoken with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of the G20 summit and that the tone was not confrontational. He insisted that his agenda for the G20 and his visit to Vietnam were not about countering China.
  • Biden has been criticized for downplaying Vietnam’s human rights record and infringing on freedoms.

The Background: U.S.-based companies such as Dell, Google, Microsoft, and Apple have all shifted parts of their supply chains to Vietnam in recent years. There is a push to loop Vietnam into the Western semiconductor supply chain and help it develop its electronics sector. Despite disputes over the South China Sea, China remains Vietnam’s top trade partner. Chinese businesses have turned increasingly to Vietnam as trade tensions with the U.S. and the West have increased. Li met with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia. Top Chinese officials, including the possibility of President Xi Jinping, are expected to visit Vietnam in the coming days or weeks.

Likely Outcomes:

  • Vietnam also holds China and Russia, as well as India and South Korea, as comprehensive strategic partners. Elevating the U.S. to the same level signals Hanoi’s desire to balance and hedge its ties to the global superpowers to maximize its odds of benefitting from the shifting geopolitical landscape amid the continuing divergence.
  • Vietnam’s military equipment has traditionally been Russian-sourced, but U.S. F-16 warplanes and military radar batteries are attractive additions. However, exerting influence over Vietnam’s military supplies may be another reason for China to be displeased about the U.S. shoring up ties as it represents another country in its backyard making deals with Washington.
  • The victory from the U.S. perspective would be the pure achievement of important ties with China’s neighbor to the south. Vietnam will likely continue to have significant trade relations with China and Russia in the near term, but possibilities with the U.S. will now factor into Hanoi’s calculations.  


“Today, we can trace a 50-year arc of progress in the relationship between our nations, from conflict to normalization. This is a new elevated status that will be a force for prosperity and security in one of the most consequential regions in the world…Vietnam and the United States are critical partners at what I would argue is a very critical time. I’m not saying that to be polite. I’m saying it because I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” – Joe Biden, president of the United States

“You have nary aged a day and I would say you look even better than before. Every feature of you, Mr. President, is very much complimentary of your image.” – Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of Vietnam

“People have come after the president about his age – they did it in 2019, they did it in 2020 leading into the general election, and they did it in 2022, and guess what? He beats them every time because he has a finger on the pulse of what it is that the American people need, he talks about issues that really matter to the American people, and he is delivering.” – White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre via CNN

Good Reads:

US and Vietnam ink historic partnership in Biden visit, with eyes on China (Reuters)

Biden Forges Deeper Ties With Vietnam as China’s Ambition Mounts (NYT)

US, Vietnam firms talk business during Biden visit; AI and Boeing deals unveiled (Reuters)

US and Vietnam get a friendship upgrade (BBC)

Biden says US outreach to Vietnam is about providing global stability, not containing China (AP)