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Tale of two communist nations in COVID-19 battle: China faces scrutiny, Vietnam wins accolades

ANI | Updated: Apr 18, 2020 21:49 IST

Hanoi [Vietnam], April 18 (ANI): Even as the communist China has faced accusations of downplaying the discovery and severity of coronavirus which originated in its city of Wuhan, its neighbour Vietnam, also a communist-run country- is winning accolades for its handling of the crisis and is likely to get economic spin-offs too.
Vietnam has had differences with China and the two countries have conflicting territorial claims over parts of South China Sea. China is seen to be expansionist while Vietnam has shown its feistiness in warding off invaders.
It is in this backdrop that the comparison between the approaches of more powerful and resourceful China and that of Vietnam in dealing with coronavirus stand out and has been aptly brought out by Cat Hoang Anh, a Vietnamese journalist.
"We Vietnamese have thrown out all invaders after defeating them in bloody battles -- France, the mighty US and then an expansionist China. Now we are all set to win the battle against the Chinese virus -- sorry, the Wuhan virus , and if our northern neighbour objects, the coronavirus or Covid-19," Anh says in a write-up for The Eastern Link posted on Saturday.
Vietnam fought against colonial power France and later wars against the US and China.
"My country has real good news, the author exclaims. There is not a single Covid case in the last two days. And the total number of corona positive stands at a mere 67 people now," Anh says.
Like all the "big wars won by our small nation" in the past, Anh says, "This fight against the virus is also going to be won by two factors typical of our brave people and our wise leaders --timely and appropriate response at the right place and meticulous planning."
Anh cited a columnist as saying that for a nation that has long-sought to secure its place as a reliable and responsible global actor, the coronavirus outbreak and its minimal impact on Vietnam "has presented the nation an opportunity in crisis analysts say it is firmly grasping".
"In recent weeks , Vietnam has boosted production of medical equipment and donated not insignificant consignments to many countries in need, including to the United States, Russia, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The latter five European nations, all grappling to cope with the pandemic, have indeed negotiated strategic partner agreements with Vietnam in recent years," says the author.
There has been concern in some countries over Chinese medical products in the fight against COVID-19.
Anh mentions US President Donald Trump earlier this month thanked "our friends in Vietnam" in a Twitter post after "America received 450,000 protective hazmat suits manufactured in Vietnamese factories owned and operated by US chemical company DuPont."
"What an irony of history this is that we Vietnanese donate life saving equipment to US which bombed and ravaged our country with explosives and even chemical weapons ( don't forget Agent Orange) for over a decade," she says.
"So thank you, Mr Trump for your 'thank you'. Vietnam has also donated face masks, hand sanitizers and other Covid-19 fighting material and medical services to neighboring Cambodian and Laos, countries with which Vietnam shares special relations but where China has garnered significant influence," Anh adds.

She notes that global praise for Vietnam is peaking just when China runs into huge criticism for "not only for covering up the initial viral outbreak in its Hubei province, but also for spreading disinformation and malicious and ridiculously naive propaganda, including a bogus official allegation that the US planted the virus in China during the World Military Games at Wuhan."
The author underlines that politicians in Washington, Tokyo and certain European capitals now speak "openly and provocatively about the need for "decoupling" from China's economy, to break dependence on a single foreign source for essential imports such as medical supplies."
"Vietnam is a major beneficiary of this diversification as it has proved to be friendly while still cost-effective to firms from the West," the write-up quotes an analyst Alexander Vuving as saying.
The analyst also notes that the pandemic is an opportunity for Vietnam to enhance its soft power as it helped broadcast Vietnam's generous behavior towards the international community.
The COVID-19 crisis also comes at an important diplomatic time for Vietnam, Anh notes, stating that this year the nation holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and a non-permanent rotating position on the United Nations' Security Council.
"Speculation is now swirling in diplomatic circles that Vietnam's tenure as ASEAN chair could be unprecedentedly extended until 2021 due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis."
Anh notes that that the ASEAN chair would allow Hanoi more time to build regional consensus on two big China-related issues -- notching a long-sought code of conduct for the contested South China Sea and an agreement on water resource management on the Mekong River.
"Both prickly and escalating issues have put various ASEAN member states at loggerheads with China. Vietnam-China tensions escalated this month after a Chinese surveillance ship sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in contested sea waters; the Philippines came to Vietnam's diplomatic defense over the incident," she says.
If Vietnam is to have any success in making its case against China and to emerge as a regional spokesperson for resolving the issues, the author notes, Hanoi will need to win the "support of the wider international community, including in the West and all our friends like India, who matter in the global forums."
"Vietnam's diplomacy in the recent years has been orchestrated to winning friends and allies to balance power in case of a conflict with China but without upsetting China needlessly. Post-Covid, it seems we are all set to achieve our goals," the author empasises.
Again referring to the wars, the country has fought, Anh says: "We Vietnamese have many wars in our history but only when forced to. And despite the assymetry in power, we have won each time. Our heroic fight has won us admirers and supporters all over the world."
She recalled a visit to Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal, India. "There I learnt that at the peak of Vietnam's anti-imperialist struggle, local Bengalis would frequently demonstrate in front of the city's US Consulate and American Centre shouting a slogan "Bhule Jabo Babar Nam, Bhulbo na Vietnam" (will forget my father's name but not the name of Vietnam)."
"The local Communist government in Bengal had also named the road housing the US consulate after our great leader Uncle Ho Chiinh. A smart way to tease the Americans, one would say," the author says.
The virus respects no military or economy power, asserted Anh, and history will not as well. "Only countries who rose above petty perceived national interests with noble and humanitarian intent will be remembered by posterity." (ANI)