Communist Review - The world is at a historic turning point as the global order is being reshaped under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; geopolitical, geostrategic and geoeconomic shifts prompted by the Russia-Ukraine conflict; and the rapid advancement of science and technology. These changes present Vietnam with major, intertwined and complex opportunities as well as challenges. Vietnam needs to fundamentally adjust its mindset and actions in order to adapt to these circumstances.

Competition between the US and China - the world’s two largest economies - continues to persist, primarily in technology _Photo: Reuters

Major global development trends

Peace, cooperation, and development continue as major global trends and represent the paramount aspirations of mankind. But numerous obstacles and challenges remain. The globalization process  faces many difficulties. Global production and consumption (driven by multinational companies) may slow down due to supply chain disruptions and adjustments, countries’ increasing strategic autonomy, and the growing division between the US and China, and between the US/the West and Russia.

The institutionalization of global relations as a result of countries’ efforts to negotiate, remove barriers, and facilitate the individual interests of each interest group will also slow down, and in many areas, even come to a halt due to conflicting interests among world powers. Regionalization will continue to develop with abbreviated alignment models and forms  flourishing.

The trend of democratizing international relations continues, with the growing role of medium and small countries, multilateral organizations, mass media, and public opinion. An emphasis is also placed on the rule of law, international law, and the role of parliaments in global politics and diplomacy. However, there is a tendency towards increased defense spending and a potential arms race. Extreme nationalism, power politics, and unilateral actions will persist.

Non-state actors play an increasingly significant role in international relations and in the globalization process. Notably, multinational technology corporations, with their superior capabilities in capital, technology, and social infrastructure, act as drivers for digital transformation and at the same time pose challenges to data sovereignty and information security for many countries.

The global economy is entering a new phase of development, characterized by significant changes in the nature and level of production forces influenced by the profound impact of technological advances from the Fourth Industrial Revolution and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes in production forces will strongly affect manufacturing relations, altering global economic connections. Digital technology will fundamentally change economic structures and production methods, creating new means and methods for protecting and promoting national interests, including national defense and security, positioning, and international influence.

First is the profound transformation of material production. The economic structure, traditionally comprised of three main sectors - industry, agriculture, and services - now includes new economic production conditions, which are projected to persist and evolve in the future. The digital economy has emerged as a prominent example. This new factor is not only present in all the three traditional sectors but is also having a growing impact on  the gross domestic product (GDP) of each country and the world.

Second is the transformation of production tools. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the first Industrial Revolution replaced manual labor with machines. In the 20th century, machines supported and, to some extent, replaced human cognitive functions. Moving into the 21st century, robots and artificial intelligence (AI) have in some ways replaced human intelligence and are forecast to lead to profound changes in class relationships and occupational structures in individual countries, as well as the transformation of the  entire  production, management, and governance system all over the world.

Third is the strong transformation of methods of transaction. Cryptocurrencies are projected to potentially replace traditional currency in the future. Global economic risks emerge as new factors arise while old  characteristics exist.

Fourth is the growing strategic economic autonomy of individual countries, which are increasing their strategic economic self-reliance by promoting the shifting and diversification of supply chains to reduce dependence on certain markets. This leads to an increasing trend of separation and fragmentation in the global economic structure. Digital transformation, green transition, and new economic connectivities are predicted to be the dominant trends, determining the competitiveness and sustainable development of countries over the next 15 years.

Strategic competition among world powers is more intensive and  comprehensive, accompanied by significant changes in power dynamics, leading to an increasing risk of conflicts. Over the next 15 years, the United States may maintain an advantage in overall national strength, but the gap between the US and China is rapidly narrowing. This disparity  between these two leading countries and the other world  powers including Russia, Japan, the European Union will continue to grow. Strategic competition among major countries, especially between the US and China and between the US/the West and Russia, will intensify, particularly following the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

While past competition primarily focused on ideological, security and military aspects, current strategic competition among major countries is becoming more complex, sophisticated, and diverse to include sectors such as economics, technology, and transportation, as well as geographical locations such as the Arctic, Antarctic, oceans, and space. This trend will dominate international relations for at least several decades. Smaller and medium-sized countries will feel the pressure to take sides. Some international organizations are expected to see their roles diminish while some will likely be restructured or even dissolved. Those that align with the dynamics of change are expected to thrive.

Traditional and non-traditional security issues continue to evolve, affecting the security and development of countries in multiple arenas. Resolving traditional security "hotspots" may see little progress, while non-traditional security challenges are rising strongly. Over the next 15 years, risks of armed conflict, nuclear insecurity and manifestations of power politics may continue to unfold, challenging the role of the United Nations and the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of small and medium states. Global issues such as peacekeeping, human security, natural disasters, diseases, social security, especially cybersecurity, climate change, rising sea levels, and environmental pollution may become even more contentious in terms of nature, scale, and impact, with the possibility of crises similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coping with these non-traditional security challenges will become a central and constant burden for many nations. Developing countries and vulnerable groups who lack the capacity, resources, and resilience will bear the brunt of these challenges. However, as non-traditional security challenges are less sensitive than traditional security issues, it is easier for countries, even those with conflicts and disputes in traditional security issues, to pursue joint efforts and cooperate in seeking common solutions.

The Indo-Pacific region continues to be the focal point of strategic interests, the center of new economic linkages, and the centerpiece of competition between world powers. The architecture of this region will be more clearly defined, reflecting a new geostrategic and geoeconomic landscape. The situation of "two superpowers, multiple powers" in the region, with China and the US as the dominant players, will become more prominent. The US and China will promote their major strategies and initiatives, such as the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the US, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) of the Group of 7, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI). They will also intensify the gathering of forces through mechanisms like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), AUKUS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Global Development Initiative (GDI), and will continue to entice countries, especially the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to compete for influence in the region.

ASEAN will continue to gear up the building of the ASEAN Community and efforts to become the world's fourth-largest economy from its current sixth position. However, it will face many challenges arising from the strategic competition between major countries, the development of new influences, and its own internal issues. In this context, ASEAN may need to be flexible in applying existing principles in order to maintain its strategic value and central role. The Mekong Subregion is inviting increased interest from countries and may become a new focal point for competition between world powers.

Opportunities and challenges for Vietnam

The above-mentioned trends are forecast to have a multidimensional impact on Vietnam’s strategic environment over the next 15 years. Global uncertainties pose significant risks to Vietnam's international integration process, but new challenges and opportunities are emerging at the same time.


First, peace, cooperation, and development continue to be a major trends, providing favorable conditions for Vietnam to integrate equally and extensively into the international community and promote its geostrategic value. On this foundation, multilateralism and international law basically continue to receive respect. The United Nations remains the only global governance mechanism capable of mobilizing the support and resources of all nations. Despite its limitations, ASEAN still plays a crucial role and is respected and engaged with by major nations. Multilateralism and international law continue to be the foundation for small and medium countries, including Vietnam, to enhance and elevate their multilateral foreign relations. In addition, as Vietnam is at the intersection of strategic interests,  Vietnam’s increasing geostrategic value makes it an important and sought-after partner for many countries. This opens up opportunities for Vietnam to leverage its position regionally and globally, especially as the global landscape continues to evolve in a multipolar, multicentral direction, with the geopolitical and geoeconomic center of the world shifting towards the Indo-Pacific region. The rise in strategic competition, coupled with the interest and presence of many major countries in the region, creates a strategic balance that is favorable for Vietnam in enhancing relations with these powers. This presents an opportunity for Vietnam to promote its strategic value, seek multilateralism, diversify foreign relations, and capitalize on resources from the strategies and initiatives of major countries to serve its development, address security challenges, and elevate its global status.

Second, Vietnam boasts growing potential to engage relatively equally in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in terms of capital, technology, human resources, and international cooperation (among others), and seize opportunities from it. Vietnam is presented with the opportunity to achieve breakthrough development by boosting innovation, transforming its growth model, and improving competitiveness and labor productivity. To make full use of these opportunities, Vietnam requires the capacity to restructure and adjust the growth model, increase internal strength, bring international cooperation into full play, and intensify the application of science and technology to development.

Third, having one of the most extensive networks of free trade agreements (FTAs) among Southeast Asia countries and connections with major political and economic centers worldwide, Vietnam is well-positioned to expand markets, attract foreign direct investment (FDI), and develop high-quality resources. These advantages, together with domestic institutional reform, will enable Vietnam to renew its growth model, improve growth quality, and enhance its status within regional and global value and supply chains. Vietnam can cooperate with partners including the United States, China, Russia, Japan, and European countries to address global issues, expand export markets, attract capital and technology, and improve its role in supply chains. It can also take advantage of partnerships with countries  which exhibit leadership in digital economy development, green development, and climate change response.


First, the changing power dynamics among major countries, the lack of a mechanism of checks and balances, increasing competition between world powers (especially strategic competition between the US and China, and between the US and Russia) make the global situation more unpredictable and pose more challenges to Vietnam's strategic environment. Major countries, at certain times and considering certain issues, may act against the fundamental principles of current international law, including respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, mutual benefit, and the right to self-determination of nations. Intensified competition between world powers  may escalate tensions and the risk of conflicts in global hotspots. Additionally, there is a risk that major countries may engage in compromises, thus harming the national interests of related small and medium-sized countries, including Vietnam. Some countries tend to selectively adhere to international law, interpreting it according to their national interests. These developments have adversely affected Vietnam's peace, security, and development. Never before has Vietnam's security been challenged by such a large number of complex and multidimensional issues as it is today. This context requires Vietnam to thoroughly examine and engineer its relationships with China, the US, Russia, India, Japan, and ASEAN members, among others.

Second, the increasing competition between world powers presents new challenges as Vietnam must consider the extent and level of its participation and must navigate through this predicament in bilateral relations with each major country. Other countries’ efforts to intensify competition in gathering forces and establishing new mechanisms and alliances in the region may challenge ASEAN's central role and increase internal divisions. After 30 years of development since the end of the Cold War, ASEAN is entering a new phase with more internal and external challenges, and maintaining unity and consensus is increasingly difficult. Alongside pressure from strategic competition between world powers, the emergence of new mechanisms of regional and international multilateral cooperation such as Quad and AUKUS is expected to compete with and challenge ASEAN's centrality. Multilateralism and international law are also challenged by unilateralism and the dominance of major countries.

Third, Vietnam faces the risk of lagging behind if it fails to promptly grasp new trends and achievements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This risk increases as the Vietnamese economy copes with difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic crisis, alongside some unsolved domestic drawbacks. Vietnam also needs to harmonize the relationship between independence and self-reliance, and comprehensive and extensive international integration, while an increasingly open economy makes Vietnam more vulnerable to unfavorable external factors.

Fourth, non-traditional security challenges, such as emerging infectious diseases, climate change, cyber security, water source security, and rising sea levels will have an increasingly significant impact on Vietnam's strategic environment. Vietnam will find it difficult to address these challenges given its limited available information, institutional capacity, policies and resources.

Some emerging issues concerning Vietnam’s national interests and  security

The analysis of projected major global trends that may impact Vietnam's strategic environment indicates that Vietnam needs to improve its awareness, mindset, and action in order to effectively address challenges,  proactively respond to adversity, and seize opportunities.

Awareness and mindset: Analysts suggest that Vietnam fully and accurately identify issues related to national interests. Alongside domestic and international developments, Vietnam's national interests are constantly expanding in both scope and scale. Vietnam needs to adopt a suitable "integration mindset" to adapt to the new situation. The mindset of participating in international integration should transform into a mindset of proactively and flexibly linking with international integration, and expanding foreign affairs to seize opportunities for national security and development.

A harmonious relationship between independence and self-reliance and international integration across the board should be ensured to improve the country's posture and strength in the next 15 years. International integration, combining internal and external resources, provides the foundation to place Vietnam in an optimal position amid global trends and competing forces, effectively mobilizing external resources and bringing internal strength into full play for national development. Independence and self-reliance are two unified, but not identical, aspects of national sovereignty. Independence, self-reliance and international integration share a dialectical relationship. They are complementary and unified in meeting the country’s fundamental goals and interests, with the primary goal being ensuring national security and development, followed by the elevation of the country's international status and influence.

Adhering to the philosophy of combining the strength of the nation with the strength of the era, the main theory on aligning independence, self-reliance and international integration involves relying primarily on internal strength, while taking advantage of external resources. International integration serves independence and self-reliance, while independence and self-reliance lay the foundation for extensive, comprehensive, and effective international integration.

To ensure effective international integration, it is necessary to uphold the principle of independence and self-reliance in determining an overall  strategy, including the scope and scale, roadmaps and steps to be taken for international integration in each specific sector, issue, and subject.


First, maintain balanced and harmonious relations with neighboring countries and major countries in a world full of complex and intertwined interests, responding appropriately to the shift of the world’s geostrategic and geoeconomic center to the Indo-Pacific region.

Second, sustain and harmonize the goals of boosting comprehensive, extensive and effective international integration and ensuring independence and self-reliance.

Third, improve strategic advisory and forecasting work and make foreign affairs and international cooperation a mission of the entire population, encouraging the more active participation of the political system.

Fourth, promote the vanguard role of foreign affairs in creating favorable external conditions for development, while mobilizing external resources for rapid and sustainable national development.

Fifth, prioritize and allocate sufficient resources for the safeguarding of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for the maintenance of a peaceful and stable environment for development, with a focus on sovereignty and security issues at sea, particularly in the East Sea.

Sixth, foster extensive, substantial, and effective foreign relations with increasingly intertwined interests and growing political trust. Priority should be given to neighboring and regional countries, world powers, important partners, and traditional friends. It is important to proactively cooperate with regional and powerful countries to contribute to shaping a balanced, multipolar, and multifaceted posture in the region in terms of national defense, security, politics, diplomacy, and economics.

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 1.010 (March 2023)