10 years of implementing the Politburo’s Resolution 22-NQ/TW on international integration: Looking back to move forward

Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
Tuesday, May 28, 2024 09:30

Communist Review - On March 10, 2013, the Politburo issued Resolution 22-NQ/TW on "International integration." After 10 years, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Resolution and draw lessons for the next phase to aid Vietnam’s extensive regional and international integration.

Politburo member and Chairman of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue (R) meets Miguel Díaz-Canel, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee and President of Cuba _Photo: VNA

Many new ideas translated into life

If we consider international integration an advanced stage of international cooperation, then Vietnam has been engaging in international integration activities since before its renewal initiative in 1986. But Vietnam’s international integration was not expanded or accelerated until after the renewal process, especially following the country’s admission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995. Some documents of the Communist Party of Vietnam, particularly the Politburo’s Resolution 07-NQ/TW, dated November 27, 2002, on "International economic integration," defined specific and comprehensive measures to implement international economic integration. However, fundamental issues regarding the international integration mindset, especially concepts, guidelines, and major directions, had not been clarified until the adoption of the Politburo’s Resolution 22-NQ/TW, dated March 10, 2013, on “International integration.” Over the past 10 years, many of the new ideas in Resolution 22-NQ/TW have been effectively realized.

Regarding the concept, Resolution 22-NQ/TW emphasized that international integration means "Strictly adhering to international commitments that Vietnam has participated in while actively and proactively participating in building and making full use of international rules and laws, and engaging in activities of regional and international communities" (1). This concept identifies three types of international integration activities: complying with "rules of the game", assisting in building the "rules of the game", and participating in common activities of the region and the world. This is an easily comprehended, implementable and effective approach to guiding the "behavior" of organizations and individuals during the international integration process. Vietnam’s international integration over the past 10 years, especially in the process of negotiating, signing, legalizing, and implementing commitments for 15 free trade agreements (FTAs), is clear evidence that Vietnam always strictly honors the "rules of the game" and actively contributes to building the "rules of the game".

Regarding guidelines, Resolution 22-NQ/TW emphasized that international integration is "a major strategic orientation of the Party to successfully fulfill the task of building and safeguarding the socialist Fatherland of Vietnam" (2). This viewpoint affirms the crucial role of international integration in national construction and defense, nullifying hesitation over international integration due to concerns about external negative impacts. It contributed to creating a unanimous understanding of the importance of international integration over the past 10 years.

The resolution also stressed that international integration is "the cause of the entire people and the political system under the leadership of the Party and the management of the State" (3). This means that all organizations and individuals have a responsibility to participate in and benefit from the international integration process, which must be put under the leadership of the Party and the management of the State. The past 10 years has witnessed a strong development of entities involved in international integration and the establishment of institutions at all levels to see to the implementation of the Resolution. The National Steering Committee on International Integration was established on April 24, 2014, followed by the formation of inter-sectoral steering committees on international integration in politics, economy, defense-security, and culture-society. On January 7, 2016, the Prime Minister approved the Comprehensive Strategy on International Integration until 2020, with a vision to 2030, with goals, guidelines, and over 50 orientations to promote international integration across the board (4). Most provinces and centrally-run cities have developed and implemented international integration strategies and incorporated international integration into all local development orientations. The development of the "homestay" model is one of the clearest examples of international integration at the grassroots level. By the end of 2018, there were 3,018 homestays with about 21,000 rooms nationwide, according to the Vietnam National Authority of Tourism(5).

Regarding the relationship between various areas in international integration, Resolution 22-NQ/TW underscored that "Economic integration is the focus and integration in other areas must facilitate economic integration"(6). In line with these guidelines, Vietnam's international integration in other areas, especially defense and security, has gradually shifted towards facilitating international economic integration. The resolution asserted that "international integration is a process of both cooperation and struggle; steadfastly safeguarding the interests of the nation and people," while at the same time reaffirming the principle of "... not participating in forces and alliances against others"(7). This is the boundary of international integration in the field of national defense and security. Over the past 10 years, Vietnam's international integration activities have strictly followed this principle. For example, the 2019 National Defense White Paper reiterated the "four nos" principle(8). Vietnam's international integration activities with international partners and organizations are also implemented transparently to avoid misunderstandings as being "aligned against others."

Regarding major orientations, many new ideas in Resolution 22-NQ/TW have been successfully realized, especially the orientation on improving the effectiveness of international economic integration, deepening relations with partners, and promoting international integration in defense-security, culture-society, education-training, science-technology, healthcare and other areas.

Despite adverse external impacts in the past 10 years, such as the 2007-2008 global financial crisis, intense trade competition between the US and China, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam has remained a top  regional contender in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), and has negotiated, signed, and implemented many free trade agreements (FTAs), notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - now the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) - and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA).

Vietnam has elevated relations with seven additional countries to strategic partnerships over the past 10 years. Cooperation in multiple areas with most strategic and comprehensive partners has become more extensive and substantive. If these relationships with 17 strategic partners(9) and 13 comprehensive partners(10) are well managed and fully tapped,  Vietnam will be able to maintain a peaceful environment conducive to national construction and defense regardless of unpredictable regional and global developments.

Regarding international integration in national defense and security, Resolution 22-NQ/TW’s new orientation of "... building and implementing plans to join other multilateral mechanisms, including participating in higher-level cooperation activities, such as United Nations peacekeeping missions"(11) has been effectively realized. In May 2014, the first two Vietnamese military officers joined UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. To date, Vietnam has sent 512 soldiers to three UN peacekeeping missions and the UN headquarters, including to a level 2 field hospital and an engineering unit(12). In October 2022, the first three officers from the People's Public Security force joined the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

International integration in culture-society, education-training, science-technology, healthcare, and other areas, including the participation in and application of international regulations, standards, and criteria, has been integrated into the process of building and implementing development strategies and plans in these fields. Examples include the building of dossiers seeking UNESCO recognition of heritages, modified procedures and methods on heritage preservation and promotion, and changes in the lifestyle of communities connected to heritages. Over the past 10 years, Vietnam has added one tangible cultural heritage and eight intangible cultural heritages (13) to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

However, the implementation of quite a few new ideas and orientations on international integration outlined in Resolution 22-NQ/TW remains insufficient, resulting in undesirable outcomes.

First, Resolution 22-NQ/TW emphasized that international integration is a cause that concerns the entire population, therefore "... all mechanisms and policies should promote the action, proaction and creativity of all organizations and individuals." Accordingly, the State serves as the primary mover of integration, while creating a favorable environment for organizations and individuals to unleash their activeness, proactiveness, and creativity in regional and international integration. Over the past 10 years, the State has performed well, especially in Vietnam’s participation in FTAs, including new-generation FTAs, but its actions in encouraging and creating an environment for individuals and organizations, including businesses, to actively and proactively integrate into the international community has been insufficient. The global outreach of Vietnamese enterprises remains limited. Over the past decade, only the Viettel Military Industry and Telecommunications Group (Viettel), TH True Milk Joint Stock Company, and a few other Vietnamese enterprises have reported profitable business and investments abroad.

Second, despite improvements in the synergy and national competitiveness in recent years, Vietnam has been unable to bridge the gap with other countries in the region. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) and some international organizations, many indicators of Vietnam still lag behind ASEAN-5 countries, especially in terms of growth quality, participation in the global value chain, and the Global Innovation Index (GII). In WEF rankings from 2013 (16) to 2019, Vietnam's position in terms of national competitiveness compared to other ASEAN countries was almost unchanged. Also, the connectivity between regions in the country has not improved significantly.

Third, the connectivity between the foreign investment sector and the domestic economic sector (both state-owned and private) remains loose. This connectivity can be evaluated through three criteria: the number of Vietnamese enterprises participating in global production and supply chains; the localization rate; and the proportion of support enterprises. Only 36% of Vietnamese enterprises participate in the global value chain, while this rate is 60% in both Malaysia and Thailand(17). The localization rate is close to 60% in the garment and textile industry, one of Vietnam's strengths(18), and 8%-10% in the automobile manufacturing industry (19). By 2020, the number of support enterprises accounted for nearly 4.5% of the total number of enterprises in the processing and manufacturing sector(20). These are the key causes of the dispersion of Vietnamese enterprises, with fewer opportunities for them to benefit from the spillover effects of foreign investment, technology transfer, and knowledge transfer.

Fourth, as of 2019, two-thirds of the workforce in Vietnam lacked technical skills. 55% of enterprises found it difficult to find high-quality workers, while the quality of workers in foreign-invested enterprises remained unchanged. According to a report by Manpower Vietnam Limited Company and the Institute of Labor Science and Social Affairs (ILSSA), the proportion of ordinary workers in FDI enterprises is particularly high: 71% in the automobile/motorcycle assembly sector, 59% in the garment and textile sector, and 49% in the electronics sector. Experts and technicians account for less than one-fifth of the labor force. Many guest workers have faced difficulties in finding jobs upon returning to Vietnam after completing their contracts abroad. According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), up to 75% of Vietnamese workers – the highest rate among regional countries – are unable to find jobs upon returning home after completing their labor contracts in Japan(21).

Fifth, while Vietnam has actively participated in international cooperation mechanisms regarding the environment, with commitments to eliminating single-use plastic waste by 2025(22) and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, the process of legalization and implementation of commitments remains slow. Over the past decade, along with growing international integration, environmental pollution has increased, especially in industrial parks, craft villages, and large cities. According to the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham), Vietnam is one of the top five countries in the world for oceanic plastic waste dumping(23).

Challenges to Vietnam's future international integration

The world is entering a new stage of a post-COVID and post-Russia-Ukraine conflict. This transition brings both opportunities and challenges to Vietnam's international integration. Four main challenges are expected.

First, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). The increasingly robust development of Industry 4.0 has posed numerous challenges to Vietnam's international integration process, manifested in three main areas. First, Vietnamese enterprises find it hard to engage in global production and supply chains due to their low capacity and preparedness. According to a survey by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the majority of Vietnamese enterprises remain outsiders in this revolution, resulting in minimal access to the pillars of smart manufacturing and limited  application of advanced technologies. Most have yet to develop or implement Industry 4.0 strategies(24).

Second, the opportunities for Vietnamese enterprises to attract FDI may shrink due the trend of relocating factories closer to consumer markets in the Industry 4.0 era. More importantly, this trend will have an adverse impact on long-term foreign investment flows, which provide the crucial resources for Vietnam to improve production capacity, exports, technology and managerial skills. Third, many employment opportunities for Vietnamese laborers will be replaced by machinery and robots and will be adversely affected by the trend of foreign-invested enterprises shifting toward relocation of investment, production and supply chains closer geographically to consumer markets.

Second, globalization. Globalization can be seen as a dual process. It includes the process of internationalization across all aspects of life (mainly driven by multinational corporations), and the process of institutionalizing global relationships into agreements between countries. There is ample evidence that globalization, while not as vigorous as before, will continue despite the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic sanctions against Russia and China, as well as the slowdown in the institutionalization of global relationships, as negotiations within the World Trade Organization (WTO) continue to stall due to conflicts and strategic competition among major countries. The slowdown of globalization is also a result of nationalism, anti-globalization movements, and the emerging trend of "self-reliance" and "strategic self-reliance" driven by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The impact of slowed globalization on   countries varies. For Vietnam, globalization is both a driving force and an environment for international integration. The country can enjoy effective international integration by making the best use of FTAs and relationships with its existing 30 strategic partners and comprehensive partners.

Third, relations between major countries. In the next 5-10 years, major countries will continue their cooperation, but their competition, and possible confrontation, is forecast to be more intense than in the past 5-10 years, especially in relation to geopolitics, security, defense, and science and technology in Europe and the Asia-Pacific. After Russia launched its "special military operation" in Ukraine, the United States and other Western countries imposed an additional 10,608 sanctions on Russian organizations and individuals. The Biden administration’s approach to China is “competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.” Russian President Vladimir Putin imposed sanctions on US President Joe Biden and most key leaders of the US government and Congress. At the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared opposition to hegemony, stating that China is "ready to withstand high winds, choppy waters, and even dangerous storms." Strategic competition among major countries, especially between the US and China, not only makes it difficult for Vietnam to promote relations with each country but also undermines Vietnam's multilateral approach to international organizations and multinational forums.

The global economy will struggle more. In 2023, the world’s economy is forecast to grow 2.7%, the lowest since 2001 (excluding the periods of the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 and the COVID-19 pandemic), while inflation may continue to surge until at least the end of 2024, with many economies at risk of recession. International trade and investment, which were hurt by COVID-19, are again being hit by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, making it harder for global production and distribution chains to recover as disruptions are exacerbated. Major countries (especially the US and China) are likely to adjust their relations, but the negative impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the world’s economy will linger for many years to come. As a result, Vietnam's international integration goals, including increasing trade, attracting foreign investment, and transforming the growth model, will also be affected.

Implementation of Resolution 22-NQ/TW in the new context

As a guide for Vietnam’s international integration, Resolution 22-NQ/TW remains relevant today. But to meet the goals of becoming a developing country with modern industry by 2030, and a high-income, developed country and one of the top industrialized countries in the Asia-Pacific region by 2045, Vietnam's international integration needs to be further promoted and implemented more effectively. This should be based on an objective and comprehensive evaluation of the achievements, limitations, and causes during the implementation of the Resolution over the past 10 years. Things to be done in the future should include:

First, reaffirming that Vietnam's international integration strictly adheres to the "rules of the game" and engages in shaping these rules. But in the future, Vietnam will be more deeply involved in building rules that align with its national interests. This entails greater proactiveness and action in regional and global arenas, initiatives, and the readiness to contribute resources (including financial resources) to address common challenges of the international community.

Second, promoting the central role of the people and businesses. International integration can only succeed when the enforcement of common rules and regulations becomes self-disciplinary among all organizations and individuals, especially among the people and businesses. In the context that supply chain disruptions and external shocks have become more frequent, the active, proactive, and creative participation of the people and businesses, including private enterprises, is crucial for effective and sustainable international integration.

Third, strengthening the link between international integration and domestic integration, especially the linkage between regions, provinces, and localities, as well as between the FDI sector and domestic businesses. It is important to connect markets and the workforce in different economic sectors, both domestically and internationally; to connect sectors and fields; and to connect research and application. Given the interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral nature of globalization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, international integration will be ineffective without connectivity.

Fourth, developing high-quality human resources, particularly technology specialists. Vietnam's most important resource for achieving the goals set in Resolution 22-NQ/TW is its people. Without human resources that meet the requirements of international integration, Vietnam will lose its competitive advantage in foreign investment attraction, manufacturing, and export, and importantly, it will be unable to strengthen the aforementioned connectivity. Under the impact of globalization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, without policies on high-quality human resources development, Vietnam will not only lose this precious resource but also face many social problems due to unemployment and growing wealth disparity.

Fifth, associating international integration with environmental protection. In the future, environmental protection will present both a pressing need in daily life and a condition that Vietnam must effectively deal with if it wants to integrate more extensively and comprehensively into the region and the world. Therefore, environmental standards need to be subscribed to during the international integration process, from attracting foreign investment, manufacturing for export, and promoting tourism to transitioning to a green, circular growth model.

Sixth, renewing the motto of "active, proactive" international integration. Vietnam's international integration will face more intense competition, and thus Vietnam needs a new approach to integration in order to elevate its position and prestige regionally and globally. The motto of "active, proactive" international integration should include the readiness to contribute to the common work of the region and the world, including in areas and issues where Vietnam does not have the strengths or immediate interests but are necessary for the regional and international community.

Ten years ago, Resolution 22-NQ/TW marked an important milestone in the Party’s mindset and orientation on international integration. Many new ideas have been realized, making international integration a major strategy for national construction and defense. However, the insufficient implementation of some initiatives has negatively impacted socio-economic development and the environment. Vietnam's international integration process needs to be enhanced with new ideas in the future, given the country’s enthusiasm for development within the new global landscape. The key to the success of international integration lies within the leadership of the Party and the management of the State, which play the decisive role in conjunction with the central role and active, proactive, and creative participation of the people and businesses.


(1), (2), (3), (6), (7), (11), the Politburo’s Resolution 22-NQ/TW, dated April 10, 2013, on “International integration”, https://tulieuvankien.dangcongsan.vn/he-thong-van-ban/van-ban-cua-dang/nghi-quyet-so-22-nqtw-ngay-1042013-cua-bo-chinh-tri-ve-hoi-nhap-quoc-te-264
(4) The Prime Minister’s Decision 40/QD-TTg, dated January 7, 2016, on “Approval of the comprehensive strategy on international integration until 2020, with a vision to 2030”, https://thuvienphapluat.vn/van-ban/Thuong-mai/Quyet-dinh-40-QD-TTg-phe-duyet-chien-luoc-tong-the-hoi-nhap-quoc-te-2020-2030-2016-299890.aspx
(5) Hong Phuc: “A look at homestay”, Ethnic Minorities and Development Online, September 17, 2019,  https://baodantoc.vn/mot-goc-nhin-ve-homestay-45128.htm
(8) No military alliances, no siding with one country against another, no hosting foreign military bases or using Vietnamese territory to oppose other countries, and no using force or threatening to use force in international relations.
(9) 17 strategic partners (including 4 comprehensive strategic partners): Russia (2001); India (2007); China  (2008); Japan, the Republic of Korea  Quốc and Spain (2009); Britain (2010); Germany (2011); Italy, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, France (2013); Malaysia, the Philippines (2015); Australia (2018); New Zealand (2020)
(10) 13 comprehensive partners: South Africa (2004); Chile, Brazil, Venezuela (2007); Argentina (2010); Ukraine (2011); the US, Denmark (2013); Myanmar, Canada (2017); Hungary (2018); Brunei, the Netherlands (2019)
(12) Kieu Giang: “Messengers of a peace loving Vietnam”, Communist Review Online, June 30, 2022, https://dangcongsan.vn/multimedia/mega-story/bai-4-dau-an-viet-nam-trong-su-menh-gin-giu-hoa-binh-615197.html
(13) Vietnam News Agency: “14 cultural heritages of humanity in Vietnam”, Vietnamplus, February 7,  2022, https://www.vietnamplus.vn/14-di-san-van-hoa-phi-vat-the-dai-dien-nhan-loai-cua-viet-nam/771732.vnp
(14) By April, 2022, Viettel had invested in nine countries and hold the largest market share in five of these nine countries: Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Timor Leste, and Burundi. Tu An: “Viettel has largest number of subscribers in five foreign markets”, Vietnam Investment Review Online, April 21, 2022, https://baodautu.vn/viettel-dung-so-1-ve-thue-bao-tai-5-thi-truong-nuoc-ngoai-d164383.html
(15) TL: “2019 - The mark of TH true MILK on the world’s dairy map”, Communist Review Online, February 5, 2020, https://dangcongsan.vn/thong-tin-kinh-te/2019-dau-an-th-true-milk-tren-ban-do-sua-the-gioi-563461.html
(16) Klaus Schwab: “The Global Competitiveness Report 2013 - 2014”, World Economic Forum, 2013, https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalCompetitivenessReport_2013-14.pdf; Wikipedia: Global Competitiveness Report”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Competitiveness_Report#2019_rankings
(17) Duong Ha: “Vietnamese businesses join global supply chain”, National Institute for Finance portal, October 1, 2021, https://mof.gov.vn/webcenter/portal/vclvcstc/pages_r/l/chi-tiet-tin?dDocName=MOFUCM215702
(18) Xuan Quang: “Localization rate in Vietnam’s garment and textile sector hits recorded high, close to 60% target”, Vietnamplus, February 27, 2023, https://www.vietnamplus.vn/ty-le-noi-dia-hoa-det-may-viet-nam-len-cao-nhat-gan-muc-tieu-60/817198.vnp
(19) Dinh Tuyen: “Experts’ perspective: Why is the localization rate in Vietnam’s automobile assembly industry low?”, Thanhnien Online, July 21, 2021, https://thanhnien.vn/goc-nhin-chuyen-gia-ti-le-noi-dia-hoa-o-to-lap-rap-tai-viet-nam-thap-vi-dau-post1271143.html
(20) Nguyen Vu Nhat Anh: “Current development of support industry”, Economy and Forecast Review Online, March 25, 2022, https://kinhtevadubao.vn/phat-trien-nganh-cong-nghiep-ho-tro-o-viet-nam-hien-nay-21974.html
(21) Phan  Hoat: “Why do guest workers returning from Japan become unemployed?”, Electronic Public Security Magazine, September 28, 2022, https://cand.com.vn/Xa-hoi/lao-dong-tu-nhat-ban-tro-ve-that-nghiep--vi-sao--i669015/
(22) Duc Tuan: “No single-use plastic bags in Vietnam by 2025”, VGP News, June 9, 2019, https://baochinhphu.vn/phan-dau-den-nam-2025-ca-nuoc-khong-su-dung-tui-nilon-dung-mot-lan-102257070.htm
(23) “Reduction of Plastic Waste”, Ajinomoto, 2020, https://www.ajinomoto.com.vn/en/ajinomoto-vietnam-environment-activities/reduction-plastic-waste
(24) Tran Tuan Anh: “‘Catching up with, paralleling, and surpassing in some areas’ in approaching in Industry 4.0 to develop an advanced industry”, Communist Review Online, April 20, 2021, https://www.tapchicongsan.org.vn/web/guest/media-story/-/asset_publisher/V8hhp4dK31Gf/content/-bat-kip-tien-cung-va-vuot-len-o-mot-so-linh-vuc-trong-qua-trinh-tiep-can-cach-mang-cong-nghiep-lan-thu-tu-de-phat-trien-nen-cong-nghiep-hien-dai-cua-
(25) “Total number of list-based sanctions imposed on Russia by territories and organizations worldwide from February 22, 2022 to February 10, 2023, by target”, Statista Research Department, February 21, 2023, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1293531/western-sanctions-imposed-on-russia-by-target/
(26) Cheng Li: “Biden’s China strategy: Coalition-driven competition or Cold War-style confrontation?”, Brookings, May, 2021, https://www.brookings.edu/research/bidens-china-strategy-coalition-driven-competition-or-cold-war-style-confrontation/
(27) Maegan Vazquez: “Russia issues sanctions against Biden and a long list of US officials and political figures”, CNN, March 15, 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/15/politics/biden-us-officials-russia-sanctions/index.html
(28) Huaxia: “Full text of the report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China”, Xinhua, October 25, 2022, https://english.news.cn/20221025/8eb6f5239f984f01a2bc45b5b5db0c51/c.html
(29) “World Economic Outlook: Countering the cost - of - living crisis”, International Monetary Fund, October, 2022, https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2022/10/11/world-economic-outlook-october-2022

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 1014 (May 2023)