Vietnam and China signed 36 agreements to build a “shared future”

Vietnam and China signed a 16-page joint declaration and 36 cooperation documents that covers infrastructure, trade, and security, during Chinese President Xi Jinping ‘s visit to Hanoi on December 13, 2023.

Vietnam and China agreed to establish a strategic China-Vietnam community of ‘shared future’ to promote the upgrading of China-Vietnam relations, Xi told the chairman of Vietnam’s parliament, Vuong Dinh Hue during their meeting.

Major points singed by Vietnam and China

  1. Infrastructure and rail links
    • Memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on strengthening Vietnam-China railway cooperation and cross-border railway development.
    • An agreement to jointly construct a new bridge across the Red River, connecting Vietnam’s Lao Cai province and China’s Yunnan province.
    • Commitment to the construction of interoperable railways connecting China to the northern Vietnamese port of Haiphong.
  2. Defence and security
    • MoU on joint naval patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin.
    • An agreement establishing a hotline between Vietnam’s agriculture ministry and China’s coastguard to handle unexpected incidents in the South China Sea.
    • Agreements on the extradition of prisoners, joint search-and-rescue operations at sea, and a commitment to boost security and intelligence cooperation.
  3. Digital, data, and telecommunications
    • MoUs on cooperation and investment in the digital economy and data.
    • Collaboration in telecommunications, information technology, communications, and digital transformation.
  4. Trade and investment
    • MoUs to enhance development cooperation and promote the implementation of the Global Development Initiative.
    • Cooperation on green development and action plans until 2026 for economic and trade cooperation.

Expert insights on more details of the agreement

While the details of the agreements remain undisclosed, experts and diplomats suggest potential developments in the digital economy, including Chinese support to build a 5G network in Vietnam and investments in undersea infrastructure. Vietnam’s ambition to develop its infrastructure aligns with China’s recent endeavours. Analysts foresee potential areas of investment in telecoms infrastructure, satellite ground tracking stations, and data centres.

China’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Xiong Bo, has revealed that Beijing was ready to provide grants for the development of rail connections. While the volume and terms of potential loans are still unclear, this commitment highlights a strategic move to strengthen transportation links. If realized, this initiative would allow Vietnam to export more to China, especially farm products, while Beijing wants to further integrate the country’s north with its southern supply chain networks, where Chinese firms are moving some operations.

Absence of a dedicated pact on rare earths cooperation

Despite the extensive list of agreements, some crucial elements were notably missing, such as a pact on rare earths. Vietnam has strict rules on the export of rare earth ores, which it wants to process at home, but often lacks the technology to do so. On the other hand, China dominates the supply of the minerals crucial for electric vehicles and wind turbines but is usually loath to share its technology. This adds complexity to the negotiation.

However, the joint statement issued after the negotiations did not leave this matter unaddressed. Both nations expressed a commitment to explore ways to cooperate on key minerals. The statement highlighted, “To boost trade and investment, both agreed to set up a zone focusing on farming, infrastructure, energy, digital economy, and green development.”

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