The last century saw Vietnam situate itself at the confluence of two global dynamics: that of decolonization on the one hand and that of the Cold War on the other. In fact, the growing political and ideological conflict between the two international blocs has rapidly superimposed on the nationalist demands of the peoples once under colonial domination. In 1945 the Viet Minh independence movement, set up in 1941 with an anti-colonial function and led by the nationalist and communist leader Ho Chi-minh, proclaimed the country’s independence from France and started guerrilla activities. The reaction of the French government and army, committed to maintaining the influence of Paris in the region as much as possible, led to an escalation of the conflict which led to the division of the country into two de facto separate and independent states, albeit somewhat fragile. There debacle French military, which culminated in 1954 with the defeat of Dien Bien Phu, therefore led to the Geneva Accords and the gradual and irreversible disengagement of the former colonial power, which would leave Vietnam divided, at the 17th parallel, between a communist North and a South inextricably linked to Westerners. Furthermore, since 1950, the United States on one side and China and the Soviet Union on the other had begun to engage directly in the conflict, internationalizing it: the former by increasing financial aid and the presence of military advisers in South Vietnam; the latter directly supplying weapons and logistical support to the North. In the decade following the Geneva Accords, the failure of the reconciliation envisaged in them and the American fears of a Communist contagion in the whole of Southeast Asia (‘domino effect’) were at the root of Washington’s growing military commitment to counter the armed insurrection in the South of the Viet Cong, linked to the Communists of the North. L’American escalation resulted in a real war in 1964 which, at its peak, involved about half a million American soldiers. The Vietnamese campaign proved tragic and unsuccessful for the US forces who, after suffering heavy losses due to the guerrilla warfare and finding at home an increasingly hostile public opinion to war, in 1973 signed the peace agreements in Paris and in 1975 completed the withdrawal of their forces from the country. Although the agreements provided for the confirmation of the status quo of the division of Vietnam into two states, the North invaded and quickly succeeded in defeating the South, completing the reunification of the country and ushering in a long period of domination by the Communist Party, still in power as a single party. The complex Indochinese scenario, with crossed alliances in the area (Vietnam with the Soviet Union, Cambodia with China) resulted in the 1979 invasion of Cambodia by the Vietnamese forces, who occupied it for ten years. The consequent definitive break in relations with Beijing was the spark that triggered a rapid invasion war on the Chinese side and continuous border clashes throughout the course of the 1980s, which however did not change the territorial borders between the two countries.
With the end of the Cold War, the new world political order was accompanied by a change of course in the strategic directions of Vietnam. The country has in fact oriented itself towards a gradual opening, as timid from a political point of view as it is accentuated from an economic point of view. The new Constitution, adopted in 1992, is the concrete expression of this change. The revolutionary rhetoric of the previous Charter was expelled from the new constitutional articles and the statist economy opened up to the global market, albeit not without contradictions and trying to respect the socialist ideology. Moreover, while implementing a separation of powers, the Communist Party has maintained a key role exercised through the Politburo, a small collegiate body made up of 14 members elected to the National Party Congress. It is sufficient to observe the composition of the Assembly, which after the last elections of May 2011 has only 42 elected non-party members out of 500 members. Despite the fact that in recent years the legislature has been taking on an increasingly increasing role, the major political and economic matches are played within the Party itself. The two main currents, conservative and reformist, are grouped respectively around the figures of President Truong Tan Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. In summary, it can be argued that while conservatives put economic stability first, the faction led by the prime minister is inclined to maintain the current pace of GDP growth.
Also on the diplomatic and international level, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has therefore started a process of change, slow but radical. In 1995 Vietnam had broken its regional isolation by joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in 2007, after 12 years of negotiations, it was admitted to the World Trade Organization ( Wto). The detente between Vietnam and the United States is also important: in 1994 the latter withdrew the embargo that had weighed on the Vietnamese economy for thirty years and in 1995 re-established diplomatic relations (in 2008 the two countries carried out joint military exercises in the South China Sea). After the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2010, the following year Vietnam and the United States signed the first military agreement since the end of the war to facilitate trade in the medical sector. Furthermore, in October 2014, Washington’s willingness to soften the decades-long embargo on arms against Vietnam emerged in order to make supplies possible, especially as regards coastal patrols. Although about 90% of arms imports come from Russia, this development is part of a context of gradual but decisive rapprochement. Vietnam’s participation in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is another indicator that the country is emerging as Washington’s strongest ally in the Mekong region. Relations with China, on the other hand, are guided by a pragmatic vision on the economic level and by the attempt on both sides to overcome the historical mistrust. In addition to history, a source of tension between Hanoi and Beijing is, however, the territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands, claimed by both and strategic for the presence of oil and gas fields that should be located in their subsoil and in the adjacent seabed. These islands are located along an important sea route. The Chinese relocation of an oil rig within the disputed area in May 2014 sparked the anger of nationalists in Vietnam which resulted in widespread attacks on Chinese companies on Vietnamese territory. The anti-Chinese riots proved to be fast and difficult to contain, causing several victims and more than a hundred injured, as well as extensive damage. The situation subsequently returned and the Hanoi government undertook to punish the guilty and compensate the losses, but beyond the short-term actions a diplomatic solution seems almost impossible and the context therefore remains explosive. As far as Russia is concerned, the ideological affinity and common political views between Vietnam and the Soviet Union have now lost their raison d’etre, with the latter’s dissolution and the end of the bipolar system. However, as already mentioned, Moscow continues to play an important role in the development of the Vietnamese defense sector. the ideological affinity and the common political views between Vietnam and the Soviet Union have now lost their raison d’etre, with the dissolution of the latter and the end of the bipolar system. However, as already mentioned, Moscow continues to play an important role in the development of the Vietnamese defense sector. the ideological affinity and the common political views between Vietnam and the Soviet Union have now lost their raison d’etre, with the dissolution of the latter and the end of the bipolar system. However, as already mentioned, Moscow continues to play an important role in the development of the Vietnamese defense sector.