Viet Nam’s diplomatic highlights in 2021: pioneering, proactivity, enthusiasm and creativity for national development and defense

Member of the Party Central Committee, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Wednesday, July 20, 2022 08:20

Communist Review - 2021 was the first year to witness the dissemination and implementation of the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress against the backdrop of a complicated and unpredictable international and domestic situation. In light of the foreign policy plan made by the 13th Party Congress, Viet Nam's foreign affairs and diplomacy were carried out synchronously, creatively and effectively. Thanks to its comprehensive results and significant landmarks, diplomacy made enormous contributions to the country’s success.

Politburo member, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh congratulating officials and soldiers having completed their mission in the United Nations peacekeeping force at the Conference reviewing Viet Nam’s two years as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (the 2020-2021 tenure), hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs _Photo: VGP

Global fast and complex developments

Global complicated developments in 2021 justified the assessment of the 13th National Congress. Although peace, cooperation and development remained major trends; there were several difficulties. Globalization and international linkages, especially digital links, improved despite various challenges facing them. Strategic competition between major powers, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, stayed complex and drastic. The regional and international alliance formation was relatively flexible.

Besides traditional security challenges (armed, ethnic and territorial conflicts, etc.), countries had to face up with the increasing development gap, inequality and socio-political instability. Non-traditional security challenges, notably climate change and epidemics, were more complicated. Noticeably, the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening by numerous new variants, negatively affected the development of countries and international relations, giving rise to several problems in politics, foreign affairs, economics, health, environment, science - technology and culture - society. In 2021, several countries accelerated vaccination campaigns, returned to the "new normal" and proactively adapted to the pandemic.

The world economy gradually recovered, though uneven and unstable. The world economy restructuring, especially digital transformation, green growth and supply chain shift, was promoted under the pressure of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), the pandemic and urgent requirements for sustainable and inclusive development.

Intertwined in 2021’s international situation were opportunities and difficulties. It set more demanding requirements for national development and defense. Therefore, it was vital that foreign affairs and diplomacy produce accurate forecasts, as well as proactively and creatively take the initiative to build and maintain a peaceful and stable environment. Moreover, opportunities and external resources should be mobilized to develop the country and enhance its position and prestige.

Viet Nam’s diplomatic highlights in 2021

The direction of foreign affairs, as stated in the 13th National Party Congress, is to consistently implement the foreign policy line of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development, as well as diversification and multilateralization of international relations in which Viet Nam is a friend, a reliable partner, an enthusiastic and responsible member of the international community. The foreign policy principle is to maintain the highest national interests in line with the United Nations Charter and international law, the principles of equality, cooperation and mutual benefit. Furthermore, basic missions of foreign affairs are to build and maintain a peaceful and stable environment and to mobilize external resources for national development, thus enhancing Viet Nam’s position and prestige.

Adhering to the Party's foreign policy and under the leadership and command of the Party Central Committee, the Politburo and the Secretariat, the foreign sector works hand in glove with Party and people-to-people diplomacy. As a result, key diplomatic tasks are successfully accomplished, contributing to diplomacy and the country's socio-economic development.

Firstly, firmly consolidating the diplomatic position and a peaceful, stable and favorable environment for national development. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the diplomatic sector managed to flexibly combine direct and online communication to promote relations with several partners, especially neighboring, key and traditional ones. In the first year implementing the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress, diplomatic activities by Party and State leaders significantly fostered political trust, mutual interests, and developed relations with numerous partners. Those activities consolidated a solid and favorable foreign position for national development and defense in a complicated and unpredictable international situation.

In corporation with the defense, security and other ministries, departments and branches, the diplomatic sector promoted dialogues and negotiations with countries to solve border and territorial issues. The terrestrial border was well protected for peace, cooperation and development and the pandemic was well prevented and controlled without serious negative effects on socio-economic exchanges. Diplomatic issues relating to the sea were timely and properly addressed as Viet Nam persistently encouraged dialogue and cooperation in settling disputes in line with international law, especially the United Nations 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Secondly, economic diplomacy, noticeably health and vaccine diplomacy, played an important role in socio-economic development and pandemic prevention and control. It is the political-diplomatic mobilization at various levels and channels that maintained and fostered economic cooperation, expanding markets and supply chains. The diplomatic sector worked closely with ministries, departments, branches, localities and businesses to remove barriers, promote key cooperation projects with vital partners, and take advantage of free trade agreements (FTAs) to export major goods (agricultural products, textiles, footwear, electronics, etc.), while exploiting potential markets and attracting foreign investment. As a result, the import and export turnover exceeded 600 billion USD. Health diplomacy and vaccine diplomacy were among outstanding foreign affairs achievements in 2021, significantly supporting the vaccine strategy, enabling the country to safely adapt and effective control the pandemic, while accelerating socio-economic recovery and development. When the fourth wave of corona virus wrecked a havoc on the country's socio-economy, grasping the Party and State's consistent policy on health protection, the diplomatic sector, together with ministries, agencies and sectors, pioneered in health and vaccine diplomacy. Vaccine access and cooperation to prevent and control the pandemic was the central topic of bilateral and multilateral foreign affairs activities, especially diplomacy at high-level and of overseas representatives. Consequently, Viet Nam was timely and effectively provided with vaccines, medicine and medical products by the international community. At the beginning of May 2021, Viet Nam’s vaccine was confined to a few hundred thousand doses. At the end of the same year, Viet Nam rose to be among six countries of the highest vaccine coverage in the world. Besides, thanks to the thorough understanding of the situation, global trends and experiences, the diplomatic sector timely advised the Party and State on the strategic shift to safe adaptation to the pandemic as well as socio-economic recovery and development.

Thirdly, strengthening the country's international position and prestige. During the successful two-year term as a member of the United Nations Security Council (from 2020 to 2021), Viet Nam made substantial contributions and impressively expressed itself as independent, self-reliant, innovative, peace-loving country, which respects international law, behaves trustworthily, sincerely and equally, actively and responsibly contributes to international peace, cooperation, development and progress(1).

Following the success of the 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship, Viet Nam continued to consolidate ASEAN’s solidarity, consensus and enhance its position. Viet Nam well performed its role as a bridge connecting ASEAN and the United Nations when Viet Nam was the Chairman of ASEAN in 2020 and President of the United Nations Security Council in 2021.

Viet Nam, for the first time, made a strong commitment to carbon neutrality in 2050(2) at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26). The action showed Viet Nam’s consistent policy on sustainable development and its responsibility in global issues.

Besides, Viet Nam enthusiastically took part in various mechanisms and multilateral conferences through party, parliament and people-to-people diplomacy. Among them were World Conference on theories of Marxism parties, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Mekong Sub-region Cooperation, Conference on The Future of Asia, World Conference of Speakers of Parliament, etc. With the increasing position and prestige, Viet Nam has been internationally trusted and elected to various important multilateral organizations, such as the Executive committee of UNESCO, the Postal Operations Council of the UPU, the International Law Commission (ILC), etc.

Noticeably, an article by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, “Some theoretical and practical issues on socialism and the path to socialism in Viet Nam” drew the attention of several international political parties and circles. The article gained the supports of international community for Viet Nam’s cause and contribute to promote the prestige and position of the Party and country.

Considerable efforts were exerted in external information, cultural diplomacy, overseas Vietnamese affairs and citizen protection. Guidelines and policies on cultural diplomacy and overseas Vietnamese affairs continued to be perfected, notably Conclusion No. 12-KL/TW on August 12, 2021 of the Politburo "On overseas Vietnamese affairs in the new situation", and Decision No. 2013/QD-TTg on November 30, 2021 of the Prime Minister "On the Strategy for Cultural Diplomacy to 2030". Last year, Viet Nam brought about 120,000 citizens from over 60 countries and territories back home safely. Furthermore, the protection of fishermen, fishing vessels, legitimate rights and interests of overseas Vietnamese was also strengthened.

Fourthly, the National Conference on Foreign Affairs was a diplomacy landmark in 2021, as it was the first time in Viet Nam's history that such a conference was held under the direction of the Politburo and the Secretariat. With a comprehensive assessment of foreign affairs achievements in over 35 years of renovation, lessons drawn from experience and international major trends and problems, the Conference set out directions and tasks to orchestrate willpower and actions of the entire political system, thereby promoting foreign activities in the new development stage of the country.

After the National Conference on Foreign Affairs, the 31st Diplomatic Conference and the 20th Foreign Affairs Conference were held to spread the conclusion of the National Conference on Foreign Affairs. Thereby, a diplomatic action plan for the next 3-5 years and a vision to 2030, in which detailed and practical directions and tasks were set, discussed and approved.

The above-mentioned efforts and achievements of Viet Nam's diplomacy in 2021 play an important role in the country's success in over 35 years of renovation, which the 13th National Party Congress deemed as “the unprecedented opportunity, potential, position and international prestige of the country”. This success was the result of the excellent leadership of the Party Central Committee, the Politburo and the Secretariat, the active, drastic and effective management of the State, the close coordination among Party, State and people-to-people diplomacy, between the diplomatic sector and other branches. Moreover, the participation of the entire political system, the consensus, solidarity and support of the people and the support and cooperation of international partners and friends can also be named as vital factors leading to the success.

The afore-mentioned achievements show the unique nature of Viet Nam's foreign policy and diplomacy. The policy is based on Ho Chi Minh's diplomatic thought and imbued with national identity, of which bamboo is a symbol, as General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong stated at the National Conference on Foreign Affairs. Moreover, these diplomatic achievements enrich and highlight valuable lessons on foreign policy in the renovation process. To begin with, a balance should be maintained between self-reliance and international cooperation and between national interests and international responsibilities. Besides, the policy should be consistent, but the implementation needs to be flexible. In addition, it is of paramount importance that the entire Party, people and army unite to synchronously, creatively and effectively carry out foreign policies under the uniform and absolute leadership of the Party and the centralized management of the State. Furthermore, there should be a good combination of position and power, of multilateral and bilateral relations, of global and regional diplomacy, of political, economic and cultural diplomacy. Diplomacy needs to be faithful, sincere, trustworthy, reasonable, and sympathetic when it comes to addressing foreign affairs. Last but not least, the organization and staff of diplomacy should be perfected, meeting mission requirements.

Building Viet Nam’s comprehensive and modern diplomacy for national development and national defense in the new period

To promote the achievements after over 35 years of renovation, the whole Party, people and army are unitedly determined to successfully implement the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress. In the short run, the mission is to accelerate socio-economic recovery and development, taking full advantage of the new position and power to develop in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. To meet demands of the new period, the foreign policy objective is to improve the favorable external situation for national development and defense. The foreign policy direction is the synchronous, creative and effective implementation of diplomatic activities and the comprehensive global integration. In the National Conference on Foreign Affairs, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong asked the diplomatic sector and its staff to take the initiative to perform basic tasks of foreign affairs, which are to maintain the peaceful and stable environment, mobilizing external resources for socio-economic development, and promoting the country's position and prestige. Regarding the last task, peace and stability maintenance are essential and regular, national development is the central task, and national position and prestige enhancement is of great importance.

Playing a major role in foreign affairs, the diplomatic sector deeply grasps the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress, foreign policies and guidelines of the Party, conclusions and directives of the Party and State leaders at the National Conference on Foreign Affairs with a view to building modern Vietnamese diplomacy, which is comprehensive and imbued with national identity.

Firstly, synchronously and effectively maintaining a peacefully stable environment and mobilizing external resources for socio-economic development and position enhancement. Remaining steadfast in independence and self-control; simultaneously cooperate and struggle; being clever and consistent in defending sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity while maintaining the peaceful, stable environment for national development. Building borderlines of peace, cooperation and development, speeding up the settlement of remaining border and territorial issues and guaranteeing highest national interests in line with international law. Boosting bilateral and multilateral diplomacy compatible with the new position and power of the country. Developing comprehensive, cooperative, friendly and traditional relations with neighboring countries. Promoting and tightening relations with partners, especially strategic, comprehensive partners, other important partners and traditional ones. Promoting the success of the ASEAN Chair 2020 and the non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council during 2020-2021 tenure, playing increasingly important roles in multilateral mechanisms, including ASEAN, UN, APEC, Mekong Sub-region cooperation and other strategic cooperation frameworks, in accordance with Viet Nam’s requirements, capabilities and situation.

Secondly, comprehensively deploying and closely linking diplomatic pillars and branches, thus making foreign affairs and diplomacy a strong driving force for national development. Promoting economic diplomacy, with a focus on people, regions and businesses. Combining external resources, such as external relations, favorable international factors, international cooperation agreements, with domestic ones for strategic breakthroughs, innovation-based growth model and economic restructuring, including science - technology, environment, digital transformation, green growth, etc. In the near future, expanding the market, attracting investment and technology for socio-economic recovery and development during and after the pandemic; comprehensively and strongly exercising cultural diplomacy, attending to overseas Vietnamese affairs and citizen protection, innovating contents and methods, as well as improving the efficiency of external information using digital platforms.

Thirdly, being constantly innovative and creative in foreign affairs and diplomacy. Integrating inheritance with innovation and development. To be more specific, inheriting and flexibly applying Ho Chi Minh's thoughts, methods, styles, diplomatic art and national diplomatic tradition. At the same time, constantly supplementing and developing diplomatic awareness, guidelines and strategies conforming to the new situation. Finding new fields and methods of diplomacy to meet the requirements of the new period, such as technology, digital, environmental, health and energy diplomacy, etc.

Health diplomacy and vaccine diplomacy are among outstanding foreign affairs achievements in 2021, (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs receiving 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca from the Federal Republic of Germany) _Photo: VNA

Fourthly, focusing on research, forecast, and strategic advice on foreign affairs, especially those of direct and long-term impacts on national security and development. Regularly examining, analyzing, grasping and precisely forecasting the situation in order to react timely and appropriately.

Fifthly, properly combining diplomacy with Party, people-to-people, defense and security diplomacy. Besides, coordinating all levels and branches of diplomacy. Building and perfecting legal basis, including institutions, policies and laws, for foreign affairs and diplomacy. Renovating mechanisms of leadership, command and coordination of all diplomatic levels and branches. Strengthening the diplomatic organization, making it an effective, lean, scientific and appropriate one. Modernizing and digitally transforming the diplomatic service.

Sixthly, training competent diplomatic staff in terms of politics, ideology, morality, bravery and intelligence, who have a modern and professional working style together with innovativeness and creativeness. Besides, attaching special importance to Party construction, rectification and cadre work, including renovating recruitment, deployment, rotation, training and evaluation of diplomatic cadres, especially strategic cadres, leaders and managers; gradually develop a team of experts regionally and internationally qualified in major fields of foreign affairs and diplomacy.

With the glorious tradition and achievements of over 35 years of renovation, the diplomatic sector, under the leadership of the Party, is determined to build a comprehensive, modern diplomacy well-known for Viet Nam’s national identity, of which the bamboo is a symbol. Contributions will be made to national development and defense, to a socialist, independent, peaceful and powerful Fatherland./.


(1) Between 2020 and 2021, the United Nations Security Council adopted two resolutions, three presidential statements and a press statement proposed and drafted. Viet Nam’s initiative to designate December 27 as the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness was co-sponsored by more than 120 countries and adopted by the General Assembly by consensus. In January 2020 and April 2021, Viet Nam, as the President of the Security Council, held four remarkable events.

(2) Net zero, or any emissions are balanced by the absorption of an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 984 (February 2022)