Hanoi’s strong position on China and Covid-19 success bolster its status.
Vietnam assumed the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last November for 2020—perhaps the most challenging year ever to take on the role. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the nature of diplomacy, particularly the somewhat old-fashioned style that ASEAN most favored: frequent consultations, informal negotiations, and confidence building through meetings and retreats—none of which are possible given the restrictions.
Artists perform on stage at the end of the opening ceremony of the 36th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, held online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in Hanoi on June 26. Nhac Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images
But an even greater challenge to ASEAN’s usual diplomatic style has been posed by the critical tensions between the United States and China. The growing competition jeopardizes regional trade and economic cooperation and contributes to the sense of confrontation and unpredictability of international conduct. As both Washington and Beijing escalate the conflict and bilateral channels shrink, multilateral forums are become proxies for their disputes.
The article is reproduced from Foreign Policy .
Huong Le Thu is a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.