The Implications of China’s Military Modernization for Vietnam’s Security

The Implications of China’s Military Modernization for Vietnam’s Security

by Nguyen Hong Thao
January 6, 2022

This essay examines the threats to Vietnam from China’s military modernization and considers the scenarios for conflict between the two countries, Vietnam’s potential responses, and opportunities for Vietnam to cooperate with the U.S. and other countries.



The military modernization of the People’s Republic of China has caused worries for countries in the region, including Vietnam. The bilateral relationship has been normalized and developed strongly since 1991, but China’s use of force against Vietnam in 1979 and 1988 has not been erased from the Vietnamese people’s memory. Although Vietnam, as a peace-loving country, does not want war, it remains vigilant about the threats from China to its security and national interests. Any use of force or threat of use of force by China would be detrimental for regional security and the interests of countries in the region, including Vietnam.

  • Vietnam’s defense strategy is based on three pillars: internationalization of disputes for gaining international support; preventive diplomacy and peaceful settlement of disputes on the basis of international law, especially the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); and a “four no’s” policy. However, if attacked, Vietnam is ready to engage with other countries to counter a common enemy based on the legitimate right to self-defense.
  • Aware of possible threats to its security, Vietnam has undertaken various measures to maintain autonomy in its strategic political, military, and economic relationships with China as well as the United States and other states.

    • Nguyen Hong Thao is Professor of International Law at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and the Vietnam National University. He has over 40 years of experience in diplomacy, high-level negotiations, and legal study and practice, including serving two terms in the post of ambassador in Malaysia and Kuwait.