The ever-prescient Joel Kotkin has a great essay on Vietnam over at the American. Vietnam, Kotkin suggests, has not only grown into an important player in the geopolitical competition under way in Asia but is emerging as one of Asia’s most promising economies:
This combination of a growing and skilled workforce represents the same combination of factors that previously led to rapid growth in other Asian countries, from Japan in the 1960s to South Korea and Taiwan in the 1980s, and China more recently. One local investment house, Indochina Capital, estimates that by 2050 Vietnam’s economy will be the world’s 14th-largest—ahead of Canada, Italy, South Korea, and Spain.Combined with the strong human ties and its aversion to domineering neighbors, these factors suggest that Vietnam may well prove itself as valuable an ally and trade partner to the United States as it was once an irrepressible enemy.
Vietnam’s rise is a boon for the US, not only commercially but politically as well. American foreign policy toward Asia has centered on promoting a balance of power between China and its neighbors, with no one country dominating or attacking another. The rise of Vietnam makes that kind of Asia more likely — and despite continuing human rights problems, its growing prosperity and economic growth make it a good partner for the US.The US needs to walk a fine line in Asia. Our goal is not to contain China in a new Cold War; we want to work with China and its neighbors to create an Asian geopolitical order in ways that avoid the need for a great power standoff. We don’t want an anti-China alliance with Vietnam; we want good and mutually beneficial relationships with all the rising Asian nations, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, South Korea, India and China. That is the best way to promote a peaceful and prosperous Asia in the century ahead.