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  • David Gitter and Elsa Kania

The Limits of CCP Liaison Work: Rift, Rapprochement, and Realpolitik in Sino-Vietnamese Relations

Meeting Between China and Vietnam Leaders

In this study, David Gitter and Elsa Kania examine dynamics in Sino-Vietnamese relations that demonstrate the continued relevance and inherent limitations of traditional liaison work in contemporary Chinese diplomacy. The study concludes that although these CCP diplomatic efforts have been effective in managing tensions over the bilateral maritime dispute and preventing them from spiraling into conflict, this approach has not been effective in dissuading CPV leaders from bolstering Vietnam’s military capabilities and strengthening ties with China’s regional rivals. Given China’s 2 consistently assertive approach in the region, such as the continuing military buildups in the South China Sea, this focus on party-to-party diplomacy seems unlikely to restore Vietnam’s trust in the wisdom that a China-oriented foreign policy best serves its domestic and foreign policy interests. Nonetheless, the current uncertainties regarding U.S. policy and priorities in Asia could support Beijing’s attempts to advance cooperation in Sino-Vietnamese relations.

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