What a Nixed Energy Project Reveals About Vietnam’s South China Sea Calculus

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Late last month, Vietnam suspended ongoing work on a major oil drilling project in disputed waters between it and China in the South China Sea, reportedly under Chinese pressure. The incident revealed the ongoing challenge Vietnam faces in protecting its interests in the vital waterway as Beijing continues to aggressively assert its maritime claims.

Vietnam is no stranger to this kind of Chinese behavior in the South China Sea. For Hanoi, the disputes are just part of a wider, centuries-old problem of managing ties with its giant northern neighbor, which occupied it for nearly a millennia and with which it has fought multiple wars, including most recently in 1979. Due to its proximity to China, the vast asymmetry of its capabilities relative to Beijing, and the long historical evolution of their relationship, Vietnam has long pursued a mix of engagement and balancing, recognizing the threats and opportunities from Beijing. …

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