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China’s XI Visits Vietnam in Bid to Counter US

China and Vietnam pledged on Tuesday to deepen ties during President Xi Jinping’s first visit in six years, as Beijing seeks to counter growing US influence with the communist nation.

Xi met the leader of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, on the first day of his trip, after Hanoi upgraded diplomatic ties with Washington when US President Joe Biden visited in September.

Biden’s visit was part of US efforts around the world to contain China’s rising economic power — and to secure supplies of crucial materials needed for high-tech manufacturing.

China and Vietnam said in a joint statement on display at Trong’s office they would “continue to deepen and increase bilateral relations”.

They agreed to build a “community with a shared future” and said the visit was an “historic landmark in bilateral ties… contributing to peace and stability and development in the region and the world”.

The two countries signed more than 30 agreements, including a pledge to develop rail links between Vietnam and China.

Vietnam has long pursued a “bamboo diplomacy” approach, striving to stay on good terms with both China and the United States.

It shares US concerns about Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in the contested South China Sea, but it also has close economic ties with China.

Vietnam and China, both ruled by communist parties, already share a “comprehensive strategic partnership”, Vietnam’s highest diplomatic status.

Hanoi and Washington upgraded their relationship to the same level in September.

It was thought before the visit Xi could push for Vietnam to join his “Community of Common Destiny”, a loosely defined phrase that refers to a vision of future cooperation on economic, security and political issues.

Vietnam expressed its support in the joint statement, although it did not use that specific term.

Xi said in an article published Tuesday in Vietnam’s Nhan Dan newspaper that “Asia’s future is in the hands of no one but Asians”.

Chinese and Vietnamese flags lined the route from the airport into central Hanoi on Tuesday and dozens of well-wishers gathered outside the hotel where Xi is expected to stay.

Xi will hold talks on Wednesday with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and President Vo Van Thuong and lay a wreath at the mausoleum of revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.

The trip comes with tensions between China and the Philippines running high in the South China Sea after a spate of incidents involving their vessels at flashpoint reefs.

The Philippines said it had summoned China’s envoy on Monday and flagged the possibility of expelling him.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored an international tribunal ruling that its assertions have no legal basis.

It deploys boats to patrol the busy waterway and has built artificial islands that it has militarised to reinforce its claims.

Vietnam, along with Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, also have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

During Biden’s visit, Vietnam and the United States jointly warned against the “threat or use of force” in the contested waterway.

Vietnam was one of several ASEAN members upset by a new official Chinese map published in September showing sovereignty over almost the entire resource-rich waterway.

Analysts say that, like Biden in September, Xi may seek closer cooperation on rare earth minerals used in the manufacture of high-tech devices such as smartphones and electric car batteries.

Vietnamese state-controlled media reported last month that China Rare Earth Group Co. was looking for opportunities to work with Vietnam’s mining giant Vinacomin.

The United States and Vietnam agreed in September to cooperate to help Hanoi quantify and develop its rare earth resources.

Their new partnership also included an agreement on semiconductors, as fears grow about US reliance on China for strategic resources.

US chip giant Nvidia wants to set up a base in Vietnam to develop its semiconductor industry, its CEO was quoted as saying by the Vietnamese government.