A top Chinese official will make a rare political visit to Hanoi on July 16 and is scheduled to have talks with Vietnamese leaders amid lingering maritime tensions between the two neighbors.
The visit by Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, a member of the Standing Committee of the CPC Central Political Bureau, China’s top leadership, will focus on interparty exchanges and practical cooperation ahead of a key Vietnam party election in January, according to the International Department of the CPC Central Committee.
Zhang is scheduled to land in Hanoi on July 16 and meet Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as well as other top Vietnamese officials from the party and government.
His trip follows a visit to Beijing in June by Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh to maintain high-level contact with China.
The vice-premier’s agenda, which covers infrastructure, border economic zones and maritime issues, may also include discussion of a major highway to link the Vietnamese city of Liangshan with Hanoi, which was said to be a clear indication of the importance both countries place on major infrastructure projects.
Zhang’s visit is to realize proposals made by top leaders of the two countries when Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong visited China in April, said Do Tien Sam, former director of the Institute of China Studies, Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences. “I am pretty sure that this visit will further improve political trust between the two countries,” he said.
Sam said Zhang, as the vice-premier in charge of economic matters, should help bridge the Vietnamese trade gap with China by working to increase imports of Vietnamese farm products.
On July 13, Vietnam’s General Statistics Office reported that China was still Vietnam’s largest trading partner in the first half of 2015, with a trade volume of $32.1 billion, nearly 40 percent of the country’s GDP over that period. However, it also reported that China’s exports to Vietnam in the first five months stood at nearly $20 billion with imports reaching only slightly more than $6 billion.
Qi Jianguo, a former Chinese ambassador to Vietnam, said that Zhang’s visit may be a preparation for an even higher-ranking visit by China.
“It is important for the two sides to maintain high-level contact in order to keep problems such as maritime disputes controlled, and Vietnam has gradually set a good example as it kept the problem within bilateral negotiations,” Qi said.