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Ho Chi Minh on international integration and cooperation

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Pham Ngoc Anh,

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September 2019

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​​​​​​​Poster for the National Day of Vietnam 
Poster for the National Day of Vietnam Foto: Christian Süper

From the 1920s of the twentieth century, on the journey to find a way to save the country and liberate the nation, He raised the idea of being friends with all countries, regardless of political regimes. After the August Revolution (1945), He sent a letter to the United Nations General Assembly and other major countries expressing Vietnam’s wish to join the United Nations with the high responsibility of maintaining peace, fighting against oppression and injustice. Ho Chi Minh Thought on international integration and cooperation is the methodological orientation in the cause of renovation, integration and sustainable development in Vietnam today.

1. Inevitable Demand for International Integration and Cooperation

The Russian socialist October Revolution 1917 opened a new era for peoples, towards the common goals of humankind, which are peace, national independence, democracy and social advancement. With strategic vision and accurate identification of the new era based on a thorough grasp and creative application, developing Marxism-Leninism in the concrete conditions of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh soon realized the importance of international integration to contribute to the cause of national liberation and development and revitalization of the country. International integration manifests in the participation of a nation, peoples in the internationalization and globalization as a trend of the modern world. Observing the world’s changes, Ho Chi Minh made a philosophical remark, “In principle, common progress depends on the development of internationalism; and civilization is only beneficial when international relations are expanded and strengthened”[1] and “the Vietnamese Revolution is an integral part of the international Revolution”.[2]

For Vietnam, according to Ho Chi Minh, integration firstly is to take advantage of all external resources to support national liberation. On the journey to find the way for national salvation, he soon recognized imperialism was a world system. Imperialists scrambled for colonies, and at the same time sided with each other to enslave small and weak peoples under their colonial system. Thus, in order to defeat imperialism, colonial peoples and revolutionary parties in the world must link together, “The revolution of the Annam peoples succeeds, the French imperialists will be weak, the French imperialists are weak, French workers and peasants will easily be revolutionary class. And if the revolution of French workers and peasants succeeds, Annam peoples will be free”.[3] He saw the relationship between Vietnamese revolution and international revolution to be dialectical, two-way and interactive, in which Vietnam not only received support and assistance from the international revolution, but also had an international obligation - helping friends was helping ourselves, “Our people fight and sacrifice for not only our own freedom and independence, but also the common freedom and independence of other peoples and international peace”.[4]

Second, integration is to absorb the latest scientific and technological achievements of other countries to serve the cause of national revitalization and socialist construction: “Vietnam spares favorable reception for the investment of foreign capitalists and technicians in all industries”.[5] The first thing done by Ho Chi Minh to promote the integration of Vietnamese science was to send a group of Vietnamese youths to the US to study science and technology. In a letter sent to the US Foreign Secretary dated 11 January 1945, he proposed the US to receive 50 Vietnamese youths to the US with the desire to establish close cultural relationship with American youths, and to promote studies on technology, agriculture and other professional areas; and “has earnest desire to establish the relationship with American people having high-spirited stance on noble ideas of international justice and humanity, and their modern technical achievements that strongly attract Vietnamese intellectuals”.[6]

2. Ho Chi Minh’s Viewpoint on International Integration

The policy of international integration and cooperation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was stated by President Ho Chi Minh in a letter to the United Nations in 1946, “For democratic countries, Vietnam is willing to implement the open and cooperation policy in all areas:

"Vietnam provides a favorable reception for investment by foreign capitalists and technicians in all its industries.

b) Vietnam is willing to expand its ports, airports and traffic roads for international trade and transit.

c) Vietnam accepts participation in all international economic cooperation organizations under the leadership of the United Nations.

d) Vietnam is willing to sign special security agreements and treaties related to the use of some certain naval and air bases with the navy and land force within the framework of the United Nations”.[7]

International integration from the viewpoint of President Ho Chi Minh has some major contents as follows:

  • International integration is to firmly maintain national independence, to build and defend the Fatherland. Ho Chi Minh selected the path of proletarian revolution for the revolutionary road of Vietnam to follow, linking the Vietnamese revolution with the world revolution’s orbit towards national liberation, class liberation and human liberation.
    Responding to a question raised by the Indonesian correspondent, Antara, on May 14, 1954: “What is the purpose of the Vietnamese people’s struggle”, Ho Chi Minh said, the Vietnamese people fight bravely for the purpose of implementing a peaceful, independent, unified, democratic and free country”;[8] For the question, “What are the fundamental conditions for the negotiation with the French?”, he answered, “Our position to negotiate with the French for their ceasefire, truce and restoration of peace is the real independence, unification, democracy and freedom”.[9] According to Ho Chi Minh, the integration of Vietnam into the world is the implementation of the open-door policy on economics with the focus on international economic cooperation, bringing about benefits for the country, regardless of political regime, “countries of different social regime and different forms of ideologies can live together peacefully”.[10] In 1959, when addressing the press about Vietnam’s relations with capitalist countries, including Japan, Ho Chi Minh affirmed: “The Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the construction of socialism in the North should expand its industry, agriculture and trade to increase its production and improve the people’s living standard. We need a lot of equipment, machines and goods from other countries, of course including Japan. We can supply them with food, industrial crops and minerals. The trade relation between the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and Japan, if improved, will have good prospects, benefiting the people of both countries”.[11]
    For Ho Chi Minh, opening and integration are not only for economic development, but also for preventing wars, avoiding bloodshed for the Vietnamese people as well as the French and American peoples, for steadily maintaining national independence and sovereignty.
  • International integration based on the maximum promotion of the national strength combined with the promotion of international strength and that of the era. Ho Chi Minh emphasized, the national strength is the internal resource that plays a decisive role; meanwhile the international strength and that of the era are external resources, which helps increase the national strength and it can only work effectively via the internal factor, which is the national strength. He stressed on the viewpoint of self- reliance and reliance on your own strength, “A nation that is not self-reliant waiting for the help of others does not deserve independence”,[12] the goal of national independence must be associated with the goal of the era that is peace, national independence, democracy and socialism.
  • International economic integration is for attracting external forces, which has strategic significance for the development and prosperity of the country, the nation. The consistent goal of international economic cooperation, according to Ho Chi Minh, is for the economic development and the improvement of the people’s life. This point of view is close to the international concept of inclusive growth today, when his orientation is that the goal of international economic development and cooperation ultimately aims at benefiting all people in the society. After few months of independence, Ho Chi Minh talked to journalists about the open-door policy for economic development of the new country of Vietnam, “It is possible that we welcome the French who want to bring capital to our country to exploit unexploited raw materials. It is possible that we invite experts from France as well as from the United States, Russia or China to assist us in our national construction”.[13] In 1955, after the visit to the Soviet Union, China and Mongolia, under the new conditions, Ho Chi Minh further clarified, “Other countries help us to quickly heal the wounds of war; to increase the agricultural, industrial production and to develop trade; to restore and develop the economy and culture; to gradually improve the people’s life”.[14]
    The fundamental and consistent view of Ho Chi Minh is international integration aims at promoting Vietnam’s potential, attracting external resources to promote the internal strength; the internal strength is decisive, external resource is important, and international integration must be based on the respect for national sovereignty and independence, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit.
  • International cultural integration is for enriching the national culture, promoting the soft power of the country in international exchanges. Thirty years of working abroad with a number of official visits to countries around the world in the capacity as a head of state, created opportunities for Ho Chi Minh to have a practical vision on international exchange and integration in culture. He believed that “Vietnamese culture is the combination of Eastern and Western culture with mutual influence”.[15] Therefore, “We learn good things from either the West or the East to create a Vietnamese culture. It means using good practices of the culture now and then to cultivate Vietnamese culture to have pure Vietnamese spirit to suit the democratic spirit”.[16] His point of view is to comprehend all the good things of the human culture on the basis of national culture, the core essence of national culture via the “filter” of Vietnamese patriotism.
    Ho Chi Minh is honored by the UNESCO as a great man of culture, for his great contribution to the treasure of human culture “Ho Chi Minh’s cultural work has left its mark on the development progress of humankind. President Ho Chi Minh has made important and various contribution to fields of culture, education and the arts, which crystallize the cultural tradition of the Vietnamese people stretching back several thousand years, and that his ideals embody the aspirations of peoples in the affirmation of their cultural identity and the promotion of mutual [17] He is also a bright example of international solidarity and integration, crystallized into “a kind of culture, not a European one, but a culture of the future”.[18]
  • Readiness to make friends with all counties in the spirit of high sense of responsibility. In January 1950, in the Declaration, when visiting the People’s Republic of China, Ho Chi Minh affirmed: “The Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam is willing to establish diplomatic relations with the government of any country that respects equality, territorial sovereignty and national sovereignty of Vietnam in order to safeguard peace and build up the world’s democracy together”.[19] Under the leadership of President Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam soon participated in the United Nations and made positive contribution to the preservation of international peace.

3. Principles and Methods of Integration According to Ho Chi Minh Thought

First, national interest is above all; take advantage of favorable conditions to increase resources for the country’s development and enrich the national identity. The Party has further clarified the goal of integration and cooperation as “to ensure the supreme interests of the national state, on the basis of fundamental principles of international law, equality and mutual benefits”.[20]

Second, integration is based on voluntary and mutual respect. We should be proactive and not be dependent; deciding the level and roadmap of integration must be based on internal and international situations. The Party has repeatly stressed, the external force is important but the internal force is decisive. The 12th National Party Congress emphasized the requirement of “promoting decisive
role of internal force”;[21] the internal force includes real economic and defense strength; for economic perspective, it is restructuring the economy, fundamentally renovating economic institutions, transforming the growth model, solving the relationship between domestic economy and foreign-invested enterprises; fast development should go hand in hand with the improvement of efficiency, quality and sustainability, promoting the industrialization and modernization of the country.

Third, countries in the world intensify exchanges, pursuing the policy of peaceful coexistence, solving contradictions, disputes via dialogues, negotiation and non-use of violence. The 12th National Party Congress determined that, in the context of complicated regional and international developments, integration should be conducted on the basis of ensuring the interests of the national state, smooth combination between the task of safeguarding sovereignty and peaceful conditions for development, between the requirement of firmly maintaining independence, self-reliance with the policy of diversification and multilateralisation of international relations.

Fourth, establish tight friendship with neighboring countries such as China, Laos, Cambodia, countries in Southeast Asia and Asia. Ho Chi Minh’s point of view is solidarity, trust and mutual assistance, “The attitude of Vietnam towards Asian countries is brotherhood, and towards the five great powers, friendship”.[22]

Fifth, develop soft, flexible policies, especially with big countries. At the same time, persistently struggle and do not let big countries trade on the interests of the national state, firmly hold the stance, principles towards the strategic goal of the revolution, steadily maintain independence, self-reliance and non-fluctuation in the face of any forces under the motto “using the unchangeable to cope with the changeable”.

4. The Value and Meaning of Ho Chi Minh Thought on International Integration in the Renovation of Vietnam Today

Ho Chi Minh’s legacy of international integration has great theoretical and practical value, which is the heritance and development of the Vietnamese cultural tradition on international integration; the inheritance, application and creative development of Marxist-Leninist theory on integration to suit the specific historical conditions of Vietnam. It is the foundation, lodestar for the diplomatic activities and international cooperation of the Party and State in the revolutionary period.  Thanks to the creative application of his Thought, the State and Party have made use of the support of international friends, making important contribution to glorious victories of the nation in the XX century; contributing to the planning of foreign policy, effective international integration in the renovation cause today.

The 6th National Party Congress opened up the path of renovation and development; implementing the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, openness, multilateralisation and diversification of international relations that have helped Vietnam to integrate widely and deeply into international organizations, multilateral forums and to participate in economic integration and economic links profoundly. The Party and State have properly evaluated the domestic situation and the world’s development trend, and adjusted the policy, focusing on key issues in the international cooperation of Vietnam by renewing our thinking and awareness in order to create stability and take advantage of favourable international conditions for the process of renovation, integration and development of Vietnam.

From the practical summarization, the 11th National Party Congress (2011) amended and supplemented the Platform for national construction in the transitional period to socialism, drawing great experience lessons, including the lesson of “combination between the national strength with era power, internal strength with international strength. In any circumstances, it is necessary to firmly maintain the will of independence and self-reliance, and highly uphold the spirit of international cooperation, promote the internal resources and at the same time make use of external resources, combining traditional factors with modern factors”.[23] The 12th Congress put an emphasis on the task “To implement the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, multilateralization, diversification, proactive and active integration into the world; to maintain a peaceful and stable environment, creating favorable conditions for the cause of national construction and defense; heightening Vietnam’s position and prestige in the region and the world”.[24] In 2016, the Prime Minister approved the Overall Strategy on international integration through 2020, with a vision towards 2030, which was the concretization of the Resolution No. 22-NQ/TW dated 10 April 2013 by the Politburo on international integration.

This is also the application and creative development of Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts on integration and international cooperation of the Communist Party of Vietnam, bringing material and spiritual well-being to the people and integration is for the country to keep in pace with strong countries in the five continents.

Author: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pham Ngoc Anh, Institute of Research on Ho Chi Minh and Party Leaders, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

Source: Legacy of Ho Chi Minh Thought on international integration and cooperation  in Political Theory Vol. 16 - March 2018 – Research journal and scientific voice of Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics


[1] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 1, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p. 14.

[2] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 2, Ibid., p. 329

[3] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 2, Ibid., p. 287

[4] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 14, Ibid., p. 533

[5] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 4, Ibid., p. 523

[6] Ho Chi Minh Complete Works, vol. 4, Ibid., pp. 91-92

[7] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 4, Ibid., p. 523

[8] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 8, Ibid., p. 474

[9] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 8, Ibid., p. 475

[10] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 10, Ibid., p. 12

[11] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 12, Ibid., p. 293

[12] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 7, Ibid., p. 445

[13] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 4, Ibid., p. 86

[14] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 10, Ibid., p. 56

[15] According to statistics of Ho Chi Minh Museum, in his life, Ho Chi Minh visited 56 countries in the world.

[16] Ho Chi Minh: Regarding cultural and artistic works, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1971, p. 71

[17] The Resolution of UNESCO commemorating the 100th birth anniversary of President Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese hero of national liberation and great man of culture. See: unesdoc.unesco.org.

[18] The words of the Soviet Union journalist Ophius Mendenx in an article entitled “Visiting a Communist International Soldier - Nguyen Ai Quoc”, published in The Little Flame (the Soviet Union) iss. 39 dated 23 December 1924, Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 1, Ibid., p. 462.

[19] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 6, Ibid., p. 8

[20] The CPV: Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Central Party Office, Hanoi, 2016, p. 153

[21] The CPV: Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Central Party Office, Hanoi, 2016, p. 87

[22] Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, vol. 5, Ibid., p. 163

[23] The CPV: Documents of the 11th National Party Congress, the National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p. 66.

[24]  The CPV: Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Central Party Office, Hanoi, 2016, p. 79