Vietnam’s increasing middle-power status in the Asia-Pacific region has sparked interest on its successful foreign diplomacy. Coined in 2016, Vietnam’s ‘bamboo diplomacy’ is used domestically to describe foreign policy.  

Bamboo is an ideal metaphor for Vietnam’s foreign outlook. It is deeply embedded in Vietnamese culture and history and portrays resilience, solidarity, and strength. Its roots are core metaphorical guiding principles used to form Vietnam’s foreign policy across its national interests, diversification efforts, and strategies in forming multi-dimensional relations and engagements.  

Despite domestic issues surfacing, Vietnam continues a considered and proactive approach to its foreign policy. Its leaders always prioritise international outreach, often with large delegations, and its domestic reception of visiting dignitaries is always spectacular.  This approach is consistent across global powers from China, the USA, Russia, Japan, India and now Australia. Vietnam has proven that it is a friend to many and consistent in its approach.  It has been true to the bamboo outlook.   

In Australia, bamboo is often seen as a relenting root system and something which rarely stops growing.  Australians would agree on the resilience and deep roots of bamboo.  We would also agree that bamboo continues to grow, higher and higher, with high aspiration.  It is these shared attributes that we see reflected in the bilateral relationship between Vietnam and Australia.   

As Australia and Vietnam both look outward and play an increasingly influential role in the region, it is expected that both countries will continue to deepen collaboration and shared interests. The success of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s visit to Hanoi in June 2023, and the importance he placed on building relationships and experiencing Vietnamese culture, will have positive flow on effects for years to come. We anticipate a reciprocal visit later this year to Australia by the Government of Vietnam, following a successful visit last year by Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue in December 2022.  

As we look to the next iteration of Australia-Vietnam relations, it’s important to reflect on what opportunities are present and how to utilise organisations actively working in the space. The Australia Vietnam Policy Institute, for example, is Australia’s first policy institute focused on its relationship with Vietnam. It is working toward a more organised and coordinated approach around the opportunities that Vietnam presents.  

As we continue this journey, Australia does so in the confidence of the consistency and friendship of Vietnam and the success of its bamboo diplomacy. The relationship is based on shared values.  These values include values such as independence, equality and the rule of law.  And together these are the values that guide Australia and Vietnam’s joint effort to promote stability and prosperity in the region. 

This article was authored by Layton Pike, co-founder of the Australia Vietnam Policy Institute (AVPI).

Publication Date
Tuesday 27th June, 2023
Your Authors
Layton Pike
Co-founder, Australia Vietnam Policy Institute (AVPI)