President Xi Jinping tells Hanoi parliament China and Vietnam can survive 'disruptions', but fails to mention South China Sea dispute

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 November, 2015, 12:14am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 November, 2015, 12:15am

China and Vietnam are good socialist neighbours with a long-shared history of revolutionary friendship and should be able to dispel and survive any "disruptions" in relations, President Xi Jinping said in Hanoi on Friday.

In a 20-minute speech to nearly 500 members of the Vietnamese parliament, Xi reiterated the peaceful dream and "peaceful gene" of Chinese people, saying the growth of China would enhance global peace-keeping.

Emphasising similarities between China and Vietnam, especially their socialist characteristics, Xi urged the two countries to remain "trusted comrades", "win-win partners", "good neighbours" and "friends".

The speech - the first address by a head of state to the Vietnamese National Assembly in the newly built Parliament House, came despite the two communist-led states' disputes in the South China Sea.

Read more: Seven suggestions from Xi: Chinese leader calls on Vietnam to boost military and maritime ties among raft of proposals

"China and Vietnam are joined by mountains and water and the friendship between our two peoples goes back to ancient times," Xi said.

"We must trust and help each other to move forward together, not letting anybody hinder our steps or shake our systems."

Xi made no mention of the South China Sea, nor the brief border war in 1979, when China invaded Vietnam to punish it for toppling the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

His speech was received by Vietnamese MPs with caution. Duong Trung Quoc, an outspoken MP, said Xi's visit and speech had taken place amid an unfavourable atmosphere in Vietnam, as the tensions in the South China Sea had stirred discontent.

"Mr Xi can speak from the position of China's interests, but Vietnam's interests cannot be pushed aside," Quoc said.

"It's not only a challenge for Mr Xi himself, but also a challenge for Vietnamese leaders. People expect them to show their capacity in this balancing game, keeping diplomatic ties and winning people's hearts at the same time." 

Xi and Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong had agreed to maintain peace and build a trusting relationship, the chairman of Vietnam's legislature Nguyen Sinh Hung told lawmakers.

Xi's visit is timely, and aims to rebuild relations amid uncertainty over what kind of leader will emerge from Vietnam's five-yearly party congress in January. The party has traditionally been close to Beijing, but is receiving growing Western attention.

China's reclamation work near the Spratly Islands has fuelled resentment and put Vietnam's leaders in a tough position.

Vietnam has been diversifying its ties and although China is not among its top investors, it is its largest trading partner with trade between the countries accounting for about US$60 billion a year, making for a dependence that remains a contentious domestic issue.

Xi ended his trip in Hanoi on Friday after meeting Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang.