The ‘Same Bed, Different Dreams’ of Vietnam and China

How (Mis)trust Could Make or Break It

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
View More View Less
  • 1 Phenikaa University, Center for Interdisciplinary Social Research, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • 2 Campus de Dijon, Sciences Po Paris, Dijon, France
  • 3 Phenikaa University, Center for Interdisciplinary Social Research, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • 4 Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies, Beppu, Japan

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):



Vietnam–China relations could be captured in the Chinese expression ‘同床异梦’, ‘same bed, different dreams’. Analysing Vietnam–China’s asymmetric relationship, cultural and political similarities, divergences in global ambition and the involvement of foreign powers, this study shows how the relationship is increasingly interdependent but is equally fragile. One possible cause is the low level of trust on both sides, evidenced by repeated calls to ‘consolidate political trust’ or ‘enhance mutual trust’ in their high-level bilateral dialogues.

  • Abrami, R.M., E.J. Malesky and Y. Zheng. ‘Vietnam through Chinese eyes: divergent accountability in single-party regimes’ (2010). Available at SSRN:

  • Amer, R. ‘China, Vietnam, and the South China Sea: disputes and dispute management’. Ocean Development and International Law 45 (2014): 17–40.

  • Ba, A. ‘Regional security in East Asia: ASEAN’s value added and limitations’. Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 29 (2010): 115–130.

  • Bélanger, D., and Xu Li. ‘Agricultural land, gender and kinship in rural China and Vietnam: a comparison of two villages’. Journal of Agrarian Change 9 (2009): 204–230.

  • Bell, D.A. The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016).

  • Bordeen, C. ‘China to close part of South China Sea for military exercise’ (online, 2016). Available: (accessed 6 January 2019).

  • Bui, N.T. ‘Managing anti-China nationalism in Vietnam: evidence from the media during the 2014 oil rig crisis’. The Pacific Review 30 (2017): 169–187.

  • Buszynski, L. ‘The South China Sea: oil, maritime claims, and US–China strategic rivalry’. The Washington Quarterly 35 (2012): 139–156.

  • Cai, L., and A.Y. Liu. ‘Wage determination and distribution in urban China and Vietnam: a comparative analysis’. Journal of Comparative Economics 43 (2015): 186–203.

  • Chan, Y.W. ‘Cultural and gender politics in China–Vietnam border tourism’. In Tourism in Southeast Asia: Challenges and New Directions, eds M. Hitchcock, V.T. King and M. Parnwell (Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2008).

  • Chan, Y.W. Vietnamese–Chinese Relationships at the Borderlands: Trade, Tourism and Cultural Politics (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013).

  • Chen, K.C. Vietnam and China, 1938–1954 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969).

  • Cheng, J.Y.S. ‘Sino-Vietnamese relations in the early twenty-first century: economics in command?’ Asian Survey 51 (2011): 379–405.

  • Collins, N., Y. Zhu and M. Warner. ‘HRM and Asian socialist economies in transition: China, Vietnam, and North Korea’. In Handbook of Research on Comparative Human Resource Management, eds C. Brewster, W. Mayrhofer and E. Farndale (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2018).

  • Cooke, F.L., and Z. Lin. ‘Chinese firms in Vietnam: investment motives, institutional environment and human resource challenges’. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources 50 (2012): 205–226.

  • Cyranoski, D. ‘China to train African scientists as part of 60-billion development plan’. Nature 562 (2018): 15–16.

  • Dejaeghere, J., X. Wu and L. Vu. ‘Ethnicity and education in China and Vietnam: discursive formations of inequality’. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education 45 (2015): 118–140.

  • Dixon, J. ‘East China Sea or South China Sea, they are all China’s seas: comparing nationalism among China’s maritime irredentist claims’. Nationalities Papers 42 (2014): 1053–1071.

  • Duy-Chien. ‘Chinese official voices over complaints of Chinese traders in Vietnam’. VietnamNet (online, 2013). Available: (accessed 21 May 2018).

  • General Statistics Office of Vietnam. Kết quả toàn bộ Tổng điều tra Dân số và Nhà ở Việt Nam năm 2009 [2009 Vietnam Population and Housing Census] (Ha Noi: General Statistics Office of Vietnam, 2009).

  • Green, A., N. Gerein, T. Mirzoev, P. Bird, S. Pearson, T. Martineau, M. Mukhopadhyay, X. Qian, K.V. Ramani and W. Soors. ‘Health policy processes in maternal health: a comparison of Vietnam, India and China’. Health Policy 100 (2011): 167–173.

  • Guan, A.C. ‘Vietnam–China relations since the end of the cold war’. Asian Survey 38 (1998): 1122–1141.

  • Hong, Z. ‘The South China Sea dispute and China–ASEAN relations’. Asian Affairs 44 (2013): 27–43.

  • Ives, M. ‘China cancels military meeting with Vietnam over territorial dispute’. New York Times (online, 2017). Available: (accessed 24 May 2018).

  • Jun, T., and L. Bui. ‘Feature: We love Chinese books, say Vietnamese students’. Xinhua (online, 2018). Available:–04/19/c_137120720.htm (accessed 25 May 2018).

  • Kang, D., and X. Ma. ‘Who’s chasing whom? Vietnam–US relations and theories of alignment and alliance’. Paper prepared for the annual meeting of the ISA, Hong Kong, 16 June 2017.

  • Kaplan, R.D. Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific (New York: Random House, 2014).

  • Kim-Chi. ‘Economists: Vietnam should be cautious about loans from AIIB’. VietnamNet (online, 2017). Available:–vietnam-should-be-cautious-about-loans-from-aiib.html (accessed 23 May 2018).

  • Kubny, J., and H. Voss. ‘Benefiting from Chinese FDI? An assessment of vertical linkages with Vietnamese manufacturing firms’. International Business Review 23, 4 (2014): 731–740.

  • Kurlantzick, J. ‘A China–Vietnam military clash’. Contingency Planning Memorandum 26. Council on Foreign Relations, Center for Preventive Action 85–86, 23 September 2015.

  • Kydd, A.H. Trust and Mistrust in International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007).

  • Lang, B. ‘China’s anti-graft campaign and international anti-corruption norms: towards a “new international anti-corruption order”?’ Crime, Law and Social Change (2017): 1–17.

  • Liu, X., S. Tang, B. Yu, N.K. Phuong, F. Yan, D.D. Thien and R. Tolhurst. ‘Can rural health insurance improve equity in health care utilization? A comparison between China and Vietnam’. International Journal for Equity in Health 11 (2012): 10.

  • London, J.D. ‘Welfare regimes in China and Vietnam’. Journal of Contemporary Asia 44 (2014): 84–107.

  • Lum, T., W.M. Morrison and B. Vaughn. ‘China’s “soft power” in Southeast Asia’. Report for Congress, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division, 4 January 2008.

  • Majumdar, M. ‘The ASEAN way of conflict management in the South China Sea’. Strategic Analysis 39 (2015): 73–87.

  • Malesky, E., and J.D. London. ‘The political economy of development in China and Vietnam’. Annual Review of Political Science (2014): 395–419.

  • Mao, W., H. Vu, Z. Xie, W. Chen and S. Tang. ‘Systematic review on irrational use of medicines in China and Vietnam’. PloS one 10 (2015), e0117710.

  • Michaud, J. ‘Handling mountain minorities in China, Vietnam and Laos: from history to current concerns’. Asian Ethnicity 10 (2009): 25–49.

  • Moise, E.E. Land Reform in China and North Vietnam: Consolidating the Revolution at the Village Level (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press Books, 2017).

  • Mol, A.P. ‘Environmental governance through information: China and Vietnam’. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 30 (2009): 114–129.

  • Napier, N., and Q.H. Vuong. What We See, Why We Worry, Why We Hope: Vietnam Going Forward (Boise, ID: Boise State University CCI Press, 2013).

  • Ng, E. ‘The rise of Chinese FDI into ASEAN’, Nikko Asset Management (online, 2017). Available: (accessed 7 May 2018).

  • Ngo, V.T.H., M.R. Meijer, A.M.W. Bulte and A. Pilot. ‘The implementation of a social constructivist approach in primary science education in Confucian heritage culture: the case of Vietnam’. Cultural Studies of Science Education 10 (2015): 665–693.

  • Ngo, X.B. ‘Main characteristics of Vietnam–China trade relations, 2000–2015’. China Report 53 (2017): 355–366.

  • Nguyen, H.V. Người Hoa tại Việt Nam [Hoa People in Vietnam] (Paris: NBC, 1993).

  • Nguyen, M.T.N., and C. Locke. ‘Rural–urban migration in Vietnam and China: gendered householding, production of space and the state’. The Journal of Peasant Studies 41 (2014): 855–876.

  • Nguyen, T.M.H. ‘Vietnam–China trade relations in the feudal period: from the early 10th to the late 19th century’. Journal of Mekong Societies (วารสาร สังคม ลุ่มน้ำ โขง) 11 (2015): 1–18.

  • O’Meara, S. ‘Taking the silk road to high-tech growth’. Nature 563 (2018): S25–S27.

  • Painter, M. ‘Governance reforms in China and Vietnam: marketisation, leapfrogging and retro-fitting’. Journal of Contemporary Asia 44 (2014): 204–220.

  • Phan, L.H., P. McPherron and V.Q. Phan. ‘English language teachers as moral guides in Vietnam and China: maintaining and re-traditionalizing morality’. In Education Reform in China: Changing Concepts, Contexts and Practices, ed. J. Ryan (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011).

  • Ray, R., and K. Sinha. ‘Multidimensional deprivation in China, India and Vietnam: a comparative study on micro data’. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 16 (2015): 69–93.

  • Reuters. ‘ASEAN overcomes communique impasse, urges non-militarisation in South China Sea’, (online, 2017). Available: (accessed 23 May 2018).

  • Reuters. ‘China again lands planes on disputed island in South China Sea: Xinhua’ (online, 2016). Available: (accessed 6 January 2019).

  • Schoenberger, L., and S. Turner. ‘Negotiating remote borderland access: small-scale trade on the Vietnam–China border’. Development and Change 39 (2008): 667–696.

  • SIPRI. SIPRI Military Expenditure Database 2017 (Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2017).

  • Thayer, C. ‘Vietnam’s strategy of “cooperating and struggling” with China over maritime disputes in the South China Sea’. Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 3 (2016): 200–220.

  • Thayer, C. Vietnam: China a Partner of Cooperation and Object of Struggle, China Policy Institute (online, 2017). Available: (accessed 22 May 2018).

  • Trung-Thanh. ‘4th Vietnam–China Border Defense Friendship Exchange reviewed’. Quan Doi Nhan Dan [People’s Army] (online, 2017). Available: (accessed 24 May 2018).

  • Trung-Thanh. ‘Preparations for Fifth Vietnam–China Border Defense Friendship Exchange reviewed’. Quan Doi Nhan Dan [People’s Army] (online, 2018). Available: (accessed 24 May 2018).

  • Vân, H. ‘Trung Quốc không còn là thị trường chất lượng thấp’ [China is no longer a low-quality market], Nhịp Cầu Đầu Tư [Investment Bridge] (online, 2018). Available: (accessed 21 May 2018).

  • Việt Nam—Trung Quốc chia sẻ kinh nghiệm chỉnh đốn Đảng, chống tham nhũng’ [Vietnam, China share experiences in party building work, anti-corruption]. VTV (online, 2017). Available: (accessed 23 May 2018).

  • Vu, T. Paths to Development in Asia: South Korea, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

  • Vu, T.B., B. Gangnes and I. Noy. ‘Is foreign direct investment good for growth? Evidence from sectoral analysis of China and Vietnam’. Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy 13 (2008): 542–562.

  • Vuong, Q.H. ‘Vietnam’s political economy: a discussion on the 1986–2016 period’. CEB-ULBWPN° 14/010 (2014).

  • Vuong, Q.H. ‘The (ir)rational consideration of the cost of science in transition economies’. Nature Human Behaviour 2, 1 (2018): 5.

  • Vuong, Q.H. ‘The financial economy of Viet Nam in an age of reform, 1986–2016’. In Routledge Handbook of Banking and Finance in Asia, eds U. Volz, P. Morgan and N. Yoshino (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019).

  • Vuong, Q.H., and T.D. Tran. ‘The cultural dimensions of the Vietnamese private entrepreneurship’. IUP Journal of Entrepreneurship DevelopmentVI (2009): 54–78.

  • Vuong, Q.H., Q.-K. Bui, V.-P. La, T.-T. Vuong, V.-H.T. Nguyen, Manh-Toan Ho, H.-K.T. Nguyen and Manh-Tung Ho. ‘Cultural additivity: behavioural insights from the interaction of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism in folktales’. Palgrave Communications 4 (2018): 143.

  • Vuong, Q.H., V.-P. La, T.-T. Vuong, Manh-Toan Ho, H.-K.T. Nguyen, V.-H. Nguyen, H.-H. Pham and Manh-Tung Ho. ‘An open database of productivity in Vietnam’s social sciences and humanities for public use’. Scientific Data 5 (2018): 180–188.

  • Walker, A., and P. Hallinger. ‘A synthesis of reviews of research on principal leadership in East Asia’. Journal of Educational Administration 53 (2015): 554–570.

  • Womack, B. ‘International relationships at the border of China and Vietnam: an introduction’. Asian Survey 40 (2000): 981–986.

  • Womack, B. ‘Asymmetry and systemic misperception: China, Vietnam and Cambodia during the 1970s’. Journal of Strategic Studies 26 (2003): 92–119.

  • Womack, B. China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2006).

  • Woodside, A. Lost Modernities: China, Vietnam, Korea and the Hazards of World History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).

  • Xiaosong, G., and B. Womack. ‘Border cooperation between China and Vietnam in the 1990s’. Asian Survey 40 (2000): 1042–1058.

  • Xinhua. ‘AIIB urged to invest into Vietnam in 2017: Vietnamese PM’ (online, 2017). Available:–03/07/c_136110177.htm (accessed 25 May 2018).

  • Yahuda, M. ‘China’s new assertiveness in the South China Sea’. Journal of Contemporary China 22 (2013): 446–459.

  • Zhang, N. ‘Research on trading relations between China and Vietnam’. Journal of Engineering 1 (2012): 30–35.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 795 272 15
Full Text Views 45 27 2
PDF Views & Downloads 34 23 3