Vietnam: Playing with fire

Follow America and save the country; follow China and save the party. This saying, heard everywhere in Vietnam, distills the geopolitical dilemma facing its ruling Communist Party. Forty years after the last American troops left Vietnam, the party that won independence and unified the nation has lost much of its legitimacy. No amount of harking back to the virtues of Ho Chi Minh and his comrades can restore its élan nor, it seems, root out systemic corruption. The regime's biggest liability is its failure to right a faltering economy. But public opinion is also scornful of its inability to defend Vietnam's interests against China.

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