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I share that view, from three conflicting impressions.
First, like many foreigners, the invigorating jolt of energy on arrival in Vietnam. Then, staying here longer, the complexity of daunting challenges such as economic reform, accountable governance and fighting corruption become more apparent. The big question is whether it is possible for the Government to address these. But stepping back further, Vietnam’s record of success at reinventing itself, and the sustained pragmatic determination of Vietnamese people, reinforce my sense of the potential.
Mr Hague’s visit showed how far and how fast Vietnam and Britain’s relationship has developed since he signed the Strategic Partnership agreement in 2010, as I commented previously. This is helping to enable a rapid growth of bilateral trade. But it is also reflected in other important areas.
For example, it was a privilege for me to join a meeting between Mr Hague and the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Mr Nguyen Phu Trong. This was an “asymmetrical” meeting, because of the differences in our political and bureaucratic systems. But the spirit of the exchange was warm and constructive. I felt a growing trust and commitment to embrace the bigger opportunities which our partnership is bringing. Mr Hague was also well received by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
Then a lunch between Mr Hague and his Vietnamese host Mr Pham Binh Minh at the government guest house was one of the fastest formal meals I have ever eaten. The discussion beforehand had run on, as two Foreign Ministers discussed Vietnam’s growing influence. What sort of bigger, constructive global role might Vietnam develop if it can realise its “colossal” potential? And how might its partnership with Britain support this?