June 13, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In an essay published in the current issue of the international journal Comparative Strategy, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, reviews China and Vietnam: The Politics of Asymmetry by Dr. Brantly Womack of the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia.

According to Dr. Pham’s review, the author “locates his discussion of the relationship between China and Vietnam—arguably the longest continual rapport of its kind between any two states in world politics—within the theoretical framework of relatively power in international relations, specifically the analytical framework of asymmetry theory, which he previously developed in a series of scholarly articles.” However, Dr. Pham notes that “despite his obvious erudition—or, perhaps, because of the conventions of the lofty academic circles in which he rightfully takes his place often disdain the messiness of policy in favor of the aesthetics of theory—Womack stops short of drawing the obvious strategic conclusions that one might draw” from the historical lessons he presents.

Dr. Pham argues: “While the historical lesson is clear that it would be counterproductive to risk a Vietnamese strategy that directly threatened Chinese interests, the United States can nonetheless leverage the asymmetric dynamic that Womack has carefully detailed. An independent, strong, and prosperous Vietnam—a country that can pursue its own course at home and its own interests abroad with confidence—will not be America’s lackey by any stretch of the imagination. Too much nationalism is at play. However, that self-assured Vietnam will, as history has shown, definitely not be subservient to China. Consequently, Vietnam will likely more often than not find that its interests will coincide more with the far-off American superpower than with the nearby Chinese power aspiring to regional hegemony.”

Comparative Strategy , a peer-reviewed journal sponsored by the National Institute of Public Policy and the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Reading, United Kingdom. Drawing on historical perspectives and insights from leading international analysts, Comparative Strategy provides a contextual framework for considering the critical security issues of today and tomorrow. It is edited by Dr. Keith B. Payne and supervised by an international board of editors from Europe, America, and Asia.

For the text of the review, click here.