Geared by enormous power of globalization, humanity is moving forward faster and faster towards achieving an increasing number of miracles. Globalization has indeed pulled the whole world into the game of development, cooperation and struggle for national interests. All wise politicians and strategic policymakers in the world see a realistic fact that joining the international integration process is a must. More specially, no one engages into integration process just to stand still and let themselves be overrun by other competitors. Integration is to develop, development requires integration.
1. International integration
30 years of Doi Moi (Renewal) launched and led by Communist Party of Vietnam is an innovative journey that gained significant historical achievements. In the previous periods of creative revolution as well as in the current reform era, Communist Party of Vietnam has always focused on realizing changes and trends of international context. Such a broad and far-reaching vision helps party’s orientation and guidelines closely stick to the movements of humanity, take advantage of both national strength and era power to lead the country overcome challenges, while maintaining development orientation. Over the years of Renewal, in spite of quick and complex fluctuations of the state of affairs fraught with unpredictable changes in the world and in the region, since the 6th Party Congress (1986), Communist Party of Vietnam has always had accurate perceptions of the times, world and regional situations so as to orientate its domestic and foreign policies towards appropriate, up-to-date goals.
The Sixth Congress sparked a national renewal period during which the Party affirmed that the scientific and technical revolution was growing and playing an increasingly important role in the world socio-economic life. At the same time, this Congress also gave guidelines to exploit favorable conditions for international cooperation in the economic, scientific and technological areas, to become more involved in cooperative relationships with other countries under "the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance". At the 7th Congress (1991), the Party orientated its policies towards "diversification and multilateralization of relations with other countries and economic organizations". At the 8th Congress (1996), the term "integration" was first introduced in Party documents: "Building an open economy heading for integration with the region and the world". The 9th Congress documents (2001) emphasized "active regional and international economic integration in the spirit of maximizing internal resources and improving the efficiency of international cooperation, guaranteeing independence, autonomy, and socialist orientation”. At the 10th Congress (2006), the Party stated the policy of "active and positive international economic integration, in tandem with expanding cooperation in other fields". That was the foundation and a new approach based on which the 11th Congress (2011) affirmed "positive and proactive international integration," and the 12th Congress (2016) further echoed: "Effective implementation of international integration in the new conditions, continue to improve the position and prestige of the country in the international arena".
Starting from the policy of making use of opportunities from the science and technology revolution for international cooperation, promoting economic relations with countries in the region and in the world, and at a higher level, being involved in the process of international economic integration by actively integrating into the international economy and a number of other areas, by now, the Party has affirmed the active international integration of Vietnam in all sectors.
Communist Party of Vietnam identified proactive and positive international integration as a strategic direction for achieving success in implementing the tasks of building and defending the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. International integration is the task of the entire people and the whole political system under the leadership of the Party. All the mechanisms and policies need to be aimed at promoting the proactiveness, positiveness and creativeness of all organizations and individuals as well as effectively exploiting potential/potentialities of the entire society and people from all walks of life. International integration ought to be based on maximizing internal resources; promoting and being closely linked to the process of completion of institutions, enhancing the quality of human resources, modernizing infrastructure, improving synergy of the nation and national competitiveness; strengthening the connectivity between regions. Economic integration stands in the centre of the integration process, surrounded and facilitated by other sectors of integration, which are expected to contribute to assisting economic development, strengthening national defense, ensuring national security, preserving and promoting national cultural identity, advancing socio-cultural development. Economic integration must also be undertaken in sync with integration in other fields under an overall strategy for ultimate successful integration, with detailed road maps and steps compatible to the actual conditions and the country’s capacity.
2. Vietnam’s international integration
Carrying out the Party’s policy of proactive and positive international integration, Vietnam recently has enhanced and deepened its relations with its partners, especially key partners for the national development and security, putting the framework of established ties into practice. Vietnam has actively participated in and promoted its role in multilateral mechanisms, especially ASEAN and the UN. Not only enhancing economic cooperation, Vietnam has also boosted and gradually conducted in-depth operations of cooperation in many areas of life such as culture, society, science-technology, education-training, national defense, security and others; mainstreaming different activities of international integration into the process of designing and implementing strategies to develop these sectors. The degree of international integration of Vietnam in some specific areas can be judged as follows:
First, international economic integration
In recent years, Vietnam has extensively and intensively integrated into the global economy. Extensively, we have been opener, connecting domestic market economy with regional and world markets via bilateral relations on trade, investment, finance, science and technology; participating in multilateral institutions of economy, finance and international trade. Intensive integration has been demonstrated in the varying levels of economic connection such as getting involved in preferential trade agreements, Free Trade Agreements (FTA); customs unions; common markets or economic-monetary unions.
Vietnam’s process of economic integration regionally and worldwide has achieved positive results. Vietnam signed FTAs with ASEAN, Japan, Chile, the EU, South Korea, and became a signatory to the Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Vietnam and ASEAN signed an FTA with India, Australia-New Zealand, Korea, Japan and China. After joining the WTO in 2007, foreign investors shifted their priorities to Vietnam, where macroeconomic and political stability has been maintained, and while abundant low-cost labor resources are available. The average annual FDI recently reached nearly 11 billion US dollars/year, export turnover increased to 150 billion US dollars in 2014 (62.6% of which was contributed by FDI businesses), 30 times as much as that in 1995 (when Vietnam began to integrate internationally, export turnover stood at only US$ 5 billion). In the period 2011-2015, export turnover increased significantly, maintaining an average of 10.5%/year. Registered FDI during this period was 99 billion dollars with actual disbursement reaching 60.5 billion; signed ODA was about 27.8 billion. The signing of the Agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), trade agreements with the Eurasian Economic Union and the European Union along with the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community will open opportunities for Vietnam to access to markets whose combined GDP accounts for 63% of world GDP with 0% tax rate. The effective implementation of the next-generation free trade agreements has given a chance to expand the market diversification with higher preferential levels. This has also enabled Vietnam to get deeply involved in the global supply chain and network of manufacturing, as well as in the process of orientating regional and international economic structures, mechanisms and institutions. Consumers have more opportunities to choose goods and services of high quality with competitive prices and ensured hygiene standards.
Second, integration in terms of socio-culture and environment
Regionally, especially inside ASEAN, Vietnam has played an active role in building ASEAN socio-cultural community, heading for "unity in diversity". Globally, Vietnam has engaged deeper in multilateral cultural forums and mechanisms, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Francophone Community. Not only joining and implementing the commitments as a member of international organizations, Vietnam has also contributed to creating, reviewing, and perfecting, standards, as well as offering initiatives to these institutions.
The process of opening and socio-cultural integration facilitates Vietnam to approach different cultures, to acquire humanity’s advanced values, to learn valuable experience for preserving and developing traditional culture, to better integrate traditional culture with contemporary culture; to take opportunity for promoting Vietnamese cultural values to the world.
International integration in environmental issues and fighting against climate change brings about worthy experiences, attracting more resources to create policies and effective measures aiming at preventing, combating, reducing natural disasters, ensuring national security and human security.
Third, integration in terms of politics, national defense and security
At the bilateral level, Vietnam integration in political field in recent years has witnessed a fundamental shift from expanding relations to deepening and stabilizing relations. Vietnam continues strengthening bilateral relations with other countries, especially neighboring nations, major powers, traditional friends and potential partners. Vietnam has established relations with most of the member countries of the United Nations, including partnerships with 15 countries, comprehensive partnership with 11 countries. This empowers Vietnam in the international arena with more positive contribution, raising our prestige in the world and regional political life, promoting our positive role in ASEAN Community.
In terms of national defense and security, Vietnam, under some certain circumstances, has step-by-step integrated in most of the regional security forums within ASEAN such as ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM), ADMM Plus, ASEAN Chiefs of Defence Forces Meeting, Chiefs of Intelligence Agencies Meeting, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Shangri-La Dialogue, Western Pacific Naval Symposium. Vietnam is also expanding de facto cooperation and exchange activities in terms of military such as exchange of high-level military visits, welcoming friendly visits from foreign naval ships, conducting joint patrols between Vietnam People’s Navy and some nations’s navies. At a global level, Vietnam became a member of International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) in 1990 and joined ASEAN police Commander Forum in 1996. In May 2014, Vietnam officially assigned officers to join UN peacekeeping forces.
Bilateral defense-security relations have been expanded. Vietnam has made defense ties with more than 80 countries, including all members of the Permanent UN Security Council; signed 50 treaties, memorandums of understanding on mutual legal assistance in criminal justice, fighting against and prevention of criminals, and drug-related crimes. Multilateral defense-security ties have developed in all quantity, quality and efficiency.
3. Impacts of international integration on Party building
First, international integration contributes to preserving the environment for peace, stability, defending the independence, sovereignty, enhancing the position of Vietnam in the international arena.
The more intensive and extensive international integration is, the higher position can Vietnam reach. Vietnam is actively and consistently participating in safeguarding peace, cooperation and development, implementing independent and self-reliant foreign policies. Vietnam has also been building the framework of equal, stable, long-term, in-depth, win-win partnerships, creating interwoven strategic geopolitical interests, repelling any activities of hostile forces aiming at overthrowing the government, and successfully implementing the tasks of building and defending the Fatherland.
International integration contributes actively to the process of innovating methods for national socio-economic development. Achievements brought about by open policies and integration have an important role in forming theoretical and practical foundations for the Party to continue innovating thinking, planning guidelines and policies consistent with domestic and international community.
Second, international integration makes it easy for Vietnam to attract resources for economic development, enhance the comprehensive national power as well as rapid and sustainable development.
Vietnam has favorable conditions for proactive international integration, for attracting huge resources from outside to serve the innovation, to promote industrialization and modernization. The process of globalization, the region’s dynamic development associated with diversified trends of economic connections have enabled Vietnam to join and make the best of regional-global economic mechanisms, to receive and effectively use resources, new achievements in science, technology and management skills in order to develop the country quickly and sustainably.
Fulfilling international commitments in the integration process sets stringent requirements but also favor the Communist Party of Vietnam to innovate their theoretical thinking about the era, the contemporary world; to expand relations with other parties in the world, to strengthen the Party’s foreign affairs, to empower the Party and the country; to innovate leadership methods, to improve Party’s leadership and fighting capacity. Accordingly, the Party gives directions to perfect institutions, policies and laws basing on international criteria, ensuring that Vietnam's economy has a high level of adaptability to the rapid changes arising from the international and regional context.
International integration influences the adjustment of the State's role in conformity with market mechanism. The State focuses on macromanagement, facilitating development and promoting social democracy. The mobilization and allocation of resources associated with the strategy, mapping and economic development plans will restrict and control power, accelerating administrative reforms and progress. Via international integration, capabilities of and experience in managing a market economy can be improved and become more efficient.
International integration also motivates local managers, entrepreneurs and businesses to heighten competitiveness by enhanced governance, innovative technologies and business methods. Implementing integration commitments helps businesses reduce input costs, simplify processes and procedures, access to capital, technology and advanced management methods in order to increase competitiveness. On the other hand, active participation in the new generation FTAs will enable ministries, sectors and enterprises to capture the standards and new rules of world trade, thus, promoting plans and measures to improve competitiveness. This is also the theoretical and practical background for the Party to shape its positions and guidelines towards promoting start-up enterprises and start-up nation. At the same time, to develop human resources for integration, the Party should innovate its own human resources and better staff capacity and quality to meet the new requirements.
Third, international integration also contributes to improving people physical and mental well-being, widely promoting the country's image and people to international friends.
Through the speed-up in economic restructuring, expanding trade and labor cooperation, attracting investment and tourism, international integration creates jobs, improves incomes and raises people's living standards. Cooperation in culture, education, science-technology and other fields gives chances for people from all walks of life to access to knowledge and good humanity values, thereby improving their own education background, intellectual level and spiritual life.
First, international integration makes the economy exposed to vulnerability, and inclined to be more reliant on the external forces.
In the environment of integration, adverse changes of the world and regional economy affect immediately and powerfully on Vietnam's economy via channels of trade, investment and finance. Tariff reduction commitments depending on the new generation FTAs’commitments also make it difficult for budget revenues. The opening of financial markets and banking in the context of weak banking system competiveness definitely entails risks and uncertainties. The real estate market, capital markets, and labor market, develop unsynchronizedly, resulting in their exposure to takeovers or acquisitions by foreigners.
International integration has disclosed weaknesses in competitiveness because Vietnam's economy is still developing extensively, based primarily on increased investment, exports of low-added-value processed goods and on the exploitation of natural resources and minerals. Meanwhile, state-owned enterprises are slow and inefficient in innovating themselves; the vast majority of private enterprises remain small with fragmented development, leading to their lack of competitive abilities when further integrated.
International integration is impelling the trend of being more dependent on outside investment and exports, which are the two main driving forces of economic growth in Vietnam recently. Foreign capital flowing into Vietnam accounts for nearly 50% of total social investment. Over-reliance on FDI as well as lack of linkages between domestic enterprises and FDI ones make domestic economic sector not only dependent but also lagged far behind.
Second, integration and international cooperation can increase the risk of instability in terms of political security, social order and social safety.
Opening policies, liberalization and integration have opened ways for negative regional and global changes such as terrorism, international crime, cybersecurity and the like to penetrate into Vietnam. It poses significant impacts on politics, ideologies, moral and social lifestyles. Along with it, the fact that more foreigners are entering Vietnam to work, study, travel, including those from other countries and territories who are involved in separatist activities, extreme religious, and crime has shown the possible occurrence of complex problems with regard to security and social order.
Moreover, the hostile forces and reactionaries may avail the open door and integration policies to boost economic sabotage activities via internal cooperation and conditional investments, promoting "self-evolution "," self-transformation", plotting "peaceful evolution ".
Third, extensive and intensive international integration in the context of weakly resistant culture is susceptible to harmful culture from intruded publications and mass media or on the Internet. Fulfilling market-opening commitments in services and cultural products, especially audiovisual ones, can also present a risk for Vietnam to become an outlet for cultural services of other countries.
From the aforementioned positive and negative impacts, Communist Party of Vietnam has drawn some experience and identified need-to-do tasks to promote the positives while dealing with challenges arising from international integration process.
While integrating, we ought to take into careful consideration impacts and long-term consequences of the integration process on restructuring national economy, culture and society. It is necessary to build up socioeconomic development strategies and steps to adapt to the world's economic-political situations, with a set of objectives and roadmaps of bilateral, sub-regional, intercontinental and global cooperation. Furthermore, commitments and agreements within those frameworks must be in harmony rather than overlapping and contradicting each other or detrimental to the country.
To avoid causing social chaos, when it comes to international integration, the Party has to reasonably settle relationships between national independence, autonomy and proactive integration, between the country’s rights and obligations in institutions; between economic objectives, social domestic requirements and external demands; between economic and trade issues and other sectors. Failure to adapt, react flexibly and adjust reasonably or to exploit their comparative advantage makes it really vulnerable in the integration process. It is essential to consider and choose to open the industries with a competitive advantage and identify the need-to-focus sectors as competitive in the future.
All in all, international integration in the upcoming time presents both positive and negative impacts and set out lots of need-to-be-solved problems for the Party. However, most of those challenges have been clearly recognized by the Party since Vietnam joined the WTO. The past few years have demonstrated that the Communist Party of Vietnam has strikingly availed the opportunities and successfully handled the accompanied challenges of international integration, resolving many of the unfavorable impacts, making integration into an important channel and an effective way to build and protect the Vietnam Fatherland.
Prof. Dr. Vu Van Hien, Deputy Chairman of the Central Theoretical Council
 Communist Party of Vietnam: Party Complete Documents, National Political Publishing House H, 2007, Vol. 51, p.178
 Communist Party of Vietnam: Documents of the Eighth National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House , H, 1996, p.84-85
 Communist Party of Vietnam: Documents of the 9th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, H, 2001, p.42
 Communist Party of Vietnam: Documents of the 10th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, H, 2006, p.112
 Communist Party of Vietnam: Documents of the 11th National Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, H, 2011, p.46
 Communist Party of Vietnam: Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Party Central Office, 2016, p.52
Translator: Nguyen Thi Viet Nga/ Proofreader: Xuan Tung