Vietnam's ASEAN Chairmanship in Dispute Management of the South China Sea in 2010
This thesis examines the attempts of Vietnamese policy makers to manage the dispute with China on the South China Sea within the context of Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2010. In particular, it examines the actions of Vietnamese policymakers in the preparing and conducting the 2010 ASEAN Defence Minister Meeting Plus and ASEAN Regional Forum. It asks whether and how Vietnamese policymakers have utilized the ASEAN chairmanship and its agenda-setting powers to put the South China Sea issue and the Chinese in the spotlight at these meetings. It argues that Vietnamese policymakers sought to constrain Chinese actions in the South China Sea by raising international publicity on the issue. The thesis considers the strategic measures taken by Vietnamese policy makers in managing the South China Sea conflict from the perspective of two schools of thought in international relations: realism and constructivism. While realists and neo-realists suggest that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must, constructivists argue that policy makers are social actors, who are concerned with the respect of others. Constructivist approaches offer a more convincing way to explain how and why Vietnam, a weaker state might try to constrain China, a much stronger state, on issues of sovereignty in the South China Sea. Finally, the thesis concludes that, despite several failures, Vietnamese policy makers were able to make progress in managing this conflict by using international publicity to constrain the Chinese from acting unilaterally.