In This Review

Changing Worlds: Vietnam's Transition from Cold War to Globalization
Changing Worlds: Vietnam's Transition from Cold War to Globalization
By David W. P. Elliott
Oxford University Press, USA, 2012, 432 pp

Faced with the end of the Cold War and the intensification of globalization, the Vietnamese leadership began to rethink their country’s foreign policy in the 1990s. Elliott’s interviews and his close reading of texts show that the country’s revolutionary true believers went through a contentious process to justify a more pragmatic approach. They ultimately came to terms with Vietnam’s need, as a small country, to cooperate with its neighbors, and so Vietnam joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The leaders decided that U.S. power was sufficiently balanced by other big powers to prevent Washington from dominating the region, and they began to cooperate with the United States. They decided that they could defend socialism and still join the World Trade Organization, so long as they were able to raise domestic living standards. These compromises were paradoxical: the leaders could protect Vietnam’s autonomy only by opening up the country’s economy. As a result, Vietnam is deeply interdependent with the rest of the world but still authoritarian and suspicious of foreign actors.