According to Mr. Nguyen Phu Binh (photo), former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, by reaching out to all Vietnamese citizens stranded abroad and ensuring their safe return home during this difficult phase, while successfully preventing any further spread of the pandemic within the country, Vietnam has achieved something that many super powers have failed to do.
JOURNALIST: - Sir, when the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread globally, the Government implemented a policy to protect Vietnamese citizens in affected countries. How do you evaluate the significance of this policy?
Mr. NGUYEN PHU BINH: - It can be said that this is the first time in history that Vietnamese diplomacy has played a vital role in protecting Vietnamese citizens on such a large scale. Large in both scope and number, and not just in one country but across several countries at the same time, not in the hundreds but in the thousands. When the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, many countries closed their borders and grounded their airplanes. So in order to bring citizens home, the Vietnamese diplomatic agencies actively negotiated with host countries in connecting with various airlines across a wide range of routes to support the return of Vietnamese citizens.
When the pandemic first appeared, we thought that so many well-off countries having good economic and social security systems in place would be able to cope with the situation effectively, and that Vietnamese citizens in those countries may be more favorably protected than in Vietnam, because of our low income economy, inadequate health infrastructure and huge population density. The worst case scenario we forecast was that the disease would spread rampantly within the country and make it unaffordable for us to tackle it.
However, not long after, the situation changed to another scenario, and we now have total control of the pandemic within our country’s territory, whereas in many countries thousands of their citizens are reeling under an extremely high rate of infection and loss of lives. Vietnamese citizens living and studying in these countries are facing many difficulties and are at great risk. In such times, the Vietnamese Government advocated that it would not only care for the safety and protection of its domestic citizens, but also protect all Vietnamese citizens living abroad in countries badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Is this the soft power of Vietnam in the international arena?
- In recent years, the dynamic development of the economy, political stability and expanded international relations have helped Vietnam's position to be much more enhanced in the international arena. In particular, when the Covid-19 pandemic occurred, Vietnam successfully prevented its spread due to taking the right measures. At first, many countries had questions and doubts, but we succeeded in preventing the outbreak by resolute will power, determination and by choosing the most effective measures within our capacity.
This is something to be proud of. Compared to many countries, Vietnam is a low mid-income country, and if we let the outbreak spread, we will certainly not be able to control the disease like many countries who have the resources. For example, in terms of medical equipment, many countries are very rich and have more than enough resources to equip themselves, but they lacked preparation and will, so when this outbreak occurred they were passive in their ability to cope.
From an economic perspective, effective prevention of Covid-19 is the basis to bringing our lives back to normal, to gradually restoring production, and reviving the economy. Vietnam's economy is almost the only one in the region that is maintaining a positive growth, albeit at a lower level, but still more than in many countries. Besides, we are still continuing to raise our guard against any resurgence of the pandemic. This is the premise for us to attract investment from foreign investors so when they see Vietnam as a safe destination and a reliable partner, their confidence will grow.
In terms of diplomacy, Vietnam is ready to share experiences, masks, medical supplies with the whole world in order to prevent the spread of this dangerous Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, as Chairman of ASEAN, Vietnam is proving to be a responsible country within the region and the world in sharing and resolving common international issues, including the prevention of the Covid-19 pandemic. This can be considered as the soft power of Vietnam.
- Sir, recently, the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it will not allow international students to stay in the US if their schools switch to online learning. Vietnam has tens of thousands of international students studying in the US who may have to return home. Will this put pressure on infrastructure or costs when receiving a wave of returning international students?
- This is the decision of the US Government, so we must accept and not interfere. However, in the diplomatic arena, the Vietnamese Embassy in the US, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will do everything to protect its citizens in the US. In case international students are forced to return home, it will put much more pressure on us, though it can be handled. We are actively contacting and working with the US side so that we can propose a suitable roadmap out of this scenario, and how to bring back international students in an orderly and safe manner. In terms of quarantine infrastructure, currently we can accommodate almost 10,000 people flying in from abroad, simultaneously and immediately.
However, in my opinion, the US will not implement this decision because forcing so many foreign students to return back to their countries will be difficult for all involved. Firstly, the US is still arguing and deliberating whether to reopen their schools this fall or not, and have not reached any final decision yet. Secondly, most US universities still maintain strong policies to protect all their students.
- Thank you very much.