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May 07, 2024 / 22:42

Dien Bien Phu Victory – More than triumph: Carl Thayer

Vietnam has defined the “bamboo diplomacy” strategy as flexibility, in which the country pursues its strategic goals while remaining firm and uncompromising on fundamental principles.

The surrender of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 led to three Vietnamese victories, according to Carl Thayer, Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Canberra. 

 The parade celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu Victory held in Dien Bien City, northern Vietnam on May 7. Photos: Nhat Bac/VGP 

The first was the military. It’s the comprehensive defeat of French forces in battle and the emergence of the Vietnam People’s Army as a conventional armed force.

The second victory was diplomatic, as it led to the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as an independent state. And the third one was strategic as it as it brought an end to the nine-year Anti-French Resistance War and French colonialism in Indochina.

The Dien Bien Phu campaign has also taught some lessons that are very important for “Vietnam’s foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, and development,” the scholar said.

In this regard, the Dien Bien Phu campaign proved the efficacy of people’s war through the political and military mobilization of the population to oppose foreign aggression. At the same time, the Dien Bien Phu campaign underscored the importance of creating a regular armed force supported by military assistance from fraternal countries.

The lesson from the Dien Bien Phu campaign is the need for Vietnam to identify and strategically pursue them clearly. Support from allies and fraternal countries is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Vietnam to achieve its objectives because there will always be differences in national interests between Vietnam and its allies and traditional friends.

Vietnam has codified this approach in the expression “bamboo diplomacy” – being firm and unyielding on basic principles, but flexible in the ways and means of achieving its strategic objectives. 

 Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh pays tribute to martyrs at the Dien Bien Phu battle. 

In talking about the significance of the victory and the price paid for it, Prof. Carl Thayer stressed the need to educate young people about the Dien Bien Phu milestone. “Schools, universities, and mass organizations should conduct educational programs and field trips to the Dien Bien Phu battlefield to remind the youths of today that Vietnam’s self-reliance and independence are due to the sacrifice of those who fell to defeat the French,” he stated.

Commenting on  the momentum that has  helped  Vietnam gain its present position and what should be done further to win more achievements, the expert said “Vietnam must be true to itself in terms of national identity and national unity while integrating with the global economy and international system.”

In addition, Vietnam should pursue a proactive leadership role among developing countries – the so-called Global South – in addressing the challenges of climate change, digital and energy transformation, economic integration combating pandemics, upholding international law, promoting multilateralism, and avoiding taking sides in disputes between major powers.

Vietnam’s current momentum and international prestige are based on many factors, namely long-range strategic planning, economic reform, and global economic integration, a well-trained professional diplomatic corps, and domestic political stability.

 Part of the parade on the 70th anniversary of the victory.