At both the G20 and in Vietnam, U.S. hegemony looks ever more perilous
President Joe Biden boards Air Force One for a trip to attend the G20 summit in New Delhi, Sept. 7, 2023, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. | Evan Vucci / AP

President Joe Biden just finished a major trip to Asia for the G20 Summit in India, with an important stopover in Hanoi, Vietnam. The trip saw a mix of successes and setbacks for the Biden administration.

This year’s G20 Summit took place from September 9 to 10 in the Indian capital of New Delhi. It was the first G20 meeting since last month’s major expansion of BRICS and was seen by many watchers as a forum for the U.S. and its allies to maintain their current waning dominance over the global economy. Another goal of the meeting, of course, was to reaffirm the pro-NATO narrative that Russia is economically and politically isolated.

Some of the highlights of the gathering included the inclusion of the African Union as a permanent member of the economic group and a push for greener economic initiatives, such as the Global Biofuel Alliance.

Biden also used the summit to announce an international infrastructure development program which seeks to compete with China’s very successful Belt and Road Initiative, called the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). Biden repeated the often-debunked claim that China’s Belt and Road program uses economic coercion to get countries to sign on.

Meanwhile, his government claims that despite decades of U.S.-led predatory international trade and investment programs through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that this new program would be better.

One cannot help but notice the irony that the Biden administration is so eager to invest in infrastructure abroad to counter China while repeatedly failing to invest in the crumbling U.S. infrastructure at home. This is opposed to China, whose government has completed countless major infrastructure programs both at home and abroad.

One major setback for Biden’s agenda at the G20 was the summit’s final statement. The U.S. failed to get the other participants to accept language condemning Putin and the war in Ukraine. After hundreds of hours of negotiations and many drafts, the final statement made no mention of Russia and simply called for all countries to settle their differences through negotiations. The final language is being seen as a Biden defeat and a victory for Indian President Narendra Modi, whose government maintains friendly relations with Russia.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Biden ally and French President Emmanuel Macron claimed that the G20 Summit somehow proves that the U.S.-led attempt to isolate Russia has succeeded.

After the summit concluded, Biden moved on to Hanoi. Vietnam has one of the quickest growing economies in the world and is a major leader in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The country also shares a border with China, and the U.S. has repeatedly sought to use Vietnam to further “encircle and contain” China.

Leading up to this trip, many so-called experts claimed that the goal of this trip was to up the pressure on Vietnam to join the U.S. anti-China coalition. If that was Biden’s goal, he failed.

In the days leading up to his arrival, high-level Vietnamese officials met with their Chinese counterparts, and both sides assured each other about their continued friendship. China remains Vietnam’s biggest economic partner, and both countries cooperate in all fields—from defense, to culture, to their shared goals of building socialism in their respective countries.

The highlight of Biden’s side trip was the signing of an agreement between the U.S. and Vietnam to raise the bilateral diplomatic relationship from a “comprehensive partnership” to that of a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” This upgrade in diplomatic ties offers a lot of potential economic and trade benefits for both countries and is generally seen as a win-win for Washington and Hanoi.

However, Biden’s speech in Vietnam featured a number of errors of fact. First, Biden incorrectly claimed that a “comprehensive strategic partnership” was the highest level of bilateral relations in Vietnam’s foreign policy. In actuality, “special strategic partnership” is the highest level. Vietnam’s relationships with China, Cuba, Laos, Cambodia, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are rated at this level.

Later in his remarks to the media, Biden began to drift from the pre-press conference plan and had to be abruptly interrupted by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Even after she called an end to the press conference, however, the president continued to inaudibly answer another question that was shouted from the press pool.

After this trip, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the U.S.’ international influence is continuing to decline as the world speeds further toward a new multipolar reality. India was able to prevent the U.S. from forcing its anti-Russia language into the G20 summit’s final statement, and Vietnam was able to upgrade its bilateral relationship with the U.S. while avoiding having to join the U.S. led anti-China coalition, and in fact, maintaining its close and friendship relationship with Beijing.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.

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Amiad Horowitz
Amiad Horowitz

Amiad Horowitz studied at the Academy of Journalism and Communications at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics with a specific focus on Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh. He lives in Hanoi, Vietnam. His articles have appeared in National Herald India, People's World, TRANSCEND Media Service, The Hitavada (India), Northlines, and The Arabian Post.