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Discussion Paper Discussion Paper 150 (2020.1)

Enhancing infrastructure connectivity in Vietnam under Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy versus China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Nguyen Thi Hong Nga (2019年度日経アジアスカラシップ生)
   

2020/01/24

<Abstract>

Amid the rise of China’s Belt and Road (BRI), Japan has adopted Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy (FOIP), which aims to pursue peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and to some extent, counter China’s ambitions by promoting alignments with other regional countries. Given its favorable geo-strategic location and a long, troubled history with China, Vietnam appears to be an appealing partner to Japan. It even makes more sense as one of the three pillars of Japan’s FOIP also refers to “improving connectivity through infrastructure development” across regional economies while infrastructure connectivity is also a key component of China’s BRI approach. This paper thus examines how Japan has fostered infrastructure connectivity in Vietnam under the FOIP Strategy in response to China’s BRI and its recent transformations, and which choices Vietnam would make to benefit from both sides. The study shows that in addition to enhancing high quality infrastructure projects in Vietnam, Japan should also take further steps to work with a “high quality” BRI and “digital connectivity” strategy under BRI’s Digital Silk Road. The transformation of China’s BRI also sets off alarm bells for Vietnam to have second thoughts about the approval of China-funded infrastructure projects, which however, does not mean Vietnam should turn its back on Chinese capital. Essentially, a trilateral collaboration with the engagement of a private sector in infrastructure development could be a solution to strike a balance among Japan’s FOIP, China’s BRI, Vietnam’s national interests and international basic standards. In particular, Japan and China could consider to team up on “smart cities development” projects and spread out this model across Vietnam to improve infrastructure connectivity in the country.

<要旨>

 日本は現在、法の支配や「質の高いインフラ」整備などを通じて経済的繁栄をめざす「自由で開かれたインド太平洋(FOIP)」構想を掲げている。一方、中国は広域経済圏構想「一帯一路」の下、アジアを含む様々な国に対する影響力を強めている。このように日中両国が異なる協力枠組みの下でアジア諸国への接近を強めるなか、ベトナムは2つの枠組みにどのように関わっていけばよいのだろうか。インフラ開発が重要な課題であるベトナムにとって、両者はともに重要であり、二者択一の対象ではない。それぞれの協力枠組みから得られるメリットを慎重に検討しながら対応していく姿勢が肝要である。一方、日中両国は両枠組みの下、アジアのインフラ開発で手を携えることも可能と思われる。デジタルエコノミー時代が本格化するなかで、ベトナムでは人工知能(AI)やIT(情報技術)、ビッグデータを使って社会インフラを効率化したり環境に配慮した都市を整備したりする「スマートシティ」計画が注目されている。日中両国はお互いの資金や技術、ノウハウを持ち寄り、民間の参画も促しながら同計画の実現を支援することが出来るだろう。

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