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The coordination of Party dipplomacy, State diplomacy and People – to – peple diplomacy in Vetnam’s comprehensive diplomacy

One of major solutions for the synchronous, creative and effective implementation of foreign affairs underlined by the 13th Party Congress was “Building a comprehensive and modern diplomacy consisting of three pillars - that of the Party, the state, and people-to-people diplomacy”. This is both an inheritance of the previous congresses and a new development for awareness of the connotations, roles, and ways of coordinating and implementing external affairs (1). To achieve success, it is essential to clarify perceptions of Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, and people - to - people diplomacy, as well as the relationship between these three pillars in the new situation.


American people took to the streets to protest against the war in Vietnam

Practice and process of thinking change of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) on Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, people-to-people diplomacy

The reality of the Vietnamese revolution has demonstrated that different diplomatic channels have been promoted effectively, suitable for each specific period of the country. Even before the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (in 1945), the CPV and President Ho Chi Minh have enhanced the role of Party diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy to get the highest goal of national liberation. Regarding Party diplomacy, after the CPV was established (1930), leader Nguyen Ai Quoc and senior leaders of the Party have directly led the Party diplomacy. President Ho Chi Minh was the first one who paved the way and made people-to-people diplomacy an important foreign policy channel in Vietnam's revolutionary history even before Vietnam had an official communication channel. This is an important basis for the CPV to conduct a friendly foreign policy, especially in mobilizing public opinion to gain the understanding and support of the international community about Vietnam’s struggle for independence.

During the 1945-1975 period, after the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, three pillars of Party, state, and people-to-people diplomacy made significant strides, contributing remarkably to national liberation. During this period, Party diplomacy continued to be placed a strong emphasis and obtained outstanding achievements, won widespread support from the international community for the just struggle of the Vietnamese people, contributed to the Vietnamese people's victorious struggle, and the Southern Liberation for National Reunification.

State diplomacy, although newly born, has strongly promoted its role in gaining world recognition through the establishment of official diplomatic ties with several countries and joining in regional institutions and forums.

People-to-people diplomacy continued to be attached great importance. During the resistance war against the US, it has made significant breakthroughs with various creative forms, ranging from sending delegations to visit brother countries to attend international conferences, bringing the voice of the Southern people who are fighting against enemies to international press agencies...; thus forming an unprecedented international front to support the Vietnamese people.

From 1975 up to now, the three pillars of Party, state, and people-to-people diplomacy have made new progress conducive to the national construction and defense. Promoting these achievements, the Party diplomacy has proactively adjusted and adapted to the new situation and tasks, specifically: 1- It has actively maintained and expanded the relationship between the CPV and political parties and global progressive movements in the world; 2- It has made crucial contributions in consulting, orienting diplomatic strategy amid complicated development of communist movements, international workers and the world situation; 3- It has laid a major political foundation for stabilizing, expanding and tightening Vietnam's bilateral relations with other countries, and also handling numerous problems arising in bilateral relations; 4- It has contributed to maintaining peace, national independence, democracy and social progress in the world, enhancing the prestige and international stature of the CPV. In particular, the CPV has made breakthroughs in gaining in-depth relationships between parties. Accordingly, it not only developed relations with communist, workers or leftist parties, and progressive movements, but also made a breakthrough in relations with the major ruling, political, and opposition parties of key partners of Vietnam, thereby creating a solid political basis for bilateral relations(2).

Along with the process of Doi Moi and international integration, the role of state diplomacy has been played to the fullest extent(3). In the early years of Doi Moi, it contributed to lifting the embargo, helping Vietnam overcome the crisis by consecutively normalizing diplomatic ties with major countries, strengthening relations with neighboring and regional countries as well as important partners, joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, 1995). During the process of globalization, diplomacy has actively expanded the network of partners through signing different bilateral trade agreements, joining a series of important multilateral mechanisms, hosting high-level meetings, assuming twice the role of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, and so forth. It can be said that diplomacy has actively and effectively contributed to maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, safeguarding national independence, sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity, mobilizing external resources for national development, and improving the country's international prestige and position.

In the new stage of development with new requirements, people-to-people diplomacy continued to be implemented in various and flexible forms to bring into play the country's specific strengths in mobilizing the international community, expanding, diversifying, and multilateralizing relations with different partners around the world. In particular, people-to-people diplomacy has established a special bond of friendship between people, opening up unofficial channels of dialogue and cooperation, thus solving multiple problems towards normalizing relations with important partners. Moreover, it is also a tool to strengthen the friendly relations with traditional partners in the new circumstance. At the same time, it has expanded cooperation with new partners to mobilize external resources for national growth and the protection of national interests in the new conditions.

In the documents of different Party Congresses, the policy of synchronously deploying the three pillars of diplomacy was first mentioned at different levels by the 4th Congress and then continued to be developed and completed over Congresses.  The 4th Congress (1976) laid the foundation for the perception of diplomatic channels through the identification of actors. For the first time, it has determined the tasks of each targeted group, including the group of “working class and toiling people of capitalist countries”; that of “fraternal socialist countries”, “regional countries”, “all other countries” and that of “Laos and Cambodian nations”, “Southeast Asian nations”, “nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America”(4). This can be considered as a preliminary step to develop policies on Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, and people-to-people diplomacy in the next period.

The 6th Congress (1986) first clarified the subject of each group in diplomacy, including: “Our Party”, “Our State”, “Vietnamese People”. Besides, preliminary coordination has been noticed when it mentioned simultaneously two or all three subjects in some undertakings and policies, such as: “Our Party, Government and people”; “Our Party and State” “Vietnamese Government and people”(5).

The 8th National Congress (1996) showed new progress when clearly differencing the tasks of each pillar. Furthermore, for the first time, it clarified what type of partnership to develop with a specific group of Party: “Developing relations with communist and workers' parties, revolutionary forces for national independence and progress; establishing and expanding relations with ruling parties and other parties”. This was also the first time that the expression “people-to-people diplomacy” has been mentioned with a specific connotation: “Expanding people-to-people diplomacy, reinforcing relationship with non-governmental organizations, reaching the consensus and support provided by the international community, promoting the peace, cooperation, and development”(6).

The 9th Congress (2001) continued to clarify the request: “Strongly coordinating the State diplomacy, the Party diplomacy and the people-people diplomacy. Perfecting management mechanism of foreign affairs, forming a synergy to successfully carry out diplomatic missions, making the world better understand the country, its people, and the renovation work of Vietnam, orientations, and policies of our Party and State, gaining in-depth international cooperation and support”(7).

At the 10th Congress (2006), the Party added a principle and close coordination between these three pillars: “Ensuring the Party’s unified leadership and the centralized State management for external affairs. Establishing close coordination between Party diplomacy, state diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy; between political and economic diplomacy; diplomacy in terms of national defense and security, foreign and domestic information(8).

At the 13th Congress (in 2021), for the first time the Party identified three primary components of Vietnam's comprehensive diplomacy: “Building a comprehensive and modern diplomacy with three pillars: Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, and people-to-people diplomacy”(9). This is a significant development when Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, and people-to-people diplomacy are valued as three main components in comprehensive diplomacy (instead of existing in parallel with other diplomatic sectors). These pillars are simultaneously placed in inclusive diplomacy. On one hand, they are relatively independent of each other, but on the other hand, they are mutually supportive for the common goal of national interest.

Noticeably, through different Congresses, the Party thinking on the three pillars of external relations has been continuously developed and perfected to suit the policy of synchronous deployment and close coordination of Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, and people-to-people diplomacy. This is suitable to objective laws, the international situation as well as the specific conditions of Vietnam through each period.

First of all, thanks to the characteristics of Vietnam's political regime which are “the CPV is the ruling Party, leading the State and society”(10), the Party diplomacy can embrace opportunities to promote its role and contribute to the general foreign affairs of the country. It places an emphasis on establishing a relationship with political parties in the world, in which many political-Party relationships play a strategic role in orienting bilateral relations. It also participates in formulating undertakings, policies of the Party. This makes Party diplomacy an important pillar of Vietnam's comprehensive foreign policy.

State diplomacy is associated with the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the struggle for national independence as well as the process of inclusive international integration during the renovation. Although it is evident that state diplomacy aims to “put into relations to other states”(11), it depends significantly on the level of integration of the country into international relations. Accordingly, if the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam State is considered a necessary condition for the emergence of state diplomacy, the process of inclusive international integration is a sufficient condition for state diplomacy to promote its role. This is the main official communication channel in international relationships.

In addition, stemming from the awareness and need to mobilize the strength and support of the world's people in the past struggle for national liberation as well as in today's national construction and defense, people-to-people diplomacy has promoted its role effectively. This is both a historical and contemporary feature. People-to-people diplomacy, on the one hand, is the inheritance of the idea of “he people as root”, the spirit of solidarity based on the people's strength and the Vietnamese traditional diplomacy of justice, peace, harmony, and humanity, on the other hand, it comes from practical experiences learned from  the anti-colonial liberation movements in which the people constitute a major force in national liberation revolutions for peace, friendship, solidarity, cooperation and development in the world. As President Ho Chi Minh once stated: “all proletarians are brothers”, the people-to-people relationship has always been the root of relationship between countries. It is a strong and lasting relationship despite the government's attitude change(12).

Moreover, the close coordination between Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, and people-to-people diplomacy demonstrates an adaptation to the trend of diversifying relationships. The emergence and the enhanced role of new actors besides state actors, such as socio-political organizations, political parties, etc, make evident the expansion of international communication channels by diverse tools, methods, specific targeted public and priorities. At the same time, due to the close relationship between actors, as well as their strong voice on handling international issues, it is essential to coordinate closely and comprehensively external activities. In other words, it is the movement of international relations and the pursuit of common goals of national interests that promote strongly the strength of foreign communication tools.

Awareness of the relationship between Party diplomacy, state diplomacy and people-to-peole diplomacy in the new situation

Amid rapid, complicated, and unpredictable changes in the international situation with potential opportunities and challenges for the cause of national construction and defense, the 13th Party Congress has outlined: “It is required to enhance the pioneering role of diplomacy in creating and maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, mobilizing external resources for national development”(13), and promoting the holistic power of comprehensive diplomacy with three pillars consisting of Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, and people-to-people diplomacy.

Each pillar has its role and mission to mobilize different forces, use all forms/tools, operate in different fields/regions and target different public so as to promote the overall power and successfully achieve goals. The Party diplomacy assumes the following tasks: 1- Formulating undertakings, guidelines, and decisions on major diplomatic issues; 2- Implementing external activities to develop a relationship with political parties and strengthen the political foundation for Vietnam's relationship with other countries; building framework, orienting principles for foreign policy, handling issues arising in the relationship between Vietnam and important partners; 3- Harmonizing the management of foreign activities within the entire political system, leading the Party diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy from the central to the grassroots level.

As an official diplomatic channel between the State of Vietnam and other countries, State diplomacy has promoted its role in expanding and deepening relationships with countries, creating important legal frameworks to strengthen international cooperation in all fields, raising Vietnam's voice at regional and international mechanisms and forums, deeply joining the world.

People-to-people diplomacy plays a crucial role in building a friendly society. It is “public-minded” diplomacy that gains people's love and trust through justice, morality, and humanity. In conformity with the principles of “proactivity, flexibility, creativity, efficiency” and with a wide network of partners and a variety of cooperation modalities, people-to-people diplomacy can cover every aspect of social life and well deal with several issues in specific circumstances when Party and State diplomacy is not able to handle smoothly some matters.

The three pillars of diplomacy need close coordination and mutual support on the following principles:

Firstly, planning and implementing three pillars of diplomacy under the unified leadership of the Party for the common goal of national interests. Strictly following the Party leadership from policy making to implementation will create unified awareness on key issues, ensure consistency of common goals to pursuit and reasonable and affordable work assignment, thus promoting the synergy of the whole political system.

Secondly, coordinating closely, synchronously, and effectively among three pillars, ensuring coherence and compliance with the common goals and adaptability to specific period and area. Strictly controlling the execution of the Politburo's Regulation on the unified management of foreign affairs; periodically making preliminary and final reviews in order to adapt regulations to reality; accelerating the promulgation of Regulations on the unified management of foreign affairs over local Party Committees, developing a coherent system of regulations and mechanism for coherent coordination of external affairs.

Thirdly, promoting the role, characteristics, and strengths of each pillar in terms of forces, space, tools as well as methods. Special attention should be paid to the strength of traditional close and faithful relations of the Party diplomacy as well as the dynamism, effectiveness, and efficiency of state diplomacy and the inspirational appeals based on the justice of people-to-people diplomacy.

Fourthly, having innovative and creative thinking in conducting foreign diplomacy amidst rapid and complicated changes of the international situation. Forces, partners, contents, and modes of operation of each pillar need to be continuously adapted to suit changing circumstances of the world, region, and country; thoroughly grasping the motto “firm in objectives, flexible in strategies and tactics”, acting by each specific situation, and partner while ensuring the highest interests of the nation.

In the coming period, the successful implementation of foreign policy guidelines and policies of the 13th Party Congress requires Party diplomacy, state diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy to emphasize the following measures:

Firstly, strengthen coordination among three pillars, especially between Party diplomacy and state diplomacy in consulting strategy, assessing and identifying problems related to national security and development to promptly make appropriate policies and measures; providing strategic forecasting on the world situation, major trends, important partners, international issues... that affect Vietnam's interests; proposing solutions to handle strategic issues. Party diplomacy and state diplomacy play a key role in consulting strategic issues. In addition, people-to-people diplomacy is also an important, multi-dimensional, objective, and useful information channel to forecasting and taking appropriate measures.

Secondly, actively coordinate in the implementation of foreign policy to optimize the national interests. The Party diplomacy can well promote its strategic role in the relationship with countries that have similar political regimes and have built close and long-term relationships with our Party; Besides, strengthen the relationship with political parties that play a crucial role in important partner countries and traditional friends to create a favorable political foundation for bilateral relations.

State diplomacy as an actor widely recognized by the international community, with a strong contingent of officials working locally and globally will develop bilateral relations with countries with which Vietnam has established diplomatic ties as well as with international and regional organizations, forums, and mechanisms to which Vietnam is a member.

By its particular strength in promoting friendly and cooperative people-to-people relations, its ability to approach partners, and its flexibility in deploying suitable methods to cooperate or combat in a specific situation, people-to-people diplomacy can establish and implement direct and effective communication channels with a variety of activities in specific fields (such as friendship and solidarity, economic cooperation, cultural exchange, science-education, sports...), thereby enhancing mutual trust and understanding among peoples of different countries, creating a solid social foundation, and deepening Vietnam's external relations with other countries.

In short, the 13th Party Congress affirmed that comprehensive diplomacy consists of three main pillars of Party diplomacy, state diplomacy, and people-to-people diplomacy under the Party’s unified leadership. This is the inheritance and promotion of the tradition and valuable lessons of Vietnam's foreign policy during the revolutionary years. The autonomy of each pillar and the mutual support of the three pillars create a holistic power of Vietnam's comprehensive diplomacy in the current period.


(1) Party diplomacy, state diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy are named differently by the Party and State in each specific context. In this article, they are called “pillars” in conformity with the 13th Party Congress.

(2) To date, the CPV has established relationships at a different level with 245 political parties in 111 countries; various activities have been conducted to develop the relationship between Parties and states, handle international and regional issues and problems related to national security and development.

(3) Pham Binh Minh: “For the past 35 years, the diplomacy has always accompanied the nation, served the Fatherland and the people”, VTV online, accessed on 24th. 5-2021

(4) See: Complete Party Document, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2004, vol. 37, pp. 617 – 619

(5) See: Complete Party Document, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, vol. 47, pp. 432 - 443

(6) Documents of the 8th Party Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 1991, p. 42

(7) Document of the 9th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2001, pp. 122 - 123

(8) Documents of the 10th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p. 115

(9) Document of the 13th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, vol. I, p. 138

(10) Document of the 11th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p. 88

(11) See: Article 1, 1933 Convention on the Rights and Duties of States,, accessed dated March 29, 2021

(12) Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations: “President Ho Chi Minh's thought on people-to-people diplomacy”,, accessed March 26, 2021

(13) Documents of the 13th National Congress, ibid, vol. I, p. 138

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 971 (August 2021)​