NOTHING pleases Tuan Nguyen Anh more than the reviving friendship between Vietnam and China. The 30-year-old shopkeeper spent three years in Vietnam's Army fighting Chinese-backed guerrillas in neighboring Cambodia. Today, he is part of the flourishing illicit cross-border trade with China.
With Vietnam and China pursuing high-level contact, ``prospects for business are very good,'' says Mr. Anh, sitting in his shop stocked with flashlights, pencils, and toothpaste from China.
But in pursuing normal ties with Beijing, Hanoi has more at stake than business deals.
As part of an international search for a settlement in Cambodia, the two ancient enemies are pressuring their rival Cambodian clients to talk peace. A secret trip to China by Vietnam's Communist Party chief Nguyen Van Linh last month made possible a recent power-sharing agreement among the four warring factions in Cambodia, analysts say.
In the process, Vietnam hopes to repair the decade-long rift rooted in its 1978 invasion of Cambodia and deepened by a brief border war with China. Vietnamese officials look back to the days when the two countries were allies against the United States in Southeast Asia.
``Vietnam wants to contribute to the speeding up of a [Cambodian] solution and China wants it to,'' says Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnam's legendary military leader, who made a recent trip to China.
But Cambodia and trade are not all that is drawing Vietnam and China together. Horrified by the turmoil in Europe's fading communist world, the two states are among the few remaining ideological diehards.
Vietnam's conservative party elders see close links with China as a check on Western-style liberalization. Concerned by US and Soviet reconciliation, China has pegged normalized relations with Vietnam to standing firm on its one-party political system, Western observers say.
``Those pushing hardest for relations with China are the hard-liners who want to maintain ideological purity and minimize Western influence,'' says a Western diplomat in Hanoi.