Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visited Vietnam on Sunday at the beginning of a four-day trip to Asia. In the capital, Hanoi, he was received with military honors by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, after which a meeting with the Secretary General of the Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, was planned. It will be about the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, but also about the expansion of economic relations.

With almost 100 million inhabitants, Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is Germany’s most important trading partner in Southeast Asia. 350 German companies are represented there. Scholz has set himself the goal of reducing economic dependency on China and broadening partnerships with Asian countries.

Unlike his predecessors, the SPD politician deliberately did not visit the autocratically governed China as the first Asian country in April, but the democratic G7 partner Japan. The most recent trip to Beijing followed six months later. Government consultations were held in Berlin in May with the second economically strongest country in Asia – India.

Next stops: Singapore and G20 in Bali

Vietnam has close ties with both China and Russia. However, the relationship between China and Vietnam is strained by a territorial conflict in the South China Sea over two island groups.

Russia, in turn, is Vietnam’s most important arms supplier. Both countries are also cooperating in the development of gas and oil fields off the Vietnamese coast. In addition, there are more than 150 investment projects in Vietnam with the participation of Russian companies. Like China, Vietnam is one of the countries that did not condemn Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine in the votes in the UN General Assembly.

Scholz will travel to Singapore on Monday, where he will take part in an economic conference together with Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens). Finally, on Monday evening, we are off to the Indonesian island of Bali for the G20 summit of the most important economic powers. There, Scholz will discuss the Ukraine war, the energy and food crisis and the state of the global economy with US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, among others. Russian President Vladimir Putin has canceled his participation and is sending Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.