This is a speech I gave last year at a high school where students raised funds to help flood victims in central Vietnam. As the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War is coming up this April 30, 2015, I am posting it to commemorate the date. It will also mark my 40th year in America, having fled Vietnam as a child two days before the war ended.
The recent announcement in Washington and Beijing that Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to the United States in September underscores the continuing momentum in the improvement of bilateral relations since the landmark U.S.-China climate agreement reached in Beijing last November. In the months leading to President Xi's U.S. visit, however, both countries will need to work hard to create favorable conditions for a productive summit.
Obama's proposals towards "middle-class economics" and the recently released Economic Report of the President for 2015 highlight just how close the two countries are in their thinking about these issues and on how to make economic policies work more equitably for everyone. And yet, rather than coming together, the distance between the two countries has widened.
In the absence of a common narrative shared by the U.S. and China, the two nations are likely to drift more rapidly apart. The relationship needs a new strategic concept for the future that is capable of sufficiently embracing both American and Chinese realities, as well as areas of potential common endeavor for the future, and to do so in language which is comprehensible and meaningful in both capitals. Trust builds on itself just as distrust builds on itself as well, compounding into deep enmity over time.