This article analyzes Chineseness in premodern Vietnam and its influence on Vietnam’s foreign policy toward China and Southeast Asia both past and present. The term Chineseness refers to the practice and preservation of Confucian ideas and values in Vietnam, which arguably consists of the Mandate of Heaven and Confucian Orthodoxy concepts and their subsequent orthodox lineage issue. Being considered culturally closer to China than Korea and Japan, Vietnam, throughout history, has relied on these concepts to position itself strategically and navigate its relations vis-à-vis China and other smaller countries in Southeast Asia. Vietnamese courts used to question the legitimacy and orthodox lineage of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty because they imagined themselves as part of the Sinic world. The sense of superiority over Manchus and of being the guardian of Sinic civilization reached a climax during the Nguyen dynasty, in part shaping Vietnam’s foreign policy toward China and other Southeast Asian countries at that time. In addition, this deep-seated Chineseness also helps Vietnam’s decision-makers to understand contemporary China, and subtly guides the creation of Vietnam’s foreign policy today.

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