HANOI, Vietnam—In the battle between China and Japan for economic pre-eminence in Asia, Vietnam is center stage.
Beijing and Tokyo have plied the country with investment and aid, with an eye to building up low-cost manufacturing bases there. Vietnam’s strategic location on oil-transport routes also plays a part.
But China’s growing economic role in Vietnam has faced a backlash which intensified after Beijing last year parked an oil rig in waters Hanoi also claims. Since then, China has sought to win over neighbors with pledges of development funds, and bills a new Asian development bank as a consensus-based approach to aid.
How China’s new tack plays out in places like Vietnam, one of the world’s largest recipients of economic assistance, will be another important factor in the regional rivalry.