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After a relative brief spurt, Hanoi’s economy — hurt in part by the global recession — again has sagged, as seen by the third devaluation of the currency in nine months. The devaluations are lame attempts to boost exports and discourage a black market stoked with more than $7 billion annually in remittances from Vietnamese expatriates in North America, Australia and France — the largest source of foreign-exchange income.

Much of Asia, correctly or not, sees an Obama administration retreating step by step before growing Chinese strength. A stronger alliance with communist Vietnam, not exactly a fully reliable partner, could be a building block if Washington cares to reverse that image of retreat.

But it will not compensate for an effective American overall China strategy, a strategy that is still going begging.

Sol Sanders, a veteran foreign correspondent and analyst, writes weekly on the convergence of international politics, business and economics. He can be reached at