Though the two countries are run by Communist parties, they are deeply suspicious of each other and relations have been strained over the past few years because of the dispute in the strategic South China Sea.

China has appeared uneasy at Vietnam's efforts to rally Southeast Asian countries over the busy waterway as well as at its neighbour's growing defence ties with the United States, Japan and India.

In July, under pressure from Beijing, Vietnam suspended oil drilling in offshore waters that are also claimed by China.

However, Hanoi and Beijing have also tried to prevent tensions from getting too out of control, and senior officials from two countries make fairly regular visits to each other.

Liu Yunshan, a member of the Chinese Communist Party's elite Standing Committee which runs the country, told Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi that the two parties "constitute a community of shared destiny with strategic significance", the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"The sound and stable development of the bilateral ties will help to solidify the ruling position of the two parties, which is in the interests of the two parties and people of the two nations," Xinhua cited Mr Liu as saying.

The two economies are highly complementary, with huge potential for practical cooperation, he added.

While the report made no direction mention of the South China Sea, it quoted Mr Liu as suggesting the two countries "properly manage and control their divergences, so as to create favourable environment for bilateral cooperation".

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, through which an estimated $3 trillion in international trade passes each year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have claims.

The Bangkok Post with Reuters - September 19, 2017