In 2002 Pope St. John Paul made the appointment that would underpin the Catholic Church’s efforts to begin repairing relations with Asia’s two main communist states, China and Vietnam, when he named Msgr. Pietro Parolin as undersecretary of state for relations with states in the Secretariat of State.
Improving relations with officially atheist communist states had been a key focus for the Polish pope who continued the Vatican’s long-held policy of Ostpolitik towards these countries.
That policy was basically keeping dialogue open between the Vatican and communist-ruled countries despite their general repression of all religions. The idea was to win small gains and work towards eventually normalizing relations.
Vietnam and especially China posed new problems for the Vatican, which was keen to normalize its relations with former French colonies Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos as well as China, which ended just nine years of diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951, two years after the communists won power.
The Vatican, had, of course, been keen to recognize bishops of the newly independent countries of Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam.