News / Asia

China’s South China Sea Strategy Unmoved by Vietnam Protests

China’s South China Sea Strategy Unmoved by Vietnam Protestsi
Rebecca Valli
May 16, 2014 5:37 PM
Territorial disputes between China and Vietnam have triggered deadly anti-China protests in Vietnam this week. Thousands of Vietnamese rioted against an oil rig China placed in waters that Vietnam considers its own. On Friday, protests took place in the Philippines, which is also entangled in territorial disputes with Beijing. Rebecca Valli in Hong Kong looks at how China is dealing with the issue, and if there are signs Beijing is considering changing its stance.
China’s South China Sea Strategy Unmoved by Vietnam Protests
Territorial disputes between China and Vietnam have triggered deadly anti-China protests in Vietnam this week. Thousands of Vietnamese rioted against an oil rig China placed in waters that Vietnam considers its own. On Friday, protests took place in the Philippines, which is also entangled in territorial disputes with Beijing.

China’s move to station the oil rig in waters contested by Hanoi was followed first by skirmishes at sea. Then the confrontation moved inland as Vietnamese protested by the thousands in cities across the country and set fire to businesses believed to be Chinese-owned.
China's Commerce Ministry Friday urged Hanoi to punish the lawbreakers.

“The incident has forced our companies to suspend operation and caused huge economic losses for them. China strongly condemns it," he said.

Nicholas Thomas is associate professor at the department of Asian and International Studies at City University of Hong Kong.

"You've seen a reaction, an awareness of this on the Chinese social media, but it is not at the level that China has to do something because we are under threat in any way, this is purely been portrayed as an issue that Vietnam has to deal with, and anything that happens is Vietnam's fault,” he said.

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, a hub of fishing lanes with rich deposits of oil and gas. But Beijing's claims clash with those of many countries in the region, including the Philippines.
Vietnam has a strong case under international law to the contested territory, but this week’s violence poses risks for Hanoi, says Jonathan London, a professor of Vietnamese studies in Hong Kong.

“To have this sort of development, it's unfortunate, it's a distraction," he said. "The clearer message that Hanoi can deliver, the clearer and stronger the case will be for their country. Otherwise it will just be self-defeating behavior in the face of an extremely powerful, aggressive neighbor.”

Analysts believe the riots will not change China's strategy of taking concrete actions to solidify its claims in the South China Sea, and Chinese officials have underscored such perception.

Both China's Foreign Ministry spokesman and a top official from China's military stressed China's “unflinching” resolution to conduct operation in its own territory.

"This is an issue because China is trying to portray itself as a peaceful rising power, it's trying to say it’s not a threat to the region and yet it undertakes actions against the Philippines and also against Vietnam,” he said.

On Friday, anti-Chinese protests spread to the Philippines where more than 100 Philippine and Vietnamese demonstrators picketed the Chinese consulate. They called for the two governments to unite against what they perceive as Beijing's incursions in the South China Sea

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Comment Sorting
by: We just fade away from: US
May 16, 2014 10:44 PM
In my opinion, this is a gain for the Vietcong in public opinion front domestically and internationally.
In 1954, the Viet Minh hijacked an independence celebration rally in the city Hanoi consisting of a couple thousands of mostly local government officials. Artfully, they turned this peaceful rally into a highly excited mob; they then led the mob to the administration buildings compound of the city and took over the government. So I think their offspring today, the Vietcong can give the Chicom lessons in this art too.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the situation of the South China Sea dispute reached a pivotal point after an offer for a summit between the heads of the two countries had been turned down by the Chicom, the Vietcong had no choice but to act and did in the world public opinion front. The arrogant Chicom are no match for them in this art either; for the Vietcong are the master of this as well, they know how to push things, when to push and how far. Orderly and controlled demonstrations and rallies can go on for weeks and not be getting much attention but disorderly and violent riots do in just a matter of days. Just this last weekend, the words were getting out for allowing factory workers and intellectuals alike to show their patriotism by taking part in rallies and demonstrations in protesting the Chicom, to be organized in cities and industrial parks throughout the country. The following day and the next several days, peaceful rallies and demonstrations started in a couple dozens of cities throughout the country often under the watchful eyes of the secret police. Then somehow some demonstration processions were infiltrated and hijacked by “bad elements.” Orderly demonstrations turned into riots, properties got destroyed and people got hurt and even killed. After several days of chaos and violence, public opinions in the world, especially in the US, had reached the point of “deeply concerned;” objectives achieved, the government of Vietnam turned off the mobs and started fixing things up, calling for calm, putting out fires; "bad elements" were arrested or soon will be, law and order were restored, ...
So after all this, a big picture the world is seeing now is the one that shows: A big bully China, thousands and thousands of the obviously upset (but justifiable so) patriotic people in this (not long ago war-torn) small country; and this good old peace loving government with good judgments and “restraint” of Vietnam. Get the picture?
In Response

by: We just fade away
May 17, 2014 5:14 PM
I agree with you, Mark.
I was not blaming them for doing it, just that they are good at it. Thanks!
In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
May 17, 2014 8:46 AM
You own a tract of property, your neighbor is a big, burly intimidating man who does not care whose grass (or toes) he steps on. Your neighbor builds a shed on your side of the property line, and threatens to punch your face if you complain about it. What do you do about it? What if the police were on his side? What if he can call a high-powered lawyer to defend him in court?
That is China and Vietnam. What do you expect the Vietnamese to do when a larger, threatening and menacing country like China build something they consider on their territory when it clearly falls into Vietnam's, and China refuses to recognize anyone's territorial claims but their own?
Right or wrong, the riots did bring world attention to the region.

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