News / Asia

Emotions Running High in Vietnam Over China Dispute

A plainclothes policeman walks past demonstrators during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, May 13, 2014.
A plainclothes policeman walks past demonstrators during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, May 13, 2014.
Marianne Brown
Tension is rising in Vietnam with protests reported nationwide amid the country's dispute with Beijing over a Chinese oil drilling platform deployed near the Paracel islands.

According to local newspapers in Hanoi, thousands of workers at Hong Kong and Taiwanese factories in South Vietnam were taking to the streets, calling for China to remove a giant state-run oil rig from Vietnamese waters.

A hotel at a popular beach town reportedly is refusing Chinese guests, and Vietnamese tourists are canceling trips to China.

Over the weekend, hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi, with similar protests taking place across the country. More protests are expected to take place this week.

Vietnam's state-controlled media usually only carry muted coverage of diplomatic relations with China. This week there has been extensive reporting, however, on the confrontation and the protests.

Growing dispute

Vietnam expert and former U.S. diplomat David Brown said initial reports of the oil rig incident were more restrained, but then quickly changed.

“This was from a guy at one of the mainstream papers who said they had been told that they could reprint anything they had got from foreigners. But they were supposed to be careful about what they wrote otherwise, that was the first day or so,” said Brown.

Vietnam’s Communist Party has long stressed the economic and political importance of what it calls the East Sea, an area believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves.

However, Block 143, where China's state-owned oil rig HD-981 was towed earlier this month, is not being developed. Professor Carl Thayer at the Australian Defense Force Academy, said there’s “a kind of consensus among oil industry people that it’s not the most promising.”

“Bloc 143 is not being developed. Vietnam has made little efforts to do so, so in other words they are just arguing to maintain their Exclusive Economic Zone. If you go to the next block, there are operations going on there. ExxonMobil are a couple of fields away,” said Thayer.

Some observers have speculated that the move was driven by the China National Offshore Oil Company, CNOOC, though Thayer disagrees.

“I’ve heard that the China National Offshore Oil Company, when asked to go there initially, argued back that no, it was too costly to operate over an extended period of time and it wasn’t a high priority for them. Then they were ordered to go in,” he said.

Thayer said the issue is about sovereignty, not economic gain.

Dominating ASEAN

This was the message repeated by the local Vietnamese media over the last week, which ties in with the government’s strategy to seek international support to counter China and avoid military engagement.

At a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Burma, also known as Myanmar, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued a statement saying the “extremely dangerous situation has been and is directly threatening peace, stability and maritime security and safety in the East Sea.”

Vietnam Major General Le Van Cuong, Former Chief of the Ministry of Public Security’s Strategy Institute said the prime minister is clearly calling for international support. He said previous responses of Vietnam have not lived up to the seriousness of the situation, but this time was different.

However, at China's foreign ministry this week, spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Monday that the South China Sea is not a problem between China and ASEAN nations. She said China has a consensus with ASEAN countries on insuring safety and stability in the sea.

In Vietnam, there are concerns tensions could continue to escalate. At a news conference in Hanoi, Cuong said many people worry about the imbalance of military forces between Vietnam and China. But he said Vietnam has history on its side.

He said he believes Vietnam has nothing to worry about. If the world isolates China, he asked, how can it survive?

He compared Vietnam’s economic weakness to countries like France, which Vietnam defeated in 1954, and the United States in the 1970s.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Aloha
May 15, 2014 4:53 PM
I hope Viet Cong government and Chinese commie government go to war with each other! Commies are idiots no matter what country they reside in. It is time to rid the cancer of Asian communism from the face of the earth.

by: Cherry
May 15, 2014 1:51 PM
Hey, even if the Chinese government acts poor, why blame ordinary Chinese enterprises . Why did they become the target of attack!? It is totally unreasonable! Those who got hurt and murdered are all normal people!

by: Phong from: Viet Nam
May 15, 2014 12:40 PM
Vietnamese are peace-loving people. Regardless of power, resource imbalance; regardless of which government and/or which political party, once invaded we will fight to our last man/woman/child standing, until the entire Vietnamese race is wiped off the face of the earth.
In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
May 15, 2014 5:58 PM
Oh, I don't know burning down building is peace loving behavior. And attack Korean and Japanese companies is how to protect your country?
You ppl must suffer a lot from the agent orange, do you. Lol

by: Chris Carmichael from: United States
May 15, 2014 9:24 AM
I would think that the Chinese military would be eager for a rematch after the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979. In that attempt at invasion, the Chinese lost around 50,000 casualties, and massive numbers of tanks, APC's, and artillery pieces. The Vietnamese kicked some serious Chinese butt. The presumption, however, is that the result would be the same in the Chinese push them too far again.

After all, the Vietnamese have defeated the Chinese militarily on six occasions, and the French and Americans once each.
In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
May 15, 2014 6:02 PM
China attacked you to stop you from annex Cambodia, and China made it! Now Cambodia and Laos are both China's best friends! They are the reason why AESEN could never reach an agreement, lol
In Response

by: Ken from: Canada
May 15, 2014 12:58 PM
@chris Carmichael,you better read more history of sino-Vietnam war,the Vietnamese did not defeated the Chinese for that 2months of invasion acttacked.The Chinese just came to do the damages and teaching the Vietnamese a lesson of paying respected to the support that Chinese giving them in 1954 French-Vietnam war and the 70 America war.

by: Bruceben9 from: USA
May 15, 2014 8:58 AM
China. The world's new bully. China's bullying has been more local in the past. Now they are branching out with the decline of USA respect.

by: Anonymous from: phillippines
May 14, 2014 6:49 PM
The act ...of vietnam is good they are fighting for their rights...china is a greedy..the decision of the phillippines to have a military base in manila is very.....very good...because only u.s can stop the tension.
In Response

by: Anonymous
May 15, 2014 8:43 AM
Ironic that Vietnam wanted the assistance of China 45 years ago.

by: Mr. Haung from: USA
May 14, 2014 3:53 PM
China will take over Vietnam and the Vietnamese people will not happy with it, but when Vietnam wants to take over Cambodia and the Cambodian people will not happy with it either, this is what they called what go around and come around

by: dragon slayer from: vietnam
May 14, 2014 7:50 AM
Uighurs are attacking Chinese rats in west china for stealing their territory. It's not surprising to see more of these extremist group from neighboring countries like Vietnam doing the same damage to china. China has no one else to blame but themselves for this. By stealing other nations territories and resources they have produced desperate men with nothing to lose. Asia will be the new middle east with china the center of attack. How can you stop someone extremist who is willing to die and take 10000 Chinese rats with him?
In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
May 14, 2014 3:18 PM
To Jonathan,
Vietnamese workers riot their own factories, lose their jobs for the loyalty and love of their country. Selfish Chinese never will do that but run.
In Response

by: jonathan huang from: canada
May 14, 2014 1:18 PM
easy my friend. your corrupt commie government already started to arrest all those thugs in the street.
your weak evil government only wants money. the oil from SCS became money in those officials pockets. you poor vietnamese ppl got nothing, you are still poor and work as cheap labors for the chinese companies. your evil government got all the money again. do you really think this government would seriously go against China? give me a break, they dont want miss any minute of making money.
your biggest enemy is your own commie government, not China. wake up and stop being brainwashed.

by: Clayton Bigsby from: USA
May 13, 2014 10:43 PM
Chinese asserts that its territorial claims in the South China Sea are premised on its 'inherent' and 'indisputable' exercise of a historic sovereignty. But China claims clearly lacks international legal basis and is tantamount to upset international laws, including the UNCLOS-1982. The claim has earned widespread international criticism and has been a major obstacle to dispute settlement efforts in the region."

The Chinese are not to be trusted Vietnam..Soon they will encroach in your territories from the north. You need to remind them of 1979.
In Response

by: jonathan huang from: canada
May 14, 2014 1:13 PM
@clayton, did america ratify the UNCLOS? if not then you better sh ut up.

by: mike from: canada
May 13, 2014 10:42 PM
China is big country, but has a very bad government,
In Response

by: mark75 from: VN
May 14, 2014 9:10 AM
mike, VN is a small country and VN has a very bad government too.
Comments page of 2

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