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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Comments page of 2
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by: chinaDUMBandSTUPID BULL from: china
May 13, 2014 9:58 PM
Vietnam must develop its defense by any mean. They can buy its nuclear from US, Russia or N korean to develop their own nuclear device. IT is the only way to deter china in the long RUN. GO NUKE GO NUKE!!!


by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
May 13, 2014 9:12 PM
like France, which Vietnam defeated in 1954, and the United States in the 1970s.
Good point, viet cong is great!

In Response

by: Ron Anderson from: Lake Worth, Florida U.S.A
May 15, 2014 8:29 AM
viet-cong "won" because of home court advantage. They squirreled down their little holes and ambushed. Bring it on at a neutral site or for that matter, have them bring their puny asses here and see who "wins".

In Response

by: Mark from: Virginia
May 14, 2014 11:50 PM
'Viet cong is great', that may be, but it is also one of the world's greatest ironies. in 1941, before Pearl Harbor, the Japanese army invaded Vietnam to secure rice, rubber and other resources Japan lacked. The United States aided the Vietnamese with weapons and advisors to train, and lead, the Viet Nimh (with Chinese aid as well, another irony - before communism took over China, America was an ally of China and helped Chiang kia-shek against Mao's communist forces, but I digress).
Because the Japanese were better trained, better lead and better provisioned, the American (and Chinese) advisors trained the Viet Nimh (later the Viet Cong) in guerilla tactics, ambushes and the like. The Viet Cong were adept pupils and learned that tactic very well. So well, in fact, that they were able to wear down the Japanese during WW2, the French in the 1950s and the Americans in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is irony that the methods they learned, they used against those that taught them those methods.

In Response

by: UFOs fan from: canada
May 14, 2014 6:42 PM
Jonathan do you know that the China was helping ho chi Minh to defeat the French in 54 and in the 70 Russia and China also help the Viet Cong to fight the Americian.yes,they are great fighter but don't forget without supporting arms from these both countries.

In Response

by: famster from: usa
May 14, 2014 2:12 PM
Of course VietCong is great. They won the wars against superpowers that are many times bigger and stronger than they. China is just another one waiting to have its butt kicked if it wishes to mess around with the VietCong.

In Response

by: Mama Dukes from: USA
May 14, 2014 1:01 PM
This is a lesson learned for Viet Cong who has picked Chinese Commies as their best friend as well as trusting and receiving their supports and their "BS" commie ideology. The Viets better wake up and break up their China owns communist party, release all of their political disagreed prisoners, and to join the rest of modern world to boycott China and its greedy, lawless power. That's the only solution for Vietnam right now unless you want to be forever China's slaves.

In Response

by: Anonymous
May 14, 2014 7:22 AM
with who's help?


by: LiveFree from: USA
May 13, 2014 9:08 PM
China must comply with International law and order to be recognized as a regional power. Otherwise, China risks being viewed as a neighbourhood bandit who everyone should keep an eye on. Disputes must be resolved by international court and/or UN arbitration. Same with Japan on Senkaku dispute.

No point to let nationalistic view to blow disputes out of control. Asia peace and prosperity are at stake.

In Response

by: famster from: usa
May 14, 2014 2:07 PM
I agree with you. China longs to be considered a 'superpower' by the world but its actions in the region only show a 'superbully' and no more than that. ASEAN countries should stick together and those few countries there that have already sold themselves to China should be kicked out of ASEAN.

In Response

by: jonathan huang from: canada
May 14, 2014 1:11 PM
@livefree. America didnt even ratify the UNCLOS, as a world power.
and still you are trying to accuse China didnt comply with it. isnt that funny?
may be you should say the bigger the power the less it comply with international laws. right? my american friend?


by: Benji from: US
May 13, 2014 7:10 PM
China is a bully and must be confronted by all members of the ASEAN group. China must be forced to abide by the International Conduct of the Seas.

In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
May 14, 2014 6:42 PM
Funny you say China is isolated. China is the biggest trade partner of almost every country in the world. And you call that isolated?
China is helping Africa to build their high speed train system, and probably one through Burma, Laos and Thailand too. Sorry you Vietnam is isolated, and you depend on us. We can crush you economy with one little finger.

In Response

by: Peacelover from: Vietnam
May 14, 2014 4:38 PM
Dear Benji,

Vietnamese people don't hate Chinese people. On the contrary. But they hate those who are greedy and steal and rob. So it would help if Chinese people express their concerns and act with the Chinese Government to stop those robbery actions. China is being isolated and condemned by those bullying actions to their neighbors. Innocent Chinese people should not be paying the consequences.

In Response

by: Nam from: Vietnam
May 14, 2014 11:14 AM
Ching Wa, you're right. Citizen of any country always want to have a peaceful and better life, but those greedy make them suffering in any form. Hopefully, governments of every country will have a leader like the Emperor Yao or Shun.

In Response

by: Ching Wa from: China
May 13, 2014 11:20 PM
China is not bully. only the greedy people in china are bully, not everyone. I am very sorry to the people of Asia.

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