News / Asia

Tension Mounts Between Vietnam, China

Fishing boats are seen on bay of Ly Son islands of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province, April 10, 2012.
Fishing boats are seen on bay of Ly Son islands of Vietnam's central Quang Ngai province, April 10, 2012.
Marianne Brown
HANOI - Vietnam’s new Law on the Sea, passed last week, has sparked a fresh round of tensions with China about competing territory in the South China Sea.

When Vietnam’s National Assembly passed the law on June 21, the reaction from China was immediate and aggressive.

The law states Vietnam’s sovereignty claims of the Spratly and Paracel islands, territory believed to be rich in oil and minerals, and also claimed by its larger neighbor. Beijing says the law is illegal and called in Vietnamese ambassador Nguyen Van Tho to protest.

Analysts have said the move is directed more towards engaging Vietnamese public opinion, rather than stirring ire with China. Last year, hundreds of protesters took to the streets for weeks of rare demonstrations in Vietnam, protesting Chinese aggression against Vietnamese oil exploration vessels.

Nguyen Quang Thach, a resident of Hanoi,  was at the protests last year. He says he welcomes the new law.

"I’m happy with this because we know the demarcation of our sea territory and it’s a good way to send a message to other countries that we have the law and regulations," he said.

The face-off with China quickly escalated.   The same day Vietnam passed the Law on the Sea, China’s Foreign Ministry announced it had raised the level of governance on three groups of islands in the South China Sea from county to prefectural level, under the control of Sansha city.

The seat of government will be on Woody Island, which is part of the Paracels, an area China took from what was then South Vietnam in 1974.

Sansha city has been in the works for some time, says Jennifer Richmond, China director for the security analysts firm Stratfor, which made it easy to bring up in response to Vietnam’s new law.

"Sansha city is not a new concept. In fact I think they started thinking about this back in the late 50s and 60s.  So what they have done is they had always had a county administrative area," said Richmond. "What they are trying to do now is make it a prefecture administration with some territorial claim."

Richmond says the announcement was made in reaction to the new law, but is not directed entirely at Vietnam. Instead, she says it was part of a public relations exercise aimed at the Chinese public as the country gets ready for a leadership transition.

Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to take control from Hu Jintao as head of the Communist party later this year.  In the meantime, the government’s main concern is to remain strong and be seen as unified to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible.  Richmond says the strategy is not unique to China.

"Vietnam, the Philippines and China, particularly Vietnam and China, are masters at doing this. When they’ve got domestic problems that are weighing on them, a lot of times they will create international situations that will take the heat off the state," she said.

She says there will likely be more skirmishes with China about territory in the sea.  However, Richmond says they will likely be more reactive than proactive.

The announcement of Vietnam's new law was briskly followed by yet another skirmish.

On Saturday, state-owned China National Offshore Oil, known as CNOOC, invited foreign firms to bid on energy exploration in nine lots off the coast of Vietnam.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry calls the move illegal and says the lots set aside by China were entirely within Vietnam's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and contitnental shelf, as laid out in the Untied Nations Law on the Sea.  

Richmond says the moves lifted tensions, but remain part of a well-worn pattern of  threats and counter-threats and raises the level of rhetoric even higher.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
by: Nguyễn from: US
July 01, 2012 3:38 PM
There were anti-Chinese invaders street protests in Hanoi and Saigon today Jul.1st. Summer is here and here comes the street protests in VN capital city.

by: Tony from: Cali
July 01, 2012 11:47 AM
Shame on China. Never in human's history has it been a good country. It made wars and/or had territorial disputes with all its neighbors: Russia, Japan, India, Vietnam, the Philipines, etc. Nowadays, China has very few friends, if not none. Why? Because with their innate insatiable greed, communist and ethnocentric Han Chinese have made their country a threat to all humankind. I hope the free world will unite and destroy China's greed before it is too late.
In Response

by: Toan Dinh from: Vietnam
July 05, 2012 11:11 AM
Every people all over the world should know the China government's cupidity, it has no friends, China's government likes a bear in hungry, eat every thing on the way that it going. even Chinese polyhistors feel disappointed about this. shame on China.
In Response

by: Cả Thộn from: Hà Nội
July 04, 2012 8:58 AM
You should not call for destroying China, you should ask to stop China from expansionist policy.
In Response

by: Jay from: Boer
July 04, 2012 1:39 AM
Please use you logical thinking and check the real history. Japan officially invaded China at 1937 and caused 280 million deaths. Chinese people love peace. They protect their country and against invasion from Japan. What did the free world do? During the Vietnam War, the United States dropped 800 tons of bombs to Vietnam, far more than the sum of battlefield bomb during World War II and 160 million Vietnamese were killed. Greedy is the nature of human and no one can avoid. Every country, everyone has its own interest. You said you want to preserve peace as well as freedom, but you still call for waging war to other countries. In this sense, you are evil, is not it? A truly peace-loving people against any form of war, because people are innocent.

by: Tony from: Cali
July 01, 2012 6:10 AM
NATO has proved its significant role in confronting communism, preserving peace as well as promoting freedom and democracy in Europe.

If nations around China and others in the Asia - Pacific region unite to establish an organisation like NATO, they can guarrantee the freedom for marine navigation, and destroy the Chinese communism and expansionism.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 04, 2012 9:52 PM
Communist can't be killed by outsiders. They can kill themself with in-fightings or by their own people.

by: Hoang from: Canada
June 30, 2012 8:25 AM
To Tong from Canada,
Where did you learn your history, from Chinese PRC propaganda. China invaded Vietnam in 1979 to teach Vietnam a lesson but we know who taught who a lesson. China has never won a war in its entire history. The PRC just invade weaker countries like Tibet or try to take over another country through sneaky tactics. The PRC behave like spoiled child that needs to be spanked.
In Response

by: Tong from: Canada
July 05, 2012 12:57 PM
@Charlie: I remeber Vietnamese claimed they are third strongest military country in the world, maybe in entire cosmos.The first is GOD, the second is SUN, the third is Vietnamese, right? I don't konw who has a habit of fabricating and distorting all facts.
In Response

by: Tong from: Canada
July 05, 2012 12:35 PM
Bai yue were ancestors of a part of Chinese and Vietnamese, but that doesn't mean Vietnamese is Chinese ancestors. If you still say that, I can also say that part of Chinese is Vietnamese ancestors. Actually, Bai yue set up their country in southern China. So southern Chinese must be your ancestors. Nowadays, their son and grandson which called Vietnamese wanna rob southern sea from their ancestors-Chinese. You must know "bu xiao" that means younger generation not respect their older generation. That is what you are doing now.
In Response

by: Charlie from: UK
July 05, 2012 3:33 AM
@Jonathan Huang:From all your comments You haven't got a clue about history and you usually get all your facts mixed up.The BaiYue (Hundred Viet) people have lived in Southern China and North Vietnam for thousands of years.Look up Dong Son Civilisation and see for yourself.Some historians even thought the Hans were a mixture of Mongols and Baiyue.The Baiyue people were master seamen and specialists in rice agriculture when many other tribes including Chinese were still hunting for foods.Ancient China was far inland,no where near the sea.Chinese people didn't have a clue about seafaring.Zeng He was an Arab-Mongol.He didn't head out to sea till 14th century thousands of years after everyone else.Columbus discovered America.The Chinese have a habit of fabricating and distorting all facts.I wouldn't be surprised if one day China claims to be the first country to discover the moon and other planets.The Chinese have adopted many things from the Baiyue over the years.The Cantonese itself is known as the Yue language because all southern China used to belong to the Baiyue people.The Vietnamese are probably the long lost ancestors that you never knew about.LOL...
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
July 04, 2012 6:28 PM
@ Charlie from UK. You are ignorant, my friend. China has superior navigation technologies in very ancient time. Scientists already found proves that it was Chinese first visited America by sea. Zhen He who had then biggest ship in the world to travel and do business around the world. At that time, viets and finos were still living in caves didnt know that ship looks like, LOL
In Response

by: Charlie from: UK
July 04, 2012 10:46 AM
Both Great Britain and China had blood on their hands.After WW2 GB has given up all its colonies,including Hongkong gkong back to China in 1997.On the contrary,China ,after it won its independence back from Japan thanks to America's victory over Japan,went on to conquer Xinjang and Tibet,annexed them into communist China and subject their people to harsh rule,systematically trying to eradicate their languages,culture and force sinicise them against their will.Now China went further by claiming all lands and seas around China,belonging to them in the past and want to seize them by force if necessary.Is there any justice any more? Chinese people should cherish the homeland and freedom that the Americans shed their blood for them.Leave their neighbours in peace and get on with their lives rsther than waging this territorial war which would lead to more sufferings and even the destruction of China itself.Emperial Japan was an example
In Response

by: Keven from: China
July 03, 2012 10:41 PM
To Charlie from:UK Hi, Charlie, I must say disagree that China has always been the roots of all evils. Do you how many countries have been invaded by your country, how many foreigners have been killedy your country, how many black people have been sold to other counties to drudge as animals by your country in the18th century, and how much treasure has been robbed by your country from other countries including China. Your country's development is based on blood, while China is based on peace. So it is very "intelligent" of you to come up with this absurd theory.
In Response

by: Charlie from: UK
July 03, 2012 12:29 PM
China has always been the roots of all evils.It was them who created all these land & sea disputes to justify territorial expansion ambitions,and put the blame on their neighbours.The problem is most Chinese are so ignorant & tend to believe in all these lies.You couldn't just invade a country,annex it & declare it historically as an inseparable part of China as in the case of Tibet.This now seems to be China's favorite tactics.Ancient China was many times smaller than its present size.The land which is now China,most of it was robbed from their smaller & weaker neighbours.China simply cannot claim everything based on history,it is illogical & should not be allowed.Likewise,Italy could claim all Europe & Vietnam the whole of Southern China.The uninhabited islands of Paracels & Spratlys were under Vietnamese administrations for hundreds of years & these facts were recorded in all European history books.China couldn't just seize them by force & claim them to belong to China historically.China was not a sea-faring nation,they had no means for sea adventure,the ancient Vietnamese & the Malays were.If they get their way,one of these days they will claim the Russian Far East,Senkaku & vast parts of India as theirs as well.China's aggression should be condemned internationally & the issue should be brought up at the UN.By the way,the South China Sea is an international Sea & it does not belong to anyone in particular,not even China,so keep off & learn to act responsibly in accordance to UNCLOS 1982 and help to promote peace & stability in the region rather than threating & forcing their wills on everyone
In Response

by: kasim from: China
July 03, 2012 12:28 AM
Tibet was a country thousand years ago and then it amalgamated into ancient China. China maybe never won a war in its entire history? What do you mean by entire history ?the 3000 more years history or the history of PRC? China do not be afraid of war because we have so many population, but China will not easily invade other country. And the 1979 stuff was because Vietnam invaded China when China had some inner political problem at that period of time.
and a word for you, have you ever been to China before? If you didn't , how dare you say something that even you do not know it clearly?You just read the news written by someone and then believe it. But , seeing is believing.

by: jethromayham from: vietnam
June 30, 2012 6:33 AM
Yep, I'll be long gone before the nations involved ever get things sorted out. Have a nice day!

by: Huang from: Jun
June 30, 2012 6:00 AM
Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, The Phillippines... used to belong to China. Sooner or later they will become parts of China no matter they like it or not.
In Response

by: Peter from: US
July 02, 2012 3:58 PM
To Huang. Go home and learn your history book again... Your saying shows how ignorant and lack of education. Comes back here after educated yourself...
In Response

by: Tony from: Cali
July 01, 2012 11:16 PM
You greedy Han chinese

by: Keven from: China
June 30, 2012 3:01 AM
A real buzz here, isn't it ? An intelligent person in the world doesn't speak nonsense until he/she carries out serious investigation and get first-hand, real information about any country, any organization, and any body, etc.

by: Nguyễn from: US
June 29, 2012 8:55 AM
Don't be fooled by these two Communists. They have made loud noise to distract people from their domestic,inside Communist parties problems. Both these two Mafia gangs are about to collapse due to inside fightings,corruption.......
In Response

by: Pham from: US
July 01, 2012 2:40 AM
Anyone who claims to be a Vietnamese would have to disagree with you. The threat from China is real and is a great cause of concern for ALL Vietnamese, anywhere in the world. Historically, China has always wanted to annex Vietnam but it never succeeded. And this will stay true because the peoples of Vietnam would never accept to be dominated by other countries, no matter how much more powerful they are. It is time for ALL Vietnamese to unite to face this big bad enemy!
In Response

by: ANTI-NorthVN from: HCM city
June 30, 2012 2:33 AM
I really remember the way South VN defended our land and sea in 1974, although they lost their final battle, but our heroes never thought of surrender..... North VN didn't have the quality of a winner. They removed all real documents about the war. Making up funny stories about their never-loss war against SouthVN. It's time changed VN's polictical system and followwd USA as South VN in the past..... And then, defeated Chinese
In Response

by: Forrest Lee
June 29, 2012 8:26 PM
I fully agree with you. The days when both of the gangs collapse are numbered.

by: eve6 from: Philippines
June 29, 2012 1:46 AM
The situation that is now felt by Vietnam and Philippines will be soon experienced by Malaysia and Indonesia.

June 29, 2012 12:31 AM
China forgot historical lessons from VietNam, it's time reminded them these lessons. In the name of freedom, VietNam takes the fight back China!!!! All Vietnamese people around the world, don't ask what your country do for you, ask what you do for your country!!!!
In Response

by: Keven from: China
July 03, 2012 4:13 AM
A dog which barks loudly and fiercely often is a coward one. If you think your country is powerful enough, come on. The Chinese people have prepared the most delicious bullets and artillery shells and are waiting for your arrival. If your country has no this courage, dare you declare war directly to our troops of justice? If not, closing your mouth and making for your living is the best choice.
In Response

by: Keven from: China
July 01, 2012 4:21 AM
If one is big enough, he should keep quiet and a low profile. In this way he may not be involved in any trouble. But if one is not big enough, he is just looking for trouble. There is no doubt about it.
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
July 01, 2012 2:29 AM
@remie, doesnt matter who attacked first. the winner writes the history. We defeated Viet in south china sea and occupied xisha islands and yongshu island.
we will keep doing it until we get all islands back. At that time you still gonna say you win the war, right? LOL
In Response

by: remie from: canada
June 30, 2012 9:19 AM
@tong , your history is altered, remember china attacked vietnam and Vietnam defended their borders . But of course ur history says opposite.
In Response

by: Tong from: Canada
June 29, 2012 11:42 AM
Chinese army fought back Vietnamese army just in two weeks. I don't know the lessons from whom. Children who don't listen have to be spanked.
In Response

by: Maverick from: USA
June 29, 2012 10:43 AM
You have not see the scene of the meeting of Zhiming Hu with Zedong Mao , espcially in the airport in Beijing. You will see what happened in the history. And you will thank about it quietly.
Comments page of 3

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