Hanoi behind all the trouble

China Daily | 作者: Ruan Zongze | 时间: 2014-06-11 | 责编: Li Xiaoyu
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By Ruan Zongze


Vietnam has harmed its economy and global image by taking provocative actions against China and instigating racial riots

Anti-China protests in Vietnam turned deadly last week amid the Sino-Vietnamese maritime standoff over China's placement of an oil rig in waters south of Zhongjian Island of China's Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. Running out of control, the looters and arsonists not only targeted Chinese nationals and companies but also South Korean, Singaporean and other foreign-owned factories, inflicting damage to some 400 factories and forcing another 1,100 to shut down.

Vietnam, however, has shown the rest of the world how novel its crisis management is. When the anti-China protests spread, Hanoi mouthed its readiness to quell the riot on one hand but continued to use politics to fan anti-China sentiments on the other. The spokesman for Vietnam's Foreign Ministry, Le Hai Binh, even argued at a press briefing that it was "legitimate and natural" for the protesters to manifest patriotism and determination to protect national sovereignty, following the killing of Chinese nationals in the anti-China violence.

Over the past weeks, Hanoi has been claiming that China's oil rig is placed within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone and China's drilling activities infringe on Vietnam's sovereignty. It also has launched a publicity campaign at home and beyond peddling itself as a victim bullied by China.

The fact, however, is quite the opposite. The oil rig was operated by China's National Offshore Oil Corporation in waters only 17 nautical miles (31.4 kilometers) south of Zhongjian Island of China's Xisha Islands and about 150 nautical miles from Vietnam's coast. Besides, operations like the latest one, which is being conducted within China's contiguous zone, actually started 10 years ago and just in May and June last year, a three-dimensional seismic operation and well site survey was conducted by the Chinese company in these waters.

Since China's placement of the oil rig on May 2, Vietnam has dispatched a large number of vessels to the waters near the drilling site, instigating collision with Chinese ships and interfering with the normal operations of the Chinese oil company. So far, Hanoi has sent more than 60 vessels, including armed ones, to the waters near the oil rig. And between May 3 and May 21, the Vietnamese vessels deliberately rammed the Chinese ships more than 700 times. The Vietnamese side also employed Frogmen and cast fishing nets and other obstacles in these waters, posing serious security threat to the Chinese vessels and facilities.

In the course of the standoff, China has exercised restraint in the face of Vietnam's provocation. Despite that, Hanoi has relentlessly tried to woo international opinion to its side by inviting local and foreign media onboard to observe the standoff, while intentionally enticing Chinese ships to fight back in order to substantiate its story of being bullied by China.

China has indeed exercised restraint, but Vietnam should never mistake it as a sign of weakness and underestimate Beijing's determination to defend its sovereign rights and interests.

If it continues to take provocative actions and call white black, Hanoi will reap what it has sown. In fact, Vietnam is already suffering the consequences of the anti-China rampage which has shaken investors' confidence in Vietnam and thus jeopardized the country's investment prospects. And Hanoi has no one but itself to blame for that, because it distorted the facts and sowed the seeds of irrational anti-China violence in the first place.

Counting on support from third parties, Vietnam continues to act provocatively. The United States Secretary of State John Kerry has even said that the recent Chinese moves in the contested waters were "provocative" and "aggressive".

Indeed, there have been provocative and aggressive moves in these waters in recent weeks, but China should by no means be the one to take the blame. Washington has committed a mistake by encouraging Hanoi and its reckless behaviors.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made an emergency call to his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh on May 15 condemning the riot. Wang said Vietnam bears unshirkable responsibilities for the violent attacks against Chinese companies and nationals, and he also urged for all-out efforts to treat the injured, harsh punishment of all perpetrators and compensation for companies and nationals.

To act as a responsible country, Vietnam should know better what to do: stop provoking and call off its self-victimization show sooner rather than later.

The author is deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies.


Source: China Daily http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2014-05/24/content_17538311.htm