A Sea of Storms
Viet Nam's provocative actions not only disrespect China's sovereignty, but also jeopardize order in the region
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UPDATED: June 9, 2014 NO. 24 JUNE 12, 2014
Viet Nam's Worrisome Stance

The long-standing friendship established by the previous generations of Chinese and Vietnamese leadership faces the possibility of turning sour. Recently, Viet Nam infringed on China's sovereignty over the Xisha Islands and their surrounding waters and allowed violent riots against Chinese people and factories in their country to erupt, bringing injury and death to a number of Chinese citizens.

The situation in the South China Sea has been peaceful for decades. Thanks to the collective efforts of China and other countries whose coastlines touch the South China Sea, a coordination and communication mechanism has been established to resolve territorial disputes peacefully. However, the waters have become troubled in recent years as the United States carries out its "pivot-to-Asia" strategy. The Philippines were the first to make an offensive move against China's sovereignty in the South China Sea, but gained little from the incident aside from becoming a client state for the U.S. military.

Unlike the Philippines, Viet Nam relies heavily on China for its economic development. If Viet Nam continues to act provocatively in the South China Sea, it will find its national reputation deeply damaged.

Seeing as Viet Nam has set offshore oil and gas development as a focus for its economy, escalating disputes and an attempt to claim these resources in the South China Sea would be beneficial to it.

Viet Nam officially admitted China's sovereignty over the Xisha Islands until the 1970s. Even earlier, in 1956, it explicitly agreed with China in 1956 and stated that the Xisha Islands belonged to the latter. The Chinese Government announced a distance of 12 nautical miles as its territorial waters in 1958 and indicated that the breadth of its territorial waters applies to all Chinese territories including the Xisha Islands. On the 10th day after China made the announcement, then Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong delivered a diplomatic note to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai stating that the Vietnamese Government recognized and respected the announcement on the breadth of territorial waters made by the Chinese Government. For a long time following, all governmental documents, textbooks and maps published by Viet Nam identified the Xisha Islands as Chinese territory.

Against the backdrop of the "pivot-to-Asia" policy of the United States, Viet Nam might think there is an opportunity to steal the Xisha Islands. It distorts history and denies facts to try and meet these ends.

China and Viet Nam have more common interests than differences, such as promoting economic growth, improving people's livelihood and maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. The anti-China protests in Viet Nam have undoubtedly cast a shadow over its future foreign-investment opportunities.

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