Channel NewsAsia

China unlikely to yield to public anger in Vietnam

Hundreds of people were arrested in Vietnam on Wednesday, accused of looting and setting fire to dozens of factories near Ho Chi Minh City, as anger over an oil rig that a Chinese state-run company placed in disputed South China Sea waters became violent.

SHANGHAI: Hundreds of people were arrested in Vietnam on Wednesday, accused of looting and setting fire to dozens of factories near Ho Chi Minh City, as anger over an oil rig that a Chinese state-run company placed in disputed South China Sea waters became violent.

Relations between China and Vietnam faced daunting challenges when China parked its giant oil rig close to the Paracel Islands (known as Xisha Islands in Chinese) between May 2 and 7, an area which is also claimed by Vietnam, and ships from both sides collided in the disputed part of the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, thousands of Vietnamese staged large anti-China protests at an industrial park in southern Vietnam over China's move.

It was also reported that the demonstrators attacked offices and torched several Chinese factories.

However public anger and protests in Vietnam are unlikely to pressure China into changing its stand on the territorial dispute.

China has always asserted its sovereignty over the region. It therefore feels it has every right to carry out drilling activities in the Xisha Islands, which Beijing says it has been doing for the past 10 years.

China instead points the finger at Vietnam as being the provocateur, accusing Hanoi of violent disruptions by ramming sea vessels and breaching international agreements of maritime safety.

China's foreign ministry has also put that point across to Indonesia, even though Jakarta has not been involved in the current dispute.

China appears to want to make its stand heard among other member countries of ASEAN.

In a phone call between the foreign ministers of both countries, China told Indonesia it hopes ASEAN member countries can have a clear understanding of the basic facts of the Vietnam-China incident in the South China Sea.

In response, Indonesia said it takes no side on the sovereignty issue.

This comes after ASEAN released a joint statement earlier this week, expressing serious concern over the ongoing developments in the South China Sea and calling for a peaceful resolution.

The statement did not make specific reference to any country, but it is a sign the 10 ASEAN countries could be moving towards a more united front on the issue.

Experts say such solidarity is rare, as opinions on how to handle the dispute with China are split among ASEAN leaders and reaching a consensus has always been difficult.

Still, that has done little to change Beijing's stand on the dispute.

Beijing says Vietnam's efforts to rope in others to pressure China are doomed to fail.  

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