Sunday, June 12, 2011

Possibility of China-Vietnam War

In late 1970s, at the discretion of Deng Xiaoping, China decided to punish and wage a war of "self-defense and counter attack" against Vietnam. The close decades-long comradeship and brotherhood between the two countries were severed following the war.
The war that lasted for a decade had cast a gloom over the relations between China and Vietnam. The gloom has prevailed despite the steady development of the China-Vietnam ties. Tension has arisen recently between the two countries due to their divergent views and stands on the issue of the territorial dispute in the South China Sea. Moreover, some quarters with ulterior motives have tried to sow discord between them. We cannot help to worry that conflicts may erupt again between these two neighbors.
Safeguarding Territorial Integrity
A demonstration, something that is barely seen in Vietnam, was staged in the country's capital Hanoi recently. More than 300 took the streets to protest against Beijing on the issue of the South China Sea. In addition, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs proclaimed that the Vietnamese navy will take all necessary measures to safeguard the independence, autonomy, and territorial integrity of Vietnam. Not to be outdone, China responded through an editorial in the Huan Qiu Shi Bao [or Global Times], a paper under the government's mouthpiece The People's Daily: "It is impossible for China to practice limitless self-restraint. If Vietnam assumes that it can take China's tolerance for granted like the salt in the South China Sea, it is undoubtedly a strategic misjudgment... If Vietnam thinks it can take all necessary measures, feel free to try."
Such strong wording sounds similar with the statement of Deng Xiaoping before he announced the decision to "teach Vietnam a lesson". Commenting on Vietnam's "intrusion", Deng said then: "I am afraid all other methods are not effective, if we do not teach them a necessary lesson." His statement manifested China's determination to fight back even if it meant they had to go to war. And Deng had walked his talk then.
Declaration of Conduct of Parties
Beijing would strive to adhere to the "keeping low profile" policy advocated by Deng, which means it will continue to practice self-restraint and seek consensus through negotiation if any conflict arises, or to the least extent, it will seek to maintain the status quo. For instance, the signing of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries many years ago. Yet, at the same time, China will also ensure its territorial integrity and would not tolerate if any country tries to cross the line. No country should assume China is weak. Beijing could afford to deploy its troops to teach Vietnam a lesson even when the country was having a very hard time 32 years ago, let alone today, when the country is a lot stronger.
It is a test to the wisdom of leaders in Beijing and other relevant quarters as to how they could peacefully resolve the South China Sea dispute without a war. The only thing we are sure is, any provocative action such as sending vessels for oil and gas exploration will only pour oil on the flames and exacerbate this explosive issue of the South China Sea.

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