In early May, China moved an oil drilling platform into the South China Sea, invoking strong resentment from the Vietnamese. You see, the rig’s particular placement is in disputed waters, with both countries claiming jurisdiction over the area.
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Since then, the area has been abuzz with Vietnamese and Chinese fishing boats and a variety of Security Coast Guard ships.
It’s your typical face-off: Chinese boats are trying to ward off the Vietnamese, while the Vietnamese boats are trying to get as close as they can to the oil rig. Both sides refuse to back down… and now, the disagreement has rippled ashore.
From the Water to the Streets
Anti-China riots broke out in Vietnam’s streets following the rigs deployment. And though both nations share similar political systems, Vietnam deeply mistrusts China. In fact, some experts claimed that the rig debate has raised tensions to a 15-year high between the two countries.
“I have followed China-Vietnam relations on and off for about 15 years, covering diplomacy in Beijing… I have to say, this oil rig incident actually has raised tensions to about the highest I have ever seen.”
But what’s most interesting in all of this is the incentive for captains and companies who’ve sent fishing boats to check out the scene. What do they have to gain from this?
As soon as John Ruwitch of Reuters did a little snooping, he was quickly shut down, not only by company employees, but then by the border police, to whom he’d been quickly handed off. They held him in detention, “which lasted about two or three hours, [and] shows, I think, how sensitive the standoff with Vietnam is right now.”
You see, two weeks into the standoff, a Chinese boat supposedly rammed right into a Vietnamese one, and Ruwitch was almost certain that he’d found a match between the alleged boat and other boats perusing the waters.
In China’s defense, it claimed that the Vietnamese boat was “in the way.”
And though Beijing and Hanoi have been mending their relationship since the brief border war of 1979, current events suggest more rough patches between the two before both are in perfect harmony again.
In pursuit of the truth,
Politics Research Team