Letters to the Editor: Tango in the South China Sea
Sunday 1 June 2014, 11.17pm HKT
Letters to the Editor
I don’t want to make a habit of this but I’ve come to the point of needing a “Letters to the Editor” category for organising and ruining some of my more interesting correspondence.
By the way, what’s your insight of the recent South China Sea conflict that caused the whole Vietnam literally hating on the Chinese and generally any East Asian looking person too? Any plans to blog about it anytime soon? Very much to hear your great insight prior to that. Hope you’re well!
— Mr South East Asia, 29 May 2014, 2.56am, via Facebook
In May 2014, a spate of anti-Chinese rioting flared up across Vietnam, resulting in dozens of Chinese and Vietnamese killed. The tension in the East Vietnam Sea was over an allegedly illegal China-run oil rig in disputed waters. The first death that made news happened to be a Taiwanese man.
The Vietnamese position is that the oil drilling was a territorial intrusion and also affects Vietnam’s economic growth. China contends that the oil rig is in Chinese territorial waters and therefore aboveboard.
Two weeks ago, China started ‘buzzing’ Vietnam with naval ships and jetfighters. The anti-Chinese attacks escalated that, at one point, China had to send evacuation ships to fetch Chinese nationals.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is renewing calls for port visits to Vietnam as tension worsens. The attacks on people are still going on across Vietnam, albeit sporadically now. China drilling is to go on despite the rioting. An Apple supplier halts production in Vietnam.
Dear Mr South East Asia
Umm, don’t really have an insight, more perhaps a throwback to the Vietnam War days (kind of, anyway).
The Viets have always hated the Chinese, and frankly I could understand their sentiments. It’s kind of hard to blog about something like this because anything I could say will just end in controversy — mainly because most people don’t have the memories my generation would have (and my generation wouldn’t like to talk about it generally).
I will say that back in 1979, four years in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, China went on (what I call) a ‘football match war’ with Vietnam “to teach them a lesson” about alleged Vietnamese border incursions into Yunnan province. It was pretty big new at the time — but not in Hong Kong, because of the government D-notices on coverage, although newspapers here vehemently deny this even today.
The Americans, who just got beat to a standstill by the Viets, were basically saying, there you go, these guys are going in after seeing how we got out and they wanna teach VC Charlie a lesson. The Yanks were right — China got a thrashing, kept quiet about it, and ruminated on the lessons they got taught in return.
See what I mean? If I blog about this now, while the flames of emotion are still running high, I’m basically ‘asking for it’ in the street…
(7.25am local time)
More from my correspondent:—
How do you predict the Chinese handle the islands conflicts then? If China believes it’s historically belonged to them, why not they just take it to the international court? And why is China being not quite realistic to claim the entirety but not only parts of the islands that are near its water? I understand it’s got some natural resources but it’s impossible from Chinese side to take full control of all, no? (9.37am)
Suppose it’s easier for Vietnam to supports its claim since it only claims part of it geographically near it. Isn’t China and Vietnamese also politically ‘siblings’? Why would the Chinese take the risk to further drift them apart based on your observation? Hehe, sorry for a lot of questions and thanks for your time, sifu! (9.44am)
Dear Mr South East Asia
They’re not political siblings at all — it’s all political opera when they’re sitting next to each other at the Comintern. Then again, Comintern is defunct. One is a ‘dragon’ and the other’s a ‘fierce cat.’ There are cultural interfacings down through the ages, of course, but that’s more because of geographical connections than anything else.
I have no predictions. The only thing I’ve observed time and time again is that the two countries will just let it simmer a bit without letting it go full boil, and then the matter gets put in the back burner. They’ve always gemmed up some distraction in the meantime — it’s done before, it’ll be done again this time round.
Everybody blames everyone here and claims everything because, not to put too fine a point on things, we Far Easterners are a greedy lot — I’m well aware the average government-issued European always have that “wily Oriental gentleman” epithet whenever they look at us…
(8.51pm local time)
What is my personal position on the matter, you might wonder?
I don’t think anyone’s going to like my ‘position’ very much, to be honest.
Rename all the places involved to Latin or Classical Greek names.
UN to force-feed the new names on all the disputing countries.
Bring in the Italians to administrate.
Bring in the Germans to enforce order.
Bring in the Russians for strategic planning.
Bring in the Americans for cultural neutrality.
Bring in the British for the logistical framework and food supplies.
Bring in the Australians for whatever’s left to do (and undo).
My REAL personal position (and opinion) is—
EVERYBODY SHUT THE HELL UP!
China is running out of unpolluted water and energy! Vietnam is running out of untainted food and energy! Everybody’s running out of something that our grandparents had lots of for free!
We’ve got bigger problems to worry about…
“Kimmy, I need you to focus!” — Taken (2008 movie)