Restraint crucial for peace in S.China Sea

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/22 23:28:40

Vice-Chairman of China's Central Military Commission Fan Changlong has unexpectedly cut short his trip to Vietnam. The Chinese defense ministry told the Global Times Wednesday that the Chinese side canceled a scheduled high-level border meeting with Vietnam for reasons related to working arrangements. Foreign media outlets think the cancelation may be caused by a bilateral dispute over Vietnam's oil and gas drilling in disputed areas of the South China Sea. No official statement has yet been made by the Vietnamese side. It seems the China-Vietnam relationship will continue to be disturbed by the South China Sea dispute in future.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte adjusted his country's South China Sea policy last year, the South China Sea situation has changed drastically. The dominant consensus is for countries in the region to ease relations and solve disputes through peaceful ways. The China-Vietnam relationship has also witnessed a positive momentum, with the maritime disputes between the two easing up. The situation should be cherished by both sides, as they can concentrate on domestic affairs and it is conducive to further expanding mutual beneficial cooperation.  

A relaxation in the South China Sea situation is not in the desire of external powers such as the US and Japan which seek to turn the South China Sea into a place for geopolitical competition. They are more willing to see Vietnam and the Philippines make trouble for China, creating opportunities for them to interfere. They now have attached more importance to Hanoi after Manila changed its attitude last year.

The instigation of US and Japan will create an illusion to the South China Sea claimants that China cannot launch a counterstrike without scruples even if they cross the bottom line in the South China Sea under the backing of the US and Japan. Traditionally medium- and small-sized countries seek to survive by playing a balancing act between major powers. But the tactic cannot be used to solve sensitive issues otherwise they will face high risks. 

Disputes between China and Vietnam can only be properly addressed through channels between the two countries or two parties. It must be pointed out that the economic benefits involved in the South China Sea disputes are not more than the potential economic interests a stable situation will bring to both countries. Besides, if there is a serious provocation, public opinion in either side won't allow their government to back down, meaning that countermeasures could be enacted at any cost.

China and Vietnam must avoid disputes spiraling out of control. History has shown that a showdown between two socialist countries will be particularly catastrophic as both have a strong ability to mobilize the public.

The two countries should take the advantage of their same political system to address maritime disputes. If this advantage cannot be unleashed, it may function adversely to intensify bilateral conflicts.

The US and Japan won't help Vietnam at any price in the face of a critical crisis. The interests of the big power always prevail in a game where a small and big country mutually use each other. Hanoi shouldn't mistakenly think Beijing will make concessions to it as the country is stressing stability for the upcoming 19th Communist Party of China National Congress. A framework for a South China Sea Code of Conduct has been reached and the China-Vietnam disputes should be addressed in an orderly way.



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