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Home Conferences & Seminars Third International Workshop, November 2011 Recent events in the South China Sea and China-Vietnam Relations: Analysed Through the Lens of Chinese Media and Official Reports, by Li Jianwei and Chen Pingping

Recent events in the South China Sea and China-Vietnam Relations: Analysed Through the Lens of Chinese Media and Official Reports, by Li Jianwei and Chen Pingping

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Introduction

The elapsed time of 2011 has seen exciting events in the China-Vietnam relations. Although the overall fraternal bilateral relations have been recognized and mutual efforts have been contributed to promoting the relations to reach a strategic level, events in regard to the South China Sea in May and June were observed to have brought tension to bilateral relations. Both governments have invested much resource in managing the events from escalation. Following dialogues and contacts have shown the mutual strong political will in carefully handling the South China Sea dispute and not letting such a disagreement affect the overall bilateral relations. Vietnam’s General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s China visit further consolidated such consensus. One particular issue in regard to how events are communicated to the public has been recognized as being important in the process of the bilateral dispute management over the South China Sea. Media plays an important role in mass communication. It can convey to the general public the recent events at fast speed. At the same time the media may help shape the perception of the mass in face of incidents, to bad or to good. To effectively manage the South China Sea issue, the media’s role should be given more attention from both countries. Meanwhile contacts in the mass media field between the two countries should also be strengthened to set up effective communication channel for better understanding the situation, as well as better communicating to the general public within their own countries.

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Following the introduction the overview of the official reports are presented relating to both countries’ practices and comments over the South China Sea issue. This overview intends to reflect through primary sources the genuine nature of China-Vietnam bilateral relations in a broader picture and its relations with the bilateral contentious issue of the South China Sea. At the key bilateral meetings this year, it is emphasized how to disseminate to the public the relevant events in regard to bilateral sensitive issues such as the South China Sea. In this regard the media plays an important role in communicating to the general public whose view may affect policy decisions. The next part will take as a case study how China’s key newspapers report the recent important events between China and Vietnam, in particular in regard to the South China Sea issue. After the description of the measures that we use in doing such a research the findings are presented. The implication is discussed in the conclusion.

 

Recent events and official responses from both countries[1]

In 2011 the South China Sea remains to be one of the issues which have attracted attention from Chinese and Vietnamese governments. Both governments have invested much resource in order to properly handling this issue. A glimpse can be seen from the official reports or press releases at the websites of their different government departments.

According to the authors’ calculation for official data up until the end of October, there are about 19 times at the press conferences of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs where events regarding bilateral events in the South China Sea and relevant comments are mentioned. For 19 times at the website of the China’s International Department of Communist Party of China, events in regard to China-Vietnam party-to-party relations are mentioned and 13 out of the 19 reports are dedicated to Vietnam’s Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s October visit to China. Top-level leaders’ visits are considered as a pivotal important sign in China-Vietnam relations, particularly Trong’s is his first China visit after he took office early 2011 and after bilateral row over the South China Sea in the first half of this year. There are 4 times at the website of China’s Ministry of Defence where bilateral high-level military contacts are reported. From the website of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 52 reports are in regard to China-Vietnam relations, in which 8 reports are dedicated to Trong’s visit to China and 33 are related to bilateral handling with the South China Sea issue.

According to sources from the above-mentioned websites, there are incidents occurred in the South China Sea which may lead to negative impacts on bilateral relations. These incidents against which Vietnam protested include the counter-piracy drills in the Spratly Islands  by the 8th Chinese naval escort fleet(24 February)[2], China’s Hainan provincial government’s announcement on its 12th Five-year Plan on socio-economic development, which includes contents relating Xisha (Paracel) and Nansha (Spartly) islands (3 March)[3], China's Hainan Provincial government’s priority list of protection, conservation and construction plan over Zhaoshu Dao (Tree Island) in Xisha Islands (Paracels) (3 April)[4], China’s State Oceanic Administration’s release of the “2011 China Ocean Development Report”, in which China reinstated its claim over Parecel and Spratly islands and adjacent waters[5], China’s Haikou City’s annual announcement of fishing ban in the sea area in the South China Sea north of 12 Degree North Parallel from 16 May to 1 August[6],China’s law enforcement ship preventing Vietnam’s oil and gas exploration activities in the sea area with overlapping claims (26 May)[7], and the encounter between China’s fishing boat and Vietnam’s gas and oil exploration ship (9 June)[8].

The incidents against which China lodged protest or commented include Vietnam’s national assembly deputies election over the disputed Spratly Islands (March)[9], Vietnam’s oil and gas exploration activities in the sea area with overlapping claims (26 May)[10], anti-China demonstration within Vietnam (June)[11], Vietnam’s live ammunition military drill (13 June)[12], and Vietnam’s joint oil exploration with an Indian company in the sea area with overlapping claims[13].

During the first half of 2011 the protests and counter protests over the events in the South China Sea seem to get more intensified in both frequency and intensity. The several demonstrations against China in June, though at a small scale, seem to arouse negative feelings among the peoples of both countries which both governments started taking seriously. Bilateral communication and actions increased considerably to avoid the existing dispute over territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea bring damage to the overall bilateral relations. Judging from mutual contacts and cooperation all through even during the incidents, communications channels have been smooth for both countries to exchange concerns. For example, after the conclusion of the 11th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, China’s Party General Secretary and State President Hu Jintao sent a special envoy to Vietnam to convey his congratulations on the event’s success, showing Chinese leaders’ support for the Vietnamese revolutionary cause under the leadership of the CPV.[14]On 28 February, Hoang Binh Quan, Special Envoy of Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for External Affairs, visited Beijing and came up with the results of the 11th National Congress. This shows the special relations between the two parties and governments. Arranged visits and talks were also held in April between top officials in both countries’ Ministries of Defence and Ministries of Foreign Affair.[15]When the tension became intensified during the late May and early June, bilateral communications were getting more frequent. Chinese Defence Minister Senior Lieutenant General Liang Guanglie met with Vietnamese Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh at the sideline meeting of the Shangri-la Dialogue on 3 June. Both Defence Ministers talked about the 26 May Incident. Vietnam DM expressed concern that the incident raises disquiet among the public and concerns of Party and State leaders in Vietnam. Both showed determination to solve the dispute through dialogues and negotiations.[16]Meanwhile several associations conveyed their concern of the relevant incidents and possible impacts on China-Vietnam relation. These communications include between the Viet Nam Fatherland Front Central Committee and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (June 9), between the Viet Nam Peace Committee and the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament (June 12), and the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organisations and the China People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (13 June). From 19-20 June navies form both countries conducted a joint patrol in the Gulf of Tonkin, which according to a report from Vietnam’s foreign ministry, reflected “the development of the traditional neighbouring cooperative relationship, the enhancement of mutual understanding and trust between the two armies and navies.[17]

(continuing)

 

Read full text of this paper here

 

[1] All the data are collected from the websites of Chinese and Vietnamese Governments followed by the authors’ summaries. For the Chinese information, the data are collected from the websites of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense and the International Department of the Communist Party of China (in both Chinese and English languages). For the Vietnam’s information, the data are collected from the Vietnam Ministry of Foerign AForeign Affairs (in English version only.)

[2] The incident and Vietnam’s protest appears at http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110304191944#0BnKhaTTCm8T, accessed on 8 September 2011.

[3] http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/tt_baochi/pbnfn/ns110311142446/newsitem_print_preview, accessed on 11 March 2011

[4] http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/tt_baochi/pbnfn/ns110421161428#qSQ4I86h2ui1, accessed on 25 September, 2011.

[5] http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110520145753#syQb4hIezwcN, accessed on 18 May 2011.

[6] http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/tt_baochi/pbnfn/ns110516112044#NrxLg0bpGolh, accessed on 22 May 2011.

[7] The Vietnam’s MOFA first protest, http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/tt_baochi/pbnfn/ns110530220030#NJrpuRE9nomh, accessed on 25 September. This is followed by Vietnam Oil and Gas Association at http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110608175949#nUtsdFNDJASf, accessed on 25 September, 2011 and The Viet Nam Fatherland Front Central Committee (VFFCC) at http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110608182906#6c8hIsMBgT29, accessed on 18 October 2011.

[8] For this incident Vietnam lodged protest at four different occasions,  http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/tt_baochi/pbnfn/ns110610145220#Ti9a7bJditpt, accessed on 25 September 201; http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110610144652#vn9Gp37ldL1z, accessed on 18 October 2011; http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110613095405#NtXZ41b3q8dH, accessed on 25 September 2011; http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110614085908#mmI3sdn7viJ1, accessed on 29 September 2011.

[9] This event is mentioned in China’s MFA Website, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2535/t822021.htm, accessed on 6 September 2011 and Vietnam’s MOFA website, http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/tt_baochi/pbnfn/ns110512182457#XNJVT4shOH2H, accessed on 25 September 2011

[10] http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2535/t826601.htm, accessed on 6 September 2011.

[11] http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2511/t829435.htm, accessed on 6 September 2011.

[12] http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2511/t831355.htm, accessed on 6 September.

[13] http://www.mfa.gov.cn/chn/gxh/tyb/fyrbt/jzhsl/t859330.htm, accessed on 20 September 2011.

[14] http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110224084501#KoXGAdVqNpCR, accessed on 25 March 2011.

[15] http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110414085618#DM2A7ctXADZJ, accessed on 8 September, 2011 and http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110419090108#fw1qHcADZ7dP, accessed on 25 September, 2011.

[16] http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110606150335#c4BW8lD4mgOn, accessed on 18 October, 2011.

[17] http://www.mofa.gov.vn/en/nr040807104143/nr040807105001/ns110621152318#cmTRLCLZKXku, accessed on 25 September 2011.


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