The Chinese government announced today that they evacuated more than 3000 Chinese nationals from Vietnam after a wave of rioting left two Chinese dead and more than 100 injured. The trigger’s said to be the Chinese deploying an oil rig in disputed territorial waters on May 1, but is this the only reason?
First, the oil rig. The Haiyang Shiyou 981 is a billion dollar oil rig that the Chinese deployed near the Paracel Islands. The problem? Where they’re drilling is inside Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
An EEZ is the maritime area within 200 nautical miles from a country’s baseline; the baseline is determined by connecting points of the coastline of the country in question. EEZs are part of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international agreement that defines territorial seas and the areas where countries could exploit marine resources. The UNCLOS concluded in 1982, and became a binding treaty in 1994. China signed on to the UNCLOS in 1996.
While the Chinese were deploying the rig, a flotilla of Vietnamese boats attempted to stop the deployment. The Chinese responded by using water cannons and ramming the boats with naval vessels on the scene. This, as well as overflying of Vietnam by Chinese aircraft, is what is being reported as the main instigator of the riots; the feeling that China’s trying to take forcibly what’s believed to be Vietnamese resources instead of stating their case through diplomatic channels.
The timing of the deployment by the Chinese raises some interesting questions, as it took place shortly after President Obama’s trip to southeast Asia. The trip was meant to reassure the other nations in the area that the U. S. would stand with them against Chinese encroachment. But, the United States is not a signatory to UNCLOS, due to a bizarre notion of some Republicans that doing so will mean submitting the U.S. to a world tax, global redistribution of wealth, and a supranational government. Meanwhile, the Chinese vow to keep drilling.
But, is this the only cause? Most of the factories burned down aren’t Chinese owned, and the Vietnamese aren’t strangers to rioting over working conditions. Furthermore, there’s been a large influx of Chinese workers in the last few years, leading to more unemployment as some of the foreign owned businesses have employed the Chinese immigrants instead of Vietnamese workers. And, some people are claiming that an American-based organisation of anti-Communist Vietnamese exiles, Viet Tan, may be the true instigators.
I can easily see how the Vietnamese government would be careful to spin this in the international press as nationalistic fervor against the Chinese, but there’s just too many factors in play here to be certain that this is the only, or even main, cause of the unrest.
We probably will never know the full story behind the riots. What we do know is that all over the world, workers are standing up against empires and against exploitative employers. However, violence is not the way to win the struggle.
Occupy World Writes is horrified by the violence that has taken place in Vietnam. We reject the use of violence, and call for the Chinese to come to the table in regards to the drilling. We also call for business owners to come to the table and negotiate with the workers over working conditions and hiring conditions. And finally, we call upon all governments to become more transparent. Only then can we move towards a better world for all.