The ship ramming is dangerous. The exchange of verbal swords is useless. And the threat of "legal actions" will go nowhere.
The current state of affairs determines the confrontation between China and Vietnam will be one with no winner. Neither China nor Vietnam will emerge unbruised from any further escalation of the tensions in the South China Sea.
It is against Chinese interests to let territorial disputes protrude and get in its way as a rising power. Beijing's dream of national rejuvenation calls for a considerably stable and peaceful environment.
Nor does it serve Vietnam, which faces the daunting task of revitalizing its less-than-vibrant economy.
So unless both countries want a more costly showdown over their maritime disputes, there has to be a way out.
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi's visit to Hanoi is in the first place symbolic of Beijing's serious intention to bring the potentially explosive recent confrontation to an end.
Yang's discussions with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, who is also the Vietnamese foreign minister, which he described as "frank, broad and deep", appear to have been constructive, with both acknowledging their "desire" to control the crisis.
Their talks about the Chinese oil rig in the South China Sea, at the center of the latest skirmishes in the surrounding waters, might not solve the disputes, but were conducive to cooling down the confrontation there, and avoiding misjudgments.
As the two parties have stated previously and now, they prefer solving their disputes through dialogue. Which is obviously the best choice for both. But the most imperative task now is to defuse the dangerous confrontation, the burden of which lies essentially on Hanoi's shoulders.
Given Beijing's pressing need for good-neighborliness, as well as its emphasis on peace and development, it has every reason to be sincere about its peacemaking efforts. Whether or not peace can be achieved, then, depends ultimately on Hanoi's response.
Since all the recent troubles derive from Hanoi's miscalculations and unwarranted provocations, the current standoff will not see a peaceful end without Hanoi correcting its approach.
The anti-China riots in May spiraled out of control thanks in part to Hanoi's connivance. The latest maritime confrontation originated from Hanoi eating its own words acknowledging Chinese sovereignty over those South China Sea islands.
Whether the current situation can see a peaceful solution rests on whether Hanoi matches its rhetoric about "desire" with sensible deeds.
(China Daily 06/19/2014 page8)