Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Beijing, Hanoi should look beyond disputes

By Ramses Amer and Li Jianwei (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-09 07:45

Beijing, Hanoi should look beyond disputes

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, and Vietnam’s Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong address young people from both countries in Beijing on Tuesday. [WU ZHIYI / CHINA DAILY]

China and Vietnam observe the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year. While the occasion provides a special opportunity for deepening bilateral relations, the two countries have to make greater efforts to control their disputes in the South China Sea, such as the 2014 drilling rig incident.

From mid-2013 to the first four months of 2014, China and Vietnam maintained stability in the South China Sea. The year 2014 started with promising management of the situation, with the initiation in January of a departmental-level mechanism for bilateral consultation on joint development at sea. This has opened a new channel for the two countries to deal with more sensitive issues, and jointly explore and exploit non-living resources in the area claimed by the two countries.

However, tensions at sea escalated when the two sides strengthened their presence in the operation area by sending more vessels - law-enforcement as well as fishing vessels - to thwart each other's actions.

In mid-May, riotous protests against foreign-invested enterprises in south and central Vietnam not only caused damage to the assets of such enterprises, but also left casualties among their employees, including Chinese nationals. Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Singaporean and South Korean companies suffered huge losses in the riots. Given the severity of the situation, China, in coordination with Vietnam, sent ships to repatriate the Chinese nationals affected by the riots.

Since the riots took place at a time when Vietnam was making efforts to restore its reputation among foreign investors to attract more foreign direct investment, which is important for Vietnam's economic development, they hurt both sides. Tensions over the drilling simmered until China announced completion of the HYSY 981 operation in mid-July followed by the withdrawal of the rig.

Since then China and Vietnam have initiated a process aimed at rebuilding mutual trust, normalizing their overall relationship, and addressing the territorial differences. This active diplomacy is aimed at re-establishing cooperative relationship between the two sides and conforms to the efforts of the two countries' leaders to build a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship.

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