Vietnam does not go gently into South China Sea code of conduct – China’s latest political and current affairs news


A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for August 8, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un applauds during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

“Vietnam has emerged as Southeast Asia’s loudest voice in resisting China’s expansionist moves in the South China Sea,” the Nikkei Asian Review wrote after a weekend of wrangling among southeast Asian countries over a South China Sea code of conduct.  

What did Vietnam do?

  • Bloomberg reported that “China saw Vietnam as pushing for” language critical of China in the code of conduct, so the Chinese foreign minister cancelled a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart “at the last minute.” Reuters says that Australia, Japan, and the U.S. had insisted on the code of conduct being legally binding, and the South China Morning Post indicates that Vietnam also pushed for legal rules in the sea, which Beijing strongly opposes.

It isn’t the first time this summer that Vietnam has defied Beijing in the South China Sea:

  • In June, China cancelled a military gathering between the two countries, possibly over South China Sea disputes.
  • Vietnam a week ago strongly criticized a Chinese-built cinema on an island that the southeast asian country claims.
  • And for months, Vietnam had insisted on its rights to drill for oil in the ocean off of its southern coast, but Beijing won a small battle when Vietnam backed down (paywall) on that claim on August 4.

The South China Morning Post has followed up with story citing two reasons why Vietnam is especially sensitive to China’s claims to territory in the South China Sea — it has both land and sea borders with China, and as a geographically narrow coastal country, is vulnerable to maritime attack. Analysts expect Vietnam to “tilt towards” the U.S. if tensions with Beijing continue to escalate.

Reuters reported that the code agreed upon was “hailed as progress” by the foreign ministers of countries involved, but “seen by critics as tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power.” For more on the maritime framework and the South China Sea situation, see these reports: