VNTB - Vanguard Bank: How many times has Vietnam been “cowardly toward the enemy” ?

Thuong Son News about a Chinese ship, HD-8, escorted by two coastguard vessels, suddenly intruding into the Vanguard Bank in Vietnam’s ...

Thuong Son

News about a Chinese ship, HD-8, escorted by two coastguard vessels, suddenly intruding into the Vanguard Bank in Vietnam’s southeastern waters in July 2019 to “explore oil reserves”, has been carried only by foreign media, while Vietnam’s propaganda and political education circles as well as State-owned press invariably chose to remain silent, just like the way they have done likewise in dealing with numerous provocative moves by Beijing.

As early as 2014, China applied tactics of deploying an oil-rig and vessels “to explore oil reserves” in the East Sea, also referred to as the South China Sea, to terrorize the decline of the moral fiber of a regime condemned as “cowardly toward the enemy, but cruel to the people”.

In May 2014, China’s oil-rig Hai Yang Shi You 981 for the first time aggressively landed in the East Sea, squeezing through Vietnam’s territorial waters. This was considered a stinging slap in the face of Hanoi’s politburo, especially its party hierarchy whose daydreams of a political balance between China and the U.S. turned tragic. At that time, plans to exploit oil between Petrol Vietnam and foreign partners such as Spain’s Repsol at Red Emperor site (Ca Rong Do) in the southeastern waters and Russia’s Rosneft at Red Orchid site (Lan Do), as well as projects to explore oil reserves with the giant U.S. ExxonMobil at the Blue Whale in the East Sea near Quang Nam and Quang Ngai provinces in central Vietnam.
The Hai Yang Shi You 981 event lasted for a couple of months, tremendously shocked the Vietnamese Communist Party. However, while the Party did not dare to react at all and resigned itself to an attitude of dead silence, the National Assembly was no better, quite unable to pass any resolution regarding the event in the East Sea, except repeatedly refer to the appearance of “strange ships” at sea, tens of thousands of Vietnamese civilians took to the streets to protest against China’s provocation via the deployment of the oil rig  Hai Yang Shi You HD 891. The saying “cowardly toward the enemy, but cruel to the people” was again proved right in this event: waves and waves of demonstrators were savagely and brutally suppressed.

By the end of July 2017, there was another “national shame” when Vietnam waved the white flag and requested Spain’s Repsol activities of gas exploration to suspend right at the Vanguard Bank in the Spratly group of islands, a region that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs always claims to belong to Vietnam’s irrefutable sovereignty. Never have the agencies of Ideological Propaganda or Ministry of Foreign Affairs been able to muster up courage to bluntly explain causes of the “national shame”, but the act of waving the white flag coincided with international sources of news revealing that Beijing threatened to attack some of Vietnam’s military outposts on the Spratlys group of islands had Vietnam permitted Repsol to continue the drilling activities of oil exploration.

During this time, under the control of the central Committee for Ideological Propaganda, a number of State-owned newspapers were prohibited from spreading the news no matter how willingly they wanted to. Vietnam’s one-party regime tried to hide this extremely sensitive information and shrank back in fear probably owing to a history of “a thousand years under Chinese domination” in the past and “the sixteen golden words” in the present.

Following the “waving the white flag” incident for the first time at Vanguard Bank in the Spratly group of islands in July 2019, in confusion, Hanoi was desperate to call for U.S. help, specifically a support from the U.S. Navy. Vietnam’s Defense Chief, general Ngo Xuan Lich, was assigned a mission to leave for Washington D.C. to persuade James Mattis at the Department of Defense to support.

Nonetheless, despite the U.S. Navy approach in the East Sea, Vietnam’s politburo still remains afraid in dealing with China’s moves. Now that the scenario of a painful failure at Vanguard Bank is likely to repeat right in Vietnam’s territorial waters, which threatens oil benefits in the context of a nightmare of foreign debts reaching maturity like tsunami on the East Sea.

In the meantime, historical footages regarding “fishermen cling to the sea, the navy clings to the shore” have been disgracefully shown again and again. For many years, not a single case of Vietnamese fishermen being shot and killed by Chinese vessels has been thoroughly investigated and so far no result has been announced by the Ministry of National Defense, despite the fact that this department annually spends USD 5 billion of tax payers’ money.

Trans lated by Kate Chesterson


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