Archive for East Asian Politics

Chinese Officials Overplay Hand at Hanoi Meeting, Get Sent Home Early

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , on June 25, 2017 by Ian Pham

South China Sea(Voice of America)

It’s not that impressive, but when you remember that these are the Vietnamese communists we’re talking about, it’s kind of a big deal. Still not that great, though, by the standards of non-garbage nations.

In a nutshell, some Chinese representatives said some things to their Vietnamese hosts in a recent meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city. The hosts didn’t take kindly to the words of their Chinese guests, and as a result, the visitors were sent packing early.

This is newsworthy because it is very uncharacteristic of the Vietnamese communist government to ever show any type of backbone when talking with the Chinese. It’s usually a “yes sir, thank you sir,” and sometimes a “sorry sir,” on the parts of the Vietnamese communists to their Chinese overlords, with the two sides then going on public record saying that “great progress” has been made in “the talks” for “ensuring stability in the region.” In reality, behind these empty cliched words, it’s just China telling their VCP lapdogs what to do next, and the communists in Hanoi nodding their heads in agreement and obedience.

The fact that this is not the case this time, and that someone in the VCP actually had the guts to ask the Chinese to leave is something of a news story for Vietnamese geopolitics in the current era of communist rule.

Below are further details of the Chinese delegation’s early-cancelled trip in Vietnam.

According to Voice of America, Vietnamese edition, Chinese general Fan Changlong and a squad of Chinese military officials came to Vietnam this week to meet with high-ranking members of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

The meeting, officially deemed a continuation of the annual “border defense friendship exchange program,” was supposed to last from June 20-22, but was promptly cancelled due to “private disagreements” that were not specified by either side, according to The Diplomat.

Officially, the Chinese government cite “working arrangements” as reasons for the shortened visit, The New York Times claims. However, analysts believe that deeper issues are afoot.

Reports claim that China appears to be angry with Vietnam for developing closer ties to Japan and the United States. These two nations are both viewed with suspicion and envy by the Chinese. Vietnam’s increased cooperation with these countries is likely interpreted by the Chinese as an affront to their own influence in the region.

Furthermore, Caty Weaver cites government sources claiming that “discussions about the disputed South China Sea” may be the cause of Fan’s shortened visit to Vietnam. Similarly, it is reported by The New York Times that the Chinese representatives’ trip was “unexpectedly cut short… after tempers flared during a closed-door discussion on disputed territories in the South China Sea.”

In response to Vietnam’s surprisingly tougher than usual reaction, China has deployed 40 naval vessels, as well as some military aircraft within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Even before Fan’s visit, Beijing moved their infamous Haiyang 981 oil rig back into Vietnam’s EEZ, most likely as a tactic of intimidation to let the communist Vietnamese know that their granddaddy China was on the way.

Analysts assert that possible reasons for China’s extra assertiveness at this time is opportunism due to “the loss of ASEAN momentum in the South China Sea,” and what appears to be “a distracted United States” in the region. Currently, there is much uncertainty regarding President Trump’s policies in the Pacific, and so the Chinese are trying to capitalize on this opportunity and expand their military and geopolitical position.

Increased pressure on Hanoi in the recent meeting is thus simply a continuation of China’s attempt to better its influence in the Pacific. Unfortunately for the Chinese, they pushed too hard this time in their “discussions” with the communist Vietnamese. For whatever reason, Hanoi finally snapped and bit back at Beijing’s bullying tactics.

As a result, China is now embarrassed at the debacle, an event exemplified by their General Fan “voluntarily” leaving Vietnam earlier than scheduled. To “save face,” the Chinese government is currently lashing out by sending ships and planes in a show of “strength” along Vietnam’s coast.

Thus far, it is unclear in the short term whether the situation in the South China Sea will simmer down or escalate. Time will tell.

As Expected, Zero Progress Made From Nguyen Phu Trong’s “Historic” Visit to Washington

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2015 by Ian Pham

Washington MeetingImage via Yahoo News

I felt I should follow up from my last article about VCP General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s self-proclaimed “historic” visit to meet President Barack Obama in Washington. Like I forecasted just a day ago, the talks indeed yielded zero actual change from the status quo.

The talks were straightforward, relaxed, with little point whatsoever. Pleasantries were exchanged, Nguyen Phu Trong lauds the “progress” that has been made in U.S.-Vietnam relations, with President Obama courteously expressing optimism for the future. The usual topics were brought up, like Chinese aggression in the Pacific, the possibility of the formation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and of course, the issue of human rights.

According to the Washington Times, Trong invited President Obama to visit Vietnam, in which the President has replied that he will do so “… some time in the future.”

There were some notable happenings that revolved around the meeting, but were not part of the meeting itself. A group of bipartisan lawmakers in the White House advised the President prior to the meeting to press Nguyen Phu Trong more strongly on the human rights issue.

From the same Washington Times source:

“This authoritarian one-party system is the root cause of the deplorable human rights situation in Vietnam,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican. “As the list of detained Vietnamese bloggers and prisoners of conscience gets longer and longer, it is even more important than ever that the United States sends a clear message to the Hanoi authorities that respect for human rights is essential for a closer economic and security relationship.”

The other notable happening in relation with Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit was the hundreds-strong protest taking place outside of the White House during the meeting.

According to Jerome Cartillier:

A few hundred protesters rallied outside the White House, calling for expanded human rights in Vietnam — an issue that has sparked concern among some American lawmakers about deepening ties.

Demonstrators carried signs with slogans like “Freedom of speech in Vietnam now” and called on Hanoi to release all political prisoners.

Washington ProtestProtesters outside of the White House during Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s meeting with President Obama. Photo via Yahoo News

Although the meeting between President Obama and the idiot General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong was exactly as unproductive and pointless as expected, I am still happy to hear that the issue of human rights is still on the minds of U.S. lawmakers. I am even more proud of the part played by the Vietnamese community.

Commendation to all who participated in the protests yesterday. You made a great impact, and your passion and dedication is undoubtedly being heard. As the actions of the U.S. lawmakers urging the President to be tougher on Trong has shown, your voice is making a difference.

We have to keep pushing, we have to keep making a difference. Persistence is everything.

Predictions For Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s VCP General Secretary’s Visit to Washington Today

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2015 by Ian Pham

Nguyen Phu Trong(AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

Vietnam’s General Secretary, the leader of the VCP and the country’s man in charge, Nguyen Phu Trong arrives in Washington today to meet with President Barack Obama.

According to the White House:

On July 7, 2015, President Obama will welcome to the White House Nguyen Phu Trong, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam.  The President looks forward to discussing with General Secretary Trong ways to strengthen further the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership, reflecting on the accomplishments of the past twenty years since the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations.  The President also welcomes the opportunity to discuss other issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, human rights, and bilateral defense cooperation.

I’m not exactly sure what will come out of this meeting. The Vietnamese government in Hanoi has demonstrated time and again that they are firmly under the thumb of Beijing. Moreover, members of the VCP, with party chief Trong being one of the biggest offenders, have all shown ineptitude in reaching any sort of solution to the woes of their country, economically, socially, and politically.

For these reasons, I believe that President Obama’s hopes of establishing closer ties with Vietnam will once again fall short of any substantial gains. Human rights remains an issue that has hindered the U.S. goal of establishing a meaningful partnership with Vietnam, and judging from the ongoing violations that the communist state continues to orchestrate, this issue shows little hope of being resolved anytime soon.

The U.S. has deep interests in strengthening relations with Vietnam, and is willing to offer the communist nation vast benefits to reach that end. However, judging from the VCP’s tendency to fashion their foreign policy in accordance with Beijing’s wishes, it is highly unlikely that Trong or the VCP will risk offending China by warming up to the United States, no matter how beneficial siding with America is to Vietnam’s growth.

In terms of strengthening relations with Vietnam, the U.S. is willing to offer Vietnam a seat in the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as well as the easing of restrictions on the sales of lethal weaponry, and the increasing of economic ties. The U.S. wants to provide Vietnam with these major benefits, and has been very patient with the communist state’s continued intransigence, most notably with Vietnam diplomatically siding with China and blatantly abusing human rights domestically.

Besides the complicated situation with China, human rights is the only major impediment to Vietnam gaining the extensive economic, military, and geopolitical benefits that comes from partnership with the United States. However, as a communist government who is struggling to maintain stranglehold on power, as a cowardly government in constant fear of offending China, and as dullards who can’t hit water if they fell out of a boat, the Vietnamese Communist Party and its leader Nguyen Phu Trong will not be smart enough to take the many benefits that the U.S. is wanting to give to them.

In my predictions, no substantial agreements will be met between Vietnam and the United States. Unless President Obama is willing to overlook the human rights issue completely, something I really hope he does not do, it is doubtful that the establishment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership will become a reality.

Nguyen Phu Trong, nicknamed “Trọng Lú,” or “Trọng the Stupid,” or “Trọng the Confused,” or “Trọng the Dazed,” or “Trọng the Dullard,” (depending on your choice of translation) by the international Vietnamese community, will not make the obvious choice of simply improving human rights to vastly benefit his country. It’s so simple, but he will not get it. He’s called Trọng Lú for a reason.

The only thing I hope to see today are the major democracy, human rights, and anti-communist protests upon Trong’s arrival. Any organization that is staging demonstrations, all the more power to you. Come out in droves, make him hear you.

“Trọng Lú.”

1979: The Sino-Vietnamese War (Part II)

Posted in Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on August 16, 2011 by Ian Pham

Enter Deng Xiaoping

After Vietnam’s swift invasion of Cambodia, tensions between Vietnam and China finally flared to the breaking point.  Deng Xiaoping was enraged by Vietnam’s total domination in the Cambodian conflict and felt obligated to teach Vietnam a lesson in war.  The arrogant Communist leader labelled Vietnam a “hooligan” and vowed to move his PLA into Hanoi in a matter of days.  However, the Chinese Communist leader would be forced to swallow his own harsh words.  Invading Vietnam, as Deng would soon learn, is not an easy endeavour.

Deng Xiaoping had two core objectives when he deployed his forces into Vietnam. The first reason was personal, the Chinese wanted to defeat Vietnam overwhelmingly, the same way that Cambodia was taken down at the hands of the Vietnamese.  This is why Deng Xiapoing claimed that he would teach Vietnam a lesson, boasting to show how superior [he thought] the Chinese military was over Vietnam.  The second reason was political, for Deng wanted to remove Vietnam from Cambodia, thus ending their occupation of a former Chinese ally.  Unfortunately for Deng, as one will find out, neither of these objectives would be met by his PLA.

Le Duan’s Plan

With Deng’s army on the march, Le Duan, Vietnam’s General Secretary, made his own preparations to deal with the Chinese forces.  He had just defeated Pol Pot in war and was now overseeing his country’s occupation. For this reason, Le Duan had to keep most of his forces stationed in Cambodia, leaving him with only the secondary militia to take on the forces of Deng Xiaoping.  This secondary army of Vietnam, to the surprise of all (except the Vietnamese), would be more than enough to take on the Chinese forces.

The Chinese entered Vietnam on February 17, 1979, successfully marching only 7-8 kilometres for the first several days.  The Chinese saw heavy resistance from the People’s Army of Vietnam, who caused them to remain idle for the three days of their invasion.  On the fourth day, after the standstill at the hands of the Vietnamese secondary army, the Chinese forces fought their way towards Cao Bang and Lang Son.  After six days of excruciating battles, the Chinese managed to capture Cao Bang on February 27, with another two days to occupy Lang Son.  It was throughout this period that the Chinese army were encountering difficulties on the battlefield, with the Vietnamese forces waiting at the opposite end.

The Retreat & The Aftermath

On March 5, with the hopes of marching into Hanoi all but crushed, Deng Xiaoping had no other option but to retreat his forces.  On the way back, the Chinese forces, under Deng’s orders, hunted down and killed all of the Vietnamese civilians in their path.  Tens of thousands of innocent civilians, which consisted mostly of women, children, and the elderly, were ruthlessly slaughtered by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.  The forces of Le Duan were now pursuing the Chinese back to the border, but were slowed down by the trail of land mines left by the murderers of Deng Xiaoping.  The massacre could not be stopped in time, and many thousand innocent lives were lost at the hands of the ever bitter and humiliated Deng Xiaoping.

When his forces were finally withdrawn from Vietnam on March 16, Deng Xiaoping had the nerve to claim victory over Vietnam, shamelessly declaring that he had achieved all his objectives in the war.  What he failed to mention accurately was the three day standstill at the beginning, the seven day halt that followed, and the complete and utter deterioration of his dream of ever reaching Hanoi in the end.  Furthermore, Deng Xiaoping felt no remorse for the many thousands of innocent lives that he had taken on his retreat back to China.  This act of violence happened to such a scale that it can be labelled a war crime.  To sum up, his expedition into Vietnam was a complete disaster, one that he could not bring himself to admit.

Prior to his invasion, Mr. Deng pompously proclaimed that he would teach Vietnam a valuable lesson, pledging to move his army into Hanoi by dinner time.  Because of his arrogance, Deng pushed his soldiers into a military conflict that dragged on for nearly 30 days, costing him an undisclosed number of military bodies said to be around 60,000, possibly even higher. What did he gain out of this?  Not very much.  In the words of author Gerald Segal, “China failed to force a Vietnamese withdrawal from [Cambodia], failed to end border clashes, failed to cast doubt on the strength of the Soviet power, failed to dispel the image of China as a paper tiger, and failed to draw the United States into an anti-Soviet coalition.” Deng Xiaoping sent his army into Vietnam with the intention of teaching the country a lesson, but with his humiliating defeat at the hands of Le Duan and the Vietnamese, it is clear that it was Deng who has been taught a lesson.

China Conducts “Routine” Military Exercise… At Vietnam’s Border

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on August 13, 2011 by Ian Pham

Just two days ago, the Chinese government underwent some military practices deep in the southern province of Guangxi, at the China-Vietnam border.  When questioned about their intentions, the Chinese claimed that it was only a routine military exercise, with no ulterior motives whatsoever.  Quite hard to believe, since China has been committing acts of intimidation against Vietnam, year after year, month after month, and day after day.  This is just another scare tactic that the People’s Republic of China is trying on Vietnam, anything beyond that goal is doubtful.

As you may know, a leadership transition took place in Vietnam several months ago, seeing several high profile positions transferred to some newer faces.  The positions of President and General Secretary have been appointed to Truong Tan Sang and Nguyen Phu Trong, respectively. Beijing has been keeping track of this leadership change, as they hope to extend control over these new individuals as they did with their predecessors.

This is not the first time that China has acted in such a threatening and belligerent manner.  Anyone following the current events in Asian politics can vouch that this is nothing new.  Every time a nation Chinese of interest goes through some sort of leadership succession, China feels the need to test this them and see how tough they are.  They tried it with the last leaders of Vietnam, they tried it with George W. Bush, and they’ve tried it with Barack Obama.  Compare the times that the Chinese leadership has threatened to use force with the times that they’ve actually followed through, one won’t find much reason to worry.  Rest assured, this is only a test.

1979: The Sino-Vietnamese War (Part I)

Posted in Modern History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on August 10, 2011 by Ian Pham

The border war between China and Vietnam in 1979 was a controversial one.  Both sides claimed victory, with varying degrees of evidence.  China claimed that it met its objective, that it had taught Vietnam a lesson and that it was time to leave.  Vietnam has then disputed that China never met its objective, that they couldn’t go on fighting, and that they just gave up in the end.  Simply put, the Vietnamese claimed that China lost the war, while the Chinese say different.

One of the causes for this war can be traced back to Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.  Pol Pot was the Communist Dictator of Cambodia, and his organization was known as the Khmer Rouge.  The story of Pol Pot is a frightening one.  Not only was his model of Communism extremely idiotic and alien, it turned out to be one of the most destructive policies in the history of Communism.  Pol Pot’s aim was to turn Cambodia into an agrarian socialist society.  He wanted to erase all traces of modern society, envisioning the rise of a new era of civilization, starting with “Year Zero.”

In order to achieve his demented ideal, Pol Pot instituted a nationwide purge of anyone who he believed threatened his political objectives.  The victims of Pol Pot’s executions were mainly teachers, artists, intellectuals, and those in the educated realm.  The purges didn’t stop there.  Certain accounts claim that anyone who showed signs of intelligence were hunted and killed by Pol Pot’s people.  Even those who wore glasses were murdered, simply because they looked like they were the learned type.  As a result of this policy, combined with the poor agricultural reforms of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge as a whole, a staggering number of Cambodia’s population was lost.  The death toll in Cambodia is estimated to be between 2-3 million people.

Besides the genocide he committed on his people, Pol Pot was saw the deterioration of his relations with Vietnam.  From his rule in 1975 to his fall 1978, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge faced a number of military confrontations against the People’s Army of Vietnam.  As relations soured between Vietnam and Cambodia, Pol Pot switched his sites to the Vietnamese people living in Cambodia, ordering his military to exterminate any ethnic Vietnamese that resided in the country.  With the support of Communist China, Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge further instigated military conflicts at the Cambodia-Vietnam border, at the same time attacking the ethnic Vietnamese inside the country.

By late 1978, relations with Cambodia completely broke down.  As a result, General Secretary Le Duan of Vietnam ordered a full scale invasion of Cambodia.  Within 24 hours of Le Duan’s command, the Khmer Rouge regime was toppled by Vietnam’s forces, with Pol Pot’s forces driven from the country.  In Pol Pot’s place, a puppet government was installed by the Vietnamese, who were now in formal control of all of Cambodia.  This greatly angered the Communist Party of China, who were in full support of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  As retaliation for Vietnam’s total disregard for Sino-Vietnamese relations, the People’s Republic of China mobilized for their invasion of Vietnam.  The Chinese forces were extremely confident of their strength, as famously expressed by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, “We’ll have breakfast in Lang Son, but we’ll have dinner in Hanoi.”

To Be Continued…

For Vietnam, Unity is the Strongest Weapon

Posted in IV. Columns, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , on July 17, 2011 by Ian Pham

It is no secret that the People’s Republic of China has spruced up its military muscle by leaps and bounds over the past two decades.  The army, as well as the navy have been given a complete overhaul.  With technology purchased from Russia, and even more acquired (stolen) from the United States, the Chinese Communists have gained enough military muscle to become the new juggernaut of the Eastern hemisphere.  Well, that’s the word going around anyway.  I admit that China’s army is technologically advanced, outnumbering Vietnam’s army dozens to one, but that does not mean that one should get discouraged or fall into despair.  Vietnam has all the means and potential to take on China, as you will soon see.

For a country like Vietnam, being the underdog is nothing new.  For centuries, millennia even, Vietnam has always had to endure the relentless advances of its gargantuan neighbour.  Since antiquity, reaching up to this day, China has tried to capture Vietnam.  They succeeded sometimes, only to fail in the very end.  Vietnam has fought against China since the dynasties of Qin, Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing, and everything in between.  Even the Chinese Communists have tried invading Vietnam in the past (1979), with varying accounts of success (they never reached Hanoi).  I’ve talked about all this before. but perhaps it is time that I elaborate on what I’ve said.

How did a small nation like Vietnam manage to stand up to a monster of a rival for such a long time?  There are many factors that can be considered in any case, but the one pivotal ingredient for every slice of victory achieved is simply this: Unity.  Regardless of the times, and regardless of the enemy, it was through unity that the people of Vietnam were able to defeat their enemies in countless battles across the reaches of time.  As a unitary force, the Vietnamese people have defeated the forces of Khubilai Khan, the colonists from France, and even the United States of America.  If the people of Vietnam were united today, the Chinese Communists will surely fail in their invasion of the country.

For those of you who feel nervous at the thought of China’s growing military muscle, fear not.  As I’ve stated in the past, military hardware can only go so far.  In the 60’s, the soldiers of North Vietnam fought against the full might of the United States military, coming out victorious in the conflict.  Now think about America’s army then and China now, not so bad right?  On the other hand however, we must also look at the leaders of Vietnam then and the leaders of now.  Realistically, from one’s personal observations, the leaders in the Vietnamese Communist Party have no chance of defending the country.  The VCP has become so corrupted, rotten to the core.  They have betrayed the country so many times in the past, that it is just not possible for any one man to make a true change for the better.

When I speak of unity, it falls into the hands of the common people of Vietnam.  It is from them that a truly fundamental change will come to the nation.  It is possible that their may be some infighting within the Party, and it is also possible that someone brave, pure, and capable might rise in the wake of this coming war.  However, one must be realistic in dealing with this China situation.  We cannot rely on the Communists of Vietnam to defend the country.  In order for Vietnam to prevail against China, we must be united at the foundation.  For the past several weeks, Vietnamese from all over the world have come out to protest against the Chinese invasion.  The government in Vietnam may try to suppress them, but it does not matter, for if the Chinese were to invade Vietnam, the VCP will be the first to go.

It does not matter what flag the people choose to run in this time of conflict.  From California to Paris, from Tokyo to Hanoi, the people of Vietnam have spoken.  The government of Vietnam may try to suppress the patriotism of the Vietnamese people, but in doing so, they are only digging their own graves.  Furthermore, in failing to defend Vietnam’s sovereignty, they are further diminishing what little legitimacy they have left.  Change is coming, that is undeniable.  Governments rise and fall, but the people are forever.  When united as one, there is nothing we cannot do.  Fearless, strong, and free, we will prevail.