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Vietnam Will Pay A Price For Its Anti-Chinese Violence

Last week's anti-Chinese protests led to vandalism of Chinese and Taiwanese factories, causing casualties and property damage. But Vietnam could wind up the worst victim in the long run.

Evacuating Chinese workers hit by violence in Vietnam on May 13.
Evacuating Chinese workers hit by violence in Vietnam on May 13.
He Jun*


BEIJING — Last week's violent anti-Chinese rioting is the most serious that has occurred in Vietnam in 20 years. It was ostensibly triggered by protests against China"s oil exploration in the Paracel Islands, but in reality it may have represented organized violence.

Taiwanese businessman Tsai Wen-Rui, who has invested in Vietnam for 14 years, told the Taiwanese daily China Times that the Vietnamese are generally gentle people. In the past, strikes and protests were for specific appeals, but this time several attacks were organized simultaneously in different places within Binh Duong province. All of them more or less followed the same pattern, starting with masses gathering in front of factories.

The factories were forced to shut down, and the Vietnamese workers were allowed to go home first. Afterwards another batch of demonstrators arrived, scaring and intimidating management. Then came the mobs, the vandalism and the looting of anything valuable. Finally, the protesters set fire to the factories.

These incidents will have a significantly negative impact on Sino-Vietnam relations, on the Vietnamese economy, and on Vietnam's relations with neighboring countries. More specifically, they will represent a serious setback for Vietnam's investment environment because the vandalized foreign enterprises include companies from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Japan, many of which are already considering retreating from Vietnam.

To avoid trouble, certain Taiwanese companies shut down their operations temporarily while others shifted their orders to Chinese factories. As some foreign executives have pointed out, if the Vietnamese government is incapable of getting the situation under control, acute withdrawal of foreign capital will be inevitable. By then, the results of Vietnam"s 28 years of reform and opening up will be destroyed in one fell swoop.

The Vietnamese economy is in serious danger after last week. Since Vietnam admitted in 1986 the failure of its planned economy and began taking drastic measures to reform and to introduce foreign capital and technology, economic development has thrived there. But the violence will strain economic and trade relations.

After all, the Vietnamese economy depends considerably on China. In 2013, Vietnam's imports from China totaled $37 billion and accounted for 28% of Vietnam's total imports. Its exports to China totaled $13.3 billion, accounting for 10% of its exports.

Besides, China's strategy within the Association of Southeastern Asian Nations (ASEAN) is bound to be affected. China's peripheral diplomacy depends on ASEAN countries. It wants to strengthen economic cooperation within the region to redeem its passive diplomatic approach of the past.

But the anti-Chinese violence will no doubt trigger China's to reassess this cooperation strategy. Negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a proposed free trade agreement between the 10 ASEAN member states, originally expected to be completed by 2015, will now face more obstacles. The same is true for the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) negotiations.

The violence will probably also impact cross-strait relations. Some in Taiwan have criticized President Ma Ying-jeou's policies regarding the mainland, saying they are to blame for Taiwanese enterprises becoming targets. The Democratic Progressive Party, the island’s opposition party, also attacked the government's policy. This adds considerable uncertainty to the Taiwanese administration, especially on the heels of repeated public outcry against a free trade deal with the mainland and the forced halt of a nuclear plant project.

Vietnam's anti-Chinese violence has sounded an alarm to China. It is most likely to disrupt China's economic and trade strategies in the ASEAN countries, but may also undercut Vietnam's own development.

*He Jun is a senior researcher at Anbound, a Chinese think tank and consultancy.

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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