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China-Vietnam ties should not fall victim to territorial row

BEIJING: A special Vietnamese envoy is visiting Beijing with the aim of patching up relations plagued by a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
Le Hong Anh, a senior member of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, has held talks with a number of Chinese leaders, in an effort to contain a simmering maritime dispute and do damage control.
He is set to meet Xi Jinping, state president and general secretary of the Communist Party of China, on behalf of Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
Anh’s visit is a second high-level contact between the two countries following the recent flare-up of tensions in the South China Sea, and is highly suggestive of the common aspirations of the two sides to put bilateral ties back on track at an early date.
Positive signals from the Vietnamese side also include a belated message of condolences and regret sent by its Foreign Ministry on Monday over the anti-China riots in mid-May that left five Chinese nationals dead and many Chinese businesses damaged.
The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry pledged to bring rioters to justice and offer humanitarian assistance to the Chinese victims.
Despite concerted efforts from both sides to mend the fences, there are some Vietnamese politicians who obviously lack sincerity and maintain a hardline stance on China. In particular, a number of Vietnamese officials have dismissed Anh’s China trip as a vain effort, claiming that Beijing would never compromise its ambition of “taking a monopoly” over the South China Sea. Some, while turning a blind eye to China’s legitimate and proven sovereignty over the Xisha Islands, are concerned that Beijing might use the talks to persuade Hanoi from taking legal action against it.
What is also worrying is the fact that some outsiders are taking advantage of the strained China-Vietnam ties in pursuit of their own interests. The United States, in particular, was calling for a “freeze” on all actions in the South China Sea in a thinly veiled attempt to hype up regional tensions and facilitate its “pivot to Asia” strategy.
Consequently, some, both in Vietnam and other countries, argue that it is about time for Hanoi to reconsider its relations with China and to tilt toward Washington. Some even contend that the settlement of the South China Sea dispute should be a prerequisite for normal China-Vietnam ties. Those Vietnamese politicians have obviously missed the bigger picture of China-Vietnam relations and are putting the future of their own country in jeopardy.
In the past 35 years, China and Vietnam have put historical woes behind them and have joined hands to embrace development opportunities and face common challenges.
The mutually beneficial cooperation between the two nations have produced fruitful results and brought tangible benefits to both peoples. Notably, China has been Vietnam’s largest trading partner for nine years in a row.
Thus, it is fairly safe to say that Vietnam cannot have sound development without China, for now and many years to come. And Beijing, in pursuit of a peaceful environment for development, also sees Hanoi as an important partner.
Just as Chinese leaders have repeatedly called on its neighbors to “plant more flowers, not thorns,” the Vietnamese side should weigh the pros and cons and begin to work with China in a sincere manner.

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Aaj Kal