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Anti-Chinese Anger Fuel Street Protests in Vietnam: A Test for Authoritarian Rule

Vietnam China Anger

The two Asian nations have a history of conflict going back 1,000 years, and the streets of Vietnam’s cities are named after heroes in those fights. Yet the two countries share a Communist ideology and close economic ties, making the China-Vietnam relationship a highly sensitive topic. 

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnamese anger toward China is running at its highest level in years after Beijing deployed an oil rig in disputed waters. That’s posing a tricky question for Vietnam’s leaders: To what extent should they allow public protests that could morph into those against their own authoritarian rule?

“Facing the danger of Chinese aggression appropriating the sacred East Sea, the source of livelihood of the Vietnamese over generations, we are determined not to compromise.”

— From a statement widely circulated on Facebook and dissident blogs calling for protests on Sunday morning in Hanoi outside the Chinese Embassy and a Chinese cultural center in Ho Chi Minh City.

At one level, the ruling Communist Party would like to harness the anger on the street to amplify its own indignation against China and garner international sympathy as naval ships from both countries engage in a tense standoff near the rig off the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

“We cannot continue to compromise and be vile and sinful to our heroic ancestors and feel ashamed before our future generations.”

But Vietnam’s government instinctively distrusts public gatherings of any sort, much less ones that risk posing a threat to public order. And they also know that members of the country’s dissident movement are firmly embedded inside the anti-China one, and have used the issue to mobilize support in the past. Read the rest of this entry »

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