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Sinopec Dips Toes in Disputed South China Sea

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Brian Spegele reports: China wants to ramp up fuel supplies at a contested island outpost in the South China Sea, and it is enlisting one of the nation’s biggest state-owned enterprises to help.

China Petrochemical Corp., commonly known as Sinopec, said Monday it had begun building a fueling station and storage depot at the Chinese settlement of Sansha City in the disputed Paracel Island chain.

A statement by the company on its official microblog account confirmed earlier reports from local authorities that the project intended to ease fuel shortages at Sansha, a settlement with a population of around 1,000 people, making it the largest outpost among the many contested islands of the South China Sea.

Tu hao, go fishing in Sansha, and remember to bring your refueling card,” Sinopec’s statement said, using a popular term for China’s newly minted moneyed class.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

Sansha City, located on Woody Island, is used to administer China’s claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, and holds the same administrative rank in China as large metropolises with millions of people.

China took de facto control of Woody Island and the Paracels following a naval conflict with South Vietnamese forces in 1974. Vietnam continues to claim the area today. Its Foreign Ministry said it didn’t have any comment on the fuel facilities Monday.

Sinopec, whose main listed unit trades in New York and Hong Kong, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on whether building the facilities would hurt its ability to pursue future business with Vietnam. Read the rest of this entry »

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Up in Smoke: Factories Torched in Anti-China Protest in Vietnam

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HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Anti-China mobs torched up to 15 foreign-owned factories and trashed many more in southern Vietnam as anger over the recent deployment by China of an oil rig in disputed Southeast Asian waters span dangerously out of control, officials and state media said Wednesday.

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The unrest at industrial parks established to attract foreign investors was the most serious outbreak of public disorder in the tightly controlled country in years. It points to the dangers for the government as it manages public anger at China and also protests itself against the Chinese deployment in a part of the South China Sea it claims as its own. Read the rest of this entry »


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

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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 »