Friday, May 16, 2014


It appears that the Vietnamese are no better than other South-East Asians when it comes to vicious tendencies. One would not expect otherwise. But when rioting turns violent and deadly in a society which is rigidly controlled, there can be no clearer indication of approval from the rulers. Vietnam's communist party was founded on xenophobia, and has steadfastly maintained the tradition. Vietnamese hatred of foreigners has a long history, dating back to the imperial despotisms and warlords of the pre-colonial age.

The only thing that has changed is that in this more literate and well-organized age, keeping lists and targeting victims is much easier.

From the South China Morning post:

‘They beat up every Chinese they found’

"Hundreds of Chinese were today fleeing Vietnam ahead of expected large-scale anti-China demonstrations planned for the weekend, following the deaths of at least two during riots."

"At least two Chinese have died, and around 90 been injured during the riots, in which Vietnamese protesters attacked Chinese businesses and torched factories over Beijing’s establishment of an oil rig in the disputed Paracel Islands weeks ago."

[Source:, 南華早報, MAY 16, 2014.]

The riots have been going on for several days now, and the Vietnamese government still hasn't called a halt to the bloodlust.

Per The Guardian:

Anti-China riots turn deadly in Vietnam
Reports of 20 or more killed as Beijing's expansionism in South China Sea provoke continued violent backlash in Vietnam

"Violent reaction in Vietnam to China's expansionist stance in disputed seas has turned deadly with reports that 20 or more people have been killed during rioting that began with attacks on foreign-owned factories."

"A doctor at a hospital in the central Vietnamese province of Ha Tinh said five Vietnamese workers and 16 other people described as Chinese died during anti-China rioting on Wednesday night."

"There were about a hundred people sent to the hospital last night. Many were Chinese. More are being sent to the hospital this morning," the doctor told the Reuters news agency by phone."

"Earlier this week mobs burned and looted scores of foreign-owned factories in southern Vietnam, believing they were Chinese-run when many were actually Taiwanese or South Korean."

[Source: May 15, 2014.]

Given that the regime in Vietnam has had only ONE major success since the Paris Peace Accord in 1973 (unless you count their brutal expulsion of nearly a million ethnic Chinese during the late seventies and early eighties as an achievement), it is only natural that scapegoatism is spreading like wildfire. Many other countries in the region have made spectacular advances in the past generation, but Vietnam still presents a picture of timeless underdevelopment.

Where, apparently, savagery lurks barely beneath the surface.

The New York Times hints that there may be wider ripples than just the typical Viet ethnic hatred:

China Targeted by Vietnamese in Fiery Riots

"On Tuesday and Wednesday, the center of those conflicts was the factories in the gritty industrial suburbs north of Ho Chi Minh City, where thousands of poor Vietnamese stitch name-brand sneakers and clothing for sale around the world. "

Note: Most of those products are destined for the well-to-do consumers of Europe and North America. Your feet have a hand in this.

"Early Thursday, Nguyen Van Thong, a worker at an electronics plant he said was American-owned, said his fellow workers had been “angry over China’s invasion” when they began driving motorbikes through the streets, lobbing gasoline-soaked rags into buildings. His electronics factory was spared, he said, only when guards trying to fend off an angry crowd pointed to the Vietnamese and American flags flying overhead."

Note: Coloured rags may not save employers much longer, when the rioting masses realize that such banners are a convenient protective tactic. Surely in Vietnam, a few Vietnamese flags are easily acquired, and far cheaper than fire insurance?

"The marauding crowds appeared to take their greatest toll on Taiwanese and South Korean factories. The few workers and guards who remained in the streets, where the acrid odor of burned plastic lingered early Thursday, said they assumed rioters were at first confused about the factories’ ownership, then got caught up in indiscriminate looting that rippled out from the show of anger at China."

"At one Taiwanese factory that had tried to ward off attack, a banner outside the ruined building read “No Chinese working here.” And in a stretch of the Vietnam Singapore industrial park, which includes investors from many countries, companies that hung signs in Chinese were destroyed or damaged, while nearby plants flying flags of other countries were mainly untouched."

Clearly Vietnamese petulance is motivated by bigotry and racism, rather than a well-considered perception of grievances and international politics.

Most disturbing, however, is the possibility that primitive sentiments may also become inflamed elsewhere:

"The explosion of violence reflected growing animosity in the region as China works to solidify its claims over vast parts of two seas that other nations have long considered their own."

"On Wednesday, the conflict played out not only in Vietnam, but also in the Philippines, which said it lodged a formal protest with China over signs that it is reclaiming land at a contested coral reef. "

[Source: NYT, MAY 14, 2014.]

It would not be irrational to fear similar outbursts eventually in Manila.

Anti-Chinese sentiment has always flourished in the Philippines, albeit largely underneath a smiling Filipino mask. Many if not most of the educated classes in the islands have blood kin in Fujian province, and every Philippino politician has connections among the entrepreneurs who built the Philippine economy.

Where-ever you look, there are potential targets.
As well as fuel for fondly imagined grievance.

There's a well-established tradition of lynching ethnic Chinese in much of South-East Asia. But the Chinese are much stronger now, and can make things rather unpleasant for countries that would fall back on past cultural practices.

Atavism may not be a wise choice.

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