A. Samokhin – Fighting in the triangle Russia – Vietnam – China: who benefits?

In August, we posted one very interesting article on our website headlined ‘It is necessary to pay more attention to Russia’s return to the Asia-Pacific region. Lee Paen, the author of the article is a functionary in the political department of the Hainan’s branch of the General Hospital of the People’s Liberational Army in the PRC. In the article, he expresses concern of some Beijing’s circles about Russian penetration into Southeast Asia.

The thing is that the PRC has not only economical, but also military and political interests in the South China Sea. The sea is the place where the territorial argues meet: between China and Taiwan about the Pratas (Dunsha) Islands in the South China Sea; China, Vietnam and Taiwan argue about the Paracel (Sisha) Islands; China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia – the Spratley (Nansha) Islands.

In his article, Lee Paen notes that Russia ‘being one of the greatest countries, that have influence on the future tendencies and on the situation in Southeast Asia, benefits from the arguments in the South China Sea’ and that in the case of point ‘Moscow is trying to ‘shake’ that difficult situation in the South China Sea in order to get what it wants no matter what’.

Our opinion, however, is that the Chinese author dramatize and underestimate the situation.

Among the countries of Southeast Asia, Vietnam is practically the only one serious partner of Russia. The close bond between Moscow and Hanoi in the sphere of arms supply that becomes even closer each year characterizes the successful relations between the two countries. Russia is the leading supplier of arms and ammunition to Vietnam: 90% of the county’s arms are purchased from Russia. In addition to that, Vietnam received an enormous loan from Russia ($8 billion) for the construction of the first nuclear power station in the country with the help of the Rosatom Corporation. Russia is planning to take part in the building of a new ship-repair yard in Vietnam as well as the base for low-noise diesel-electric submarines (project 636, or ‘KILO’ in NATO’s classification) which are purchased from Russia too. Besides, Russia will be allowed to use both the yard and the base. At the time, the licensed assembly of the Russian motor boats ‘Molniya’ equipped with the ‘Uran’ guided missile system. The total of the contract is about $1 billion. According to the contract, in 2007-2008 Vietnam received two motor boats, Vietnamese will build ten ships under the control of Russian experts.

Recently the Vietnamese government declared that they are ready to expand the military collaboration with Russia. There was a reason why the president of Vietnam paid a visit to Russia in late July. Chiong Tan Shang confirmed the readiness of his country to provide Russia with the port of Cam Ranh to create the point of material and technical equipment. Besides, the two sides discussed their intention to tighten the military bonds between Vietnam and Russia. There was only one remark: the offer to share the territory should have been exclusive to Russia.

From April 2012, ‘Gazprom’ works in the South China Sea on the conditions of the contract signed with Vietnam for the development of two gas shelf deposits located near the ‘arguable’ Spratley Islands. It was estimated, that the Islands have tremendous gas (8300 billion cubic meters) and oil (35 billion tons) reserves. Therefore, it is not surprising that so many countries (Vietnam, China, Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei) claim that the islands belong to them. By the way, 500,000 tons of seafood is fished out there each year.

On the threshold of the APEC Summit, the Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said that Russia supports the successful political and economic dialog with the Southeast countries including Vietnam.

For China, the Port of Cam Ranh is a strategic key to the energy resources located not far away (600 km) from the Spratley Islands. That is why China considers the actions of Hanoi as complicating the international situation in the region. Beijing does not approve the visits of both the Vietnamese president to Russia and the US Minister of Defense Leon Panetta to Vietnam.

That is why Lee Paen is trying to persuade his readers in that Russia’s return to Southeast Asia must be limited by the PRC by application of some responsibilities, otherwise, as a result of growing authority and impact of Russia in the region, its weight and initiative in China-USA-Russia relations may increase. The PRC is well acknowledged that the USA follows the political spectrum in the Asia-Pacific region and it considers China its main counterpart. Beijing is afraid that the strategic friendship against strengthening China may be established between Moscow, Washington and Hanoi.

Lee Paen’s article is not the only example of such views on the problem. For instance, Sui Lipin, the research assistant of the Department of Asia-Pacific and World Strategy of the Academy of Social Studies of China stated that the power of Vietnam is limited, so Hanoi decided to use Cam Ranh as a control point from where they will attack China.

Sui Lipin also noted that Vietnam’s geopolitical desires happened to be the same as these of Russia and the USA. At the same time, he mentioned that the possibility of military base establishment in Cam Ranh is minimal because it will bring Russia considerable expenses and therefore, there is no practical need in doing so.

The deputy of the head of the American diplomatic mission in Beijing, Robert Wan, received the ‘firm rejection’ of the USA position in an issue of territorial argues in the South China Sea. Speaking of the media, the press unit of the Chinese Communist Party “Zhenmin Zhibao’ in their usual categorical manner advised the USA to shut up: ‘The statement of the USA misleads the public and it must be disproved without any pity. We can just shout them: Shut up!”.

At the same time, the main point of Lee Paen’s article is the difference between Russia’s return to the Southeast Asia and the one of the USA. The return of the USA, according to the author, has its plan and the program of strategic steps while the return of Russia is caused by the ‘strategic push’ from the NATO. Therefore, the author highlights the difference between the policies of Russia and the USA.

It should be noted, that the Chinese policy of the political expansion is accompanied by the soft interference into the domestic policy of its neighboring countries. China does not have any urge towards using force. The policy of ‘squeezing’ of the Chinese projects from Iraq, Libya, Nigeria and some other countries make the government of China take measures to prevent such scenarios in the future.

The style of the American expansion is completely different: the USA involve the countries of the region into the orbit of its influence through the penetration into the arms markets, building of military bases and establishment of military unions. Today, the alliance the USA-Japan-South Korea is accurately trying to persuade the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and some other countries join the union.

Speaking at the presentation of a new strategy, Barack Obama noticed that ‘the USA are not going to lose its superiority’ and it clearly refers to the Asia-Pacific region where the game of Washington aims to weaken its main counterparts – Moscow and Beijing. Trying to push China away from Southeast Asia, the USA are trying to move them to the North where rich with resources Russia is located.

Likewise, Russia is not only China’s reliable strategic partner, but also one of the 2 main pivots in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Obviously, this makes the author pays attention to the fact that the establishment of ‘confidential mutual understanding’ between Moscow and Beijing must become the main task for the PRC. It should be noted, that this mutual understanding should be reached not only for the problems of Southeast Asia, but also for all principal questions. The author of the article marks that though ‘the conflict about some particular projects between Russia and China is possible, Russia does not want to irritate China’. I consider such a reasonable view on the problem the most perspective and correct. It is worth mentioning that China should not ‘irritate’ Russia too.

The Australian professor stated recently in his conversation with the author (about the position of the West in relation to China) that ‘it would be great if China stayed at home and not interfered in anything’.

Of course, it is difficult to imagine that China and the SRV will solve all the problems concerning the Spratley Islands, especially when not only these two countries are interested in obtaining them, but also Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and especially the USA. I think that it would be right for the two socialistic countries, Vietnam and China, to find a compromise because it is the USA, not Russia, who are trying to get anything they want at any price.

Russia has been a strategic partner of China for years. So if anybody in the CPC has any doubts, then it is necessary to remind the Chinese communists that both Russia and China were pronounced the official rivals of the USA on the meeting of the Republican Party of the USA in Tampa. Therefore, Russia and China just have to keep their union. Once after his arrival from Moscow and meeting with J. Stalin Mao Zedong said that using his tactics of ‘inclining to one side’ he finally chosen the USSR and if the Soviet communist (with N. Chruchev as their leader) did not start abandoning communism, then China would not have to ‘incline’ to the side of the USA. I think that today there are some serious ideological differences between the two countries, but we are still the strategic partners and Russia have proved it by resolving the territorial argues with practically the only country – China.

We can conclude that Russia is quite weak now, yet it has a great potential. China was weak and disintegrated once too, but it always managed to stand up. The historical experience displays that the same can happen to Russia as well, especially if it will have such a strong partner as the Stalin’s Soviet Union was for China during the period of its formation. Certainly, in the modern world, the PRC has a number of its problems, including the party formation, but we should not forget that at the moment China is the most powerful socialistic country in the world. Russia, unfortunately, turned away from the socialistic path, but some facts should be noted: firstly, it is possible that Russia will take this path again, and secondly, if it does not happen, the USA will never want Russia, as well as China to develop and prosper. If the PRC and Vietnam will try to resolve the territorial conflict by discussion and negotiations (for instance, on a condominium principle) then this process will reflect the role of Russia in the life of China, if Russia is a friend of an enemy who tries to confront China against the USA (according to the Chinese analyst Kan Linh). The USA will for sure try hard to prevent the negotiations. For Vietnam, the resolution of the argument will help to avoid conflicts with other countries.

Translated by E.Strelnikova, APIR Center

You can comment this article, but links are not allowed.

Оставить комментарий