Propaganda about Vietnam’s sea and island “passive” before China?

Nhóm khách du lịch Trung Quốc mặc áo thun có in hình "đường lưỡi bò" tại nơi làm thủ tục nhập cảnh ở sân bay Cam Ranh, Khánh Hoà. (Ảnh minh họa chụp trước đây)
Group of Chinese tourists wearing T-shirts with the “cow’s tongue line” during entry procedures at Cam Ranh Airport, Khanh Hoa.

The reality in recent years shows that Vietnam often has to deal with incidents related to its sovereignty in the East Sea (South China Sea). These include cases like Chinese tourists wearing shirts with a nine-dashed map at Cam Ranh Airport, many Chinese tourists on entry with passports with a cow-shaped picture.

Vietnam has neglected to be vigilant in its propaganda, so much so that the line of the cow’s tongue is printed even in popular documents in Vietnam, as in the textbook “Practice Reading and Writing the Chinese Language” circulated in Vietnam many years before being discovered.

Meanwhile, China has clear policy of propagandizing its illegal sovereignty over sea and islands in the East Sea This makes many people ask the question that whether Vietnam loses to China completely on the propaganda front of sovereignty over islands and sea waters?

Talking to Radio Free Asia on July 24, 2020, regarding this issue, Master Hoang Viet, a longtime South China Sea researcher, said:

In order to compare, we have to understand the work of the two sides thoroughly, but most of the two sides keep a secret so it is difficult to compare. But if you only look at the surface, then China propagates very methodically and widely, all scientists, civilians, to production activities, or diplomats are like propagandists to bring China’s message about the South China Sea issue everywhere.”

As for Vietnam, according to Master Hoang Viet, the potential is smaller, bot in the scientific world as well as the international community. He continued:

China has often inserted its propaganda messages into its goods exported to the global market and Vietnam’s market. This makes Vietnam confused, while China is proactive in this, and Vietnam is passive. As for propaganda in general, Vietnam has its own propaganda, but the effectiveness level is difficult to evaluate, because there is not an accurate summary to evaluate.”

The latest example of China’s propaganda of maritime sovereignty is that on March 16, 2020, the Chinese Embassy’s Facebook page in Italy posted two photos with the meaning that, Italy helped China to deal with SARS epidemic in 2008, Beijing never forgot and it was time for China to help Italy in copping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, Vietnamese netizens discovered one of the two paintings with a Chinese map with a cow’s tongue line (U-shaped line or 9-dash line) drawn by the country covering the entire South China Sea. This line includes the attached Taiwan map and painting in red, it confirms that Taiwan belongs to China.

By March 20, 2020, as usual, the spokesperson of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs again and again broadcast what many in the country liken to the “’streaking tape” such as: … Vietnam’s position on the East Sea issue is clear and consistent … Vietnam has sufficient legal basis and historical evidence to assert sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracels) and the Truong Sa (Spratlys) … as well as sovereignty over the seas in accordance with international law … Therefore, Vietnam does not recognize any Chinese maritime claims based on the so-called ‘nine-dash line’ in the East Sea (South China Sea) …

Two maps with nine-dashed lines in the South China Sea drawn by China

Researcher Mai Thai Linh, former vice chairman of the People’s Council of Da Lat City, when talking with Radio Free Asia on July 24, 2020 related to this issue, said:

In my opinion Vietnam is in a passive position, so it is very difficult to deal with them. But this passive right from the time of the land border dispute, Vietnam has lost since that time … And now we deal with the issue of sovereignty disputes at sea by the old style, then we still lose it. As it is very difficult to solve this problem, I think there must be a change in diplomacy, because propaganda is based on diplomacy.”

But researcher Mai Thai Linh said that at present, Vietnam’s diplomatic policy has not changed, and is still in a passive position. While China had a very early policy, from the 1950s, from the San Francisco Conference, then China had a consistent path. As for Vietnam, according to him, if not changed, the propaganda plan will remain in such passive position.

Master Hoang Viet further commented:

In fact, the best propaganda is to say nothing, because whatever you say is fine. And more importantly, the right belongs to Vietnam in the East Sea dispute. As for China, although they are strong, they lack the righteousness, so whatever propaganda they have, it can only be partially. However, as said, propaganda is only a small part, it is important to give information about the East Sea dispute to everyone across Vietnam, it is better.”

In addition, according to Master Hoang Viet, the need to convey information about Vietnam’s policies to the international community, Vietnam has not done well and there are still some limitations in this.

To learn more about this issue, Radio Free Asia July 24, 2020 contacted East Sea researcher Dinh Kim Phuc, and he said the following:

China is a thousand times stronger than Vietnam in propaganda, about international scientific articles, about dominating all international conferences, then China is the upper hand, while Vietnam’s works were few. Particularly in Vietnam, propaganda served according to the campaign, for example, if something goes wrong in the East Sea, it will be carried out. If I remember correctly under Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the propaganda fund for islands and sea waters was VND180 billion ($9 million). But as I am a freelance researcher, just as Master Hoang Viet, Mr. Pham Hoang Quan, and Mr. Le Vinh Truong … we have received nothing from the fund.”

But according to researcher Dinh Kim Phuc, the issue of sea and island propaganda is not everyone can propagate, not journalists or public opinion shappers, but must be in-depth researchers. Because any word, China acknowledges it, and then later if they go to the International Court to handle the sea and island dispute between Vietnam and China, China has a lot of many facts prove that … Vietnamese researchers, officials and public opinion said so … what would it be like?” He continued:

Propagating sea and islands doesn’t mean organizing map exhibitions. The map is only valid if it follows all state documents and conferences that conform to international law. Propagating the sea and islands is to make the whole world know that the righteousness belongs to Vietnam, thinking that Vietnam has sufficient legal and historical evidence to prove the two archipelagos of Hoang Sa, Truong Sa and other islands and the adjacent sea, which belongs to Vietnam, complies with international law, or UN Convention to the Law of the Sea in 1982.”

According to East Sea researcher Dinh Kim Phuc, propaganda is not a viewpoint, and it is the weakest point of the Vietnamese government in the current propaganda regarding maritime sovereignty. (Translated)

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