Last update 6/13/2011 7:45:03 PM (GMT+7)

East Sea: When strength doesn’t come from force
VietNamNet Bridge – In the struggling to defend the country’s sovereignty in the East Sea, there are great contributions from normal people who are working with industry and cleverness. They are call barefoot heroes.

VN condemns Chinese intrusion

Who are they?

The local media in January 2011, reported captain Mai Phung Luu, who is called “the wolf of the sea”, who suddenly became a vegetable grower after 26 years of working in the sea of Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos.

It was because Luu’s fishing boat was seized by China in late 2010, for the third time. To build a new ship, Luu needed up to VND300 million ($15,000).

In March 2011, those who love Hoang Sa and Truong Sa were very glad to know that “the wolf of the sea” returned to the sea.

In talks with reporters in late May 2011, and with his ship docked at Ly Son Island in the central province of Quang Ngai, captain Luu said: “that (Hoang Sa and Truong Sa) is the sea of Vietnam. My grandfather fished there, my father fished there and now I fish there. That is our history and our sovereignty”.

There are fishermen who voluntarily join a unit of militia in Duc Pho district in Quang Ngai to defend the local sea. A militia from Pho Thanh commune, Duc Pho district, Mr. Nguyen Van Luong said that he joined this force to defend his hometown sea from the intrusion of foreign ships.

The Dang family in An Hai commune, in Ly Son island district, Quang Ngai province preserved a historical document related to Hoang Sa Archipelago for six generations. The family has recently donated the valuable document to relevant agencies to contribute to the database of Vietnam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagoes.

Mr. Dang Len, Dang family’s representative, said: “Our family is very happy and proud to know that the document proves that our ancestors sailed to Hoang Sa in 1834. This historical document is not only the assets of our family but also the assets of the country”.

Dr. Nguyen Nha, who is called the “Truong Sa – Hoang Sa studies scholar”, has spent his whole life to research Vietnam’s sovereignty over Truong Sa and Hoang Sa archipelagoes. In 2009, he proposed to set up a state council to assess newly-discovered documents of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa.

There are many other heroes who contribute to defend Vietnam’s sovereignty over the East Sea and islands. They are a fishing family on Ly Son Island who has preserved Lord Nguyen’s diplomatic notes related to the Hoang Sa flotilla, voluntary militia, soldiers on Truong Sa Islands, researchers, students who periodically send letters to naval soldiers and even mothers who lull their children to sleep by folk songs about Vietnam’s history. They are normal people but they present power, the power that doesn’t source from force and weapon.

When power doesn’t come from force

Observing the order of modern international relations, one can see that the trend of power is no longer the same. The United States, the superpower in both military and economics was still distressed in the Afghanistan war and is impotent in the Korea Peninsula nuclear file. Europe, which is not strong in defense, has become a model of integration for other regions.

Harvard Prof. Joseph Nye is right when he argued that each structure of power needs different resources. A country needs not only hard but soft power, which comes from arguments, stories, culture and man’s heart. Barefoot heroes--in this context, are the great power in defending Vietnam’s sovereignty.

Apart from bringing the East Sea disputes to the world through diplomatic and strategic balancing measures, internationalizing this issue in the domain of learning is very important because two reasons. Firstly, debates must be based on arguments while arguments are sourced from research and systematic data. In international relations, scholars often mention a power – weapon: the more logical and reasonable of argument.

A more logical and reasonable argument makes the legitimacy for points of views and it is also an important premises to build common knowledge. From disputes over waters, negotiations on climate change to international finance management, etc. International politic topics are getting complicated. In negotiation, the first thing in all stories is how to re-define conceptions. Therefore, before presenting or defending interests, it would be a great advantage for Vietnam to turning its viewpoint or its approach into “common knowledge”. The debate to change from “South China Sea” into the “Southeast Sea is an example. This is not only a name, but the common noun which is being and will be used in defining a disputed area. The correct name is the bridge to the legitimacy of power.

Another example is a strategic mission that needs the participation of scholars and intellectual circles: discussion on the compilation of the Code of Conduct of parties in the East Sea (COC). Learning from the fairly failure of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), the draft of COC needs to not only cover rules on building peace based on mutual trust but also transparent mechanisms to supervise and punish violations based on international law.

In this situation, any country that goes ahead in making a draft COC which is “legal and reasonable” can make agreement inner ASEAN (Association of Southeast Nations) and earn certain advantage in negotiation.

Popularizing information about the East Sea disputes among Vietnamese people is a necessary step. The lesson from the two wars of resistance against the French and America in the 20th century emphasizes the role of the people in Vietnam’s victory in military and diplomacy.

In the August Revolution in 1945, there were only several thousand Communist Party members and the military force was still weak. The communication system was also very rudimentary but the people immediately supported the Communist Party’s call to join forces to liberate the country.

Chief negotiator of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Binh said about the success of the 1973 Paris negotiation as follows: “The biggest characteristic of Vietnam’s diplomacy is the combination between state diplomacy and public diplomacy. State’s diplomacy has good strategy and tactics but public diplomacy is a sharp weapon to win the world’s support to our war of resistance”.

If public diplomacy was a power in the Vietnam War, in the 21st century, it is still a great power.

One of the urgent tasks in the East Sea dispute is finding the more reasonable arguments. This is not only the mission of policy makers, scholars but the responsibility of each Vietnamese.

As the sovereignty is getting burn, the contribution of quiet people is in need.

Source: DNSG