VN must bring the facts about the East Sea to the world

VietNamNet Bridge – China’s information front is conducted with the coordination of many different fields. They are the psychological, media, legal front, with coherence between the media and scholars, in two main directions: disseminating the wrongful position, views of China and jamming opposing views, said Ms. Pham Thanh Van, a founding member of the Great Records of the East Sea project in an interview with PLTPHCM.

Great Records of the East Sea, East Sea

From the videotapes of the Gac Ma event, the world recognized that in fact this was a massacre of one side that was equipped with heavy weapons (China) and was ready to use force to occupy Vietnam’s island. In picture: Vietnam’s transport vessel HQ 604 was shot by Chinese warships and sunk on 14-3-1988. The photo is cut from the video shot by China, on Youtube.

The world lacks facts

Q: Why does Vietnam have to emphasize the role of the information fronts in the fightto defend the country’s maritime sovereignty?

Pham Thanh Van: Sources of information are considered the basis of the analysis and commentary that can influence the common awareness of international opinion as well as the foreign policy of countries. The official position of Vietnam is resolving disputes by peaceful means. The information front, therefore, is one of the factors that play a decisive role to win when we follow the path of peace.

Q: What do you think about the current information front on the East Sea at present?

Van: The information front of Vietnam is now much better than several years ago. Information in English in the press is abundant and more diverse. Besides the senior writers and activities of diplomats, new writers have appeared on international forums, such as Le Hong Hiep, Truong Minh Huy, Vu Hai Dang, Nguyen Ngoc Lan, Do Thanh Hai, Pham Ngoc Minh Trang, and Nguyen Bao Chau.

Vietnamese people also have research works in the fields that have not appeared in public forums, for example the study by independent researchers Pham Hoang Quan and Ho Bach Thao on ancient history. This is a new intellectual area that the Vietnamese can contribute to the world, through which the world can know about the truth of the Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) and Truong Sa (Spratly Islands) in China's ancient history.

Q: What are the limitations of the information front of Vietnam?

Van: Compared with China, the number of articles/studies of Vietnam for the English-speaking readers is limited. Try the search engines of scientists as Science Direct, Google Scholar or go to the online library of the US Congress and type the keyword "South China Sea", "Paracels", "Spratlys", we'll see many name of Chinese authors or the studies that fit Chinese stance majority.

This leaves the consequence that international scholars and policymakers have easier access to the perspective of China than Vietnam. So far, as journalist Bill Hayton (correspondent of the BBC, author of the book The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia) pointed out, some books with general background on the East Sea dispute are books that were written mainly based on Chinese documents.

Another example is the Gac Ma event. In recent decades, the publications of the world recalled this event as only a naval battle, a clash between the navy of the two sides, and that Vietnam was defeated in the battle.

A recent article analyzing China’s letters to the United Nations 27 years ago can help us somewhat understand this. Only when China brought out the videotapes, several international scholars noted this was essentially a massacre of one side equipped with heavy weapons (China) and was ready to use force to occupy the island to the other side that laid down peaceful occupation as the policy.

Vietnam cannot compete with China in terms of the number of publications but it can resolve by the facts, by accurate information to establish trust and action, logic, rational, reasoning consistent with the value of the world to convince the world and let the world see whether Vietnam shares common values of progress with them or not.

Now, we have mainly centered on reason, but we need to share with the world more materials of facts, the evidence that can help the world access proper information.

From data to connection

Great Records of the East Sea, East Sea

A Chinese vessel attacks Vietnamese ships by water-cannonsin Vietnam's waters.

Q: What important pillars should the structure of the information front of Vietnam be based on?

Van: I share and also have similar thoughts as the proposal by some researchers and my colleagues. That is the coherence between the competent authorities to disclose information - the media - diplomats and scholars. In particular, accurate information and academic research should be noticed more. Vietnam must have some unified, systematic, regularly updated and easily accessible information database for researchers.

The Great Records of the East Sea Project in cooperation with the Center for International Studies of the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities is going in this direction, with the non-profit participation of young people who have the expertise and the heart for the country from all over the world, who have created many event records as the records of artificial islands, the use of forces since 1945, the Gac Ma event through the UN’s data, the records of the lawsuit between the Philippines and China...

But this approach will require more involvement. Journalists are also an indispensable pillar in the transmission of accurate information to the public. Vietnam has many researchers, scholars who are also eager to bring the truth to the world, such as researchers Nguyen Hong Thao, Duong Danh Huy, or the writers I listed above. Professor Alexander L. Vuving is also a man with goodwill for Vietnam and he has many sharp articles pointing out Chinese strategy which attract attention of international scholars.

Q: Besides building strong information force, what else should Vietnam do to pay attention to support and promote the process of information transmission?

Van: In the context of information explosion, readers tend to self-select a reliable channel to receive and share information. It’s the time for Vietnam to focus on popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The sharing and receiving of information on Twitter has become a daily work of international scholars as well as journalists and government officials. Articles by The Diplomat take advantage of the information sources on Twitter. Recently, Professor Alexander L. Vuving used Twitter to provide accurate information on the status of the occupation of the parties in the East Sea to international scholars. And scholar Taylor Fravel then commented that this is the power of Twitter.


Great Records of the East Sea, East Sea