In recent days, Vietnam has been disturbing China's routine drilling operations in the waters off Zhongjian Island, part of China's Xisha Islands. In a move to attract the world's attention, Vietnam also invited some international journalists to the operating site.
Surprisingly, the Vietnamese government also encouraged anti-China demonstrations and even acquiesced in the riots against foreign enterprises, mostly Chinese investments in the country, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives and huge damage to property. The Vietnamese move, which finally turned out to be a farce against itself, only proved the government's lack of deep thinking about the situation. After all, the drilling site is just 17 nautical miles from China's Zhongjian Island, yet 150 nautical miles from Vietnamese coastline. As pointed out by Chinese officials time and again, Vietnamese vessels have to sail a long way across the stormy sea to disturb the normal operations of the Chinese company on the doorstep of China.
Meanwhile, there has also been much speculation about the timing of China's drilling operations and the real intention behind it. Some say the drilling operations began just days after the visit of US President Barack Obama to Asia, and that by starting the drilling, China is flexing its muscles to neutralize the influence of the United States in the region. Others have taken it as response to Vietnam's recent purchase of a patrol vessel from Japan. There are even those who say that China is resolved to act on its own wishes and will in the South China Sea, in which the drilling operations are just a starter on China's set menu.
However, people will not understand China correctly if they do not look at a longer time frame. No one can deny the fact that under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, Chinese foreign policy has been very stable and consistent over the years. Although there have been many modifications and adjustments, the fundamentals have remained unchanged over the years after opening-up to the outside world. Therefore, to understand what China is doing today, we have to review what China has done in the past.
It is now 20 years since the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping put forward the constructive initiative of shelving disputes and seeking joint development at the Third Plenary Meeting of the Central Advisory Committee in October 1984. Over the past 20 years China has upheld this initiative and made unremitting efforts to promote it, in the hope that some day it would be made a reality and put into practice.