China’s bullying behavior in the strategic and resource-rich sea that separates it from Southeast Asia today takes the form of an annoying new version of the Chinese passport. The passport shows an outline of China that includes what most of the world calls the South China Sea — parts of which also are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.
Workers last week on the rail bridge between Lao Cai, Vietnam, and China
To the Vietnamese, especially those living in the mountainous northern provinces that border China, this represents more than just another move in the ongoing chess game over control of the sea; it’s an act of aggression by the country against which northern Vietnam most recently fought a very bloody war. The Vietnam-China border at Lao Cai is peaceful now, but memories here are much more vivid of wartime against the Chinese than of the previous war against the Americans. That’s because thousands of soldiers, especially Chinese, lost their lives 30 years ago in the swift-flowing Pink River that separates the two countries.Aggressive conflict between Vietnam and China has centuries of history. China doesn’t help ease the tensions when it resorts to obnoxious tactics like pretending the East Sea is undisputed territory. That’s how wars start.
To get from Lao Cai to China, you have to cross the Song Hong (the Pink River), which was brown last week but blood red in the war 30 years ago