In Peking, China and Vietnam began their eleventh session talks last Wednesday (29 August), but no progress has been made at the talks so far and none is expected in the near future.
In Peking, China and Vietnam began their eleventh session talks last Wednesday (29 August), but no progress has been made at the talks so far and none is expected in the near future. Relations between the two countries are at a low ebb following their bitter border war last February and the two communist neighbours continue to exchange accusations. Vietnam has accused China of causing casualties among civilians and troops during a recent border attack and China claims Vietnam is responsible for the flight of thousands of refugees from their homeland.
By the end of June over 240,000 refugees had left their homes in Vietnam for a new life in China. According to Chinese officials refugees are currently arriving at an average rate of nearly eleven thousand a month. Many arrive y boat and several thousand are still adrift at sea off Bei Hae city as the port is filed to overflowing. Chinese officials are hard pressed to resettle the sudden influx of refugees and some ten thousand are currently stranded in the border port. The refugees include some Vietnamese minority nationalities as well as ethnic Chinese.
Although local officials have worked hard to accommodate the refugees many are still in makeshift dwellings while they build their own houses. Local communities in Yunnan, Fujian and Kwangsi provinces have had to shoulder heavy burdens in providing money and material for the construction of the new houses. According to Chinese officials most of the refugees arrive in China with little more than the clothes they stood in as they had been robbed by the Vietnamese authorities. China has so far spent nearly half a million dollars (200,000 pounds) on relief for the refugees. More than four thousand kilograms (8,000 pounds) of rice a day are required to solve the food problem alone. And in the sweltering summer heat the risk of disease spreading among the refugees is high.
The exodus from Vietnam began long before the fierce border war in February. As long ago as August last year thousands of ethnic Chinese fled from Vietnam as a result of alleged ostracism and persecution by the Vietnamese. A crackdown on the activities of Chinese ??? and the nationalisation of private businesses in what was South Vietnam caused many more people to leave. Many refugees felt that if they had to live in a communist country it might as well be their own, so they would at least be free of ethnic discrimination.
Schooling is an immediate problem, for although most refugees are of Chinese origin their families have lived in Vietnam for generations and a Chinese education is essential for their rehabilitation. Ethnic animosities between the two nations date back two thousand years and although both countries claim to be communist, as Vietnam drifted closer to the Soviet Union, so their political differences widened as well. The mass departure of ethnic Chinese, viewed by Vietnam as desertion and by China as expulsion, has further soured the already strained Sino-Vietnamese relations. Little has resulted from the peace talks so far, and the exodus of ethnic Chinese from Vietnam shows every sign of continuing with many of the remaining 800,000 Chinese in Ho Chi Minh City's Chinatown reportedly just waiting for an opportunity to leave.