HANOI, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Amid violent anti-China protests in Vietnam, 400 factories were damaged and 1,100 others, including South Korean, Japanese and Singaporean plants, were forced to shut down as of Friday.
Losses caused by damage to foreign-owned companies in Vietnam's southern industrial parks alone were estimated at billions of U.S. dollars.
Any mishandling of the violence by Hanoi could hurt its ties with China and deal a serious blow to the confidence of foreign investors.
In the deadliest incident, two Chinese were killed and more than 100 others injured when rioters attacked a steel project Wednesday night in Vietnam's central Ha Tinh province, owned by the Formosa Plastics Group of Taiwan, one of the biggest investors in the Southeast Asian country.
The 1,000-strong Vietnamese mob set the yet-to-be-completed structure ablaze and hunted down any workers looking like Chinese. The plant is expected to be Southeast Asia's largest steel-making facility when completed in 2017.
The barbarian acts targeting Chinese facilities and personnel erupted Tuesday in industrial zones in the south of Vietnam, following a wave of anti-China protests incited by local media and tolerated by the government, who claimed China's drilling operation in indisputable Chinese waters "infringes on its sovereignty."
Hundreds of Chinese have fled by air and land as violence spreads to more parts of Vietnam. A total of 600 Chinese crossed into Cambodia over the land border in southern Vietnam Wednesday, and more arrived Thursday, according to Cambodian immigration authorities.
Mobs also looted scores of other foreign-owned factories, believing they were Chinese-run, but many were South Korean and Japanese.
The wave of attacks and the anti-China sentiment threaten serious damage to China-Vietnam relations, which have been on the way to enhanced strategic mutual trust and deeper mutually beneficial cooperation.
More worrying than the failure to contain violence in time, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said it was "legitimate and natural" for people to "show their patriotism and determination to protect the country's sovereignty and independence," only lightly addressing the extremist acts.
Hanoi, which sowed the seed of irrational anti-China violence in the first place, has yet to realize it bears unshirkable responsibilities for the situation.
It accused China of infringing on its sovereignty by the "illegal drilling rig HD-981," even though the drilling site falls within China's offshore waters and the country's oil drilling activities in the region dates back a decade.
The Vietnamese government, on one hand, dispatched a large number of vessels, including armed ones, to waters near the drilling site off China's Xisha Islands, ramming Chinese civilian ships and disturbing the normal operation of the drilling platform; on the other, it has described itself as a victim bullied by China.
The provocative words and deeds come at a time when China-Vietnam relations were gaining momentum. During a series of high-level exchanges last year, the two countries vowed to comprehensively push forward bilateral cooperation over land, in the sea and in the financial sector.
In this context, Hanoi should join China in valuing and carrying forward the hard-won good momentum. The Vietnamese government, as a first step, must take resolute and effective measures to protect the lives and property of all Chinese nationals there, and refrain from any act that could stoke tension in the South China Sea.
The unchecked violence against China poses a challenge not only to Vietnam's regional diplomacy but also to its fast-growing economy.
Most of the affected foreign companies are located in the Southeast Asian country's industrial zones, which are the backbone of Vietnam's 138 billion U.S. dollars economy.
Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh has noted that worker protests had broken out in 22 of the country's 63 provinces. "The investment image that we have been building over the past 20 years is turning very ugly," local media quoted him as saying.
If the situation goes beyond a "one-off incident," and continues to spread in the following days, it will create the impression that things are spinning out of control in Vietnam and scare away potential investors.
The minister appealed to every Vietnamese to be responsible for protecting foreign investors and labor. Enditem
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