The recent tactical withdrawal of a giant Chinese oil rig
from waters claimed by both Beijing and Hanoi does not herald a change in
China’s strategy of staking out claims in large swaths of the South China Sea
that have bedeviled the two ideologically communist allies over the past years.
The retreat has come at a convenient juncture for the pro-Chinese faction of
the Vietnamese Communist Party to preempt any planned legal action against
China and thwart the highly-anticipated alliance with the U.S.
On July 15, the state-owned China National Petroleum
Corporation announced that the $1 billion oil rig had finished drilling in
disputed waters near the Paracel Islands, over which both Beijing and Hanoi
claim sovereignty. The rig will be relocated closer to Hainan Island, China’s
southernmost province, after having successfully discovered “signs of oil and
gas,” the Chinese company said in a statement.
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