Is a New China-Vietnam Maritime Crisis Brewing in the South China Sea?


What are the implications of China’s abrupt cancellation of military border activities with Vietnam?

This year’s long-scheduled Vietnam-China 4th Border Defense Friendly Exchange was unexpectedly canceled, reportedly due to Chinese displeasure at Vietnam’s resumption of oil exploration activities in the South China Sea. Neither side officially has confirmed this development. This article reviews public and private information made available to The Diplomat.

On June 12, China announced that Senior Lieutenant General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, had left Beijing to visit Spain, Finland, and Vietnam. Chinese media reported that Fan “will also attend the 4th high-level border meeting between the Chinese and Vietnamese militaries” during his visit to Hanoi.

Fan was accompanied by a high-powered delegation that included Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of staff of the Central Military Commission’s Joint Staff Department; Liu Zhenli, chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA); Liu Yi, deputy commander of the PLA Navy; Song Kun, deputy political commissar of the PLA Air Force; and Yuan Yubai, commander of the PLA Southern Command.