Russian natural gas company Gazprom recently signed a deal with Vietnam's state-owned PetroVietnam to jointly explore two oil and gas blocks in the South China Sea. Although it said that the two blocks are located “not in the dispute area,” the intention is clear that Vietnam is strengthening cooperation with Russia to go up against China in the territorial disputes.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said on Tuesday that China hopes companies from countries outside the South China Sea region would respect and support negotiation efforts made by parties directly involved, and that they could avoid taking actions interfering with these efforts. His comment was very polite.
Gazprom's agreement with the Vietnam company could simply be profit-oriented. However, as both companies are controlled by their respective governments, this action could be seen as a reflection of the attitude of top-level leaderships. This concerns not only China but also the world's public.
People in China hope that Russia could respect their rights and feelings, something we don't think is too much to ask. China and Russia have both gained a lot from their long-term strategic partnership, but there are still vulnerabilities between their bilateral relations.
There are many outside forces trying to drive a wedge between China and Russia, such as some U.S. elites like Zbigniew Brzezinski and scholars in Russia that sympathize with Western causes. Facing these interlopers, China and Russia have to take care of their friendship seriously and meticulously. Both sides surely benefit from continued stability in their bilateral relations, especially in maintaining their strong standings on the global stage.
Disputes in the South China Sea have become the most delicate geopolitical challenge for China. Vietnam and the Philippines are trying hard to involve outsiders in order to escalate the situation and stack up their chips on the negotiation table against China. China has to remain vigilant towards what the irrelevant countries would do in the dispute area.
Russia should not send mixed signal regarding the South China Sea issue at this time, as its meddling benefits neither China nor itself. Russia's image in the eyes of the Chinese people has already been tarnished by this exploration deal with Vietnam.
China and Russia are two of the most influential world powers, and their bilateral strategic partnership is important to both sides. After the ups and downs during the post-Cold War era, the two countries now clearly understand that mutual interests are the foundation of their relationship.
We hope that Russia could consider the long-term effects of its involvement in the South China Sea rather than immediate benefits.
(The article was an editorial of Global Times and translated by Lin Liyao.)
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