ATTACKS ON VIETNAM
China recently has stepped up its flexing of big-power muscles on several fronts as Southeast Asian states challenge Beijing’s sweeping claims of sovereignty over the resource-rich South China Sea. Beginning June 8, a massive, highly organized hacking attack emanating from China was carried out against several hundred key Vietnamese Internet sites, including the official website of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry. The attacks paralyzed all the sites and left them covered with Chinese national flags and music files that played a jingoistic rendition of the Chinese national anthem.
Politically and diplomatically, Beijing is trying to isolate Vietnam from its neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by increasing ties to Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
Militarily, not a day goes by without state-run Chinese media boasting of China’s naval prowess to counter alleged Vietnamese “provocations.” The message was highlighted in midJune by China’s large-scale naval and amphibious drills near the disputed areas of the South China Sea, a response to Vietnam’s much smaller military drills. Military officials, including Rear Adm. Yin Zhuo, a cyberwarfare specialist, have become fixated on talking down Vietnam’s forces, accusing it of naval “weakness” and “military desperation.”
Although other nations in the region, notably the Philippines and Malaysia, have similar territorial disputes with China, Beijing considers Vietnam the worst offender. Historically, China considers Vietnam an inferior tributary state.
China fought two naval battles against the Vietnamese navy over the Paracel Islands in 1974 and the Spratly Islands in 1988, in addition to the full-scale invasion of Vietnam on land in 1979.