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Vietnam Allows Business To Fly Taiwanese Flag To Protect Itself From Anti-China Riots

In 2014 anti-China riots erupted in Vietnam, resulting in over a dozen casualties. Thousands of demonstrators burnt and ransacked factories which they believed to be Chinese property. 

The protests were sparked by a diplomatic incident following Beijing's announcement on May 3 that it was planning to move its first deep-water drilling rig into a location 240 kilometers (150 miles) off Vietnam’s coast, an area which both countries claim as part of their territory.

On May 4 a spokesperson for Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry criticized the move, saying that the oil rig was within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. “All activities of foreign countries in Vietnam’s waters without Vietnam’s permission are illegal and worthless," he stated. 

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Many Vietnamese were furious about what they perceived as Chinese aggression. Both China and Vietnam are Communist dictatorships. However, in the wake of market-oriented reforms nationalism has become an increasingly important factor in legitimizing one-party rule.    

While Vietnamese demonstrators mainly targeted Chinese factories and their staff, they also mistakenly attacked Taiwanese citizens and damaged their property. “The people protesting can’t tell the difference between Taiwan and China,” Liu Yi-xin, secretary general of the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, told The New York Times in 2014. “Most Vietnamese people can’t tell us apart and think Taiwanese are Chinese. It’s like Americans and English.”

Anti-China protests were not a one-time event in Vietnam. As late as June 2018, riots broke out after the Vietnamese government announced the creation of new special economic zones, which many fear will be dominated by Chinese interests. 

In order to protect themselves from anti-Chinese sentiment, Taiwanese businesses in Vietnam asked the government to be able to display the flag of the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan) to differentiate themselves from the People's Republic of China (PRC). 


Recently, Taiwanese-owned Kaiser 1 Furniture Industry has been given permission by the Vietnamese government to fly the Taiwanese flag. Kaiser is located in My Phouc industrial park in Binh Duong province, and it employs around 5000 workers. During the 2014 riots, the company suffered about US$1 million in losses, according to Kaiser chairman Luo Tzu-wen (羅子文). 

Luo said that in the past whenever Taiwanese companies raised the ROC flag, China would always intervene and report it to the Vietnamese authorities, urging them to take it down. 

Chinese state-run media criticized the Vietnamese government's decision to allow the public display of Taiwan's flag, pointing out that at a 2017 summit Beijing and Hanoi had issued a joint statement affirming that Vietnam respects "the one-China policy while also supporting the peaceful development of cross-strait relations and China’s unification cause, and is resolutely opposed to any 'Taiwan independence' activities in any form."

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