Scholars on East Vietnam Sea to abound
Updated: 7/28/2015 9:12:05 AM GMT + 7
A Vietnamese Fisheries Surveillance vessel (right) was attacked by Chinese boats while it was on duty during China’s illegal deployment of an oil rig in Vietnam’s seas in May 2014. Photo credit: Van Vung.
A Vietnamese Fisheries Surveillance vessel (right) was attacked by Chinese boats while it was on duty during China’s illegal deployment of an oil rig in Vietnam’s seas in May 2014. Photo credit: Van Vung.
As a young researcher on international issues, I aspire that in the 20 years to come, a batch of young, committed academics would help better defend Vietnam’s sovereignty and make the country’s voice be heard on regional and global arenas.

International relations intellects are integral to helping the State shape its course of actions in response to crucial foreign relations issues, particularly in safeguarding the country’s sovereignty over the East Vietnam Sea.

The field is not new in Vietnam, but it is quite particular about its following, who are required to have in-depth knowledge.

The academic front is out of tune

Regarding force, Vietnam is currently under considerable pressure from China’s "academia” and "media.” Beijing has set up many academic centers which focus single-mindedly on defending its benefits in the waters which they call the "South China Sea.”

Hundreds of Chinese scholars have been sent across the world on the lookout for data and evidence to cement their arguments, which are "out of tune” and mostly unnatural and ridiculous. In addition, these Western-trained experts have publicized their academic writings in English with the purpose of disseminating their feeble arguments on Chinese sovereignty. With a lack of counterarguments in English by Vietnamese literati available, it is no wonder that our orthodox points of view are not approached by international friends.

A notable trend observed in recent times has seen a number of Western scholars backing up China’s standpoints and presenting their articles at important foreign relations forums.

To tell the truth, if Vietnam does not form an effective strategy right now, our academic frontline will face formidable challenges from Chinese waves in the near future.

"The power of East Vietnam Sea knowledge” needs to be built

A strategy to build "the power of East Vietnam Sea knowledge” is supposed to be a medium-term and long-term strategy, which calls for related parties’ joint efforts, particularly the awareness of various social components.

At present, many positive factors have emerged on the information front. Groups of local researchers have made use of their powerful contacts and forged liaisons to retort China’s allegations at international forums. However, these efforts remain individual and lack precision or systematic, widespread links.

Vietnamese scholars’ tardiness compared to their Chinese counterparts comes down to three elements: (1) A shortage of specialized research facilities. (2) A lack of mechanisms to have scholars’ voices heard at international arenas. (3) Investment in research is still allocated disproportionately, with most investment focused on "to be put away” projects.

Are the efforts exerted by individuals or a few research units out of proportion with the image of a country which aspires to reach out to the sea?

What we desperately need is not limited to scientific articles published on prestigious journals and astute policy articles to retort China’s one-sided, distorted arguments, but also inventions, initiatives and inter-sector liaisons related to the sea and sea research.

Therefore a medium-term and long-term plan to train accomplished scholars needs substantial investment from the State regarding funding and infrastructure so as to build specialized, prestigious inter-field research centers across the country.

These centers will also help scholars across the country exchange experiences and come to one another’s assistance.

In addition, the government should also set up liaison mechanisms to fully tap into local scholars’ grey matter capacity.

Such auspicious conditions include adopting a better salary and bonus system; allowing more freedom in voicing one’s opinions; setting up research funds; and, most importantly, creating incubators with a number of well-performing research groups taking the central role.

These incubators will not only help local intellectuals perfect themselves but also create a professional, nourishing "academic culture.” Academics on the Vietnam East Sea are supposed to constantly better their expertise, cement their knowledge and hone their skills, particularly their command of foreign languages.

The key to triumphant combat on the international academic frontline is a mastery of the English language. In actuality, a number of local scholars at research centers remain inadequate in foreign languages.

It’s evident that combat on "East Vietnam Sea” issues in the international scale is no longer conducted in a "self-contained” way like in previous years.

With solid expertise, an adequate command of foreign languages, and steadfastness, a new batch of East Vietnam Sea scholars will be on a par with their Chinese counterparts on the academic front and the international arena of public opinions.

NGUYEN THE PHUONG (24, Ho Chi Minh City)

Source: Tuoi Tre Newspaper

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