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China Works on Vietnam Border Wall to Keep Citizens Home

FILE - An empty border gate with China's Dong Xing town is seen amid the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam Aug. 14, 2020.
FILE - An empty border gate with China's Dong Xing town is seen amid the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam Aug. 14, 2020.
China Works on Vietnam Border Wall to Keep Citizens Home
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China is reportedly building a wall along its border with Vietnam to stop people and goods from leaving China.

Plans to construct a two-meter-high border wall in southwestern China were reported in October by Radio Free Asia. The report was based on information collected from social media and comments from individuals living in areas near the construction.

Experts say the wall appears to be an attempt by China’s government to keep its citizens at home and reduce smuggling across both sides of the border.

The plan demonstrates Chinese concerns about migrants going to Vietnam after China’s unemployment rate grew to 6 percent in the first half of 2020. Economic difficulties caused by COVID-19 restrictions worldwide have weakened demand for manufactured exports from China. This has led to reductions in factory-related jobs.

The Hong Kong-based workers’ rights group China Labour Bulletin says Chinese workers are protesting pay cuts as their companies reduce production or go out of business.

Alexander Vuving is a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii. He told VOA the most likely reason China would build such a border wall is to keep control. “The wall would be a perfect tool to control the flows of people, of things, of everything across the border,” Vuving said.

The Chinese government does not like its citizens leaving the country without approval, especially if they take money out.

Video posted to Chinese social media in late October appeared to show about 1,000 Chinese migrant workers gathering in southwestern China near a border crossing with Vietnam.

In Vietnam, about 900,000 people were unemployed as of June 30 and another 18 million were underemployed, the country’s General Statistics Office reported. Even with those numbers, factories supported by Chinese investors welcome workers from China because of their experience with companies at home.

Investors picked Vietnam to avoid paying tariffs on goods exported directly from China to the United States, said Nguyen Thanh Trung. He is the director of the Center for International Studies at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City.

Nguyen said the tariffs resulted from a 3-year-old China-U.S. trade dispute. “The trade war between China and the U.S., that’s the reason why so many Chinese companies come to Vietnam to avoid Chinese tariffs, and that’s the reason they need Chinese labor,” he said.

Professor Vuving said a wall along any border would have the added effects of blocking escapes by Chinese political dissidents and stopping casino visitors from taking money out of the country. China is also building a fence along parts of its border with Myanmar, a popular spot for Chinese casino visitors.

China is Vietnam’s biggest trading partner, with about $100 billion in business during the first 10 months of 2020. Most of that amount represents exports to Vietnam.

Carl Thayer is a professor of Southeast Asian studies at Australia’s University of New South Wales. He told VOA that a border wall could help both countries. “Vietnam has as much interest as China in closing cross-border smuggling, particularly since it has such a massive trade deficit with China,” Thayer said.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Ralph Jennings reported this story or VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

smuggle – v. to take something into or out of a place in an illegal or secret way

tariff – n. a tax on goods coming into or leaving a country

casino – n. a place where card games and other games of risk are played for money