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Foreign-owned Ho Chi Minh City apparel factories are severely damaged or destroyed, sparked by China-Vietnam maritime dispute.

A “spark” is all that’s needed for violent conflict to break out when “societal tinder” is in place. 

In Ho Chi Minh City this week apparel workers’ festering discontent appears to have ignited, or at least fed into, reportedly the worst public unrest in recent Vietnam history. Although ostensibly set off by the maritime dispute, the riots soon became xenophobic, focusing on a section of the city containing factories and workshops owned by Chinese companies and Chinese expatriates as well as Taiwanese or South Korean companies.

The area in conflict has rows of cavernous buildings where thousands of mostly young workers stitch together Nike, Adidas and other brands of sneakers and clothing for sale around the work. According to the New York Times, an author and well known blogger, Huy Duc, suggested that the workers needed avenues to express their grievances because independent unions are banned in Vietnam. He said: “I don’t know whether the government recognizes the very important message that was sent from this province. The government needs to do something to change their thinking and policy.”

In this context, later this month Business In Society will air and post its just-recorded program on the United Nations Global Compact “Business For Peace” platform. In the program, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart and UNGC official Melissa Powell report on the progress being made by business/civil-society/government partnerships in regions around the world with programs helping to de-fuse conditions that lead to such destructive conflicts.