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Watched over by riot police, hundreds of Chinese workers left Vietnam on Monday on ships chartered by their government after deadly unrest broke out last week amid a dispute over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. The decision to evacuate workers by sea will play well in China, where the government is under pressure to look after its citizens abroad. Some saw possible geopolitical reasons behind the dramatic gesture, suggesting that by deploying the ships China was trying to reinforce the image of it as a victim as it battles mostly negative international opinion over its increasingly assertive moves in the South China Sea.

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