There are two approaches by which the
Philippines can free itself from China’s tightening friendship grip. One can be
completed over the short term; the other one can be done over the long term.
Both will take a process that needs to be started now.
But before we proceed, let us take a glance
at who we are up against, in keeping with Sun Tzu’s advice that in the
battlefield, one must know his enemy and the terrain of that battlefield.
China does not hide its disdain for international
rules if such rules get in the way of promoting its self-interests. It claims
territories in West Philippine Sea that, according to international law, belongs
to the Philippines. It rejects an internationally-sanctioned court ruling that
awards to the Philippines sovereign rights over those territories. Its false
claims are enforced by lawlessness and violence: creating structures and
driving Filipino fishermen away by a combination of vexation, intimidation and
naked physical force.
China has attained that rarefied status of
arrogance, the same status the United States accorded upon itself when it
bombed Iraq in violation of a United Nations (UN) resolution.
In other words, the towering levels of
economic and military power achieved by both China and the United States have
made themselves above and unreachable by international law. They follow UN
rules when they favor them; but by no means are they bound by them if they harm
or threaten their interests.
This is the animal kingdom. And that is how
the Serengeti crumbles, as it were. Unwise is the man who rants and reasons
why; prudent is he who thinks of ways of how to get even.
A look at the global politics will show
that the US does what it always does with help from its friends. Don’t call
them rogue, but members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are equally
responsible for atrocities committed by the US abroad. Yet the rules of the
jungle apply to both big and small, and US allies are justified when cheering
for the bully means they know where their next sack of rice is coming from. It
pays for Pumba to follow Kion when this protects him from the dreaded pack of
hyenas and wolves.
High on the list of China’s agenda should
be breaking the ties that bind the US to its friends, while building up its own
new wave of fanatics.
Insignificant the Philippines maybe under
the grand scheme of things, China has made its neighbor across the sea a
priority target. And in a relatively short period of time, it has succeeded in
grabbing the little maya from the
To be sure, the Philippine presence as
third party to US-China relations has been there for ages, having been ruled for
centuries by a kingdom in faraway Spain, one of the undisputed imperial powers
of old, before the US launched to global orbit its own imperial dynasty
starting with what appeared to be a false-flag sinking of the USS Maine in Cuba
in 1898. Spain eventually sold Las Islas Filipinas to Estados Unidos para veinte
millones de dolares, at least a hundred million dollars less than what it got
During the 1901 debates in the US Senate
for the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, the expansionist, pro-annexation
senators edged those who favored granting of outright Philippine independence.
Albert Beveridge, one of the loudest barkers for expansionism—in one speech, he
called Filipinos juvenile and oriental monkeys who, while good at singing and
dancing, were incapable of serious thought (as if he was addressing today’s
Philippine Congress)—he argued for keeping the Philippines as a colony so that
the US can build a launching pad from where it can grab the huge China market
for American companies.
A hundred years later, the opposite
happened: taipans grabbed the huge American market and its peripheries. Today, China
has 820 billionaires, compared to about 500 in the US. In the Association of
South East Asian (ASEAN) countries, 8 of 10 richest individuals consist of
either Chinese immigrants or descendants from families with Chinese blood.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative promises
the multiplication of world wealth through trade. Sweetened by offers of
financial aid and development financing, the BRI has become a compelling magnet
for Pumba and his kind. At least 60 countries have already signed up as
But China’s disregard of international law
as shown by its behavior in WPS means that it cannot be trusted. While there is
time, therefore, Pumba would do well to extricate himself from further
tightening—as I noted in last week’s column—of the dragon’s lock.
The short term approach for countries that are
looking for a way out is to establish a government that truly represents their
people. This requires a process that informs voters about China’s fraudulent claim
in WPS, among other areas in South China Sea. The process is difficult and
should aim to get as many peoples and nations involved. There is no time to
lose, which is why we should start working on it now.
The long term approach will be essayed next