George is my Ateneo schoolmate. He classifies himself as a Chinoy (Chinese-Filipino). George described that he’s treated as a Filipino when he’s in China and as Chinese when he’s in the Philippines. George has been frequenting China since 1980 and saw its transformation.
George told me: “I saw the change through the years brought about by sheer political will and a system where there is no TRO at the drop of a hat to stop or drag a project until it becomes expensive or unviable for the proponent. Although I don’t believe the system can be transplanted here entirely, there are many things that we can pick up and apply here. But we can do this only if we embrace humility over abilidad (one-upmanship).
George liked my April 26 column (Factor these when dealing with China) and shared his own insights, which proved to be spot on. We will honor the request of George not to mention his surname. After all, his insights are what we can use in this row with China over the Scarborough Shoal.
George wrote: “I must take my hat off to you for a very well written piece. Allow me to make this rejoinder, with my two cents worth.
1. If we watch the CCTV news channel and read Chinese papers (if possible in Chinese), one will have the unmistakable feeling that the Chinese government does not treat this as a tiff between Philippines and China, but between China and the US.
2. The bottom line of sovereignty is economics. Countries go to war or to colonize and claim sovereignty (as Spain and Portugal had done, followed later by the biggest colonizer, England) and risk their resources and the lives of its people for only one thing: economics. Resources. Warm bodies, namely slaves, in whatever form had their economic value. This was true in Roman times, still true today. Hitler promulgated lebensraum for Germany. It may surprise many people that Hitler also wanted peace, but peace under German hegemony. The Japanese launched a war to establish the Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and it was clear whose prosperity they have in mind.
Even without sovereignty, the stealing and plunder can go on. The British legitimized piracy by issuing letters of marque, and called the perpetrators privateers instead of pirates. Done for economic reasons that would benefit their country. Three hundred years hence, the British government backed up their drug dealers and used it as an excuse to poison, invade and plunder China.
The current standoff is solvable only if there is someone on either side that can think outside of the box. Unfortunately, it looks like there is none for the moment. The last person who qualifies for this has been dead for quite some time, namely Deng Xiao Ping. During the discussion for the turnover of Hong Kong, and faced with the dilemma of bridging a capitalist and a communist system which is apparently an impossibility, the grand old man came up with the idea of “One country, two systems.” That broke the deadlock.
3. In your article, you mentioned, “Know first your opponent.” This is from Sun Zi’s Art of War. It may come as a surprise to most people that Sun Zi is an advocate for peace, not war. If you read and re-read Sun Zi, you will probably come to the conclusion that the bottom line of the Art of War is not to fight any war at all; in fact to prevent war. His distilled philosophy was to “establish an army that will win a war without firing a shot (if we use modern lingo).”
Since it’s apparent that we cannot win in a shooting war, and since it is useless to depend on other countries as they would come in only if it is to their national interest to do so, there is an alternative operative philosophy which I sent you sometime back, that of Lao Zi, item 43 of his Dao De Jing, or the Tao of Power.
4. There was Chinese goodwill before toward the Americans. This arose from the fact that when the Western powers were extracting their pound of flesh from a prostrate China, the West including Japan were moving these “payments” out of China, back to their own country. Only the Americans invested their share back in China. Mao was initially not antagonistic toward the Americans, since America started also with a revolution. But the ideology war changed everything.
5. You mentioned also that China remembers the bitter periods of its history. On the other side of the coin, they also remember their friends, especially during the times when they were down. Sihanouk, until today, lives like a king in China. In the Philippines, until today whenever the Chinese embassy has a function, guess who is sitting at the presidential table? Madame Imelda, even during the time when the Marcoses were out of power. All because the Chinese recognized Imelda’s role in establishing diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China, even ahead of the Americans.
6. The Philippines is part of Asia. That is a fact, and our destiny will be tied to that of Asia. Our foreign policies should be based on this fact and extend to one of five to ten years. There probably is a working group in the DFA for this. A wrong decision will affect not only us but also a generation or two to come. Sensationalism and grandstanding is a disservice to the country.
7. Before a country can build a strong military, it has to build first a strong economy. That’s what history taught us. After the industrial revolution in Europe, the West built up their wealth and expanded their empire using the military assets afforded by their wealth. It’s the same with Japan after the Meiji restoration, and now — China. A nation cannot depend on other nations to defend it. It’s always national interest first for any country.
8. Our sources of information on international issues are mostly Western, with their point of view, biases and all. This isn’t healthy for our next generation and us. Sources for written media are predominantly western: Agence France Presse, Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times. CNN, BBC, and Bloomberg dominate visual media. Al Jazeera, which is located in Qatar, sounds like Western media masquerading as Arab. Watch CCTV, Taiwan stations, even NHK and Arirang and you can feel like they are talking about a different world altogether.
Media can influence the way the children think, especially during their formative years. It could be a form of neo-colonization through mind control. Something has to be done about this if we want a population that loves the country.”
Somehow, that makes a lot more sense than what a lawyer on ANC, posturing to know something about the current row with China, was suggesting.
Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must never unwatched go.”