How do we solve a problem like China?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-12-19
Mighty China had once again reasserted its claim to the oil-rich Spratly Islands (Spratlys). That was the gist of the STAR page 1 story last December 9.

The Oil and Gas Journal believes that the Spratlys have one of the biggest oil deposits in the world – believed to approximate the quantity of the oil reserves of Iran and Iraq. Together with Vietnam and other ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries, we are a claimant to the Spratlys.

Unlike Vietnam however, we do not have the military clout to tell China to back off. China is much bigger than Mike Arroyo and can’t simply be told to back off. Even Vietnam, which had once defeated France and the US, worries about China. Vietnam is now aligned with the US, its former enemy during the 1954 to 1975 US-Vietnam War, to help secure their claim to the Spratlys.

A lot of help or trouble the US is to us Filipinos. We will surely become the target of a severe China attack or retaliation if the US operates a military capability here. Come to think of it, the prospect of losing our Spratlys oil to mighty China is less scary compared to being the battleground of a China attack against the US here. That Spratlys oil, which we have not even seen or smelled, cannot compensate for Filipino casualties if we’re hit by a rain of Chinese missiles.

There is also the factor that the US is an interested party to the Spratlys oil. World oil prices have gone up over the last 10 years because the commodity is starting to run out. Of course, the US will not admit that they crave to have the Spratlys oil but do you really think that they’ll risk a very costly engagement with China just to protect the claims of countries like the Philippines and Vietnam? You can believe that if you were born December 18, 2010, which was yesterday.

Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile (JPE) was half right when he asked during a Senate review of the controversial VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement) if we can win a war with China without the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. Your Chair Wrecker took JPE to task for posing that question in our December 2 “Asking the wrong questions” column.

In the December 9 STAR article about China’s Spratlys claim, JPE had modified his position. He suggested that the Philippines, together with other ASEAN nations, should forge an alliance with China as part of the continuing global political landscape. JPE acknowledged that China is the emerging 21st century superpower and will be a major influence in our part of the world. It is comforting to know that our Senate President sees the big picture – how our country is caught between a waning (US) and an emerging superpower (China).

It will be a very difficult call for our national leaders. The US is the ‘devil we know’ and we have been conditioned by the Cold War to expect the worst from China. The US is one country that has displayed an enormous capacity for self renewal. Coming from The Great Depression of the 1930s, the US entry into World War II was crucial to clinching the victory for the free world.
Do we really want to side with China? There is no assurance that China will really overtake the US or if China will be fairer than the US in dealing with us. An imperial power is an imperial power and China is believed to be embarking soon on an expansionist policy. The Chinese need the Spratlys oil, not to mention the ore and minerals of our region, to fuel their economic growth. In a way, China is somewhat like Japan before Japan started invading Manchuria which eventually led to the Pacific theatre of conflict during World War II.

As an ally, China would appear to have the better track record for being loyal and true to its word. Look at the way they continue to support Myanmar and North Korea despite the bad image that these two controversial states are giving China. Look at the US sponsored dictators all over South and Central America and in Asia during the Cold War and how the US subsequently shafted many of them when they became liabilities. Our dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos, was a good case in point of US duplicity.

China’s human rights track record is something to worry about. Unlike the US, in China we do not have the options for seeking redress from oppressive and exploitative practices. China is good at complaining – the Manila Hostage crisis a good case in point – but very stingy in admitting mistakes, if at all. Against an oppressive US administration, we can run to the US Opposition party or to US media. You do not have such options when dealing with China.

Culturally, we have more in common with China. We love their food, their cheap goods, their passion for family, respect and reverence for their elders, zest for the good life and admire their Confucian values. Trying to be Americans, we now suffer from a damaged culture.

Whether we decide to align with the US or with China – there is an imperative for national survival. We must be united or else we risk suffering the fate of weak and divided nations that are now extinct.

A strong and united Filipino nation may even be able to assert neutrality in the looming US-China conflict – the ideal scenario. We are presently compelled to choose one side over the other because we are simply not a strong and a united nation like the Vietnamese when they fought and defeated France and the US in the 20th century.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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