The United States is sending its Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on an Asian tour this first week of August, taking off on July 31 with a six-member delegation including the heads of the House foreign affairs and armed services committees. I have to say that it is the U.S. sending the delegation because all its head-of-state is of the same political party as Pelosi and its government despite its president’s warning against the trip has not enforced a ban on the trip which conflicts with its recognition of the “One China” policy.
A bit of a mystery surrounds the Pelosi trip. Although Taiwan is not in the announced itinerary of Pelosi to Asia the lingering chance of a surprise detour and touch down in Taiwan is not being discounted. In fact, there is a Hong Kong tabloid that reports, citing only unnamed “sources”, that Pelosi will be landing the Philippines’ Clark Airbase as it was known when the U.S. occupied it until November 26, 1991 when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and the negotiation s over its extension became moot. No one seems to take this “dimsum” news seriously at this point.
President Joe Biden had advised Pelosi that the U.S. military says a Pelosi visit to Taiwan was “not a good idea right now”, and China had made its sensitivity over the suggested Pelosi visit to Taiwan extremely clear to the U.S. announcing that it would take “resolute and strong measures” if indeed Pelosi touches down on Taiwan. The tension has built up ever since and partly led to the Xi-Biden 2-and-a-half-hour phone meet on July 28 “to maintain and deepen lines of communication” on a broad variety of common issues but the focus settled on the Pelosi visit.
The official and more extensive read out of the Chinese MFA stated, “China firmly opposes separatist moves toward “Taiwan independence” and interference by external forces, and never allows any room for “Taiwan independence” forces in whatever form. The position of the Chinese government and people on the Taiwan question is consistent, and resolutely safeguarding China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity is the firm will of the more than 1.4 billion Chinese people. The public opinion cannot be defied. Those who play with fire will perish by it.
The very brief White House read out of the phone-video meeting stated that, “The two presidents discussed a range of issues important to the bilateral relationship and other regional and global issues, and tasked their teams to continue following up on today’s conversation, in particular to address climate change and health security. On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”
Based on the read outs from both capitals the message is very clear and the red lines un-mistakeable that no misunderstanding can be foreseen. We highly doubt that Nancy Pelosi will make the error of challenging the consensus of the presidents of both major power nations and to defy the status quo and create reasons for misunderstanding and any major physical conflict. Although U.S. politics cannot completely preclude unpredictable and irrational events, hence the rest of the world is always put on tenterhooks by U.S. domestic and international gimmickry.
China’s demeanor is always absolutely predictable, the hallmark of a benevolent outlook that wants the world to understand its beneficent intentions, totally without hidden plots and completely transparent in its messaging to the world. This is why when China issues stern warnings even the U. S. cannot not take it seriously. The U.S. has had a very checkered record in its public statements, and everybody remembers the non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction of Saddam Hussein the U.S. used as pretext to invade Iraq, or the creeping NATO encroachment into Russian security such as Ukraine.
U.S. mischief cannot be discounted on the matter of Taiwan, hence the repeated warnings from China for the U.S. not to “play with fire” as certain factions in the U.S. fuel tensions over Taiwan issues using the Western global media networks’ disinformation and agitation. It reminded me of the childhood stories we were made to read of “The moth and the flame” where a moth enchanted by a candle’s bright, shimmering flame is finally engulfed by the flame as it got too near. China is a superpower now and can certainly overwhelm even a gargantuan moth that comes too near.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrives in Manila August 5 to visit President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. (PBBM) for the purpose of “focusing on sustaining the positive trajectory of relations between the Philippines and the United States, strengthening the alliance, and broadening cooperation in the economic sphere in the context of both countries’ efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the other global challenges.” But where’s the beef? The U.S. focused on vaccines profits, smears the country over non-existent Human Rights violations and donates only “flying coffin planes”.
President Marcos’ full and real attitude towards the U.S. continues to be an enigma to many analysts such as I, unlike President Duterte who wore his resentment towards the U.S. on his sleeves. True, despite the many betrayals of the U.S. against the Philippines and Filipinos overseas Filipinos remittances from the U.S. is still hovering at around $ 12-billiion a year, an amount still desperately needed by the country. Exports to the US in 2021 amounted to $ 11.86-billion. These still do count in the overall economic calculus, and certainly PBBM factors these in.
The big “but” is, however, the price the U.S. extracts from the Philippines in terms of strategic geopolitical risk which could be exacted at any point in time. For example, the risk of “regime change” operation that is always lurking in the shadows of U.S. presence in the country the way it reared its ugly head in Edsa I and in Edsa II against Estrada. Even if the U.S. is today weak it could still upset the “banana cart” with its Amboy elements in the senate and the military. Ultimately, it’s also the risk of nuke war that would inevitably engulf the Philippines due to U.S. bases under the VFA and EDCA.
There are many other drawbacks from maintaining the relations with the U.S. today, highlighted by the withdrawal from buying Russian helicopters due to fear of U.S. sanctions, and the Philippines is hamstrung from buying cheap oil and fertilizer from Russia for the same fear. If the Philippines maintains a “cool” and “distant” relations with the U.S. there would be better bargaining leverage for the country with threat of finally kicking out the last vestiges of U.S. presence here – terminating the VFA and EDCA.
PBBM holds his cards very close to his chest, but we hope some of these ideas can help move him towards being tougher with the U.S. and closer to the position that protects the Philippines from the damage the U.S. inflicts on its allies economically, security wise and geopolitically. We do believe PBBM will ensure we are not dragged along by the U.S. towards the incendiary end of the flame on the candles on altar of U.S. wars.