There are two agenda that are presently pending in the implementation table between China and the Philippines that have remained unfulfilled either because Filipinos are just too incompetent at negotiations, or that third party interests are stepping on the toes of this administration.
I have written in the past about how at least on two priorities the Philippines can best engage China for the long-term benefit of our people.
First on Scarborough Shoal and fisheries matters, I have suggested seeking China’s assistance in helping develop our fishing industry, not just for South Choina Seas but beyond building toward deep-sea capability.
Second on the Joint project for oil and gas exploration at Reed Bank (Recto Reef).
What makes these two minimum areas of cooperation “missions impossible” is the United States’ interference both in lawfare and propaganda war using the Philippines as proxy to its hegemonic pivot to the Indo-Pacific.
On February 9, 2022, The American Prospect headlined that the US Congress had appropriated $500 Million for negative news coverage of China in the America Competes Act, directing funding to the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a U.S.-run foreign media service, as well as local outlets and programs to train foreign journalists.
Money keeps on changing hands among Filipino government officials, pseudo-journalists and geological karaokists.
If not for the corruption involved here, only an idiot believe that playing cat and mouse in the South China Seas with the China Coast Guard will result in anything productive. Obviously, what the Americans wish for is an accident at sea that can trigger them to die up to the last Filipino fighting their war.
When Robin Padilla brought this commonsensical analysis out in a Congressional hearing involving the Department of National Defense and the Philippine Coast Guard, trolls surfaced en masse in social media feasting on the senator for weeks.
But when a wannabe Commodore calls citizens who advocate peace and restraint in the South China Seas, as “pro-China” and “traitors”, the sonuvabitch is awarded by President Marcos Jr with a distinguished service medal.
Meanwhile, I find it difficult to believe that billboards of Gilbert Teodoro, Risa Hontiveros and even former Senator Manny Pacquiao in our highways, are funded by their personal money, or our own public funds.
Other Side of the Coin
Those who read history, however, know that Deng Xiao Ping told President Gloria Arroyo that “setting aside dispute[s] and pursuing joint development” has been among China’s priorities with its neighbors, in both continental and maritime areas. His successors, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao and especially Xi Jinping have since made this easier as the Belt and Road Initiative grew bigger and bigger each year.
Further in China’s past, we see substantial proof of cooperation.
For starters, the Peoples Republic of China conceded to Vietnam, two dashes at the Gulf of Tonkin, from its original eleven-dash line.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology scholar Taylor Fravel shows in an authoritative study that in 17 of 23 territorial disputes with various land and sea neighbors, China has either abandoned or significantly reduced its original claims since the Communist Party took power in 1949. In those concessions, the study shows, China has abandoned over 1.3 million square miles of land.
The Philippines ought to be the first to know this, because 600 years ago, this was already our modus vivendi across the seas between Sultan Paduka Pahala and Emperor Yong Le.
China has made itself predictable when it comes to foreign relations.
In the 1950s, Chinese leaders introduced the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence – mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equity and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.
These foundational values, enhanced by Confucius’ concept of a harmonious society, influence China’s policy-making.
At the beginning of the 21srt century, China established new directives to build a harmonious world, a harmonious Asia, and a harmonious neighborhood around China that promotes coexistence and co-prosperity.
“Hexie” stresses the pursuit of coexistence while respecting differences, in that conflicts should be resolved through “appropriate” channels, according to the laws and principles, to ensure balance is maintained.
China’s Foreign Policy
This opens to four keys to Chinese foreign policy:
First seek harmony, not uniformity. There exist many differences in the universe, nature and society. However, differences do not necessarily result in conflict and contradiction. This makes the unification of diversity, the basis for the generation of new things.
Secondly, big countries should respect small ones, and vice versa. Lao Tze said, “smaller streams and large rivers and seas work together”. This is exemplified in the Chinese government’s policy of fostering an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood recalling mutual respect for sovereignty and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, reinforced by diplomatic concepts such as equality, mutual aid and benefit and “win-win” cooperation.
I often wondered why Asians, especially the Chinese, bow greeting one another, until I encountered a line in the Book of Changes, “the proud dragon repents”. Lao Tze also notes, “great strength can easily deteriorate”. The third idea, therefore, says large countries should not pursue supremacy or become consumed by their quest for power – an expression of its rejection of hegemony.
Fourthly, conflicts between states should be handled through avenues that maintain harmony, such as bilateral negotiations. However, in cases of aggression that violates territorial sovereignty, threaten human life, or challenges its core interests, such as foreign invasion, China ensures that unjust violence is met with just means. There is a common Chinese saying that expresses, “We will not attack unless we are attack, we will certainly counter-attack if we are attacked,” embodied in “active defense” orientation of the Peoples Liberation Army.
These are the principles that China has observed for centuries in how it deals with other nations. The historical transparency, makes it easy for any other people to deal with the Chinese.
We do things differently in the Philippines, however. Our foreign policy depends on who sits in Malacanang. Our government is even confused as to what our core interests are as a nation.
In the midst of miserable economic woes confronting the country today, President Marcos Jr. is busy with the American playbook in the South China Seas that is supported only by 7% of the Filipino people. #
October 21, 2023