Part 1 of Series of 2 – From Zero-Sum to Win win?
At a time when the United States is building bridges to China with no less than Joe Biden and Xi Jinping renewing fractured relations, its puny colonial ally in the Southeast Asia is beating the drums of war.
At least for the moment, not yet a bloody confrontation.
This perplexes Lee Hisen Loong, the Singapore prime minister who asked: “Are you sure you (Filipinos) want to get into a fight where you will be the battleground?”
Even experts are baffled as to who is pulling the strings of the marionette that our Department of Foreign Affairs has become.
Ma. Teresita Daza lectured China: “”We call on China to remove all these illegal structures, cease reclamations in the South China Sea, and be accountable for the damage caused by these illegal activities.” Her language is of course undiplomatic but synched to the lines of those who former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao calls “ignoramuses” – NSA Jonathan Malaya, PCG Jonathan Malaya and Manila Times columnist Edgard Arevalo.
Daza could have been emboldened by former magistrate Antonio Carpio’s proposal constructing a lighthouse or a civilian structure to further assert the Philippines’ rights over Ayungin Shoal in light of recent developments in the area.
This of course is a benign parrot of what Blake Herzinger of War On The Rocks of the Texas National Security Review, is pushing for.
“The Philippines should remove the Sierra Madre and replace it with a permanent structure manned by combined rotational forces from both the Philippines and the U.S. Marine Corps. Such a forward operating base would be a powerful signal of commitment to the alliance for both nations as well as providing significant improvements in situational awareness for both the United States and the Philippines.
“A more muscular approach could elicit Chinese escalation, given the Chinese military’s considerable force presence in the area and its pattern of coercion against other South China Sea claimants. But the coercive tactics long employed against littoral states in the region would be less effective against the U.S. Navy, which could dispel the image of Chinese forces enjoying unchallenged dominance in the region while resolving an untenable security situation at Second Thomas Shoal.
Carpio, however, has not hidden his affirmation of joint patrols with Philippine forces by the US military and its allies.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin who earlier made a serious observation that the Philippines “grounded” BRP Sierra Madre in Ren’ai Jiao or Ayungin Shoal “is an attempt to permanently occupy” the feature.
This tone is a departure from what Wenbin used in September when he mocked Philippine Coast Guard’s removal of an alleged shoal barrier at Scarborough Shoal or Huangyan Dao, as “self-amusement”, while reiterating that China will continue to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.
DFA has engaged China in what in modern international relations is called legal warfare or otherwise known as ‘lawfare’ which aims to win the strategic narrative through deliberate misinterpretation of existing laws. The key to ‘lawfare’ is to find gaps and ambiguities in the law in order to attack and turn these points to one’s advantage.
Our problem is that we are so zero-sum about our position, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as chief architect of our foreign policy, has not explained where and how far he intends to pursue this mentality, especially when our treaty ally is shaking hands and mending fences with China.
The president has been acquiescent to calls of legislative leaders for the recall of the Chinese ambassador and his cabinet members feasting on trial balloons projecting steps to distance from China, like opting out of the Belt and Road Initiative, cancelling our Chinese-funded railway projects in northern and southern Luzon and Mindanao, delaying the Chico and Kaliwa dams.
For the meantime, China’s signal is not just argumentative but graphic and real. A joint military exercise featuring Chinese, Cambodian, Lao, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese forces kicked off on November 13 in Zhanjiang, south China’s Guangdong Province.
Code-named “Peace and Friendship-2023,” the exercise aimed to enhance the urban anti-terrorist, maritime anti-terrorist and anti-piracy capabilities of the participating forces, as well as further deepen military mutual trust and cooperation to jointly safeguard regional peace and stability.
This is the first time an exercise of this nature, marked the participation of a record-high number of ASEAN countries, has been held in China.
It also exposes the stupidity our government has shown in isolating itself from its ASEAN neighbors with its self-defeating posture in the Spratlys provoking an avoidable conflict with China and a counterproductive distancing from its economic programs.
Influenced by Raymond Powell’s shallow “Gordion Knot’s” think-tanking from Stanford University, propped nitwits in our defense and coast guard communities to wave Biden’s iron-clad commitment to our Mutual Defense Treaty that sounds outdated and lame when invoked, if and when this lawfare lead to a hotwar.
Remember what Apo Ferdie told all of us 41 years ago about priming rthe Mutual Defense Treaty, when he addressed the Natyional Press Club in Washington DC?
“The United States is not necessarily bound to immediately react because the provision of the Mutual Defense Pact is that you will immediately take steps as is necessary to meet the contingency in accordance to your constitutional processes.
“What does that mean? That you go to (your) Senate and House Representatives.
“What does that mean?
“Delay while we are already dying there.”
How long has it taken the US Congress not to pass the additional $100 billion Vladomyr Zelensky is asking to sustain the war in Ukraine that has already cost more than half a million lives? What use will the $14.5 billion military aid to Israel passed under new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson serve Benjamin Netanhayu, if Muslim nations join the war in Gaza?
Mutual Fear triggers summit
In the background of the difficult US-China relations is a fear – shared by both sides – that a US-China confrontation could lead to war.
Henry Kissinger told the Economist last May: “We’re in the classic pre-World War 1 situation where neither side has much margin of political concession and in which any disturbance of the equilibrium can lead to catastrophic consequences.”
This was confirmed by a prominent advisor to China’s Communist Party, Renmin University Professor Jin Canrong, last week telling world’s oldest Sunday newspaper The Observer, “The world today has entered an era of great struggle: the old order dominated by the West. It is disintegrating, but the new order has not yet been established.”
David Goldman, writing for the Asia Times, said that in the runoff to the Xi Jinping-Jope Biden Summit in San Francisco, China had with four aces in its hand as policy advisers close to Xi express an unprecedented kind of confidence in China’s strategic position:
“First, the collapse of Ukraine’s offensive against Russian forces and its commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, that the war is a “stalemate” is a setback for America’s strategic position and a gain for China, which has doubled its exports to Russia since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
“Second, the US tech war on China has flopped, as Chinese AI firms buy fast Huawei processers in place of chips from Nvidia and other US producers.
“Third, the Gaza war provoked by Hamas on October 7 gives China a free option to act as the de facto leader of the Global South in opposition to Israel, an American ally. China now exports more to the Muslim world than it does to the United States.
“And fourth, the US military wants to avoid confrontation with China in the Northwest Pacific region as well as its home waters in the South China Sea, where the PLA’s thousands of surface-to-ship missiles and nearly 1,000 fourth- and fifth-generation warplanes give China an overwhelming home-theater advantage in firepower.”
This was evident in Biden’s opening statement opening a modicum of military cooperation between the two countries: “I value our conversation because I think it’s paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader-to-leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication. We have to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict, but also have to manage it responsibly.”
The United States can ill afford new theatres of dissonance – it cannot fight a third war in North and Southeast Asia in addition to Ukraine and Gaza, it cannot complicate any further disadvantages in the arena of technology and commerce. It is the US that needs a desperate gasp of fresh air.
Xi obliges Biden: “Turning our backs on each other is not an option. It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, as conflict and confrontation have unbearable consequences on both sides. Major country competition is not the prevailing trend of the current times and cannot solve the problems facing China and the United States or the world at large.”
Subsidiary of China?
So, is the US now a province of China, just because Joe Biden capitulated to Xi Jinping? Of course not, the San Francisco summit is a constructive step towards a top-of-the-class diplomacy and conflict resolution!
Fron a zero-sum impasse to a win-win prospect!
With this development, will anyone please pray tell me, if the president of the United States has sought peace with China, who are the real traitors fanning the flame and stirring the waters of the South China Seas?
They must be stripped naked before the Filipino people, and exposed for their treasonous and dangerous servitude to vested and foreign interests who stokes us closer to dissonance and the brink of war.
Any peace is a win-win proposition to humanity and the world, and for the Filipino people, especially the poor amongst us.
Our quotable quote for today comes from Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States who served from 1953 to 1961 presiding over the recovery of the world from the Second World War, succeeding Harry Truman:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
Next: Part Two discusses Teresita Daza’s forked tongue