A win–win approach to China

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The situation following the Hague decision in favor of this country is expected to intensify the misunderstanding between two neighbors in the South China Sea aka West Philippine Sea. On the one hand, the decision portrays China as a squatter and on the other hand picture, this country as a weakling which cannot enforce the court’s decision.

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This is indeed unfortunate given that this country’s relationship with the Middle Kingdom antedates our dealings with the United States by centuries. Long before the “manifest destiny” that brought the Yanks to our shores, the galleon trade brought the Chinese to the Philippines for centuries.

While good relations between this country and the US continued during the first half of the twentieth century despite the bloody Fil-American war, our relations with China was interrupted with the communist takeover of that country after the Second World War and the support it gave to the NPA in the late sixties. Relations however resumed with the visit of Marcos to Mao in the mid-seventies which picked up considerably since then to the point that China might conceivable displace the US as our major trading partner in the near future.

President Arroyo ratcheted the economic relations during her term with the promise of heavy involvement by the Chinese in the infrastructure projects of her administration. The perception that this economic relation was attended by hanky-panky placed the deals in the freezer. When Aquino took over certain incidents in the high seas such as the land banking activities by China, the Philippine Navy capture of Chinese fishermen and Obama’s rebalancing act the pivot to Asia and finally the filing of a case by this country in The Hague created a very tense situation in the area.

With the decision of the court to favor the Philippine plea and China’s unwillingness to heed the decision of the five wise men in the Netherlands our relations with China is reaching a level of recriminations which if not properly managed could easily lead to unpleasant situations not necessarily bordering on violence. Luckily for us, despite the shrill calls by nationalistic elements in this county to confront China the President has heeded Kipling and is keeping his head when some guys around him are losing theirs.

His order to the cockpit for a soft landing followed by the suggestion of bilateral talks with China has been well received by both sides. This augurs well for a successful management of the crisis. The choice of FVR as special envoy to handle this case is a good move given that the former president is well expected in the mainland and shown his diplomatic skills in the past in handling the Mindanao crisis.

What is at stake here for both countries?

On the part of China it badly does not want to appear as the super bully at a time when she is working very hard to sell the one belt one road initiative or the New Silk Route and the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank initiative. Indeed these initiatives by the new superpower is drummed up as a sort of mini Marshall Plan for developing counties in Central and Southeast Asia which was the dream of Deng Xiao Ping. China’s attempt at an Asian co-prosperity sphere could easily lose support if it is perceived to be a disguise for hegemonic intentions which land banking activities in the West Philippine Sea is an example. In short to paraphrase Marx, China has nothing to lose but a few islands but it has a whole world to win.

On the part of the Philippines, the legal argument is not the only mode to win our case. We have always pointed out in previous columns that our moral victory will be pyrrhic because China will not honor the decision and we will not be backed up by allies who considering their narrow national interests would rather side with China than this country as predicted. Both the ASEM and ASEAN did not sing hallelujah at the Dutch decision and both even prevented the issue to be taken up. In short these allies adhere to the Churchillian dictum that there are no permanent friends, only permanent national interests.

Is there another mode of settling the issue? Of course there is. In this country, settling out of court is popular in tricky situations that require endless litigation. Even the courts encourage this. Will this mode be more productive politically as well as economically?

Perhaps so, politically it is already a plus since we will retain the friendship of an old friend who unlike our former colonizers never invaded this country. Economically on a cost-benefit analysis the benefit of retaking the islands by whatever means is definitely going to be higher than the benefit that our shred negotiators can wangle from a trading partner the presumptive next economic superpower of the world in the near future.

For people still harping about multilateral negotiations with China please perish the thought. Our allies as mentioned earlier are glued on their selfish and narrow country interest be this economic or political. We cannot be used as a pawn to advance these interests.

What are the possible areas for discussion with China? First of we would suggest freedom to fish in disputed areas. There are templates for fishing agreement in parts of the world.

This is the most urgent. China could help us develop our mariculture and aquaculture to lessen fishing in the high seas which is always perilous and costly for our fishermen who have to chase the fish in the deep blue seas.

Of energy resources sharing system, this can be done using the North Atlantic template enjoyed by the U.K. and Scandinavian countries. Here we have to point to Article 12 as an impediment but since we are already on the verge of amending the charter to allow for a federalist set-up, we might as well include this item in the agenda. Last but not the least is to pick up where GMA left off.

For those who fear a Chinese hegemon we do not believe that this is in the cards. It is not to the best interest of China to push the envelope in the China Sea too far, not with the Seventh Fleet and a reinvigorated Japanese Navy closely watching developments. China does not need to dominate the economy of Asia or the Asean which she needs as a market and as allies to support her diplomatic moves in the world scene. A benevolent superpower will get China much farther than being a hegemon.

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10 Comments

  1. Eugenio A. Pulmano on

    I am not sure about Mr. Romero’s assumtptions; they could be wrong, and thus his conclusion flawed.

  2. How much did the Chinese pay you? You write like a traitor to the Philippine people and international law. This is a shameful story of China promotion.

    Sat NO to China. The Sea is The Philippines.

    Rename it now West Philippines Sea in all media, all government documents.

  3. It was just in 1978 that the Phils. Government officially file a claim over SCS to the U.N. but it was rejected by the U.N., The U.N. ordered the Phils. to vacate those 7 islands they occupied, the Phils. then reply with a letter claiming they just wanted to “Oversee” those 7 islands but not the whole SCS. In the Second Thomas Shoal, the Phils. towed a junk warship to the ground and refuse to leave, when China protested and demanded to the Phils. to tow the junk warship back, the Phils, assured China it will but they just do not have the facilities to do so at the meantime. Regarding the scarborough shoal, even in Phils. own map , it clearly shows that it was outside the territory of the Phils. Island. Regarding the Arbitrary case, by conscience the Phils. knows whether they won it by clean hand or not, aside for it was not in accordance with the proper proceeding, The court is not back by the U.N. , its is illegal, null and void, where can you see even a Polish Judge that was assigned to defense for China sided with the Phils. ? Ridiculous but true. Whether the Phils. win or lose in the Arbitrary case they still have to talk with China or what else did the Phils. wanted ? To declared a war with China ? Did the Filipino knows that Pres. Aquino already planted a Third World War time bomb ahead in SCS ? Do the Phils. wanted to ignite the bomb or they wanted a peaceful solution ? just asking…

  4. We are at war. The chinese is at war with the US, at least that is their mindset. First they stake their claim to the seas by publishing their nine dash map in the 1940s. Then they need money to finance and they got it with their decades long economic boom growing at double digit GDP. While hoarding their money, they established their clout on most Asian countries and other countries that are loosely influenced by the US. They give grants (or you can call it bribe) and economic assistance (promise substandard rails and infrastructures) to these nations so that when the time comes, these nations will back their interests or risk loosing their grants.
    They are catching up with the technology of the West, Russia and Japan by reverse engineering their products. They are advancing the technology by hacking into other nations research and development programs. They are slowly advancing their territories and marching their army to the West Philippine Sea, East China Sea, the Himalayas and yellow sea.
    All these things being pursued by China are mini steps towards victory. The cyber attacks, threat of economic sabotage, slow inching of territories towards the enemy all fall short of the definition of actual war. They know all too well what the rules of engagement are and they are very cunning in utilizing this. Slowly they are accumulating strength and muscle so that they will be prepared for the big war. For now they know they will certainly loose if they will wage war with US so they are fine with winning their small battles. However in this last decade, they are accelerating their war program as indicated by their aggressiveness and willingness to defy international opinion. The fearful thing is, if the world let this happen, then it will truly shake the earth.

  5. nic olopolis on

    Jose, you are a traitor to suggest giving Philippine’s EEZ to the PRC. Your article is based on the premise that Chinese can be trusted whereas the USA cannot.
    History has shown just the opposite.
    Yes, this is a win-win, just the way the PRC has always wanted it: it wins the SCS and it wins all its resources in it, should the Philippines decide to follow your courses of action.
    So please tell us, where does the Philippines win? It is never indicated in your post.

  6. Also, the chinks may have paid you as well. To temper that growing world perception of them as a bully to smaller nations, they are painting themselves that semblance of diplomacy by sowing disinformation. Recently news about the Chinese government paying print media to make up articles that purportedly side with the Chinese in this South China Sea issue. Maybe you are one of these that got paid. LOL.

  7. This is exploitation of Philippine weakness, corruption, poverty, and powerless. Are you afraid to face China? Are we trying to appeased China by not boldly fighting for what is part of Philippines?

  8. Sounds like you are on of China’s mouthpiece.

    The events and trends points in other directions than what you are trying to portray.

    Only if china is isolated and neutralized, and the local chinese here expelled, will there be peace and progress in our country.

    Chinese corrupted our government and financial system (ex. the recent multi-million $ heist, who is benefiting behind the bank secrecy racket)? who si cashing in on the energy racket- Petilla’s FIT? and turned our people practically into addicts?

  9. Ignacio Balbutin on

    What an unintelligent essay plastered with pro-chinese and anti U.S. propaganda. China did not invade us with their armies because they can never win with the US on our side but they invaded us by supporting the communist and by sending drugs to our country to weaken us. China grew and became big by conquering and annexing weaker counties or territories as what it has done to Mongolia and Tibet. This is what China has done to us compared to the US who are helping us in many ways. I hope your open your eyes of the real characteristic of the dragon. It always spew fires wherever it go.