• An optimist’s view

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    GIL H. A. SANTOS

    THE dynamics of human activities, regardless of the time or era in world history, naturally and generally give any event two sides just as a coin has two sides—the bad and the good sides (depending on who perceives these sides).

    In Philippine history, the Spanish colonial period divided our society: the elite landed families and the oppressed tenants enslaved by the imperial socio-economic practices brought by the colonial masters. But it also brought the Christian civilization and values which have played major roles in the Phili[[ines’ development as a fragmented tribal nation.

    The succeeding American colonization brought us universal education and free enterprise and gave us “independence and freedom” (we had to fight for and against Spain) in 1946. But very few Filipinos realized the US used and manipulated us (all along) for its own national interest to be the world hegemon and the top economic-military power it is today.

    For centuries, the Americans treated the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans as their own private swimming pool. Washington’s allies in Europe and Asia (the US and its allies won the two world wars) rendered both oceans as the moat of the American imperial palace.

    The American dollar and language became the predominant currency and language in international trade and diplomacy—until today.

    But the big picture has surely been changing, as one follows the daily economic and geopolitical developments, since the Chinese Communist Party of Mao Zedongng emerged victorious over the US-backed Kuomintang Party of Generalissimo Chiang in 1949.

    And China now is united, challenging the US position in the world market with its dictatorial central communist government and nuclear war weaponry and troops (the world’s biggest military establishment). It uses its military supremacy over its Asia-Pacific neighbors.

    Beijing uses all the diplomatic and trade tools to get its objectives and ignore international opinion or perceptions because it believes this is the “Chinese century” and the centuries of American global dominance is on its way out.

    And it will sustain its rise on the combination of its dictatorial governance and its adoption of capitalist trade practices. It will continuously challenge the US military in the Pacific and the South China Sea while using its robust economy to help the development of smaller neighboring nations in the region, and the poorer nations of Africa and the predominantly Islamic Central Asian region.

    But Beijing is merely copying what the European colonial powers and the Americans did to control world trade, dominate the international sea lanes and oceans, and extended their colonial reach to Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia centuries ago.

    Actually, China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) offer of railway and infrastructure networks to connect Beijing with the Asean region, the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and Europe will not merely improve the economies of these regions. For China, it is also an alternative to the sea lane chokepoints against Beijing to sustain the Chinese economy and its ruling Communist Party’s central committee. Because it realizes that any shooting nuclear world war will be disastrous for its people too.

    In addition, the millions of Chinese troops and weapons are no match to the advanced technology and weaponry of the US. Beiing will surely lose a war with the US (who have more friends yet, as of now.) More countries are still distrustful of China, as President Xi Jinping admitted in a summit conference on world trade with the Group of 20 a couple of months earlier.

    China’s offer of economic funding and technical assistance to these infrastructure projects is naturally closely monitored by its competitors. The actual disbursements are smaller than the commitments. And economic counter-offers have come from the US, Japan, India, the European Union and the United Kingdom.

    And all these obviously are in anticipation that the world population by 2050 will be almost 10 billion. And food and water security will be one of the priorities of each national development plan.

    India and Japan have come out with an agreement to link by sea lanes Africa and Asia with the people-centric Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), which will uphold the sovereignty of its nation-members. This was announced during the last May annual conference of the Africa Development Bank in Ahmadabad. It will also be in partnership with the Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia headquartered in Jakarta, the Institute of Developing Economies (IDE-Jetro) headquartered in Tokyo, and the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) of New Delhi.

    This alliance will connect countries with the shores on the Sea of Bengal, Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, the Cape of Good Hope and the African countries fronting the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Clearly, it is a direct response to the Chinese economic offensive.

    It has also brought more funds disbursed to infrastructure projects in the Philippines and the rest of the Asean 10.

    The latest figures from the Philippine National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) shows the top foreign financial assistance to the Philippines’ 75 flagship (infrastructure) project as follows:

    Official Development Assistance (ODA) — P998.179 billion

    Japan — 226.89 billion

    General Appropriation Act (government funding–non-loan/grant) — 181.7 billion

    China — 164.55 billion

    South Korea and World Bank –9.0 billion

    Weighed against the military tension in the Asia-Pacific region, caused by the Chinese nine-dash line territorial claim to the South China Sea, the North Korean intermediate ballistic missile tests, and the close naval encounters between Chinese and US warships in the past, it would appear that this year the economic path is a preferred route to the future geopolitical-economic supremacy race.

    Nevertheless, monitor the daily developments very closely. And prepare for the worst.

    gilsmanilatimes@yahoo.com

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