The Philippine government’s tiff with China over some islands in the South China Sea does not bode well for the 2015 integration plan of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean).
China is an economic powerhouse that trades heavily with each of the Asean countries. With its strong economy, it also has plenty of extra funds available to invest in developing countries such as the Philippines.
However, this has become a problem in the past months what with President Aquino branding China as an aggressor in the region, even to the point of comparing its actions to those of Adolf Hitler during World War II.
This name-calling is poor branding as it aggravates the conflict with China instead of hoping to achieve a diplomatic solution on the issue of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
We ask the question whether it is “presidential” to issue such controversial accusations against China, a neighbor in the region and one of our trade partners? Is this correct branding for the problem at hand?
We say no to both questions. While we may be obligated to support our president due to his being the head of our country, we disagree with the manner in which he is expressing his outrage at China’s expansionist tendencies.
By branding China as “Nazi” or “Hitler” and using other negative comparisons will only heighten the dispute in the area given its serious impact on Chinese sensitivities. Filipinos are known for their diplomacy in the region and this is perhaps the first time the country has engaged in a “word war” with a neighboring country.
While we realize that this is part of the government’s political play, we also see that this strategy can only have diminishing returns. China in fact has smartly labeled the negative attack as “amateurish”. We can only agree.
What we don’t want is an escalation of the conflict into one wherein the military will become involved. This can only snowball into an even bigger clash, a new world war is even possible, since Vietnam, Japan, and South Korea, together with the US, will now be involved.
Both China and the Philippines (and the other nations claiming territories in the area) have historical basis for their claims. The best way to settle this issue is through peaceful diplomatic means as well as international arbitration.
In the meantime, the strong “branding” China has been receiving is not helping as it has portrayed the country as a strong-arm “terror” in the Asian region. We need to use with prudence this powerful tool if we are to survive and thrive in a global community.