DENG Xiaoping, the father of modern China, is most famous for his quip “to be rich is glorious“ in contrast to Mao’s “poverty is good.” On China’s place in the world, Deng also had a practical doctrine.” Hide your strength, bide your time, never take the lead.” In short, China should not attract too much global attention on the way to its dream of becoming an economic and military superpower. Deng was afraid of the animosity that overt and naked ambition would trigger on a global scale.
Current paramount leader Xi Jinping, clearly, has no patience with Deng’s sage advice.
A pliant Communist Party, via its central committee, followed by a vote from the rubber-stamp parliament, has abolished the 10-year term limit on China’s leadership and made Xi president for life. Except for the clueless Mr. Donald “Trade wars are good” Trump, many in the democratic world have expressed unease. The unbroken tradition of a 10-year tenure for a modern Chinese leader is now gone for good with the coronation of Emperor Xi. The stable, seemingly tradition-bound Xi, once seen by the European Union as a counterfoil to a clueless and erratic Trump, is now being reassessed by the EU leaders.
Xi also diverged from Deng on how China’s leaders should carry themselves as they try to fulfill the grand ambition of achieving global greatness.
Deng modernized China on the solid thesis that the state should be dominant over the party. And personality cults, Mao’s own imprint on China, do not occupy a place in a modern China that should, in Deng’s view, co-exist well and amicably with the rest of the world.
Xi, in a clear rebuke of Deng, has reasserted the grand thesis of the Communist Party’s absolute control over the state. Xi holds the view that the party – under his leadership – will be the driving factor in that inexorable path to global greatness and leadership, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, now president of the New York-based Asia Society Policy Institute. Rudd is a scholar on China over the past 40 years, who is now currently taking his doctoral degree on contemporary China at Jesus College, Oxford. If there is one person who deeply understands China and Xi, and has dealt with Xi as the leader of another mighty economy, it is Rudd.
Whether Emperor Xi is right, or whether Deng‘s sage advice remains the less controversial and clearer path to China’s attainment of global greatness, only history will tell. The short-term problem is how China’s rise and ambitions impact on us. The Philippines is not a mere spectator in the overall scheme of Emperor’s Xi ambition and goals. We are entangled in Xi’s aggressive dash to attain global greatness.
If the country does not cut loose from this tragic entanglement, we will be reduced to a greatly diminished country, one reduced to a vassal status. Because there is hardly any positive in the embrace of China.
On trade, the imbalance is on us. Year in and year out, imports from China overwhelm our niggard export shipments.
Hardly anything is concessional or preferential in our trade relationship with China.
Japan is tops on ODA giving and it offers better terms on loans from Japan-based multilateral institutions.
But those imbalances are just minor irritants compared with the territory-grabbing that China aggressively and routinely does of territories that belong to us.
China does not co-own the West Philippine Sea. It is ours and ours alone and the nine-dash line was a concoction of China to grab the Scarborough Shoal and other Philippine possessions from time immemorial. Even the narratives that Chinese fishermen used to venture into the Shoal in the days of the old – and there are Chinese names for the areas in and around the Shoal – is probably as fictitious as the nine-dash line.
China uses its naked power to build military fortifications and artificial islands on Philippine territory, then shifts to soft power to gain entry into our Last Frontier, the Benham Rise. Under ruses called “joint scientific researches,“ elements of the People’s Liberation Army have successfully conducted hydrographic surveys in Benham – then vested Chinese names on the five most strategic areas of Benham.
What is more scary, said former national security adviser J. Roilo Golez, is the possibility that China might be scouting for the choice areas underwater that can conceal their submarines, both a strategic and tactical advantage in naval conflicts.
On China, we can assume the worst of motives and we are not far from the truth.
So, why are we embracing China and uttering nonsense that we co-own the West Philippine Sea? Why is Mr. Roque, the hopeful one, speaking on China and not Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, the expert?
The mendicancy is unfathomable, given that China is the number one source of shabu dumped into the country. And Chinese nationals are the ones running the shabu processing labs – and processing the death-dealing drug – in Central Luzon and elsewhere.
The truth is our China entanglement is the surest formula into achieving vassal state status. The wise policy is to cut loose for the sake of the current generation and the next.
Asia for Asians? There is another name for that. The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, the horror in the middle of the last century. History tells us that one ended badly.