No nation wars against itself

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

Last of a series
ULTIMATELY, this piece comes down to the next basic thing to people in a nation: livelihood. Or in the tradition of intellectuals, economy. In retrospect, we cite again a learned observation that though certain estimates put the number of Chinese in the Philippine demographics at a high enough figure of 27 million (more than what it takes to elect a Philippine President, i.e., the reported 16 million that catapulted the Digong to that post in 2016), the actual count of Chinese in the population of the country defies complete reckoning for at least three reasons. First, there appears a conscious effort to hide this actual count; second, population surveys do not take ethnicity into account; and third, second-generation offspring of intermarriages of Chinese and Filipinos are no longer counted as Chinese.

So, there is an enormous sector of the Philippine population whose Chinese antecedents have been lost to limbo. That’s not even one for the immigration bureau to unearth.

But does anybody care?

The better to focus now on the country’s economy. The signs are unmistakable anyway, as I in my initial, uninformed observation of Manila in the 1950s already saw. The current perception is that ethnic Chinese comprise a minuscule part of the Philippine population (one account puts it at 1 percent for impact), their control of the Philippine economy is 60 percent (for the truly great impact).

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To repeat, 1 percent of the population controls 60 percent of the economy, and that 1 percent is Chinese.

It has been reported that there are 15 top billionaires in control of Philippine commerce and industry, and of the 15, nine are pure-blooded Chinese, born in China and migrated to the Philippines in their youth: Henry Sy, John Gokongwei, Lucio Tan, George Ty, Tony Tan Caktiong, Andrew Tan, Ramon Ang, Lucio Co, Robert Coyuito. Their corresponding net worth, according to the 2017 ranking by Forbes Magazine, in billion dollars follows: $18, $5.5, $4.2, $3.6, $ 3.4, $2.5, $2.3, $1.8, and $1.5.

These moguls are engaged in diversified lines of business, but one observes that a common concern of all of them is real estate, reminiscent of a doctrine preached to us activists during the First Quarter Storm that capital is ultimately equated to land. This seems to be none truer than in the Philippines where the biggest capitalists are the biggest realtors as well. Need we to point to the former senator Manuel Villar, whose “sipag at tiyaga” is rhetoric that can be equated with large-scale subdivision development.

But then this seems to divert this discussion from its main concern of whether or not China will attack the Philippines as a result of the two countries’ conflict over the South China Sea. From our elaboration on the aspect of population, we arrived at the conclusion that China will be truly hard put at distinguishing among the Filipinos those who are Chinese and therefore need to be spared from Chinese military attacks.

And then again, in the context of current advances in warfare technology, wars are no longer conceived along lines of foot soldiers’ aggression but high-tech nuclear warhead strikes. Nuclear weapons don’t discriminate between nationalities. When the atomic bombs were first dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945, the destructive energy released by the bomb spread over miles of territory, killing hundreds of thousands in an instant.

My layman’s mind just cannot comprehend China unleashing its nuclear missiles against the Philippines indiscriminately, wiping out all 27 million (perhaps even more) Chinese of the 100 million Philippine population in one horrifying swoop. And in just as horrible a manner expunge 60 percent of the Philippine economy which, yes, you say it, is Chinese.

There just is so much Chinese in the PH-China row for the latter to let the conflict get out of hand.

President Duterte, early in his administration, seemed to be handling the matter very carefully, evincing a skill in diplomacy uncharacteristic in his person. He recognized that pushing the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling against China would not get the Philippines anywhere, an approach reciprocated by China with an equanimity of its own: a willingness to discuss the matter bilaterally just between the two of them.

It is the United States, for reasons known only to it, which has been working underhandedly to get the Philippine President to veer away from such a stance. With the assignment of new US Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim, who evidently made an excellent spadework that paved the way for the eventual successful meeting between President Duterte and US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, that initial belligerent attitude of Duterte’s toward the US made a 360-degree turnabout. Duterte proclaimed himself “a humble friend” of the United States.

That gets us finally zeroing in on the ultimate concern of this serial.

We recall the words spoken by then Chinese Premier Wen Yabao in reacting to the belligerent stance of then President Benigno Aquino 3rd on the South China Sea question in 2012. Wen said: “We are not a war-hungry nation but neither are we to back out of a fight when pushed against the wall.” The PCA ruling cannot be taken up with China in any manner whatsoever invoking legality. China has ignored the PCA proceedings from the very start. How can Duterte compel China to talk within the “four corners” of a ruling which China has never recognized in the first place?

In any case, China appears satisfied playing the many aces up its sleeve. Its donation of a great volume of heavy equipment for the reconstruction of Marawi City is one. This should prompt the sharp observer to note that China wouldn’t bother helping in the rehabilitation of a country which it intends to attack.

On the contrary, China’s act of generosity to an adversary is a great principle in war taught by Sun Tzu and put to good use by Mao Zedong in the entire period of the Chinese revolution: “Love your enemy.” It is even Christian, too.

Sun Tzu said: “The good general is one who wins a war without fighting a battle.”

So, to the final question: Will China attack the Philippines?

Why, haven’t we heard? Kung Hei Fat Choi! The Chinese New Year is now an official Philippine holiday.

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