IF the United States has been Uncle Sam to us Filipinos, since practically the 1900s, then China is the proverbial Big Brother dating back to the 13th Century. But in the current scheme of geopolitics over the South China Sea, the relationships have become more complicated.
Washington and Beijing are now sources of some of our anxiety.
It is obvious the US will not draw its gun in the holster unless its interests are directly threatened by China’s moves, acting with such haste and determination in the Spratlys, filling massive reclamation with sand and building infrastructure so fast that even before the rest of the world can bat an eyelash, Beijing has already cemented its occupation of our territory.
All we Filipinos can do is run to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice and cite our rights under the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea, all because Big Brother is behaving aggressively.
Beijing is missing out on global sentiment, not that it couldn’t care less but it sees no pressing need to soothe our–and our fellow Asean countries’– frayed nerves. It is acting out not the sentiment of a big brother but of the neighborhood bully.
In Washington, the Obama Administration is letting loose the canons of rhetoric by saying in no uncertain terms it is “concerned” — not worried — about China’s bullying tactics in the region, specifically referring to the land reclamations. Alas, that is all that Uncle Sam can do for us.
Given our haplessness over what is happening to our sovereignty, the time is ripe for our foreign policy people to get back on the drawing board and come up with a more strategic approach to Big Brother. China’s foreign ministry has said the work in the islands would eventually be for the good of all, primarily because the infrastructure would serve as a safe haven for the shipping industry in times of extremely bad weather.
Can we swallow our pride without choking on it and listen to what Big Brother is really saying despite its blatant disregard of such diplomatic terms as sovereign rights, which in this case are our rights and those of our Asean brethren?
For that matter, can Beijing take on a civil approach toward us?
Based on the latest data from the Department of Treasury/Federal Reserve Board, Beijing is Washington’s biggest creditor holding $1.239 trillion worth of US treasury securities as of January 2015.
We also know that the combined forces of the People’s Liberation Army, People’s Liberation Army Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force is the largest military in the world, with 2.3 million active personnel, an estimated 500,000 in reserves. That is according to the Sydney, Australia-based Lowy Institute for International Policy.
The Lowy Institute also notes that “To a large degree, the modernization of China’s armed forces has been fueled by its rapid economic growth over the last quarter century, with spending on the military increasing every year since 1994. In 2014 China announced a 12.2 percent increase in military spending to $131.57 billion.”
China’s $3.84 trillion in foreign exchange reserves as of end-December 2014, is also the largest in the world, according to data Beijing released in January.
In dealing with Big Brother, we must come to grips with the fact that our own backyard is in shambles, and most of our politicians and bureaucrats are corrupt. The praise releases from Malacañang and its line ministries can never redeem our people from their misery, and international arbitration may take years if not decades to come up with a final decision on such issue as big as sovereignty in South China Sea.
We must come up with a group of technocrats, unsullied by politics, whose raison d’etre shoulders the responsibility of dealing with a superpower that does not care about UNCLOS and international arbitration.
The output of such a group can be measured in terms of progress in getting China to open up in terms of its real motives in the Spratlys, for instance, and how we Filipinos may work with our Chinese brothers in making the world a better place.
This may be a bitter pill to swallow at this point, but it’s never too late especially when the future of our 7,200 islands and 100 million people is at stake.
Big Brother, you must stop acting like the neighborhood bully. You must give us little brothers the chance to grow and be a part of this world order you are trying to create.