THIS nation is now caught in a tug-of-war pitting the geo- political ambitions of two mighty nations each vying for the protection of their respective spheres of political and economic interests in this part of the world. Using tried and tested hegemonic strategies of tactical alliances reminiscent of the first half of the last century which brought about a series of hot and cold wars, the small players in this continent are now enticed to join the ranks of both camps. Today China’s influence in the Mekong Delta is pretty much established even as U.S hegemony in this country and East Asia is acknowledged.
For a historical perspective, China the colossus of Asia swept over central plains of Europe with the legendary Mongolian golden horde of Genghis Khan even as the pirate Limahong threatened the small nations of Southeast Asia in the eighteenth and nineteenth. In the twentieth century however China was colonized by the Europeans and the Japanese who surrounded it with vassal states like Mongolia and enclaves like Macau and Hong Kong. After the Great War China was able to consolidate her possessions having secured its northern and eastern borders that includes Mongolia Tibet etc. Today she wants to secure its southern borders in the China Sea.
On the other hand the U.S was able to extend its power and influence in the Asia Pacific after the Spanish-American war which sharpened her appetite for colonialism after acquiring Puerto Rico, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Guam and he Philippines. After the Second World War with the defeat of her only rival Japan she dominated the Asia Pacific and continues to rule its waves thanks to its powerful armada and bases in the region that effectively contain China. Today the seventh fleet allows the U.S to preserve its sphere of influence and project its might all over the Asia-Pacific through military alliances in East and South East Asia.
Under the so-called EDCA arrangement, we are now targeted to become part of the U.S containment strategy, which the U.S president describes euphemistically as her “Pivot to Asia “.
The Philippines has been a useful U.S ally. Since the turn of the century when she annexed this country for a paltry amount of $20 million, the archipelago has always been considered by America as a jump off point to the rich market of the legendary Cathay of Marco Polo. It also happens to be the most forward position of the Americans to the Chinese continent and guards the choke points guaranteeing the safe passage of precious U.S cargo emanating from the Middle East like energy etc.
To get this country securely within its fold the U.S, is now introduced the so-called EDCA. The narrative is that it is both carrot and stick—an enhancement of our mutual defense agreement ostensibly to thwart Chinese hegemonic aspirations in the China Sea and secondly to pre-position typhoon rescue requirements.
These promises however do not square with the realpolitik of the US. The truth is and president Obama was pretty candid about this, the U.S has no intention of interdicting Chinese encroachment in the Spratlys or elsewhere in the China Sea. The U.S which is not a signatory to the U.N Law of the Sea would rather that its little brown brother go to ITLOS for the settlement of this pesky issue. This is understandable given the fact that the mighty U.S cannot afford to offend the Asian colossus which she needs politically to secure North Korea in its cage, avoid the Russian bear hug which would galvanize the two powerful nations into a formidable war machine and support her in the U.N. Economically the U.S needs the fastest growing nation in the world to promote liquidity in the U.S economy and to open up its market to U.S products and investments.
Indeed China and the U.S are not strange bedfellows in the world stage. Their economies complement each other. It is not therefore surprising that as we speak the U.S and Chinese navies have just enjoyed a short honeymoon in Hawaii locked in a joint naval exercise.
A modus vivendi between the super powers are quite obvious with China guaranteeing safe passage that is freedom of navigation in the China Seas as the U.S turns a blind eye at vociferous complaints by this country and Vietnam at China’s creeping and gradual exploitation of the resources claimed by the above countries. Better that China achieve its energy self-sufficiency close to home that she reaching out aggressively at energy deposits in other parts of the world where the Seven Sisters reign supreme thus preserving the energy equilibrium and the oligopolistic hold of the oil companies in energy markets.
So where does that leave this country in the scheme of superpower arrangements? Since the two giants have already apparently entered into some entente cordiale with fixed boundaries —China allowed roaming freely in the China Sea with its sphere of influence covering the Asean countries while the U.S is allowed to spread its sphere of influence the straits of Japan and indeed the Pacific Ocean which covers the APEC communities. With this demarcation line reminiscent of the one forged between Spain and Portugal in the fifteenth century both super powers intend to promote a Pax Asiana.
With the EDCA this country has joined the East-Asians—Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia to bolster the U.S line of defense, its security corridor. Under this arrangement, which effectively encircles China in the same way that, the U.S inspired the creation of Asean to encircle Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The problem as the saying goes —when the elephant fights the grass under gets trampled. With U.S bases in the Philippines-the most forward position of the US defense perimeter we will become the prime target of China when push comes to a shove. Remember Pearl Harbor and Clark? They were hit by the Japan before the US realized that they were at war!