China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Xiao Jinhua has remarked on a recent provocation in Manila when agitators hung banners from bridges reading “welcome to The Philippines, province of China”. The banners unfurled on the two year anniversary of a UN arbitration ruling in favour of The Philippines regarding South China Sea claims were seen as offensive both to China and to Filipinos with Han Chinese heritage. Xiao stated,
“It’s kind of a vicious attack not only on the relations between our two countries but also on the independent foreign policy pursued by President Duterte and his administration…
…It [the Philippines] has never been [a] part of China…not now, not ever”.
But more than anything, the spirit behind these banners is a reflection of the feelings not just of local agitators let alone pranksters, but moreover the underlying message of the banners reflects a dangerous and irresponsible policy on the part of many of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s opponents who seek open hostility with China.
At present China’s One Belt–One Road initiative offers developing countries throughout the world but particularly those in Asia, a chance to accelerate the pace of long term sustainable development more thoroughly than any other major international project in recent history let alone in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, with China looking to invest in economies throughout south east Asia, The Philippines stands to gain greatly by encouraging further Chinese investment throughout all regions of the country.
If even the United States, itself an economic giant is waking up to the realisation that a protectionist stance vis-a-vis China is bad for consumers, living standards, small and medium sized businesses and the large corporations trading publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, what hope does The Philippines have of withstanding a policy of hostility to China that is risky even for mighty America?
Then there are statements coming from the Liberal Party of The Philippines and the unhinged Senator Antonio Trillanes which allude to readying the military for a possible confrontation with China. At present, The Philippine military is woefully under-equipped, thus making the very idea of taking on a fellow ASEAN state in a military battle a difficult endeavour. Extrapolated further, attacking the Chinese superpower would not only be a suicide mission from a military point of view, but from a position of common sense it would be ludicrous as China continues to work with The Philippines as a positive partner for peace through prosperity inducing inter-connectivity initiatives. Chinese President Xi and Philippine President Duterte have shown a commitment to a partnership that can overcome any lingering disagreements. The fact that some in the Philippine opposition have compared the prospect of pan-Asian peace through prosperity to some kind of “surrender” belies the dangerous ignorance which underscores the Liberal political program (or lack thereof).
Even if the US would fight a war against China on behalf of The Philippines, something that is almost certainly never going to happen, how would Filipinos benefit from having two nuclear superpowers destroy The Philippines in large scale war irrespective of which nuclear superpower won?
These are questions that a child could answer yet the simple logic obscured by the madness which underlines the Sinophobic policies of President Duterte’s opponents is lost on those who put their own narrow political ambitions above the short, medium and long term interests of the Filipino people.
A country like The Philippines can and should benefit from opening up internal markets to foreign investment from every wealthy country in the world, so long as these agreements are done on a free and fair basis that do not bind The Philippines into any entangling long term alliances.
As China is set to fully overtake the US as the world’s strongest economy, it would be worse than national suicide but indeed metaphorical national homicide to cut The Philippines off from one of the best possible opportunities for development in the world as represented by China. A war with China would of course be literal homicide and the blood of the Filipinos shed in such a conflict would be on the hands of those who provoked such a conflict. At present it is Duterte’s opposition who seek such a provocation while Duterte has said on multiple occasions that China is a partner and a friend whose relationship with The Philippines ought to grow larger.
There is nothing dignified about wanting to make a developing country poorer by closing doors to economic advancement for the sake of misplaced pride. Likewise, there is nothing logical in provoking conflict when peace and material advancement are beckoning.
Opposing Duterte’s historically good relations with China is the most deranged policy one could imagine. While a Jordanian UN High Commissioner for Human Rights once said that President Duterte needs a “psychiatric evaluation”, the only people who require such treatment are those advocating for hostility with China. Such policies are not only insane but dangerously so.