China’s recent incursion in the Benham Reef and its planned construction in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoals and Paracel are concrete evidences that China remains at the center of geopolitics in the Asia Pacific region.
Aside from Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, the other much less discussed but also potentially explosive issue is the One China principle which the Beijing government insists on imposing on the world. This principle is now facing strong challenges, not from Western powers, but from the citizens of Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The student led Yellow Umbrella Movement initiated a pro-autonomy movement that has turned into a political struggle to regain Hong Kong’s autonomy from China’s rule. In Taiwan, coincidentally, the pro-independence movement begun also with a youth led group called the Sunflower Movement. The culmination of this movement was the election, last year, of Ms. Tsai of the independence leaning DPP.
While the two movements may seem to be separate struggles, there are several underlying similarities. The most obvious is that supporters of both struggles may consider themselves as Chinese in terms of ancestry but not citizens of China. In a recent television interview, one of the founders of the Yellow Umbrella Movement emphasized that he considered his ancestry as Chinese but his loyalty was to Hong Kong which he considers as his homeland.
In a recent Economist article on Taiwan, a survey was quoted which had very revealing results. In Taiwan, 60 percent of its citizens identified themselves as Taiwanese; and, only three percent called themselves as Chinese. The remainder identified themselves as both Taiwanese and Chinese. However, among those between the ages of 20 to 30, 85 percent identified themselves as Taiwanese.
This radical change in the attitudes of the Taiwanese people is being reflected in the current political situation in that country. The once dominant party which basically supports the one China policy, the Kuomintang (KMT) has suffered serious defeats in recent polls. It has seen a deep plunge in its popularity ratings. The present party in power is the Democratic Progressive Party ( DPP) which rejects the One China principle and is considered as an independence leaning party. However, the realities of geopolitics has forced the leaders of DPP not to openly oppose the one China principle.
The most interesting political phenomenon in Taiwanese politics is the emergence of the New Power Party (NPP) as a third alternative to the two major political parties – KMT and DPP. The NPP was formed in 2015 as an offshoot of the Sunflower Student Movement which openly advocated for Taiwan independence. In the 2016 elections, the NPP aligned itself with the DPP in order to defeat the pro-One China Kuomintang Party. The NPP is now the third largest party in Taiwan.
A recent Economist article calls the One China principle as “polite fiction.” Most countries in the world maintain representative offices in Taiwan which are actually embassies. Taiwan is a global trading power and is also a manufacturing powerhouse especially in semiconductors and electronics.
China’s continuing persecution of dissenters and its clampdown on religious freedom, together with its open interference in Hong Kong’s politics, are evidences that there is no such thing as “one country, two systems’ policy under the present Chinese regime. These will only serve to harden political attitudes, in Taiwan and Hong Kong, against any political unification with China.
The reality is that there are two Chinas; or, there is one China and one Taiwan. This geopolitical struggle has the potential to cause more serious conflicts than even the conflicts in the South China Sea.
I was very happy about the numerous positive response I received from readers about my article on saving the Rizal Memorial Stadium as a cultural and historical site. Most of the messages were about memories of their own experiences in that iconic stadium.
Sonny Coloma wrote: “ ... thanks for advocating that the Rizal memorial Stadium be preserved. As early as when I was in high school (mid-sixties), I used to watch MICAA (Yco vs. Ysmael) games there, seeing the legends of Philippine basketball like Caloy Loyzaga, Ed Ocampo and Narciso Bernardo. It would be a waste and a shame if this heritage site is razed.”
My AIM classmate Vic Ramirez wrote: “It would help if Rizal Memorial is declared by the National Historical Commission as a historic landmark. Under the law, the NHC has certain powers to preserve our heritage. That’s what we did in my town of Baao, Camarines Sur. We organized our town’s historical society and got NHC to declare the monument of the late Jorge Barlin, first Filipino bishop as a historical landmark.”
The two cities that suffered the worst destruction during the Second World War were Warsaw and Manila. This is the reason why we have so few existing cultural and historical landmarks from our past. It seems to me that the preservation of the few, rare remaining architectural landmarks from the pre World War II era deserve to be protected rather than turned into malls.
The Australian Burra Charter may serve as our guide for the preservation of our nation’s cultural heritage. The Charter identifies three levels for heritage structure. The first level is Preservation or maintaining a place in its existing state and preventing further deterioration. The second level is restoration or returning a place to a known earlier state without the introduction of new material. The third level is reconstruction or returning a place to a known earlier state with the introduction of new material.
We need to preserve, restore or reconstruct cultural and historic landmarks and turn Metro Manila into a metropolis that we can again proudly call the Pearl of the Orient.
Young Writers’ Hangout for Kids and Teens on April 1, 8, 22, 29, May 13, 20, 27 and June 3 (1:30 pm-3 pm). Wonder of Words Workshop (6 sessions) on May 8, 10, 12, 15, 17 and 19 (1:30-3:30 pm for 8-12 years old/ 4-6pm for 13-17 years old). Classes at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street. For registration and fee details text 0917-6240196 or email email@example.com.