All about history or hegemony?

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc -
Much has been said about the anti-Japan riots in China. For one, as China rants, that Japan brought the rumpus upon itself with Prime Minister Koizumi’s visit to a World War II shrine where POWs had been butchered, and its release of yet another history textbook that whitewashes its military atrocities. True, Japan has matured since War’s end, turning pacifist, aiding victim-nations with millions of dollars, and creating wealth and goods that enriched the region. But it sure can match such strides with more than then-Prime Minister Murayama’s 1995 apology for past misdeeds by admitting so in its classrooms, to calm neighbors’ nerves.

Then again, China is no stickler for historical facts either, teaching in its own schools that Tiananmen’s 1989 calm demonstrations were a violent uprising and that the Korean War began with a US invasion. It glosses over the 30 million deaths from famine in its 1959-1961 Great Leap Forward, the lives wrecked by the ’60s Cultural Revolution, and the slaughter of tens of thousands of Muslims in Yunnan and mountain tribesmen in Taiwan in the 1870s pacification, not to forget Tibet in the 1950s. Korea has joined the fray, twitting Japan’s textbooks and China’s new line too that Koguryu was once its administrative region. Yet, Korea too is a history drubber, downplaying for one that President Park Chun Hee, architect of its economic miracle, was an officer of the Japanese occupation army in Manchuria in the 1930s.

Analysts lament that the attacks on Japanese consulates and citizens – no doubt egged on by Chinese leaders – come at a time when their economic ties are peaking. In 2004 China overtook America to become Japan’s biggest trading mate. Japan, the world’s second largest economy, has been China’s biggest trade partner in three of the past four years. The two economies are fast integrating, with cheap Chinese goods deluging Japan’s shops, and Japanese machines running China’s factories. Together they have launched an East Asian Community, bringing ASEAN and Korea with themselves.

Beneath the history to-do and the robust trading, however, boil major areas of conflict. One of them is competition for energy resources. China is still hurting from Russian’s decision to pump Siberian oil onto Japan ports instead of China pipes. And despite China warnings, Japan has begun oil explorations in disputed islands in the North China Sea.

And there’s the worrisome sight of China’s increasing militarization. As its GDP gallops, China has been upping military spending by 20 percent a year. Having refleeted the navy, it sent only recently a submarine spying in Japanese waters. Japan, banned by its constitution to militarize, is taking another route to Asian dominance. It has made a bid, under UN reforms, to be one of six new permanent though non-vetoing members of the Security Council. (The other candidates are Brazil, Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and India.) China, the only Asian among the five present veto-power members – with Britain, France, Russia and US – zealously is guarding the distinction. It wants to keep Japan out of influential position, more so after the latter joined the US in warning China against retaking Taiwan by force. Swift inroads of telecoms and open markets, meanwhile, pose insecurity to China’s communist rulers as citizens seek more freedoms.

How do all this affect RP? Conflict between the two economic powers will destabilize the region; concord will benefit it with commerce. China has been wooing RP, among ASEAN members, with military aid and joint exploitation of marine and possibly oil resources in the disputed Spratlys. Japan, after signing one with Mexico, is cobbling an economic pact with RP for freer trade, new investments, and placement of Filipino nurses, teacher and engineers in Japanese jobs. As a two-year sitter in the Security Council, RP can endorse Japan’s entry, if only to help strike a power balance in Asia.
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The tiff between Standard Chartered Bank and its former VP Manuel Baviera has set precedents. It is being discussed in the Senate while seven court cases pend on Baviera’s collection demand and SCB’s counter-claims, raising queries about where the legislature and judiciary separate powers. Quoting a senator, SCB executives had called it all "in aid of collection", for which the slighted lawmakers detained them, delineating perhaps what may or may not be repeated by lesser mortals. Most important though is the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s ruling on Baviera’s complaint, and thus defining what constitutes the crime.

Baviera had sued six SCB execs before the Dept. of Justice for fraud, and before the AMLC for money laundering. He said they bilked him of $8,000 to invest in overseas equity funds with promised 40-percent return, yet he lost $4,200. It turned out that the Securities & Exchange Commission had barred SCB from selling the foreign funds, so Baviera wants $2 million in actual and punitive damages.

The AMLC based part of its ruling on that of the SEC and DOJ. The DOJ had junked the complaint, finding no evidence of fraud. The foreign funds were listed abroad, though not locally, for which the SEC fined SCB. But the SEC and DOJ said selling foreign stocks was not a crime in itself. More so since Baviera had specified such investments in the contract. The agencies said the execs whom Baviera sued had assumed their posts only after he invested the $8,000. It was another bank officer who promised him the 40-percent take, yet he did not sue her.

The AMLC also differentiated SCB’s case with get-rich-quick scams that it had prosecuted. The latter promised nothing but blue skies while hiding its true investments. The former had let Baviera specify investment preferences in writing, but these happened to be unregistered with the SEC, which he was expected to know as a ranking SCB officer.
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