A big picture of the boat fracas
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - June 30, 2019 - 12:00am

As far as I know, there are no definitive results on the Recto Bank collision. But despite that lack of knowledge, statements are being made by both critics and allies of President Rodrigo Duterte that do not inform ordinary Filipinos.

It is an unintelligent response to the problem of how to conduct foreign relations. Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s brash language he is a strong leader who will not be swayed one way or the other.

We all have biases and I am biased against US colonialists. One is how they influence who we choose as our leaders. The dissatisfaction with their chosen ones reached a disastrous peak when Benigno Aquino III or “Noynoy” became president. It was through him that the Philippines signed with the US the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Recently I saw Martin Jacques on You Tube for the TED program. He should come again and talk to Filipinos who would be better informed as they judge the recent boat incident in South China Sea.

As he wrote in his book “When China Rules the World” there are good reasons for this.

With the inevitable rise of China as no. 1 in the world economy it is important that we re-examine our foreign policy.

In his talk in Manila, he was keen to impart to Filipinos that we ought to be ready for the Chinese economic supremacy.

“China is going to change the world in two fundamental respects. First of all, it’s a huge, developing country with a population of 1.3 billion people, which has been growing for over 30 years at around ten percent a year. And within a decade, it will have the largest economy in the world. Never before in the modern era has the largest economy in the world been that of a developing country, rather than a developed country.

Secondly, for the first time in the modern era, the dominant country in the world, which is what I think China will become, will be not from the west and from very, very different civilizational roots.

It’s a widespread assumption in the West that as countries modernize, they also westernize. This is an illusion…China is not like the west, and it will not become like the west. It will remain, in very fundamental respects, very different.

How do we try and understand what China is? “I want to offer you three building blocks for trying to understand what China is like, just as a beginning. The first is this: that China is not really a nation-state. Okay, it’s called itself a nation-state for the last hundred years. But anyone who knows anything about China knows it’s a lot older than this…

What gives China it’s sense of being China, comes not from the last hundred years, not from the nation-state period, which is what happened in the West, but from the period, if you like, of the civilization-state. Customs like ancestral worship, of a very distinctive notion of the state, and likewise a very distinctive notion of the family, social relationships like guangxi, Confucian values, and so on, these are all things that come from the period of the civilization-state.”

“The relationship between the state and society in China is very different from that in the West. We in the West overwhelmingly seem to think, these days at least, that the authority and legitimacy of the state is a function of democracy. The problem with this proposition is that the Chinese state enjoys more legitimacy, and more authority, among the Chinese, than is true with any western state.

It’s obviously got nothing to do with democracy, because, in our terms, the Chinese certainly don’t have a democracy. But the reason for this is, firstly, because the state, in China enjoys a very special significance, as the representative, the embodiment, and the guardian of Chinese civilization, of the civilization-state. This is as close as China gets to a kind of spiritual role.

For one thousand years, the power of the Chinese state has not been challenged.

So there we have three building blocks for trying to understand the difference that is China: the civilization-state, the notion of race, and the nature of the state and its relationship to society. And yet we still insist, by and large, on thinking that we can explain China by drawing on western experience, looking at it through western eyes, using western concepts.”

“Well, what should our attitude be toward this world we see very rapidly developing before us? I think there will be good things about it, and bad things about it. But I want to argue, above all, a big-picture positive for this world. The arrival of countries like China and India, between them 38 percent of the world’s population, and others like Indonesia and Brazil and so on, represent the most important single act of democratization in the last 200 years….As humanists, we must welcome, surely, this transformation.

We cannot win the battle of ideology between China and the West simply by spirit. The success of China’s reforms and development is the real driving force of changing the world’s fixated thought patterns.

We are ecstatic that the Filipino crowd has finally found its strength and the way to express it. For the moment Duterte supporters are full of hope that Rodrigo Roa Duterte, an obscure mayor from Mindanao is the answer.

I don’t think he needs to be told about the treachery of evil. He has lived with it when he was mayor of Davao. But caveat emptor (avoid danger) the famous Latin quotation is relevant to him as well as to us. Evil is a constant in reality. The danger is to think that it can be destroyed with a magic wand. No matter how much he may wish it, it will not happen overnight. Nation building is a slow process of creating effective institutions that should last long after he is gone. And most of all he must keep in mind that as leader of the Filipino crowds that waited for him to remember always that he must not make “the perfect come in the way of the good.”

His role in history is to begin the process of change. We were subjected to an imperialist constitution from the Americans in favor of a presidential system. That ensured the rule of oligarchy as its new channel for imperialist rule.

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