Martin Jacques in Manila for the second time
FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) - September 15, 2019 - 12:00am

I was at Sofitel for the discussion with Martin Jacques’ book “When China Rules the World.” He has updated the book with more research and figures to substantiate his thesis. Most of his predictions that he talked about when he was here in  2012 have come true.

To me, it has a problem with the semantics of the title, specifically the word “rules” presents different interpretations. I venture to say that for most of the businessmen in the audience the word “rules’ means China has won or will win the super power contest with United States. I don’t think that is the context in which Jacques wrote the book.

Jacques, a British author,  believes it is high time the Philippines stopped acting like a proxy for the United States and resolve its sea dispute with China. This is the issue at the core of his book. China’s pursuit is less of power as it is of influence. This comes from centuries of history and tradition. This makes China a civilization state rather than Western countries which are nation states. His point in writing the book is to substantiate the thesis that there is a vast difference. It lasted for centuries. It does not want nor does it seek to conquer or interfere with other countries’ governments. It does it in other ways primarily by funding development and deserving the tribute of the countries it cooperates with.

The Chinese also point to the Muslim sultan Paduka Pahala who visited the Chinese emperor and died there.

He was given a state funeral. I met with many relatives of the Muslim Sultan who still live there and became Chinese.

His book is about lessons on how China operates as a civilization state and how developing countries like the Philippines can best deal with it for a working relationship.

The Philippines has a problem adopting that relationship with China because it has developed a Western-centric mentality after 50 years of American colonization. That hinders the country from recognizing the importance of political and economic relations with China as a uniquely civilization state..

“The Philippines must recognize which way the world is moving and what is happening to their own region. They need the big picture, not starting with the little picture which is some rocky islands. You can’t start thinking about the future of the Philippines in those terms because this region is being absolutely transformed in a remarkably short space of time by the rise of China. To be frank with you, historically speaking, forget about America in this region. It is in decline. It is in rampant decline,” Jacques said.

“The future of this region for the indefinite future is going to be more and more bound up with China. Therefore the critical relationship not just for the Philippines but for Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and even Japan in the longer run is China.”

I prefer the subtitle of  Jacques’  book rather than the title. “When China Rules The World”: The consequence is “The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order.”

China does not have a history of overseas, maritime-based colonization, preferring instead to expand its reach westward in its own continent.

It has a very sophisticated culture with an extremely advanced form of governance, making it one of the most competent states in the world.

Jacques said he believes the Philippines can resolve its ongoing territorial dispute with China over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea without involving the US.

He does not believe the Philippines should abandon its territorial claim over the Panatag Shoal, noting that he is agnostic about whose claim is more legitimate.

“It’s a difficult problem but not an impossible problem to sort out. The argument over the island should not be allowed to derail the relationship with China, to poison the relationship and to sabotage the relationship. That is so short sighted. That is so backward looking. That is so regressive. The Philippines has got to find a way of handling the island question in the context of engaging with China.”

Jacques said it is not surprising that the Philippines “feels itself to be almost a proxy for the United States” in the Americans’ pivot toward Asia. He praised President Duterte to develop closer relations with China to cultivate an independent foreign policy.

“What the Philippines shouldn’t do and I think it is sorely tempted to do and if I may say so, being a little bit down that road, is to think, ‘Well, we can sort out the Chinese with our American allies. Anyway, they’re encouraging us to be a little bit vocal about this question.’ I’m afraid that has happened. What’s happened is the relationship with China has deteriorated and the Philippines is in a way been a bit of a stalking horse for the American pivot in the region and I don’t think this is good news for the country. If what I am saying is true, in that the future of this region is China, they are making the wrong point in asking the wrong question. The question is not how can we have an argument with China, but how can we get on with China?”

And finally, a good example of China as a civilization state is The Modern Silk Road. It has been interpreted as  “a new era of globalisation”. It is not new. It is a present interpretation of the Old Silk Road which was China’s way of getting to the world from centuries back. The BRI is an open arrangement in which all countries are welcome to participate.

Reliable sources focused to 71 economies geographically located along BRI transport corridors, including China. In 2017, these economies received 35% of global foreign direct investments and accounted for 40% of global merchandise exports.

For the 70 BRI “corridor economies” (excluding China), projects in all sectors that are already executed, in implementation, or planned are estimated to amount to $575 billion.?

If completed, BRI transport projects could reduce travel times along economic corridors by 12%, increase trade between 2.7% and 9.7%, increase income by up to 3.4% and lift 7.6 million people from extreme poverty.

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