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China’s aggression

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - April 12, 2021 - 12:00am

Our people should realize that China is not playing games with us. Filipinos need to look at the bigger picture. It’s not only about China’s presence in our exclusive economic zones. It’s more about China claiming supremacy over the Western Pacific region.

The days of United States’ maritime supremacy over the West Pacific Sea is now being challenged by China’s claim over the region. The Chinese military ships we see all around are a show of force to the Western world. They want to control the region and, as we all know, eventually reign as the supreme power of the world. The big question is, will the United States, a global power, allow China to gain ground and domination?

Last week’s visit to the West Philippine Sea by a television reporter was a dangerous attempt. Our Philippine Navy should warn Filipino citizens not to play around. The West Philippine Sea, a portion of the South China Sea, is not a playing field, especially at this time.

The navy exercises happening there is a matter that must be handled by the state and not its citizens. The problem is that we do not see our government seriously taking action to the encroachment or unauthorized visits of the Chinese vessels. The behavior of the Chinese in our waters is intriguing, questionable and brings so much concern to our citizens. But our President seems to be calmly accepting China’s actions.

China has strategically positioned their fighter jets, aircraft carriers, anti-submarine aircraft, military ships, etc. – not to mention their precision-guided munitions, orbital sensors and agile cyber capabilities – near the islands of Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. In fact, when Chinese vessels entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, Taiwan’s air force warned the Chinese right away. By the way, the same has happened in the past when Chinese vessels intruded the coastlines and waters of Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The USS John S. McCain was seen in the Taiwan Strait last week. According to the US Navy, they were conducting a routine transit of the Taiwan Strait but China cried foul, denouncing the US as “endangering the peace and stability” in the area.

Taiwan is a small country but she will not allow herself to be bullied by China. Taiwan knows what she wants. The Taiwanese are united in their stand towards China. Unlike our country, we are divided and so it makes it easier for China to invade us. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu in a recent press conference firmly said: “We are willing to defend ourselves without any questions and we will fight the war if we need to fight the war. And if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day we will defend ourselves to the very last day.” Sigh! What about us?

After our Foreign Secretary and Defense Secretary showed strong stands against China’s sending light fighter aircraft to fly (aside from patrol boats) over hundreds of Chinese vessels believed to be maritime militia within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), our President softened our position, directing his men to peacefully resolve the dispute.

So, how can we be taken seriously when clearly we are lost? We are weakened because we don’t know what we want. On one side we accept all the gifts from a friend supposedly a foe. On the other hand, we are angered by her intrusions or unwelcomed presence inside our territory. Yes, we have a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome.

Duterte has placed himself in a dilemma. Will he continue to nurture his relations with China? Does he really think China sees him as a best friend? Does China really care? China will do everything to get her way, even if it means donating a shipload of COVID-19 vaccines, giving huge loans left and right, etc. But don’t forget that there is always an exchange for all these advancements. After receiving the Sinovac donation, can you easily tell China to back off? Get your act together guys!

China has its own geopolitical agenda to conquer the world – politically and through military supremacy. We know how strong China is now economically. In the recent decade, China has clearly regained its strength. Whether the world agrees with her or not, she is powerful. If we want her to stop gaining ground in our territory, we must know how to act toward her. The problem is that our current President has a different approach many Filipinos detest.

Bottom line: China wants the US forces out of the South China Sea and its neighboring seas as it is one of the world’s important economic routes, where major trading-cargo ships (containing 80 percent of energy and almost 40 percent of trade imports) pass, where marine life is rich (12 percent of the global fish catch comes from here), including abundant oil reserves (holding around 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 11 billion barrels of oil).

In the article, South China Sea: What’s China’s plan for its ‘Great Wall of Sand’? by Alexander Neill, a military analyst and director of a strategic advisory consultancy in Singapore for BBC, he writes: “What is China’s South China Sea goal? Beijing views the South China Sea as a crucial part of its maritime territory, not only serving as a bastion for its seaborne nuclear deterrent based on Hainan island but also as a gateway for the Maritime Silk Road, part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The South China Sea is critical, for example, for the future success of China’s Greater Bay Area economic development plan, into which Hong Kong is incorporated.”

He continues: “China’s plan for populating the South China Sea was launched in 2012 when ‘Sansha City,’ the administrative center for all Chinese-claimed features in the South China Sea on Woody Island in the Paracels, was upgraded from county to prefecture-level status... In April 2018, 200-ton commemorative megaliths, erected on each of the three biggest island bases in the Spratly Islands, were unveiled amid some secrecy. Quarried from Taishan stone and shipped to the Spratly islands, the monuments resonate with President Xi Jinping’s China Dream of national rejuvenation.

“Mount Taishan is viewed as the most sacred of China’s mountains, a symbol of unbroken Chinese civilization for thousands of years. All of this shows China has moved into a second phase of a calculated plan to make this great strategic waterway of South East Asia an irreversibly Chinese one... Alongside the US Naval maneuvers, Mr. Pompeo’s announcement formally stating that China’s claims across the region are ‘completely unlawful’ begs the question of what the US is prepared to do next... The US could very rapidly reduce China’s new Nansha district to concrete and coral rubble – but this would entail a war for which neither the US nor China has an appetite.”

At this point it would be wise for us to take heed of General Sun Tzu’s wisdom. He was a Chinese philosopher, military strategist and writer of The Art of War:  “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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