China’s great power ambitions

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Several books, including John Mearsheimer’s The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, have shown that throughout history, Great Powers have always tried to achieve regional hegemony. This has never been done peacefully since neighboring countries will always try to resist. History has shown some of these attempts, like Napoleon in Europe, Japan in East Asia, Russia in Eastern Europe and America in the Western Hemisphere.

It should be expected that China, with its rise as an economic superpower, will seek to dominate Asia, especially East and South Asia just as previous imperial powers have done.

In 1823, the United States issued the Monroe Doctrine which became the cornerstone of its foreign policy. This policy was enunciated by then American president James Monroe. Among the basic points in the doctrine was that any attempt by a European power to oppress or control any nation in the Western Hemisphere would be viewed as a hostile act by the United States. One example of the implementation of this act was the blockade of Cuba by American forces when Russia tried to ship missiles to Cuba in the 1960s.

It is clear that China is already beginning to impose its own version of the Monroe Doctrine in Asia. It is therefore only logical to assume that China will also try to push the United States out of the Asia Pacific region. China will also try to make itself so powerful that even the larger countries who are its neighbors will not be able to challenge its power. During the time of Deng Xiaoping, China kept a low profile and avoided generating fear among its neighbors or the United States. During this “honeymoon” period, neighboring countries and even America thought that China would become a reliable partner in bringing peace to the region.

Since then, however, China has been involved in a number of contentious territorial disputes with India and Japan. It has also physically grabbed territories in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea which has alarmed its neighbors and the international community. It has refused to accept the concept of freedom of navigation in the territories it has grabbed and thus endanger shipping in one of the world’s most important shipping lane.

Almost anything that China does now to improve its military capabilities will be seen by Beijing as defensive actions; but, in places like Washington, Tokyo, Hanoi, New Delhi, Sydney and the European Union, it will appear offensive in nature. This means that other nations will conclude that Beijing is not only determined to acquire significant offensive capabilities but has offensive and territorial intentions as well.

Mearsheimer believes that Chinese leaders believe it is compelled to react vigorously because they believe that these disputes concern China’s sovereignty and there is strong public sentiment on these issues. He notes that “…since 2008, the Chinese government has become increasingly reluctant to constrain the expression popular nationalism and more willing to follow the popular nationalist calls for confrontation against the Western powers and its neighbors.”

China’s neighbors will have three options – submit to a rising China, join the alliance to contain China’s aggression or remain neutral. This will not be possible because everyone will have to take sides. All these states which are weaker than China and America will need a powerful protector in the event their security is threatened.

The most logical alliance for the Philippines is the Quad, the four countries – India, United States, Japan, Australia – whose objective is to contain China’s expansionist threat. The main reason is that the Quad has no territorial ambitions of acquiring Philippine territory by force while China has already taken Scarborough Shoal by force and is now threatening to do the same in Juan Felipe Reef.

The other aspect of this rivalry in the Asia Pacific region is also ideological. China is not only authoritarian, but it is also publicly propagating authoritarianism as a model for developing countries. The QUAD and its allied countries have governments primarily based on the liberal democratic model which the Philippines adheres to through its Constitution.

The world should also remember that a superpower cannot impose its will on another country and necessarily win. Even small countries have been able to resist superpowers and remain unconquered. Think of Cuba and Venezuela against America, and Vietnam and Taiwan against China.

Plants and greenhouse gases

My last column was on climate disaster. I reproduced a table that shows the different sources of greenhouse gases. Surprisingly the item that caused the most comments from readers was the inclusion of plants as one of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions. That is why I decided to give a brief explanation.

First, the category of plants does not include trees. Perhaps that is why the justification for cutting down some ipil ipil trees in the Nayong Pilipino compound has been justified by its proponents because these are considered plants not trees.

Certain varieties or types of plants emit nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas that affects the ozone layer and the earth’s climate. Interdisciplinary research team from the University of Applied Sciences Bingen and Heidelberg University have looked more closely at at the source of this gas. The result of the study is that it is the earth’s flora that contributes to the greenhouse gas effects. Unlike human induced global warming, this process is part of a natural effect.

Nitrous oxide is not the same as carbon dioxide; but it still has the same effect in causing the emissions of greenhouse gases. This forms a very small percentage of the greenhouses gases. The overwhelming majority is still caused by man-made activities, especially manufacturing and producing electricity.

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