China is just fishing for US reaction

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

The Chinese “water bombing” of Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea last August 5 was a calculated maneuver by Beijing to test the temperature in the South China Sea, which is expected to get hotter as the 2024 US presidential election draws nearer. Specifically, China wants to know how much bite the US puts behind its bark to woo voters.

Power projection is always a factor in US governance. A country that has been at war for much of its entire history always goes for a leader who is not about to renounce it but is willing to even start one. With Joe Biden getting desperate and losing grip, the hair on the back of China’s neck has of late been standing on end.

China has to know. Or at least needs a sign, any sign, about which way the US might go. It wants to know because where the US goes, so goes its real objective: Taiwan. The Philippines is just a convenient red herring. But by recently retracing its steps back to America’s embrace, the Philippines unwittingly graduated from red herring to guinea pig.

Now China is using us not as a lure but as a real live bait. And so, with calculated risk, China “water bombed” us, knowing we will make such a racket about it and wake up the whole town, but careful not to do it inside our sovereign territory but just outside it, in our EEZ, which is just an entitlement and therefore not insulated against overlapping claims.

Sorry to disappoint my brother Filipinos, with whom I genuinely share the anger and frustration of being bullied, but the “water bombing” was less about any evil desire to bully us than it was to provoke a reaction from the US at this particular time, a year and a quarter to the next US presidential election.

China is a pretender to world dominance. It will not get to where it wants to be in the global geopolitical pecking order if it remains clueless about the plans and potential actions of the current king. And at no time is the need to know, or at least to be given some sign, more crucial than now, with this US president, to put it kindly, getting so unpredictable.

And so China comes fishing in our “Exclusive Economic Zone” for some American reaction while using the Philippines as real live bait. And the American reaction, as with other previous “fishing expeditions” has remained largely more of the same: Mere condemnation and more angry rhetoric. China for now can breathe a sigh of relief.

China does not mind the familiar chorus of similar noises from a growing number of US allies. It has long factored in the fact that none of these countries has the balls to act unilaterally without the US lead. So if the US does not pull the trigger, none of them will. All that China needs to do is anticipate the US so it can act accordingly.

China has been very active in trying to anticipate the US during the past two American presidencies because both Donald Trump and Joe Biden are both very unpredictable. Trump was too gung-ho and volatile, Biden too mumbling and fumbling and neither here nor there. Moreover, that there is a Kamala Harris waiting in the wings gives Xi Jinping the creeps.

And so China embarks on calculated risks to divine how the US may react to provocation or provocative situations. Aside from harassing us in the West Philippine Sea, China has tried flying balloons over continental USA. It has bought land around US bases. China has America’s number but wants constant validation. So let us prepare for more “bullying”.

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