Philippine flag planted on Scarborough Shoal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
SURPRISE QUIZ QUESTION : What do (1) an Asian migrant, (2) the Philippine government, (3) the Chinese government, and (4) the Scarborough Shoal have in common?
Answer : absolutely nothing, other than the fact that (1) is a loyal subject of (2), had grandparents that came from (3), and is in a few moments going to tell whoever has the time to listen what he feels about (4) and the potential for a big airport-scuffle-like confrontation that is right now festering.
Before I connect subject to predicate, please let me first explain. Like many labors of love, blogging is one enterprise that will never make me rich, no matter if I squeeze blood out of the keyboard for your precious readership. There are fringe benefits, though. I don’t need to do any of the following : research except the barest Googling; no such thing as a blogger’s code of ethics (although commonsense is encouraged), diplomacy or even the need to make perfect sense. Half the time I just need to make an opinion, think out loud and see if you agree with me. If you do that’s great, if not, well the comments section always has room for one more. 🙂
Which is just a roundabout way for me to try to make some sense out of PROC‘s behavior on that very small islet west of Zambales, on literally a piece of rock that has no value whatsover save for the fact that it may be sitting on trillions and trillions of buckets of fossil fuel and/or natural gas deposits, quite a lot of Santacruzan procession generators or Chinese lantern batteries that would light up, don’t you think?
I was born a Pinoy, will very likely die a Pinoy, but at least two out of my four grandparents were very Chinese, and so my salakot and cheongsam, while not a fashion statement, go very well with my mestizo psyche. I grew up straddling two cultures, loving one and appreciating the other, and understand (and remain befuddled by) a bit of both. The occasion calls for shedding a little penlight on the seemingly uncivil and bullying behavior of our Chinese cousins, and here it is :
the Great Wall mentality. Anytime you can claim to have the eighth man made wonder of the world, boast of a former empire that stretched across multiple continents, and be a recent over-the-top host of the modern Olympics, you have a right to hold your head high in the international community of nations, trust me. And this is exactly what China is doing, and hoping that because of its stature as a once and future superpower, everyone takes notice in a positive way. Any map will show you that at least three countries (the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan ) enjoy at least an equal right to the Scarborough Shoal with that of the Already Awakened Giant but, in the latter’s version of distorted reality, it doesn’t matter. Centuries before, everything on the Indochinese peninsula and all archipelagoes eastward were what we now call satellite states that regularly paid tribute to the current Son of Heaven, the sitting Emperor.
Trite as it may sound, but it wasn’t called the South China Sea (as it is now) for nothing. Centuries later, owing to its military and economic might, China is at home in its Conquest of Empire mode as it is with spring rolls and chive dumplings, laying claim to everything it beholds and beyond, including the Spratleys, Scarborough Shoal and the neighborhood takeaway that’s sold out of noodles every Friday night.
Persecution complex. If you can believe it, while China views itself as both an ancient and modern empire wielding power and influence far beyond its borders, it also views itself incredibly as a whipping boy / punching bag by other global empires, superpowers and pretenders to the throne. There is some historical basis for this. After the Opium War forced China to sign the first of what it called the Unequal Treaties, China’s coastal cities were carved up between the power players of the day, as part of the price it paid for daring to stand up to the that era’s Coalition of the Willing. At odd times in the 20th century, China has sided with despots of genocidal regimes, totalitarian dynasties and even extremist Islamic governments all because it perceives itself to be a long-suffering victim of Western opportunism and capitalist oppression, self-serving jargon barely tolerated by only the most desperate fringe groups outside China. All this, despite the latter being one of the greatest beneficiaries of so-called Western decadence (Chinese manufacturing serves the First World, first and foremost) and again, despite the latter holding perhaps the largest reserves of US dollar-denominated Treasury bonds on Earth.
How does this link up to Scarborough Shoal? Simply put, despite the odious perception of itself as a regional bully, China simply justifies its actions as payback for all the bullying it received in the past, not the least from the Philippines’ most powerful patron on the other side of the pond. Not all the joint war games, saber rattling and diplomatic tongue-lashing will deter PROC from its divine directive to secure East Asian hegemony as the emergent Beast of the East.
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Years and years ago in primary school, our classrooms were often divided into pro-Taiwan, pro-Communist China, and the neutral camps. The first group came from families of those loyal to President Chiang Kai-Shek and the Taiwanese republic he founded, which swore to reclaim the Chinese mainland but never did. The second group came from families who believed that China’s destiny as a future superpower would not come about unless it walked the Communist path or righteousness. And of course there were students like us who neither knew nor cared how things were actually gonna turn out.
The only common ground all three groups shared that at some not-too-distant point in the future, we somehow knew that China would evolve into a force to contend with, and its potential to do anything it wanted as a monolithic force of nature was limitless. None of us realized how accurate this foreknowledge was going to be.
And if you will forgive a terribly simplistic view of why China recklessly throws its weight around, we are reminded of a classmate who asked us if we knew why a dog licked its private parts? Answer : Because it can. Replace dog with the Middle Kingdom and lick its private parts (actually balls is the operative word) with take what it wants and it’s a cool nugget of wisdom, actually.
Thanks for reading !