Monday, December 21, 2015

Understanding China PART TWO

Understanding China

Part II
In the case of Japan, most senior politicians there admit it was a mistake for their government to press hard its claim over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands.  Aside from the danger of it becoming a flashpoint, the icy relation of the two has jeopardized the huge Japanese investment in China. Rather, keeping dormant the issue could have been a good opportunity to reenergize its economy that has been lumbering for over a decade now. 
Prime Minister Shenzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine where most “Class A” war criminals were laid to rest, despite the vehement objection of China and South Korea, only added fuel to their already acrimonious relations. 

 That in turn triggered a revival for an apology by South Korea and the Philippines for the sexual enslavement of their women during the war, and for payment of compensation.
However, even if South Korea also has problems with China over conflicting jurisdiction in the Yellow Sea, South Korea has opted to tone it down for reasons that it wants China to act as the pacifier for North Korea.

More than anything else, South Korea wants to firm up its booming trade with China for which it is now racing to catch up with Japan. Nonetheless, South Korea’s approval of the increased presence of US troops is mainly directed at North Korea, and not really to endorse the US policy of containing China. 
Since most Asian countries are preoccupied with bolstering their economies, an increase in their military expenditures to check China’s growing economic and military strength would be an unnecessary burden, not to say foolish.  “Pivot Asia” would require a confrontational approach, like imposing an economic embargo which could only invite retaliation to easily damage their brittle economy.   

If there is an implied war now between the US and China, it is in their race for economic dominance.    It is for this that many foresee the US “Pivot Asia” policy as bound to fail much that in substance, it is a disguised form of containment.  Fortunately, nobody wants to broker that warmongering policy. Rather, they are almost unanimous in adhering to maintaining peaceful economic ties to achieve their own political stability.  
In the meantime, as the Philippines continues to blindly wade against the current in supporting the murky US policy, we lose our chance in every step of the way to improve our bedraggled economy.  We have become the “funny man of Asia” for it seems our government has failed to decipher that we are partly helping the US improve its economy by our increased purchase of costly armaments. Many criticized our acquisition of those refitted cutters and second-hand jet fighters as more of improving the image of the President than of enforcing a declared objective. 
We even raised much doubt to our position in seeking to resolve the issue on a multilateral basis.   China’s  wariness stems from the fact that a multilateral discussion of the problem would technically bring in an “intruder” which is unacceptable to any party to a dispute, not to mention the possibility of us handing that portion agreed as our area of jurisdiction to Western companies just waiting to obtain concessions to drill in the area.  Their suspicion is not farfetched because we appear as the only country in the world who worked our way to be re-colonized by the West.
On the contrary, our increased military expenditure is hampering our quest to catch up with our neighbors in the race to economically develop where increased capitalization is most needed.  Some say, if at all there is a need for the country to improve our armed forces that should be directed to safeguarding our vast fishing grounds against poachers, and in augmenting our navy against Malaysia where most Filipinos believe the issue of Sabah remains unresolved.  
This explains why China has been insisting on a bilateral approach much that there are Asean member-countries that have no claims in the disputed area.  Besides, why single out China when other countries have been navigating the sea lanes since WWII and it is only lately that its naval presence has become visible to safeguard its increased commercial fleet plying that sea lane?
China finds the so-called Code of Conduct for Navigation in the China Sea, insisted upon by some Asean member-countries and openly endorsed by the US, odd.  It has become a thorn to an otherwise good relations Asean has established with China because that imposes a preposterous limitation to its own freedom of navigation on the sea lane adjacent and co-terminus to its territorial waters. 
In fact, the right of free navigation in the China Sea has not been an issue until the US fanned the flames for some countries to pursue their claim resulting in a reactive increase in China’s naval presence.  China Sea has been open to navigation to all ships carrying different flags.  At present, the conduct of navigation in China Sea is based on the universally accepted principles of international law on the Law of the Sea, and the provisions of the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea.
On the contrary, it was the US Navy that made full use of the sea lane beginning in Second World War preparatory to its invasion of Japan, in the 50s during the Chinese civil war between the nationalists and the communists where the US 7th fleet patrolled the Strait of Taiwan, and during the Vietnam War when its naval fleet patrolled the Gulf of Tonkin to bombard Vietnam.
Today, the US navy is rivaled only by an increasing naval presence of China, Japan, and South Korea, occasionally by Russia and from other Asean navies.  It was the US navy that converted China Sea to an American lake.  Moreover, China’s naval presence has been necessitated to protect its own vessels from pirates roaming the narrow Strait of Malacca.  In fact, it is to the interest of all nations to ensure free navigation from the Yellow Sea down to the Strait of Malacca, it being everybody’s gateway to the Indian Ocean, and on to the Mediterranean.

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