In 1974, Deng Xiao Ping, who would later lead after Ma Tse-tung’s demise and be known as “the man who made Modern China,” spoke before the United Nations about the ugly face of hegemony. He described a superpower as “an imperialist country which everywhere subjects other countries to its aggression, interference, control, subversion or plunder”. He declared China would never be such or act as “the big bullying the small, the strong domineering over the weak, and the rich oppressing the poor”.
Now that China has attained earthshaking economic and military might, Deng might be rolling over in his grave. Not only has Beijing staked claim over territories of five other smaller nations in the South China Sea in wanton disregard of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the ruling of The Hague, it has recently passed a law of aggression against claimant parties.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. exposed China’s new law authorizing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels in China-claimed reefs for what it truly is: “a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law; which, if unchallenged, is submission to it.” The Philippines has since lodged a diplomatic protest to defy and challenge the law.
But the tone in Malacanang, especially when it comes from Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, is impish, embarrassing, and defeatist. “The possible venues where we can discuss this controversy is limited,” he says, and even balks on the idea of bringing Manila’s case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. So, I don’t blame Locsin for barking at the President’s mouthpiece to “lay off” because he’s “not competent” to comment on the Beijing law and treads dangerously on voicing a policy of submission from the nation’s highest office.
And while Spox Roque rambles, there are reports from Palawan that military pilots flying over the Philippine island, famous the world over for its underground river park, would hear a radio warning from the Chinese coast guard that they were entering Chinese territory. Maybe I should agree with Spox Roque that government does not neglect defense against Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea. After all, this government loves the foreign communists and hates the local communists. It gets nothing but headache from the local Reds and gets a lot of things from the foreign commies in return for the warm Filipino friendship and lackadaisical defense of our waters.
But seriously, this law threatens our fishermen more than ever. Fortunately for them, with just a paddle in hand, they have a stronger sense of sovereignty and are more consistent in asserting it than any official speaking for our government.
As for China, whether this new law reveals its true nature as a superpower or is just a show of force to America — now under a new leadership that has declared itself as a “Pacific nation” and reorganized its pool of Asia-Pacific policymakers – the fact is, Beijing is hurting relations with its closest neighbors, including the one with a Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.
Perhaps, the best warning to China came in Deng’s own words at the same UN address: “If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression, and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.”
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