Trump’s South China Sea war nears but PH should avoid it
We are witnessing today the most powerful country in the world, the United States, undergoing intense internal economic and social division as well as unprecedented breaking of agreements with allies even while they are being forced to conform with unilateral US impositions of all kinds.
The pandemic in the US is still increasing at over 60,000 infections and hundreds of deaths a day, six months after the beginning, with over 4.2 million infections, when many other countries have brought it under control in two to three months. US President Donald Trump considered it a sign of weakness to wear a mask but finally started to wear one in June, also six months after being advised to do so by all world health institutions but still blaming everyone else.
Violence between races and classes broke out, with police injuring many, including nonviolent civilians, even while the US accuses Hong Kong of excessive police violence, when no one there has been killed by police. At one point over 30 million Americans were unemployed, but with Wall Street reaching nearly record highs with billionaires becoming richer.
Expecting to coast to reelection, Trump is now faced with a 15-percent disadvantage in the polls to Joe Biden. But the president is nothing if not a survivor, known for winning at all costs.
“Anybody but Trump” sentiment is growing, even in the Republican party. Some party stalwarts have organized the Lincoln Project, funding a massive campaign against him, “to prevent his reelection.” His lawyers have turned against him; his niece Mary Trump detailed Donald Trump’s family as “liars, cheaters, abusers” in “Too Much and Never Enough.” Peter Thiel, tech billionaire business backer, has withdrawn support. George Will, an intellectual center of the conservatives, compared Trump to a “malignant buffoon.”
If his own country is so against his policies, why should Americans, Filipinos, take his administration’s pronouncements against China as gospel truth? Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are continually ratcheting up taunts, accusations and sanctions, even laws against China, with very little real basis except that we should trust the CIA, State Department, etc, without details.
Some of our Filipino politicians — per their lockstep actions with every new accusation of the US — really love the US more than the Americans, where only about a third now are in support of their own government. When the US passed laws protecting even violent protestors in Hong Kong as long as they were against the government, some Philippine senators and “nationalists” also endorsed this. When US lawmakers tried to demand China pay for Covid-19, the same Philippine “experts” and senators did the same. Just as we let the US do our Scarborough negotiations with China “because they can do better,” we let Malaysia, which supported the Mindanao rebellions, do the negotiations for us even as they took over Sabah. Why don’t retired justice Antonio Carpio or Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros go after Sabah or Southwest Cay?
The US a few days ago took away Hong Kong’s “preferential status,” although the US exports to Hong Kong a surplus of $25 billion a year (it hardly hurts Hong Kong). So the US is now thinking of financial attacks on the Hong Kong currency or flows. Lately in what can be called a hostile act, the US asked for the closure of the China consulate in Houston, opened in 1979, within three days.
China, meanwhile, is still substantially meeting its commitments to the US, and calibrated in its responses. It asked for the closure of the US Chengdu consulate and did not raise the rhetoric, just as it had settled the India border row with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi without raising the heat further. While not expected to meet the target agriculture purchases from the US trade deal because of the pandemic, China has more than doubled the purchase of agricultural goods from last year, with corn and pork up eight times, cotton up three times as of May 2020.
China has opened up the financial markets to majority foreign control, with initial approvals in process for Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, and with HSBC, UBS, Credit Suisse and Nomura already having majority control of their China units. Meanwhile, despite the trade war, US corporate investments in China grew again in 2019. Many companies have left, but many will keep operations there simply for logistic and market reasons. Companies like General Motors that sell more cars in China than in the US (3.1 million vs. 2.9 million), or Apple selling tens of billions of dollars of phones, would naturally maintain part of their business there.
“The world is witnessing a desperate Trump trying to save his floundering reelection bid by demonizing China, to divert attention from his colossal failures in handling this pandemic crisis and economic struggles, attacking the CDC, the WHO, his own head of disease control [Anthony] Fauci, even former president Obama.” The Philippines and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should not fall for Trump playing the “wag the dog” gambit, i.e. creating a war just to gain patriotism votes, as detailed in a famous movie of the same title, opines Wilson Flores, entrepreneur and historian, and organizer of Pandesal Forum.
Normally if one believed in the superiority of one’s system, one should let the systems work themselves out to their natural levels of achievement, competing on skill and innovation than on force. If harmony were desired, more interaction and mingling would be advantageous, instead of closing consulates or limits. With the entry of the US and the United Kingdom, Japanese battleships and French frigates into the area (South China Sea or SCS), one sees a return to the colonial period of the powers that dismembered China, where any “accident,” possibly deliberate ones, or incidents or miscommunications can happen in contested waters of the South China Sea. With the Philippines having no control of US warships crossing her territorial waters, and even with the Philippine president not allowed to inspect the US facilities, any objective analyst would say that that’s definitely putting oneself in the crossfire. Duterte’s advice of an independent foreign policy would seem to be the best position for the Philippines to benefit from the opportunities, rather than endanger the lives of countless Filipinos, like the million lost during World War 2.
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**Also published in: https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/07/26/opinion/columnists/trumps-south-china-sea-war-nears-but-ph-should-avoid-it/745842/