Our world after Covid

Our world after Covid Featured

When elephants dance, the ants…

A MOST interesting development partly as a result of this pandemic is the rise of China and the decline of America in the world stage (The Manila Times or TMT, April 15, 2020). Each country took a different path, both captives of their own historicity, keeping faith with their political dogmas but singular in their desire for their citizens to survive; perforce that of their society and their dominant values. Their actions and decisions coming from different perspectives produced naturally disparate results. This column is a sequel to last week’s brief comparison on the behavior of two contemporary presidents, The United States’ Donald Trump and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD), where the former pales in comparison to the latter. I now inject China’s President Xi Jinping into the equation (TMT, May 13, 2020).|

A totalitarian mandarin

Unlike the US and Philippine leaders, whose legitimacy rests on the acquiescence of the will of the majority through the ballot, China’s chief executive is different. What is axiomatic for such totalitarian states is that theirs is determined by the self-selective clique that has ruled modern China as its political “royalty”/politburo. Succession to power is through a similar concept of political primogeniture, defined loosely as the prince-in-waiting’s influence over the politburo that is able to satisfy the loyalists while cutting off the heads of the seemingly perfidious. Of course, it helps if the inheritor’s pedigree is traceable to the original revolutionaries of Mao Zedong’s “Long March.”

Xi Jinping is a visionary, president-for-life upon the tolerance of the Communist Party. Their collective vision toward the year 2049 is to displace America from global leadership — establishing China’s economic supremacy. And he appreciates the importance of strategy — perhaps an avid student of Sun Tzu — grasping complicated concepts of this war against America even if America does not know it yet.

China and America were the two best prepared countries to weather a pandemic. China, the totalitarian state, acted swiftly unhampered by the niceties of human rights and its people’s opinion. America, true to its democratic traditions acted slow, mindful of the individual’s interpretation of freedom. But the biggest flaw in America’s democratic system is President Donald Trump.

A rogue president

Long before the pandemic, the moral, sensible and pragmatic deficits in America’s political leadership surfaced, centered on its impeached president; in a series of deliberate acts signaling America’s retraction from its global pre-eminence encapsulated in Trump’s motto of “Making America Great Again” (MAGA). These unilateral initiatives, from abrogating the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation; to its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal painstakingly hammered by members of the UN Security Council (plus Germany); insulting and abandoning its old European allies; all these define the bizarre profile President Trump has been projecting.

I quote from my column “Clash of civilizations” (TMT, March 27, 2020): “The world will not tolerate a power vacuum and a dangerous political vacuity opened up resulting from the withdrawal of the United States from world engagements. The unilateral abrogation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the ominous bilateral trade talks with China and Trump’s naïve posturing toward its protegee, Kim Jong Un, allowed Xi Jinping a degree of confidence to flex his muscles, test the waters and encroach into the West Philippine (South China) Sea, upsetting the countries in the periphery.”

This was the backdrop by the time the pandemic struck when President Trump caused “the United States, whom many countries look up to for leadership of the free world, to irresponsibly abandoned this role and relinquished its ascendancy.”

China is now poised to take hold of the global narrative in many aspects — from the post-Covid economic recovery, and possibly a handle on trade which for decades America under the guise of the globalization mantra, used as the vehicle for liberal democracy and capitalism, primarily to create and expand world markets. This will perhaps usher in the China century, or more appropriately, the Middle Kingdom hegemony.

Chinese marionette

Since Duterte’s pivot away from an old ally, America, and the hammering out of a foreign policy declaring we are “friends to all and enemy to none,” we find ourselves being drawn to China, with offers of concessionary loans and grants for our infrastructure spending; not unlike China’s Belt and Road scheme whose tentacles have engulfed poor and developing economies in Africa, Asia and even the countries in the European Union.

But there is another facet to China, which is no less obnoxious. China has bullied its way through the West Philippine Sea and usurped Philippine-owned islands. Upon PRRD’s assumption to power, the Philippines was gifted with a favorable ruling by the UN arbitral court negating China’s nine-dash line that illegally expanded its territory, encompassing those of the neighboring countries, including ours. But Duterte has since downplayed this victory in exchange for economic benefits from China, thereby surrendering the moral high ground with the lame excuse that “…he cannot let soldiers die in a war that the country is certain to lose.” With characteristic naiveté, he held on to Xi Jingping’s ‘forked tongue’ promise that no more developments would be done in the disputed areas. Since then, Beijing has garrisoned these islands. President Duterte refused to or was incompetent to explore other diplomatic options.

The cost of “giving up” the West Philippine Sea is staggering. The potential income from oil and natural gas are estimated somewhere between $4 trillion and $10 trillion, more than enough to extricate the Philippines out of poverty, propelling the country potentially to a status of a developed economy. This figure excludes the yearly fisheries yield and other natural resources (Philippine Daily Inquirer, SC Monsod, Feb. 15, 2020)


And now, for purely pecuniary reasons, injecting P550 billion annually to our economy, we have allowed the establishment of the Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) “…the online platform that caters mainly to the mainland Chinese — satisfying their compulsive craving for gambling. This type of online operation is illegal and prohibited in China under threat of capital punishment, something that the Chinese understand and respect. But not here in the Philippines, their base, from which they serve online Chinese gamblers offshore.” (TMT, “The ‘Chinafication’ of the Philippines,” Feb. 26, 2020

This is not fashioning a neutral foreign policy but mendicancy, playing China’s game to the detriment of Filipino interest.

Quo vadis

Nonetheless, Filipinos have given PRRD their trust in defeating Covid-19, quarantined for months, losing our jobs and some of our freedoms, keeping faith that we will somehow overcome this peril. Still, we need straight answers. Where is PRRD leading us after all these? We understand his decoupling from America as a legitimate response against US infringement on our sovereignty. But we are confused on his alternative — a bromance with China. Usurpation is much worse! In less polite society this is called rape. Declaring with bravado that he has not given up Philippine sovereignty rights over the disputed South China Sea belies his deeds. In essence, Duterte is just passing the ball to the next administration postponing reality and the pain of responsibility.

Mr. President, Sir, this is a magnificent cop-out!

Read 247 times Last modified on Wednesday, 03 June 2020 12:10
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