Emerging post-Covid world order China is now at war Great American Gold Company

Emerging post-Covid world order China is now at war Featured

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“CHINA is the enemy” is Trump’s mantra that has found resonance with his base, whom Hillary Clinton famously described in 2016 as “deplorables.” A hemorrhage of United States companies in the manufacturing sector lured by cheaper labor relocating overseas resulted in massive job losses. Trump ostensibly wages World War 3 (WW 3) on their behalf using the weaponry of international trade — a series of aggressive tariffs imposed to correct trade deficits tilted for years in China’s favor. But tariffs are double-sided weapons, mindful, too, that US and China are interminably entwined with the latter holding $1.13 trillion in US treasuries which, if dumped, could spike interest rates, weaken the dollar, which would cause the US economy to go kaput. Worse, it could trigger a domino effect with other countries holding huge US debts — Japan, $1.13 trillion; United Kingsom, $341 billion; Ireland, $262 billion, etc. In this scenario, nobody wins although totalitarian China has the advantage of quick decisive acts over a faux democratic America. Thus, the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the great equalizer claiming lives and inducing recessions, has impelled the two on a race to reopen their economies. China has the upper hand as its draconian methods to quarantine its citizenry and control the virus are tools perfectly suited for a totalitarian state. While America, already hampered by a defective and aberrant political leadership, is further complicated by its adherence to concepts of freedom and individual liberties. Even the wearing of masks has been politicized by a president focused on self-absorption and winning a second term. Add into this cauldron the disruptive racial upheavals highlighting the deficits in governance and leadership.

China’s post-Covid role

It is becoming obvious that China’s star is ascendant. It is recovering ahead, while America is stuck until the political question is resolved by its November elections.

China’s play for world hegemony utilizes a China-centric trading network, the Belt and Road Initiative. It is a global development strategy involving infrastructure development and investments engulfing emerging and developed economies.

But working against China is its inherent non-transparency concealing the real strength of its economy and defense establishment, which could just be a mirage. Even its political stability is opaque despite winning a constitutionally sanctioned term extension for Xi Jinping. WW 3 may likewise be cataclysmic for the Middle Kingdom hegemon.

Conspiracy buffs theoriz that Covid-19 was deliberately designed and spread from Wuhan as Xi Jinping’s first salvo for WW 3, in response to Trump’s tariff impositions. Trump himself has been propagating Covid-19’s China’s genesis perhaps to divert attention away from his disgraceful behavior that intensified the death counts of hundreds of thousands of American victims; his abdication of US global leadership; and the erosion of America’s prestige in the world stage, reducing Trump and the US presidency to a pathetic state.

Be that as it may, still this brewing conflict involving other nations will shape the emerging post-Covid world order. (“China now at war,” The Manila Times, July 8, 2020). This column’s interest is somewhat insular — confined to the Philippines in the light of President Rodrigo Duterte’serratic performance of late spotlighting the pandemic and diplomacy.

Covid-19 lockdowns

Despite the bellyaching of the pro and anti-Duterte camps, President Duterte did the right thing in imposing a lockdown. More than a hundred countries in fact did the same within the first half of March. This was a welcome dramatic display of “political will.” What was tragic was our failure to do what our neighboring countries did successfully: putting in place a parallel infrastructure to contain the virus — testing, tracing and treatment (TTT). This monumental blunder can be laid at the door of an incompetently led the Department of Health and a complicit collegial body, the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseaseas, dominated by ex-military types whose mindset in fighting the virus is to game plan a conventional war against an invasion — adopting an adversarial posture toward the infected and the pasaway. This mentality was aggravated by the bleeding-heart confidants who managed to sway the President with populist arguments prioritizing the amelioration of the “kawawang masa” and the hairbrained “balik probinsya” instead of funding a massive TTT, the fundamental weapon of choice mandated by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention against this contagion. This could have effectively cut short the lockdown periods and mitigate trauma to the economy. South Korea, New Zealand and Taiwan succeeded at doing this and their economies are now recovering well.

‘Urong-sulong’ foreign policy

Which brings us to my second point in light of WW 3 and the post-Covid world. What is our foreign policy? With much fanfare, Duterte pivoted us away from America towards non-alignment, yet he jolted the world when on a state visit to China he declared, “The Philippines, China and Russia against the world”; which by any standard is diplomatically vague.

The crafting of Philippine diplomacy and foreign relations — which by tradition and by law should have been a function of collegiality, which includes the two houses of Congress — became the exclusive purview of the presidency and his compliant secretary of Foreign Affairs. The divorce between the US and the Philippines could not be final for two reasons: the emotional investment of the millions of Filipino Americans residing in the US; and the formalities, which could not pass muster in Congress. And the diplomatic charade continued as Xi Jinping flirted with the Deegong with enticements for the Build, Build, Build, while bullying the country out of the Philippine-owned island reefs which China then promptly converted into Chinese garrisons. |

VFA fiasco

And lately, Duterte’s backpedaling on the US-Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was a study in how to “bungle foreign policy.” It may be recalled that DU30 canceled the VFA in February this year, in a pique, triggered by the cancellation of the US visa of a favored senator. The VFA expires 180 days after the Philippines unilaterally notifies the US of its intention, which was done on February 11. But by June 1, the Deegong had flipflopped, suspending the February notification for six months, extendable by the Philippines by another six months.

On the micro level, this presidential behavior is bizarre, which is par for the course and endemic in this administration. Institutional functions are supplanted by personal whim. And I presume no one has the balls to dare ask Duterte. On the macro level, we need to evaluate our primary interests vis-à-vis our “relations or non-relations” with China and America. How do we handle our island-reefs in the West Philippine Sea now garrisoned by China. Can our fisherfolk still seek shelter and fish freely in our “traditional fishing grounds”? Can our Coast Guard patrol our seas without Chinese interference? Do we need itspermission? How do we use the arbitral tribunal decision we won negating China’s nine-dash line? What do we do with our treaties and agreements with America — Mutual Defense Treaty, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and VFA?

And let’s not forget, China’s deliverables on Build, Build, Build. Duterte and Xi Jinping signed 27 deals worth $24 billion in investments and credit line pledges. Former Economic Planning secretary Ernesto Pernia revealed that only less than $150 million had come onstream. Someone sold our sovereignty for 30 pieces of silver or we were pimped out. In less polite society, we call this “being prostituted” (my apologies to the ladies of the night).

In the vernacular. Are we still mag-un?

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