MANY Filipinos look upon America as our guardian angel just in case China will go beyond the Spratlys. Filipinos who are more than 70 years old have repeated to their grandchildren the “I Shall Return” story. We do not blame them for their “raw understanding” why the Philippines was involved in WW II.
I am sure that President Obama and President Digong are worried on how to defer China from destabilizing East Asia and how to encourage the Chinese government to contribute to multilateral global governance. World leaders know that China is not yet a military peer competitor of America but it has become powerful enough to challenge U.S. allies in East Asia.
Even the “visiting forces” in our country are giving a second look to the “no flyzone” warning of the Chinese in what we believe as part of our territory. China is still a developing country (with significant domestic problems) and it is developing so fast that America (and the rest of the world) needs its cooperation to solve global problems such as nuclear proliferation, climate change, and international financial instability.
With recent development, U.S. Chinese security relationship and the Asia-Pacific region in general are far more tense today that they were in 2009 (under Bush administration). China emerged from the global financial crisis cocky on the international stage but insecure at home. China does not reveal in public its internal insecurities.
This could be a challenge to the next president of America (double challenge, shall I say) because it will need to build on its predecessor’s accomplishments and need to find from its successes and failures. China is projecting an image that it is increasing its confidence in international interactions. Chinese planners are also worried about the sustainability of a domestic growth model that was so reliant on export market and large infusion of capital.
The Chinese Communist Party has been more reliant than ever on nationalism for legitimacy but the Western influence is always there giving young Chinese leaders the second thought. China is no democracy but Chinese leaders cannot just ignore loud voices that may destroy the foundation of ancient belief.
Beijing has become more assertive in staking its claims in the East China and South China Seas and has reacted more sharply to the assertion of claims by others. (The Philippines is very loud on this thus bringing our case before the United Nations). We want to appear very diplomatic so that Uncle Sam will notice us that we still toe the line.
On global governance, a Chinese leadership that feels strong on the international stage but scared at home has been even more reluctant than usual to pay economic and political costs to help stabilize the global economy, mitigate climate change, punish rogue regimes and aggressive states, and pressure nuclear proliferators. President Digong by now should have seen the “Achilles heel” of China.
In dealing in all these, America has also committed notable mistakes, particularly in the areas of rhetoric and public diplomacy. President Obama’s administration adopted overly muscular language about “pivoting” back to East as the United States withdraw from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. China is not happy about it.
“Pivoting” means sending more submarines to Guam, rotating F-22 aircraft through Japan, sending littoral combat ships to Singapore, entering a free-trade pact with South Korea, and negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In the Philippines, we have more “war games” with brother Americans (including some of our girls).
With open eyes China saw the U.S improved relations with Burma (Myanmar); the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia Summit. Uncle Sam is always attending regional fora, often dismissed as talk shops, actually addressed important security issues.
Yes, America is in (our country). Many are happy because “Big Brother” will protect us from the “Awakened Dragon.” Are we sure that America will not “pivot” again leaving us to be eaten by the “Awakened Dragon?” President Digong should have a stand on this.