Peace in Asia-A A +A
Monday, October 7, 2013
THERE'S nothing more emotionally breath-taking these days than talk of initiatives to achieve peace in Southeast Asia by concerned nations. For many months now, a kind of stand-off appeared to cause the involved nations to watch and hold their breath as the emergent economic power in the globe flexed its diplomatic muscle.
But lately, however, there seems to be a relaxation of diplomatic intent on the part
of China, the aggressive economic power, as its president, Xi Jinping delivered a reconciliatory speech a few days ago in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The Chinese president said his country’s “territorial disputes with Southeast Asia should be resolved in a ‘peaceful manner.’” It was Xi’s first Asian visit after he took power last March.
Since the Philippines became a sovereign nation along with the other Southeast Asian countries in the 1950s, it had laid claim to an island located just about 200 miles from Palawan, clearly within the territorial rights of our country.
China had also coveted the area for its reported wealth in natural resources, and its being in South China Sea. With China came the claims of the other South Asian nations.
Other smaller Asian nations, being near to the disputed area than China, also took issue with the latter and stood with the Philippines. Thus was born the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) which consists of ten nations.
Diplomatic relations became more strained from then on, until last week when the new Chinese president decided to shift from an aggressive stance to one that highlights “cooperation to safeguard regional...peace.”
In the eyes of the new Chinese leadership, Southeast Asia is one important hub of maritime cooperation. China attaches great importance to Indonesia’s role in Asean and is ready to work together with Indonesia and other Asean nations.
Mark that China has a much deeper strain in its relations with Vietnam and the
Philippines than with other Asean members. But while there is still some doubts about China’s sincerity, the conciliatory intent is clear.
There is no denying the reality of Chinese economic power and military capability.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to visit China together with other members of the Philippine Writers Union. I was able to visit the Great Wall and China’s Forbidden City. What I cannot forget was the whole night train ride from inland China to the southern coast.
We were to exit from there to a place near Hong Kong. But before that, I was brought to a place called Guilin, where I was asked to speak before students of the Guilin University.
And I talked about how immense China is, and wrote in my Manila Times column later about its rich and undeniable economic and military potential. I said then that Chine was a nation to reckon with in the future. It is really proving it.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 08, 2013.