Belligerent China

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


THE question over China’s plans and the direction of its international interest in Southeast Asia has remained an unsolved matter to its neighbors and has generated diplomatic jitters in our part of the globe.

This matter should really not disturb us if we look at China as a benign country and a neighbor that had acted like a “big brother” to the Philippines in the past, the latter being the former’s commercial staging point with the Americas and Europe.

There was a time when we were very close to China, to the extent that its nationals, who were mostly merchants and traders, came to and went out of the Philippines at will.

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I learned about this many years back when I had the opportunity to visit China with three other Filipino members of media. We were invited by the Chinese Writers Association. We had the opportunity to visit places in China that earlier we just heard or read about.

During that trip, I learned from our Chinese writer-hosts that traders from mainland China brought their products to the Philippines to be trans-shipped to north and south America or to Mexico, and then to Europe. This is the reason why Chinese culture spread all over the world, and permeated through the cultures of other nations.

It should not surprise us then that even our English dictionaries now carry dozens of variations of the word “china.”

During that trip, we were invited to the Great Wall, and I had the opportunity to walk the wall’s top portion, which was wide enough to allow a cart to roll on it. We then visited in Nanking its so-called Forbidden Garden.

We were brought across the vast China to the south, to a place called Guillin where I was invited to speak in the city’s university, in English of course. I cannot recall now the names of the places we visited on the way out near Hong Kong.

My point is that our own history has been closely tied with the China of the past, and it is quite difficult to note now that we are being confronted and challenged by a belligerent modern China.

The fact that the Philippines’ past has been closely associated with a China whose main interest in our country then had only been to promote its business and commercial interest, is a matter so difficult to change or erase in our mind.

One who used to act like a “big brother” to us before is quite difficult to look up to now with suspicion and diplomatic doubt.

There was even a time in the recent past that I did not think of our country as closer to the other member nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) than we were to China. I felt then that we were more kindred to China than to our other neighbors.

And then, suddenly, it was the other way around. I realized we had changed our location to be in the West China sea, and China the South China Sea, and claiming even the area close to our shores.

Indeed, why has China become suddenly “belligerent” to the nations that have long been its neighbor and blood brother, pray tell?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 16, 2014.

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