I’VE no desire to be dubbed the country’s Neville Chamberlain. Now, if you don’t know who he is, he was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1937 to 1940. If the dates don’t ring a bell, these were the years that led to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe.
Chamberlain was known for his appeasement policy towards Nazi Germany. Some historians believe that had Chamberlain stood his ground when German Chancellor Adolf Hitler absorbed Austria in the Anschluss and later demanded to annex the Sudentenland, the German-speaking part of then Czechoslovakia, Hitler would not have been emboldened to occupy the rest of the eastern European country in 1938 before eventually invading Poland in 1939.
The Fuhrer’s aggression actually began when he ignored the military clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, which was signed after the 1918 Armistice, signaling the end of the First World War. He also ignored the Locarno Pact, which was signed in 1925, reaffirming the new territorial boundaries that had been carved out of the former Prussian and Austro-Hungarian Empires.
Hitler did all these while his neighbors looked on. Aghast.
Do you see where I’m getting at?
And Nazi Germany wasn’t the only nation in that era that denounced decisions of a multilateral body like the League of Nations, the precursor to today’s United Nations (UN).
In 1931, reportedly alarmed by the civil war in China, Japan established a puppet regime called Manchukuo in its western neighbor’s northern region of Manchuria following the Mukden Incident, which had been staged by rogue Japanese military personnel.
Japan had formally annexed the Korean peninsula located to the south of Manchuria in 1910.
Following the events in Manchuria, the League of Nations, powerless to impose any military sanctions against Japan, could only verbally chastise the Imperial government. This prompted the Japanese delegation to walk out and leave the group.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Let’s fast-forward to the present. The Philippine Government claimed a major moral boost when it learned that the case it filed against China over disputed islands in the South China Sea can be heard by the UN’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).
The Chinese government has been building man-made island in territories not only claimed by the Philippines, but also by Vietnam and Malaysia and Brunei and Taiwan.
A new hearing will be held behind closed doors in the The Hague, Netherlands, but the final ruling is not expected until next year, according to a report by the Associated Press.
But here’s where it gets eerily familiar. According to the same report, China has refused to participate in the proceedings, arguing the PCA had no jurisdiction over the case.
“We will not participate and we will not accept the arbitration,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters in Beijing, the Chinese capital. “The ruling or the result of arbitration will not affect China’s position… It won’t affect China’s sovereignty rights and jurisdiction in the South China Sea, our rights will not be undermined,” he said.
What then? I know I’m going to sound unpatriotic but I am a pragmatist. Let’s look at the picture: our country is banking on US support—wait, that’s sugarcoating it—depends on American military assistance if, God forbid, the tension in the region escalates. Again, that’s working on the assumption that the US will come to our aid if something does happen.
So here’s my question, is the US government willing to disrupt US$5 trillion worth of world trade that passes through the waterway each year to protect the interest of its former colony?
That’s why I believe the country should have a one-on-one with China to try to come up with a solution that will benefit both nations, obviously one that is commensurate to the military and economic size of our northern neighbor.
That’s the current realpolitik.