All efforts to resolve the thorny problems involving our country’s relations with China are futile exercises. The issues have not been joined and will never be since China ignores them. China can refuse to honor its commitment under international treaties since no court or international agency can enforce them.
No one recognizes this more clearly than President Rodrigo Duterte does. His pivot to China early in his term was an unabashed and realistic approach to gain the friendship, goodwill, support and cooperation of Xi Jinping for his own program of government.
President Xi made it doubly clear during the recent state visit that China is willing to discuss all cooperative endeavors with the Philippines but not the dispute on the West Philippine Sea. He even asked his guest to set aside the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
What then should our country do in the face of China’s intransigence and unbending position on the South China Sea?
Sadly, for the moment, we can only bear our helpless position with silent outrage.
The man who holds the solution to our problem is China President Xi Jinping.
The man who should receive our attention and concern on how he will be dealing with us for now and in the years ahead is Xi, whom The Economist and Forbes both described as today’s most powerful world leader.
How long Xi exercises awesome powers is of keen interest to us.
This is the grim reality that we should accept, with the hope that future internal developments in China or perhaps a change in leadership could radically alter the course of China\s policies and diplomacy with the rest of the world.
Who is Xi in the first place? How did he gain almost undisputed power? How will he handle China’s relations with the United States, Russia, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union and other countries?
Lee Kuan Yew described Xi as “a thoughtful man who has gone through many trials and tribulations,” adding that like Nelson Mandela, “he does not allow his misfortunes to color his judgment.”
In his youth, Xi worked as a laborer in a rural village. His application for membership in the Communist party was urned down ten times before he was accepted.
Other leaders of the world not only highly respect him but are aware of his inscrutable poise, diplomatic brilliance, and his inner courage.
How he gradually yet effectively gained his political and military ascendancy is truly phenomenal and astounding. Like Vladimir Putin, Xi’s fiercely loyalty to those under whom he served. This, plus his uncompromising war against corruption, were the two most important factors which propelled his ascendancy to China’s highest leadership positions.
Thorough and methodical, he carefully planned his moves in his journey through his country’s complex and labyrinthine political and ideological power structures. He gained control of the Central Political Commission or Politburo, the Military Commission and the entire bureaucracy with ease and with hardly any opposition. He also created special agencies on security and espionage concerns. But the most powerful body he created was a supervening commission which exercised judicial and legislative powers over and above the Supreme Court.
He accomplished all these in seamless and speedy fashion, leaving thousands of formerly powerful high officials and potential rivals biting the dust and in shame.
Still young at 65 and considered much more decisive and courageous than Mao Zedong, Xi is determined to stay in the leadership saddle, evident by his abolishing the ten year limit on the residential term.
He can now get elected president for life.
Now that he has reached the apex of power, a personality cult has started evolving around him. His place of birth and places where he lived are being spruced up and turned into tourist havens.
Xi’s Thoughts on Socialism with Chinese characteristics has been annexed to the constitution just like those of Mao and Deng.
Xi’s dream is to make China the most powerful nation on earth . He wants to regain China’s glory as the center of eastern civilization. He hopes to establish the foundations for the realization of this dream during his lifetime. He has started assembling a team of younger colleagues whom he hopes will make his dream come true.
Xi’s timeline is to attain is to have his dream realized by 2049, the centennial anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
He is pursuing his dream with deadly precision, short of sacrificing the lives of China’s over 2 billion people. He is himself a realist who knows the odds and the risks he has to confront and overcome in the pursuit of his ambitions.
He knows that he cannot ignore other nations, particularly the United States. The citadel of democratic governance, still the most powerful in military and economic terms, the United States of America can, as effectively as China, undermine the economies and military strength of other nations.
No matter how fast and how much more wealth, products, and advances in science and technology China amasses in the coming years, the country cannot assume world dominance if the other nations on earth stop dealing with it and close their stores.
Xi has been the most widely-traveled leader of China. He is courageous, shrewd and astute in dealing with the leaders of other nations.
China’s leader may bow out of the scene even sooner than expected. But for Filipinos, China-watching will be a continuing and consuming preoccupation.