Last week, this column posited that the Association of South East Asian Nations summit hosted by the Philippines was an utter waste of time and resources. Aside from the usual handshakes and smiles, and the speeches invoking regional peace, cooperation, and stability, nothing beneficial to the average Filipino was realized in that forum.
At best, there was the Asean expression of alarm about North Korea’s provocative behavior in East Asia, as seen in Pyongyang’s missile tests designed to annoy South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Those tests ended in failure because the rockets exploded either at the launching pad, or seconds after they were airborne.
Big deal! Asean is not the only entity concerned about North Korea. The whole world is alarmed at the nuclear menace that Pyongyang is.
The biggest disappointment in the summit was the supposed manifesto of Asean regarding Communist China’s expansionist activities in the sea lanes of Southeast Asia. After intense pressure from Beijing’s allies and stooges in the Asean leadership, the manifesto was reduced to nothing more than a formal expression of dissatisfaction, with no mention of the ruling of the UN arbitration tribunal declaring Beijing’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea illegal and in violation of International Law.
Perhaps the only practical benefit the world could derive from the Asean summit was the knowledge that Burma’s democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi attended the forum, an indication that somehow the military junta running Rangoon has relented in its iron grip on its people.
The Philippines will host the next Asean summit scheduled for November this year. US President Donald Trump is expected to attend the summit as its special guest, and to confer personally with President Rodrigo Duterte. Trump will likely tell Asean to get their act done as a regional force, instead of comporting itself as an impotent cocktail party organization bullied around by Communist China.
So far, things are going the way Communist China wants. Asean has not condemned Red Chinese island-grabbing in the sea lanes of South East Asia, and it doesn’t seem interested in confronting Beijing on that issue. South Korea is undergoing some difficulty over its leadership and its finances, and President Trump wants Seoul to pay for an American-made missile defense system recently installed near the border with North Korea to protect South Korea against any aggression from the northerners. Shoddy goods manufactured in Red Chinese factories continue to flood the markets of Southeast Asia, enough to kill local small-scale enterprises.
Make no mistake about it. The biggest reason why Red Chinese goods are cheap is because they are not subject to quality control. There have been numerous complaints of brittle kitchenware, exploding textile, lead-laced canned meat and vegetables, carcinogenic cosmetics, toys and school supplies laced with toxic paint, and too much monosodium glutamate in junk food—all manufactured in Communist China. Why the Philippines even imports all that garbage is a big mystery.
The only Red Chinese-made products that are of tolerable quality are those bearing foreign trademarks and manufactured under the strict supervision of the foreign licensor.
Since waiting for Asean to become an organization of serious consequence may be an exercise in futility, it may be up to Manila to initiate greater opposition to Communist China’s expansionism in the strategic sea lanes of Southeast Asia.
Instead of declaring war against the communist giant, the Philippines should engage in activities which will annoy Beijing, since Beijing’s acts in the West Philippine Sea are annoying to the Philippines and the Filipino people.
For example, since Beijing does not want to abide by the judgment of the UN arbitration tribunal, there seems to be no reason why Manila should continue with its one-China policy. Manila can deal with Nationalist China (Taiwan) as the real China, and even greet Nationalist China on its foundation day—October 10 or the double ten. The Taiwanese may be allowed to operate an “embassy” in the Philippines by upgrading their “trade office” in the country. Filipino businessmen can start calling Nationalist China as the Republic of China, as opposed to the People’s Republic of China in the mainland.
Manila can justify its behavior with the same kind of empty rhetoric Beijing’s international communist propaganda bureau is known for. All Manila needs is a skillful diplomat at the Philippine Embassy in Beijing. After all, what can an angry Beijing do—declare war on the Philippines? That will make Beijing look worse than it does to the international community right now. Cutting off diplomatic ties with Manila is also fraught with dire consequences for that will mean a stoppage to Red Chinese exports to the Philippines. Those exports can be replaced by exports by Nationalist China.
The Philippines and Taiwan can also consider declaring the stretch of water between Taiwan and Luzon an exclusive fishing zone. Manila and Taipei can litter their respective sides of the strait with junk fishing vessels enough to make navigation in the area very difficult.
Although Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province, Beijing will not dare attack Taiwan. The Nationalist Chinese have enough military muscle to resist an armed attack from the mainland, and Beijing respects only those countries that can fight back.
Besides, the United States has a standing promise to defend Taiwan from any attack from the mainland. If Washington, D.C. is not keen about defending the Philippines from Beijing, the Americans may have a better regard about keeping its commitment to Taiwan.
Vietnam may have a communist government like that in Beijing, but it has been a traditional enemy of the ancient Chinese. Hanoi has enough reason to be hostile to Beijing since the latter seized Vietnam’s Paracel Islands decades ago. Thus, Vietnam can also reexamine its one-China policy and follow the Philippine lead.