"The entire world, especially smaller economies, has been pushed into a dangerous period of uncertainty, beset as it already is with the pervasive problems brought about by the pandemic that still rages."
While many of us are hot under the collar over the fate of the giant network ABS-CBN, turning it into a “dilaw”-versus-DDS affair when it should not be, and while almost everybody is taking careful steps adjusting to the abnormalities of the new normal, the rest of our world is plunged into so much uncertainty, not only over the global economy, not only over COVID-19 which continues to rage, but also because of threats to peace and security.
America is burning, so says its media, over the death of an African-American, George Floyd, at the hands of Minneapolis police characters, led by a man with a history of racist tendencies. The wildfire has spread to many American cities, from Los Angeles and Oakland in the west to New York and North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and even the Midwest where Trump is still the favorite for re-election come November.
And then, just last Monday night, protesters stormed into the White House itself, the first time it happened in the history of the US of A. Of course, presidential security and police were able to keep the protesters at bay, but the symbolism of a besieged White House is an image the whole world trembles at.
Xi Jin-ping, Assad and Rouhani may now be snickering at America’s troubles. As of Monday night, although the proportion of cases has gone down to 29 percent from a high of 34 percent less than a month ago, America’s 1,807,015 COVID infections out of a world-wide 6,196,161 cases is still alarming. And 105,204 deaths still strains the ability of both state and federal governments to respond to.
Unemployment could rise up to 25 percent of the nation’s work force, and the recovery would be slow and painful, as many huge corporations have declared bankruptcy while smaller business operations are practically kaput.
The violent protests by mostly African Americans who rightly condemn the police action against an alleged petty crime are likewise rooted upon the vulnerabilities of the mostly black population marginalized by America’s economic woes.
Such protests are even fueled by the racist American president’s angry response to the protests, where he has called upon the governors and city mayors to fight back with fire against angry protesters whom he labelled “terrorists.”
While the world nowadays is no longer as convulsed with high fever as before whenever America catches a cold, the effects of the troubles besieging the world’s still largest economy and still most powerful military force cannot be underestimated.
It pushes the entire world, especially smaller economies, into a dangerous period of uncertainty, beset as it already is with the pervasive problems brought about by the pandemic that still rages.
Here in our region, troubles are also brewing, precipitated by the passage of a new national security law by China, which for all intents and purposes will make Hong Kong’s illusion of “two systems in a one-China” cut short. That détente between the Chinese mainland and the former British colony has been shattered first by the angry protests of Hong Kong residents last year, now by this coup de grace through diktat from the Chinese Communist Party.
That national security law will allow Chinese security agencies to take broad actions limiting the liberties of Hong Kong residents, used as they have been to the kind of freedom that has made the territory the financial and commercial, let alone tourism hub of our region. The US Secretary of State describes China’s security law as the “death knell” of Hong Kong.
Trump and Pompeo have promised retaliatory actions against this latest move of the Chinese government, exacerbating what has already become a very precarious clash of interests, beginning with trade relations, now into the geo-political and security fields.
The implications upon the region at which the Philippines is in the geographic center pushes the envelope further into the realm of uncertainty.
As if the situation is not bad enough, there are also border skirmishes between China and India, the world’s two most populous countries. And the most recent admonition of Xi Jin-ping to the People’s Liberation Army to be “prepared for war” sends chills upon the spines of most nations in Asia.
Perhaps the on-and-off border clashes between China and India are remote to us Filipinos, and are not likely to impact upon our national security, as the short war between the two countries in the sixties hardly concerned us, but there is a very proximate flash point that worries us, and should worry our government.
And that is Taiwan, and the increasingly belligerent rhetoric between China’s rulers and the strident nationalism of a pro-independent Taiwan. Where before the clash of interests has been confined to the diplomatic arena, from China’s poaching of Taiwan’s allies to the isolation of the island from world affairs, exemplified by the World Health Organization deliberately ignoring Taiwan’s warnings about the human to human transmission of the coronavirus from Wuhan, the confrontation has heightened into regional security threats.
We are seeing increased military movements in the waters around Taiwan, from the Bashi Channel to the East and South China Sea, all of which are so near the Philippines.
At this point, I will quote from an interview of Harvard’s political science professor Graham Allison who warned about possible military action by Beijing against an island state it insists is part of its territory.
The Hong Kong protests last year, followed by the passage of the recent national security law have for all intents and purposes “shown the emptiness of the one-country, two systems” advocacy of China and “indicates that the CCP has renounced its promise to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy”. Expectedly, Taiwan’s current rejection of that two-system proposal, already stiffened by the overwhelming re-election of President Tsai Ing-wen last January, will strengthen its resistance towards Beijing and reinforce its determination to protect its democracy.
Allison warned that the US may be forced to join the battle if and when Beijing’s troops cross the Taiwan Strait, “leading to catastrophic global warfare.”
The Harvard political scientist is not alone in analyzing the uncertainty in our most proximate geo-political arena. Many observers, both in Europe and our region, have warned about the situation. This writer has likewise sent a report to our President last month emphasizing the uncertain times and the danger it could pose to our country, let alone the 160,000 Filipinos working here in Taiwan.
What may be holding overt actions by Beijing upon Taiwan is its uncertainty over how the global community would respond. What makes the uncertain even more uncertain is the current political and economic situation in the US of A, and the results of November’s election where a beleaguered Trump seeks a second term.